Saturday, December 12, 2015

Vishnu Cave Temple, Malayadippatti

Vishnu Cave Temple, Malayadippatti
Vishnu Cave temple is located 45kms from Tiruchirapalli in a remote village in the Kulattur Taluk of Pudukottai District is the largely unknown North Facing Rock Cut Anantha Padmanabhaswamy cave temple in Malayadippatti, one that dates back around 1200 years to the late 8th Century AD / early 9th Century AD. 

This is the shrine, which is nearer to the road. This shrine has a marvelously carved image of Vishnu as Seshasayi (‘God-lying-on-the-serpent-Sesha’). All the sculptures in the cave temple, including the dvarapalakas and main idol are covered with stucco decoration and painted.

This is a cave temple. While Dwarapalakas in temples traditionally appear with four hands, they have only two here. The temple has shrines for Lords Vinayaka, Muruga, Narasimha, Varahamurthi and Veerabhadra, Saptha Madhas, Vakeeswarar, Mother Kalaikambal.  Mother Kamalavalli Thayar graces from a separate shrine.

This Vishnu temple is popularly known as Olipathivishnu Vishnugraham, located closer to the western end of hillock. The rock-cut Vishnu temple includes numerous sculptures, painted stucco and painting on walls and ceiling. The 15 ft Moolavar is a beautifully carved image of Lord Anantha Padmanabha in a reclining posture. The rock-cut temple contains a mukhamandapa, ardhamandapa and the sanctum. Almost the entire inner surface is adorned with paintings, sculptures and stucco work. 

There is sculpture of Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi. There are figures of Shiva, Narasimha, Brahma and other gods and deities. This entire sculpture is painted and covered with stucco. These artworks appear to be made during 16th - 17th century AD. On the western wall of mukhamandapa Vishnu is shown in seated position together with his consort.

Another wall is covered with large relief showing reclining Vishnu with Brahma sitting on a lotus Accompanied by Gandharvas. There are figures of demons inside the rock cut temple as well. There are paintings on the ceiling that depict the incarnations of Vishnu, the Dashavatara.

There is also a flat-roofed structure, decorated with carvings of elephants and birds along with figures of mythological creatures. The Vishnu temple and cave contains 10 inscriptions dating back to 960 AD. 

There are 3 other caves from 3rd - 4th century that housed Jain monks. There are several ancient sculptures found in 2 caves. Another cave has a white painting of a human and a bird probably made out of lime. 
Malayadippatti temple is one as the Thirumayyam cave temple for both Lords Shiva and Vishnu.  According to epigraphic details, the name of the place is Tiruvalathur.  The two temples – Shiva and Vishnu temples – are side by side.  The Vishnu temple with Lord Sri Ranganathar in his reclining posture is considered equal to Tirupathi.

The Shiva temple is more ancient than the Vishnu temple according to findings of the ASI.  It belongs to the Pallava period.  The temple was built in the 16th ruling year of one Kuvavan Sathan in 730 AD.  He built the Shiva temple and named the presiding deity Vakeeswarar, according to epigraphic notes.
Greatness of Temple
The Artha Mandapam is next to the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Vakeeswarar.  The sculptures of Saptha Madhas, Ganesha, Veerabhadra, Lords Shiva and Vishnu are carved in the hill temple.  The sculptures of group of deities as Kalaikambal, Mahishasuramardhini are outstanding examples of the skill of temple architecture. The Mandapam near the cave is based on the Vijaya Nagara style.  Following the Pallava style, the Dwarapalakas (Security before the sanctum sanctorum) have only two hands against four hands traditionally we see in temples.

Sanctum sanctorum of Lord Sri Ranganatha also has a front mandapam.  The pillars are standing on a lion looking majestically.  This belongs to Pallava style.  The figures of Lords Narasimha and Varahamurthi and Perumal with his consorts are carved beautifully in the walls of this mandapam.  Lord Sri Ranganatha in the sanctum sanctorum graces the devotees in his reclining posture with Lord Brahmma appearing from his naval.  
Divine serpent Adisesha with its hoods appear as an umbrella to Lord.  In the wall behind, there are sculptures of both Devas and demons.  The sculpture style of Lord Sri Ranganatha in his Anantashayana style – reclining style is very beautiful.  The shrine of Thayar appears to be too ancient.  There is also am epigraphic evidence that one Achuthappa Naicker contributed liberally for the temple in 16th century. 

There are also some ancient cave temples nearby in Kaliyappatti, Virasalur also under the administration of ASI.  As both Lords Shiva and Vishnu grace in the Malayadippatti temple, people undertake Girivalam on Pradosha days.  Festivals like Vaikunda Ekadasi and Shivrathri are celebrated grandly in the temple.  Special pujas are dedicated to Lord Vishnu on Thiruvonam star days.  As Perumal grants eye-boon to those suffering from impaired vision, He is praised as Kan (eye) Oli (vision) Vazhangum (giver) Perumal – Kan Oli Vazhangum Perumal.
Temple Architecture
The shrine is surrounded by a compound wall, which seems to be very recently renovated. The entrance gopuram has a flat roof and has friezes of vyalis and bhuthagana. Perhaps it belongs to 13th century and was renovated in the 15th century.

On the compound wall, on the right side of the gopuram, is a small sculpture of Ganesa inside a niche, which is under worship by the local people. As one enters the temple compound, on the right hand side, there is a structural shrine of Goddess. It consists of a sanctum, with a flat roof, measuring about 9 feet long and 8 feet wide and an ardhamandapam of the same size.

According to Tamil inscription dated 17th - 18th century, one Mangan Tenkondan, a devotee, built this shrine. On the northeast corner is a structure, which might had been the kitchen.
In front of the main shrine, there is a dhvajasthambham and sculptures of a goddess facing north and a Garuda facing south. The sculptures are loose sculptures and seem to be recent additions.

The north facing rock-cut shrine has a structural addition in front, which forms part of the front mandapam. There are two inscriptions on this structural addition. They may be dated to the 10th century. There are three entrances, of which the middle one is bigger.
The front mandapam is a kind of a hall, running east to west, formed partly by the structural addition and partly by the rock-cut cave. This hall measures 37 feet long and 8 feet wide. The dvarapalakas in this mandapam are carved out of the living rock and seems to be portrait sculptures. They are covered with stucco.

The rock cut ardhamandapam measures about 32 feet long, 6 feet wide and 8 feet high and has two pillars and two pilasters. They are more elegant than the ones found in the Siva temple. The base is carved in the shape of beautiful lion sitting erect and carrying the pillar on its head.

On the side walls of the ardhamandapam there are large panels in high relief. They depict Narasimha, Varahamurthi and Vishnu in the standing pose along with Lakshmi. The image of seated Vishnu with his Devis on the eastern wall is a sculpture in the round.
To the right of the Narasimha sculpture is a painting of a dancing lady. There are platforms of one to two feet height, in front of these sculptures in the ardhamandapam. The Dasavatharam of Vishnu is beautifully painted on the ceiling.

Excavated on the western face of the rock, this north facing rock cut shrine is locally known as Olipathivishnu griham. However in an inscription of Sundara Pandya it is referred as Ranganatha cave, Arankan cunai. In a later inscription of Sadasiva maharaja the lord is called Tiruvalathur Perumal. In an another inscription of Achyuthappa Nayaka the lord of this cave has been referred as Tiruvayamalai Kanniraina Perumal, The Lord who is full in one’s eyes. Getting the lord full in one’s eye probably reflects the merger of atman with parmatman which is a prescribed way to attain the ultimate goal of one’s life in many Hindu religious scriptures.

This cave temple has been later extended with a mandapa and an enclosure compound with a gopuram entrance on the north. We find here a flat roofed gopuram instead of familiar high rising gopurams. It is not very clear whether there was once a tower above this roof, however if it was, there is no sign left of its existence.
On the external wall of the enclosure, proper left of the gopuram, a Ganesha image is installed. This Valampuri Ganesha idol has four hands, carrying a broken tusk, ankusha (elephant goad) and modaka in three of his hands. Inside the complex, on north-west corner, there is an east facing shrine, a later structure, constructed for Goddess Nachiar. Passing through Bali pitha, deepa sthambham (lamp tower), a goddess idol and a Garuda idol, we reach the main cave complex. A mandapa has been attached to this cave at the entrance during later extensions.

The original cave is consisted of a rectangular sanctum cell and a mukhamandapa (front hall). Mukhamandapa has three openings formed by pilasters and pillars which are supported on lion/vyala figures at the base. These lion/vyala figures are shown seated with their one limb raised up. This posture makes them different from the Pallava style where we find seated lions/vyalas with both limbs on the ground. The tail of the animal however forms a familiar icon of an English numeral, 8, as found in Pallava sculptures. The door openings of the mukhamandapa are marked with lintel and door jambs which is rather unique for a cave which sole purpose is to be used as a shrine. These kinds of jambs and lintels are seen in the caves excavated for residential purposes.

Beyond the extreme pilasters, on either side, are two dvarpalas (door guardians) carved in relief. Both of them are standing in similar posture, with one leg straight and second slightly bent at knee. They are wearing yajnopavita with other usual ornaments like necklace, bracelets etc. In one hand they carry a flower, lotus perhaps, and another hand is resting on their waist. They wear a charming smile on their faces and greet the visitor with their grace.

A rather strange feature found in dvarpalas is a coiled snake near their shoulders. As this is a Vishnu cave, so presence of snake with dvarpalas is very curious. On the lateral walls, east and west, of this mukhamandapa are carved two exquisite panels in relief. Most of the reliefs of this cave are covered with stucco and later on decorated with paint. On the eastern wall is a relief panel showing Vishnu with his two consorts. He is shown standing in sambhaga posture holding sankha (conch) and chakra (discus), both depicted with flames, in his two upper hands. His one lower hand is in abhaya mudra and another one is resting at his waist (katyavalambita). Both side of his are standing his two consorts, Lakshmi (Sridevi) and Bhudevi. 

Lakshmi is standing on his right, probably, holding a lotus flower in one of her hands while Bhudevi is standing on his left holding a nilotpala, lily flower. Lakshmi is shown wearing a breast band but Bhudevi is depicted without it. Other than this, most of the features are same in both the goddesses. In the upper portion of the panel are shown two flying Devas, probably Chandra (Moon) and Surya (Sun) as evident from prabhavalaya (halo) behind their heads. In one hand they hold a flower and other hand are raised in adoration for the god, Vishnu.

There are quite a few early representations of Vishnu in standing posture. In most of the cases he is depicted as the main deity accompanied with devotees or other devatas. In the early icons of the Pallavas such as Adivaraha caveTrimurti cave temple in Mahabalipuram, Vishnu is shown standing with devotees or flying ganas. 

On the western lateral wall is a relief panel depicting Vishnu and his two consorts, but in seated posture. Vishnu is seated in sukhasana with one leg resting on a Padma pitha (lotus base) and another bent and resting on the platform. He is holding a shankha and chakra, both with flames, in his two upper hands. His one lower hand is in abhaya mudra and another one resting on his left thigh. Goddess Lakshmi is seated inutkita asana and another one is resting on a padma pitha. She is holding a flower in one hand and wearing a breast band. Bhudevi is shown seated on left side of Vishnu in utkita asana. One leg of hers is resting on padma pitha. She is holding a flower in one hand, but depicted without a breast band. There is no flying Devas in upper part of the panel, as shown in the previous panel.

Seated Vishnu as an icon is absent from the Pallava cave temples. It is present in later structural temples of the Pallavas such as in Kailasanatha and Vaikuntha Perumal temples both in Kanchipuram. This icon is not very frequent in Pandya caves as well. The only other such representation is found in Tiruparankundram cave temple near Madurai where seated Vishnu is present in its sanctum. There is a seated Vishnu image in Badami also however that image is carved on one of the lateral walls of the cave and Vishnu is shown seated on Sesha coils without any attendant.

Southern wall of the mukha mandapa has been partitioned in three parts, middle one is left open to go inside the sanctum. The two side partitions are adorned with relief sculptures. Partition on the west has a sculpture of Vishnu in Narasimha form. He is shown seated in maharajalilasana attitude with one leg hanging down and another bent at the knee and placed on the seat. He is holding shankha and chakra in his two upper hands. One of the lower hands is rested on the knee of the bent leg and another lower hand is resting on the thigh of another leg.

He is shown wearing rings in all of his fingers, even in thumbs as well. Ring on the thumbs of the upper hands are very much clear in the stucco. Shown with ferocious look, it appears that this posture would have been taken after slaying the demon, Hiranyakashipu. Behind the head of this image, there is a torana which is shown without any makara. Such toranas are known as tiruvachi in shilpa shastras.
If Narasimha image is depicted without any attendant or companion then it is called as Kevala Narasimha. It is a rare icon as in most of the images Narasimha is shown slaying the demon, Hiranyakashipu or either shown seated in yoga mudra. Narasimha images at BadamiUdayagiri, Vaikuntha Perumal Temple at Kanchipuram and Namakkal Ranganatha cave are all in standing posture of Kevala Narasimha type. Seated image of Narasimha is seen in Vettuvan koil which is a monolith temple of Pandya origin and dated prior to Malayadippatti. Such a seated image could be a characteristic icon of the Pandyas.
On the left pilaster of this Narasimha niche is a painting of a lady. The upper part of the painting is almost gone. She is wearing a checkered lower dress which goes till her ankles. She is shown wearing many ornaments consisting of beads. There are many different color beads, red one usually used as the central bead in the ornament. Her upper portion is devoid of any clothes. She seems to be holding and taking support of a tree branch in one of her hand while other hand is shown hanging parallel to her right leg.
Partition on the east carries an image of Varaha. He is shown seated on a raised platform, one part of which is painted. In his two upper hands, he carries shankha and chakra, both depicted with flames. Lower right hand is in abhayamudra while lower left hand is rested on his left thigh. He is also wearing rings in all of his fingers, including thumbs. He is wearing a necklace, bracelets in the arms, waist band, wrist bands & andyajno pavita. Behind his head is a tiruvachi, whose two ends are shown emerging from rampant vyalas.
Varaha icon is usually depicted in alidha posture where he is shown taking Bhudevi out from the depths of an ocean. Such representation of Varaha is seen at Udayagiri caves near Vidisha, Varaha cave at Mahabalipuram & at Badami. Malayadippatti, perhaps, is the only place where Varaha is seen seated alone without any companion.
On proper right of the above Varaha niche, there is a painting of Hanuman. He is shown standing with face turned to the god and holding his both hands in anjali mudra. He is wearing a checkered lower garment. All the ornaments wore by him are made of flowers. He is shown wearing a garland, bracelets, earrings and wristbands. He is having a protruding tooth coming out of his mouth. This is very curious and strange depiction as Hanuman is usually not depicted with protruding teeth. Though he is shown with such a rare feature, this does not result in ferocious appearance. He is standing very gracefully with full devotion towards the God, sitting on his left.
Before moving inside the sanctum, mention of the canopy of this hall must be made. The canopy of this hall is painted with the ten incarnations of Vishnu. However this painting is in very bad condition. Much of the damage has been caused due to smoke and oil vapors. Only the starting few figures and ending few figures are clear now, all in between these are gone. On the leftmost is painted Vishnu as Matsya (fish incarnation). On its right is Vishnu as Narasimha (man lion incarnation).
This Narasimha representation is very unique as he is shown with the body of lion and head of a human quite in contrast where in regular representations Narasimha is shown with the body of a human and head of a lion. On its right is all black and dark. Further right is seen Vishnu as Rama, the hero of Ramayana. Rama is shown in dark color holding his bow. Next right to it is Balarama, brother of Krishna. Balarama is holding a plough, his weapon. Next to Balarama is Krishna who is depicted in a dancing posture.
Though there is no snake seen below Krishna, but it seems that this posture reflects the dance which he performed after subduing the snake, Kaliya. Right next to Krishna is shown Kalki, the future and last incarnation of Vishnu.
Sanctum cell is excavated in the center of the southern wall. This is flanked with two pillars and two pilasters in the front. The pillars are almost spherical throughout except the top part. Corbels above the pillars are in angular profile. Whole of the sanctum is covered by the Anantashayana icon of Vishnu which is carved out of the mother rock. Vishnu is shown reclining on a coil formed by the body of the serpent, Adisesha.
Adisesha’s hood is depicted with five heads and it forms a canopy above the head of lord Vishnu. Vishnu is depicted with two hands, one stretched on his right over the coil of Adisesha while another one is raised above in kataka-mudra. He is wearing kirita makuta and many ornaments. His legs are stretched out of the coil bed and supported on a lotus.
There are many figures carved on lateral parts and the back wall of this sanctum cell. On the back wall, Brahma is shown seated on a lotus which emerges from the naval of Vishnu. He is depicted with three heads and four arms. He is carrying akshamala and rosary in his upper two arms. Right lower arm is inabhaya mudra while left lower arm is resting on his thigh.
There are total of eight figures around him, two on right and six on left. Two figures on his right seem to be musicians. The rightmost figure is holding a musical instrument in his both hands. The musical instrument which he is holding is not very clear. The person on his left is depicted with moustaches. He is also holding a musical instrument however in a rather strange manner. He is holding the instrument in his left hand but the instrument is kept behind his arm instead of keeping it in front to take support of the arm. The instrument resembles to ektara, single string Indian musical instrument.
In the six figures on left of Brahma, two are females and four are males. Next left to Brahma is shown Tumburu, a Gandharva musician and singer. Next left to him are shown two celestial females dancing with Tumburu. On left of these two celestial maidens, there are three male figures. Two of the first three seem to be ordinary gandharvas. The last in line is a dwarf celestial deity. It looks that the two figures on right of Brahma are the musicians of the party whose six dancers are shown on the left side of Brahma.
On the eastern wall of this cell are carved four figures. The male figure at the bottom is Garuda. He is shown rising above the ground. His wings are depicted behind his body. Above Three male figures are shown above the figure of Garuda. Two figures are shown with holding their hands together in anjali mudra. The last one is shown with a halo behind his head. This could be depiction of Chandra (Moon) or Surya (Sun).
On western wall of this cell, near the feet of Vishnu, are carved huge figures of two demons, Madhu and Kaitabha. One is holding a heavy club while another is holding some unidentified object in one of his hands. The demons are carved in attacking stated instead of retreating state which is seen in other such Anantashayana panels. They wear short lower garments and many ornaments on their bodies. There is a human figure carved in between the faces of these two demons. There is halo behind this figure and his two hands are raised in adoration. Because of this halo, this figure could be identified with Surya or Chandra.
On the ground, near the coil of Adisesha, Bhrigu is seen on the eastern side while Bhudevi is seen on western side near the feet of the lord. In middle is installed a very recent addition in form of an image of Lakshminarayana.
The earliest Anantashayana representation is seen at Udayagiri which is dated to Gupta period. In Pallava cave temples this icon is seen in Mahishasumardini cave and Shore Temple both in Mahabalipuram and Ranganatha in Singavaram.
Among the caves in the Pandya region Thirumayam has the largest such representation which measures up to 9 meters. The panel at Malayadippatti is also huge however it is smaller in comparison and measure up to 4.6 meters. 
Garbha Griham
Above ardhamandapam is the garbhagriham, the floor of which is about 2 feet above that of the ardhamandapam. It has got two pillars and two pilasters, which are round and ornamented.
The principal idol in the garbhagriham is a marvelously carved 11 – foot long image of Vishnu as Seshasayi. The five hoods of the serpent are spread out like a canopy over the God’s head. From his navel rises a lotus stalk crowned with a lotus flower on which Brahma is seated. The feet of the God rest on another lotus. The theme depicted here is similar to that of Thirumayam.
The legend that is associated with this group of sculptures is similar to that depicted in the Vishnu temple of Thirumayam. When the demons Madhu and Kaithabha approached in an aggressive attitude, Brahma, Lakshmi and Bhumi Devi were frightened. Adisesha, in his sudden wrath, spat poison, which consumed the demons. He was immediately stung with remorse at his hasty action of acting without his Lord’s permission. But the passionate God comforted him with an assurance of his approval of the act.
There are paintings on the ceiling of the reclining Vishnu idol which are badly damaged.
The idols in the garbhagriham and the sculptures on the ardhamandapam are all covered with stucco decoration. The paintings in this cave temple are now considerably defaced. According to the Manual of Pudukkottai State (1944) these paintings belong to 16th century or later. Some point out its resemblance to the Lepakshi paintings of Andhra.
There is no foundation inscription found in this shrine hence it’s time of construction is not that easy to be determined. The adjacent Shiva cave has a foundation inscription from the reign of a Pallava king, Dantivarman.
There are several inscriptions that provide interesting insights about the temple. An 8th Century AD inscription refers to Danti Varma Pallava and the Siva temple which is just next to the Perumal temple. The structure of this Malayadippatti cave temple and the Lord himself also has similarities to the Sthala Sayana Perumal Divya Desam at Thiru Kadal Mallai (Mahabalipuram).
Inscriptions also refer to the renovation undertaken in 960AD by Raja Kesari Sundara Chozhan. 
An inscription of Sundara Pandya talks about a water reservoir called Arankan cunai which might be a tank of the temple of Arankan, i.e. Ranganatha. This supports the local name of the cave as Ranganatha cave. An inscription of Sadasiva maharaja refers the lord of this cave as Tiruvalathur Perumal.
Tiruvalathur is the name of this hill as referred in the foundation inscription of the Shiva cave. A later record of Achyuthappa Nayaka refers the lord of this cave as Tiruvayamalai Kannirainta Perumal, the Lord who is full in one’s eyes. Another inscription of this cave talks about donation of land and for daily pujas and renovations and additions.
From the inscriptions it is clear that this shrine received a continuous patronage from its inception till the period of the Nayakas. Even during the reign of the Marathas as paintings of that period are found in this cave temple.
Those suffering from impaired vision pray to Perumal – Lord Sri Ranganathar. Devotees light ghee lamps and offer Tulsi garlands to Perumal on Saturdays.
Temple Opening Time
The temple is open from 7.00 a.m. to 11.00 a.m. and from 4.00 p.m. to 8.00 p.m.
Aadi Pooram in July-August; Purattasi Navarathri in September-October; Karthikai in November-December; Vaikunda Ekadasi and Tiruvadhirai in December-January; and monthly Pradoshams are celebrated in the temple. This is a twin temple for Both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.