Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Kalugumalai, Thoothukudi

Kalugumalai, Thoothukudi
Kalugumalai is a panchayat town in Kovilpatti Taluk of Thoothukudi district in the Indian state of Tamilnadu. Kalugumalai is 21 km and 22 km from Kovilpatti and Sankarankovil respectively. The place houses the rock cut Kalugasalamoorthy Temple, monolithic Vettuvan Koil and Kalugumalai Jain Complex. Kazhugumalai, unique monolithic rock architecture, is inching towards a global status to attract tourists from all around the world. The eighth century AD hillock is located in Kayathar Union of Kovilpatti Taluk.

The 300-foot high hillock reflects many historical facts and remains a visual treat for people travelling between Kayathar and Kovilpatti by road. Spread over 52 acres, it features rock cut temple – ‘Vettuvan Kovil,’ Bas-relief figures of Jain Tirthankaras and 104 inscriptions in ‘Vattezhuthukkal.’ People from the entire south Tamilnadu want to see Kazhugumalai included in the revised list of UNESCO’s world heritage sites. DHAN, a centre for tourism development, mooted the idea of promoting heritage tourism at Kazhugumalai for over several years.

Kazhugumalai is a daunting, rocky hill with an almost sheer cliff face on one side. Kazhugumalai means ‘the abode of eagles’. It is about 100 kilometers from Madurai and 25 km from Kovilpatti. This is a place worth visiting for its beauty and architectural significance. The hill rises tall and forbidding amongst a carpet of lush paddy fields and thatched huts. It is well-known for its Jain cave temple and Jain architecture. An 18th century Murugan Temple, Kalugasalamoorthy Kovil, is also worth visiting.

Kazhugumalai is famous for its exquisite monolithic rock sculpture, which is along the lines of the bas reliefs in Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram). However, the place is kept under lock and key by the State Archaeological Department to prevent vandals from entering and defacing it – an issue that needs to be addressed to make the destination more tourist-friendly.

Kalugumalai is located at 9.152962, 77.704386. It has an average elevation of 105 metres (344 feet). It is strategically located in between Kovilpatti (20 km from Kalugumalai) and Sankarankovil (19 km from Kalugumalai) and served as ancient trade route from Kovilpatti to Courtallam and Senkottai. The village has two parts Kazhugumalai and South Kazhugumalai or kottai Kalugumalai.

Kazhugumalai is an important Jain religious center and the Jain ascetic, Gunasagara Bhattara, is believed to have lived on this hill. The stunning bas-reliefs belonging to this epoch are a rich source of information on Jainism and its believers. Kazhugumalai was a dynamic center of Jain learning for 300 years from the 8th century A.D. It was a place of worship, a monastery and a college.  And, interestingly, the center had women teachers too. The male teacher was called ‘kuravar’ and the female teacher ‘kurathi’.  

The present name, Kazhugumalai, seems to be a later occurrence, named after the hillock in which some historical monuments are located. Earlier, the place was called ‘Thirumalai' and also ‘Araimalai.' In the early Pandya records, it is referred to as Nechchuram and Tiruneccuram. These must have been originally Nechchuram and modified into Nechchuram in due course of time.

Tiruneccuram seems to have been divided into two parts — Peruneccuram and Ilaneccuram — one comprising the southern and eastern parts of the village, and the other forming the southern-most area. They have been renamed at a later date as Kottai Kazhugumalai and South Kazhugumalai respectively. Epigraphical references mention the existence of a palace, attributed to one Ettimannan here. Ettimannan is said to be a Pandya official as well as the head of the nadu of this region.

Nechchuram was under the control of agricultural peasants. During the early Pandya period, this village might have been a fertile one with paddy fields and wells, dominated by the peasant populace. As the epigraphs address this place as Perur, it must have been a large one for those days, populated by hundreds of families. The Tamil Nigandu, Senthandivakaram, states that a village with more than 500 hundred families is called Perur.

It is evident that many of the present small villages seem to have been big cities and even formed the capitals of ruling dynasties earlier. The best examples are Uraiyur, Gangaikondacholapuram and Vijayanagar. Around 11th century A.D, a trade/commercial city called ‘Peruneccurattu Pavithramanickapuram' seems to have existed near Nechchuram. Traders from various countries, including the Pandya and Chola regions, occupied it.

At the foot of the Kalugumalai a large urn-burial cemetery was found. However hundreds of urns were destroyed during limestone quarrying. Opposite to Kalugasalamoorthy Temple there is a small palace which served as local residence of Raja of Ettaiyapuram. The place was the scene of Kalugumalai riots of 1895, when ten people were killed in caste clashes.
As of 2001 India census, Kalugumalai had a population of 14,834. Males constitute 49% of the population and females 51%. Kalugumalai has an average literacy rate of 70%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 78%, and female literacy is 63%. In Kalugumalai, 9% of the population is under 6 years of age.
Places of Interest
Agasthiya Vinayagar Temple:
For brief details, please refer below link;
Ayyanar Temple:
For brief details, please refer below link;
Kalugasalamoorthy Temple (Kalugumalai Murugan temple):
For brief details, please refer below link;
Kalugumalai Jain Complex:
For brief details, please refer below link;
Our Lady of Lourdes Church:
For brief details, please refer below link;
Vettuvan Koil:
For brief details, please refer below link;
Uchi Pillaiyar Temple:
For brief details, please refer below link;
By Road:
Kalugumalai is only 15kms off the National Highway NH7. Coming from Madurai towards Kanyakumari, follow the signs and take a right to Kalugumalai just after Kovilpatti. The 15 km stretch from the highway to Kalugumalai is narrow but good and there is very little traffic. Most of them are buses that ply between Kovilpatti and Sankarankovil. Kalugumalai is well connected by bus from Kovilpatti and Sankarankovil.
By Train:
The nearest train station is Kovilpatti though it would be nearly equidistant from Kadambur and Sankarankovil stations too. All trains going towards Kanyakumari will stop at Kovilpatti. Many passenger trains and long distance trains passing through Kovilpatti also stop at Kadambur, including trains from Bombay, Mysore, Chennai, Coimbatore and Erode. Trains from Chennai, Senkottai and Nagercoil stop at Sankarankovil station. The best tip would be to get off at Kovilpatti and take a local bus or taxi to Kalugumalai.
By Air:
The nearest airport is Madurai International airport which is around 110 kms. Air India, Jet Airways and Spice Jet fly into Madurai. The other option is Tuticorin airport which would be nearly the same distance as Madurai airport. Only Spice Jet from Chennai flies into Tuticorin.

1 comment:

Ashwin said...

Kalugumalai is a best place to visit during with with family. Thanks for sharing this post in this blog. Love to read this blog. Make your trip in SRM Travels.