Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thirunanthikarai Cave Temple – History

Thirunanthikarai Cave Temple – History
Thirunanthikarai Cave Temple is one of the hundreds of temples that are found in the southernmost region of India. It is a very ancient temple, probably dating to the 9th century AD, that is a symbolic pillar of Indian religion and culture. There are many sculptures inside the temple which are now extinct. The Thirunanthikarai Cave Temple is one of the founding stones of the Jain religion. Currently the Thirunanthikarai Cave Temple is under the purview and care of Archaeological Survey of India. Jains were here until around the 9th century AD when the cave was taken over by Hindu.
Ay dynasty ruled the land between Nagercoil and Thiruvalla and Vizhinjam, The Ay Kingdom located to the south of Chera kingdom functioned as an effective buffer state between the declining Chera kingdom and an emerging Pandya Kingdom. Ay dynasty was later known as Venadu dynasty. This land was also the scene of many battles. In 788 A.D, Vikramaditya Varaguna (885–925), an illustrious Ay ruler ruled Venadu.  Jatavaraman Parantaka (Maranjadayan) the Pandya king waged a war over Ay kingdom and encircled Vizhinjam port.
The Pandya conquered the Ays and made it a tributary state. Still the Ays refused to submit and fought against Pandyas for almost a century. Despite frequent defeats Cheras continued to exist as a fighting force. During ninth century Cheras rose again as a notable power. This region came under Cheras during the reign of Bhaskara Ravi Varman Thiruvadi (978 - 1036 A.D.). Rajaraja Chola I waged a war against the Venadu ruler and captured the southern region and named it as Rajaraja Tennadu. Muttom is the fishing village in Kalkulam taluk. Rajaraja Chola I named it as Mummudi Chola Nallur. 
As per research, King Raja Raja Chola celebrated his birthday at this temple in AD 1003. The department of archaeology was started under the initiative of Professor Sundaram Pillai and the then Maharajah of Travancore, Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma sanctioned the monthly grant of Rs. 50.00 for its functioning. The renowned epigraphist T. A. Gopinatha Rao was employed as first Superintendent in the year 1908. T.A. Gopinatha Rao edited and published The Travancore Archaeological Series (T.A.S.) from 1910. Thus T.A.S. inaugurated the systematic survey and collection of inscriptions in the erstwhile Travancore state.
The scholar also visited Thirunanthikarai and Chitharal caves in 1920-21 and copied and recorded the inscriptions from the caves. According to T.A. Gopinatha Rao, the cave temple was built during the reign of the king Vikramaditya Varaguna. Chitharal was erected at Tirucharanam at the behest of a Jain priestess called Muttavala Naranakuttiyar, who also presented the temple a metallic lamp stand and a golden flower. Rao also believed that Thirunanthikarai rock cut cave was excavated by Vikramaditya Varaguna, the Ay ruler in 9th century A.D in simple Pandya style.
The rock cut caves were the founding caves of Jainism. Thirunanthikarai cave also served as dwelling place to Jain ascetic Veeranandi, who came from Thirunarunkondai Melappalli and preached Jainism during 8th century. One more cave temple Kurathiarai was also excavated in the ninth century when this region was under the influence of Jainism. Thirunanthikarai rock cut cave is under the maintenance of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).