Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thirunanthikarai Cave Temple – The Temple

Thirunanthikarai Cave Temple – The Temple
Thirunanthikarai Cave Temple is made in large, oblique wall of cliff and is ascended by a flight of some 60 stone-cut steps. Rock-cut temple itself is small, the facade has two columns and two pilasters. Nowadays, to prevent the vandalism, the entrance is closed behind bars. Presiding deity of the temple is Thiru Nanthikeswarar. An active temple is located to the south of this cave temple built in later times. Earlier, there were several sculptures present inside the temple, which attracted devotees and visitors. Although the sculptures do not exist at present, there are stone carvings that narrate many interesting tales pertaining to the Indian culture and religion.

The south facing Thirunanthikarai rock cut cave temple is excavated on the southern slope of the hillock and therefore the cave lies in an east-west orientation. The cave floor is formed 4 m above the ground level. A flight of ten steps (including the two steps provided later by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), leads to the cave. Eight steps sculpted on the (mother) rock slope. The facade is 4.97 m in the north-south and 0.51 cm in the east-west directions. The evenly leveled rock ground is 5.68 m in the east-west and 64 cm in the south-north directions.

The finely leveled rock floor is formed 4 cm above the rock ground and measures about 52 cm in the south-north and 5.40 m in the east-west directions. The upana is sculpted 5 cm above the rock floor and runs from east to west. The facade consists of two massive pillars in the middle and two pilasters on the corners. The pillars and the pilasters are square-kattu-square in shape. The plain angular potikas (corbels) support the slender uttira (beam). and there is no vajana above uttira. The rough rock brow forms the kapota (not designed well). The canopy of the kapota is flat. and do not incline downwards.

Above the brow there are two rectangular sockets. There are also two sockets on the rock floor. These four sockets suggest the chances of forming temporary shed. One meter above the kapota, bhumidesa is indicated with grooves and carvings. The mother rock excavated well from top to down to match slopes of the hillock. The western wall is 1.97 m in height and 1.04 m in width and the eastern wall is 1.89 m in height and 1.19 m in width. There are two 1.54 m tall (shallow) niches on both the walls and Vattezhuthu inscriptions are inscribed. The Vattezhuthu inscription on the 82-cm wide eastern wall is damaged and the other inscription on the western wall is intact.

The upper square, kattu and part of lower square of the western facade pillar bear another Vattezhuthu inscription. The facade leads to the rectangular mukha-mandapam which is 0.86 m in the north-south and 3.28 m in the east-west directions and 2.23 m in height. The inner-mandapam floor is raised to 0.6 cm in height. The mukha-mandapam floor is evenly sculpted. The plain eastern and western walls of mukha-mandapam show prastara components i.e., uttiram and vajanam between wall and the roof. The vajana is running throughout the mandapam.

The inner-mandapam on the rear is 5.40 m in east-west and 2.42 m in north-south directions and 2.18 m in height. Two square pilasters on either side of the cave walls of the inner-mandapam are supporting the uttira. The walls are plain.  The roof of the mandapa is well formed. The square sanctum is 2.16 m in all the four sides and 2.17 m height. The walls and roof are plain. The Shiva Lingam is instituted in a socket pit which is 70 cm in east-west and 1 m in north-south directions. The square Avudai is 82 cm in north-west and 78 cm in east-west directions and 0.53 cm in height.

The external faces of Avudai is embellished with padabandha adhishtana with components such as jagadi, octagonal kumudam, khantam with pada flanked by kampa and without pattika. The rudra bana is 44 cm in height. A small pit is shown towards north to receive the anointed water. A water chute is seen running up to the north wall and east wall of the sanctum and continued in the east wall of the mukha-mandapam. The northern wall of the inner-mandapam is washed with stucco coatings (Sudhai) and painted with mural paintings. The mural paintings are considered as important since paintings belongs to earlier phase of Kerala mural art.

The line paintings include the human figure with folded right hand on the chest and wears necklace with dollar. The right leg is folded and rested on the seat. The left leg could not be viewed. The Ganapathy image is sculpted on the western wall of the mukha mandapam. The Lord wears Karandamakutam with head band, yajnopavita, armlets and bracelets. The right rear-hand holds broken tusk, right fore-hand holds an unknown object, the rear left-hand holds sugar cane leaves and the fore-hand is damaged. The left tusk is visible and the right one could not be seen. The Vidyadharar is seen above right-hand corner of Ganapathi. The flying figure holds a flower.