Ladan Cave Temple, Yanaimalai, Madurai
Ladan Cave Temple is a rock cut cave temple dedicated to Lord Murugan located at Yanaimalai in Madurai District of Tamilnadu. Yanaimalai (Elephant Hill) is a protected monument and tourist attraction in Tamil Nadu. The hill stretches over 3 Kms (1.9 mi) and is 90 metres (300 ft) high. It has Jain sculptures, a Shaivite Temple, Ladan Cave Temple, and a Vaishnavite temple, namely the Narasingam Yoga Narasimha Perumal Temple. The hill is of rich in granite, and has been damaged by illegal quarrying.
In 2010, the government of Tamil Nadu tried to set up a sculpture garden on the hill, but backed out after locals and activists protested against the idea. The Ladan temple has been declared a protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India. A small lane adjacent to the famous Lord Yoga Narasimhar Temple leads visitors to a rocky terrain and then to the Ladan Cave Temple, which is built in the style of early Pandya period.
The hill derives its name from the Tamil word Yanai, meaning "elephant", and malai, meaning "hill". The hill looks like an elephant in a sitting position. The site has had this name for over 2000 years.
The Thiruvilayadal Purana, written by Perumbatta Puliyur Nambi and later amended by Paranjothi Munivar, says that the Chola king, who could not win the battle against the Pandya ruler, sought the help of Jains. They created a giant elephant using their mystic powers and directed it to kill the Pandya king and destroy his capital. But the Pandya prayed to Lord Siva to save him and his capital. The Lord sent to him the "Narasinga Asthram" (the eight-lettered word Namo Narayana), which turned the elephant into a hill. To commemorate this event, a stone elephant was installed in Madurai near the Vaigai facing the north, which is found near the Yanaikkal bridge even today.
The adjacent Narasimhar Temple was built by Parantaka Nedunchadaya Varaguna Pandya in 770 A.D. Probably, the Pandya kings built the Vishnu and Muruga Temple at the foot of the elephant hill as a countercheck to the then flourishing Jainism. The Temple was named after the presence of Lada Sanyasi, whose sculpture is inscribed at the base of the stairs. It is believed that Sanyasi was from Bengal, which is referred as Lada Desam.
This rock-cut temple, dedicated to Lord Muruga and his consort Goddess Devasena exclusively, belongs to eighth century A.D. Huge tusk-shaped staircase from either side leads to the front mandapam where the peacock and a cock stand on two pilasters (half pillars) on the left and right side. The front mandapam also has sculptures of saints and kings who are all attentive to the orders of their Lord. The roof is held by the dwarf structured goblin freeze (boothakanagal).
The rectangular sanctum sanctorum has Lord Muruga and his consort Goddess Devasena, on his left. Here, Lord Muruga has a band of flowers (kannimaalai) on his head and crossed chain (channaveeram) on his chest. Similarly, Goddess Devasena is decked beautifully in well-designed dress materials and locks of hair are intrinsically carved to give the feel of a wonderful modern hairdo.
This extra care in dressing and the bunch of flowers may lead all to believe that this was the venue of the reception. Apart from these structures, the presence of peacock and cock doubly ascertain that the sculpture is that of Lord Muruga. The pillars and walls of the cave temple are decorated with fully blossomed lotus flower either in square or octagonal-shaped designs besides the wavy corbels (tharangapodigai) on the pillars.
On the eastern wall there is a ‘Vatteluthu’ inscription that bears a sentence indicating the renovation work that was taken up in the ninth century A.D. The sentence is “pullari vattakuruchi Nambiran patta somayaji parivirajakar pudukku.” ‘Pullari vattakuruchi’ would probably refer to the place while ‘somayaji’ refers to a Brahmin and ‘parivirajakar’ the name of the person and the word ‘pudukku’ refers to renovation work.
Ladan Cave Temple is situated to the south of the Narasinga Perumal temple. The Temple is located at about 2 Kms from Othakadai Bus Stop, 6 Kms from Thirumohur, 6 Kms from Thirumohoor Kala Megha Perumal Temple, 10 Kms from Madurai, 12 Kms from Madurai Periyar Bus Stand, 5 Kms from Mattuthavani Integrated Bus Terminus, 12 Kms from Madurai Railway Junction, 11 Kms from Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple and 22 Kms from Madurai International Airport. The Temple is situated on Madurai to Melur Road. At the Othakadai Junction take a left and reach the temple. The Hill is visible from all around. Take a mini bus from Mattuthavani (Madurai Central Bus Stand) bus terminus to Othakadai. Take an auto-rickshaw from Mattuthavani Bus terminus or Madurai Central Railway Station to Othakadai. Mini buses are available for every 10 minutes from Othakadai.