Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kazhugumalai-Explore how saivism and jainism coexisted....

Kazhugumalai was on our to-visit spots for longer time.Whenever we plan to visit the place somehow some hindrances kept coming..But a week back we were very rigid that we should visit the place.So started our journey to kazhugumalai from Tuticorin at 7 AM.We packed our breakfast and lunch and started our travel.The sun was very harsh in the morning at Tuticorin.We thought it would be difficult to climb the vettuvan koil..

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We took a route Tuticorin-Kovilpatti-Kazhugumalai enroute sankaran koil.There are no good hotels to have food at both the places.So it is wise to pack ur food.On the way to Kovilpatti from Tuticorin there is a famous old snacks shop named Srinivasa Mittai Kadai (at a place called Keel Eral)where u get a variety of sweets esp Pepper Kara Sev and karupatti Yeni Mittai.We packed a little of the snacks from the shop for our journey.
Famous Snacks shops on the way to kovilpatti at Keel Eral
If u happen to cross this shop don't miss the karuppatti yenni mittai and Pepper Kara sev.After packing few snacks we headed our way towards kovilpatti and to our surprise after kovilpatti the weather was too good and it started to drizzle a little..we felt as if we are at Kuttralam.The breeze was also so soothing and it was a warm welcome for us to Kazhugumalai.We had our packed breakfast on the way(Idly,Idly Podi,Tomato Thokku)and reached the place at 9 AM.
There are three places that u should visit at Kazhugumalai
1.Kazugasalamoorthy temple(the Murugar Temple)
2.Jain Abode (inscriptions)
3.Vettuvar Koil (Don't miss this!!)
If time and energy permits visit the uchi Pillaiyar temple at the top of the mountain.
First we visited the kazhugusalamoorthy temple where murugar was the main deity.It was on one side of the big mountain.The temple is carved inside the mountain and could feel the chillness after entering the temple.The temple is inside the cave and there are beautiful inscriptions and sculptures here n there.Don't miss to see the big Yallis in the pillars.They are extremely beautiful and it is breathtaking to see how they carved a temple inside a mountain!!
 The temple has many aesthetic sculptures.
Kazhugasalamoorthy temple
In the nearby there was a large theppakulam(a big man made pond) and the set up was so stunning.But it was not maintained properly and not a drop of water in it.
There is a secret way that comes from the jain abode to the theppakulam.Though both the religions existed there was no clash or fight against each other.
Then we reached the other side of the mountain and the entrance to the vettuvan koil is a children's park.The site had been taken up by the archaelogical department and the path to vettuvan koil and jain abode are neatly done so that children and old person can also have a look at it..
As it rained few hours ago the weather was very chill and so the rock.So we enjoyed climbing the mountain.
First we headed towards the Uchi Pillaiyar temple.The way is very steep and old people cannot walk to the tip...But on the way we saw a banyan tree at the side of the mountain which made the place so pictureque and it was a natural airconditioned room...We took a break near the banyan tree and again trekked towards the top of the mountain expecting some jain inscriptions there.We walked for about half an hour and reached the top.It was breathtaking to take a view of the town from the top of the mountain.
At the top a pillayar temple is located..we expected some jain inscriptions but happened to see a pillaiyar temple.Then we headed back searching for the inscriptions..

The way that leads to the top of the mountain

The wind was heavy on the top of the mountain and so we made a quick return to explore the inscriptions..

On our return from the Uchi pillaiyar temple we sighted a Ayyanar temple.We mistook that to a hindu temple but on keen sighting we noticed jain inscriptions very adjacent to the temple

There is a over hanging boulder over a cavern on a hillock which contains nearly about 100 Jaina images arranged in neat rows. Images of Adinatha,neminatha,mahaveera,Parsavanatha,Bahubali,Ambika and Padmavathi are carved in specially cut niches..It dates to 8th-9th century.The sculptures are labelled in vattezhuthu script.
Some of the inscriptions were hidden by the Ayyanar temple and so we just climbed up to have a complete view of it.
The jains believe that there are 24 Tirthankaras with mahavira being the last.So the Bas-reliefs are of the tirthankaras sitting on open lotus.The more elaborate ones are the important tirthankaras.
The Inscriptions at the left of the picture(picture shown above) are the Vatteluttu-the precursors to modern tamil and malayalam.
Around 10 lines were written in vatteluttu on the rock and they pour some light on the history..

About the left one in the picture:
This is Parasnantha the teerthankara with the Yakshi Padmavathi by his side.He is the 23rd one and is always shown with a snake hood.Protecting him above is a Yaksha Dharnendra and bowing in front of him is Kamdan.The story is like once he saved 2 snakes from fire,blessed them with navkar mantra and they became the yakshi/yaksha and always protected parasnantha..
About the right one in the picture:
There are many dancing maidens on the top and right above is Indira on Airvatham flanked by warriors on horses.The face of the sculpture was destroyed by the tourists..and not due to invasion
There are more than 100 inscriptions in Kazhugumalai.The advent of Media,Advertising and Capitalism persisted even in that century..Most of the inscriptions were sponsorship announcements.Some were like.."This Bas relief is sponsored by so and so merchant in honour of so and so.."The largest donar was pandya King maran Sadayan who donated towards 17 Bas reliefs..The inscriptions had too much of detail that I could not make out many..
This place was a place of worship for the jains.The writings says that there were jain monks called battarars who lived in the caves.on the trek to the mountain we spotted around 2-3 small caves here and there.Not only this was a place of worship this also served as aplace of learning and a monastery.There were male and female teachers who existed at that time..
This is a view of the cave that is near the inscriptions.There is a secret way that is there inside it which leads to the kazhugusalamoorthy temple(Murugar temple) on the other side of the mountain.The entry was locked and it was pretty dark inside.with a mobile light and the flash we managed to take a shot of the cave.
Finally we were satisfied that we spotted the inscriptions and with much happiness we lead our way to the Vettuvan koil.I had collected more details on this temple before our visit to explore and enjoy the beautiness completely.
There are steps(with rails) laid by the archaelogical department from Jain abode to the Vettuvan Koil.It is hardly around 20-40 steps from Jain abode to the Vettuvan Koil.As the weather was very chill we didn't get tired and was of over excitement after looking at the inscriptions which we had been waiting to have a look since 2009.
Clockwise from left:Vettuvan Koil view from uchi pillaiyar temple,Vettuvan koil,View from jain Abode
From the jain Abode and uchi Pillaiyar temple we had a look at the Vettuvan Koil.After reaching the Vettuvan koil within few minutes from Jain Abode we were still astonished by the way sculptures were done.First when we reach the Vettuvan Koil we can first look at the top of the temple.
Vettuvan Koil--View from the top
It is an unfinished pandyan monolithic cave temple.7.5 mts of the mountain is excavated in rectangular shape and in the middle the temple is carved from a single stone. Unfortunately it is incomplete. Only the top portion is complete. The temple has an entrance and a main hall. At the top of the temple beautiful sculptures of Shivan, Vishnu and Brahma can be found.The temple is surrounded by the walls of the hills from which it had been cut
There is an interesting story about the name of the temple which was described in a blog by Subhashree desikan.

There was a story told about the father and a son who were sculptors wotking on this temple.Father was on the rock top and son was sitting at the bottom listened to the sound of the chisel travelling downwards and following it made a sculpture .Lore has it that the father slew the son in the fit of jealousy thereby giving the temple its name vettuvan koil”temple of the one who cut”(Courtesy:Subhashree Desikan)
We spent about 2 hours near this temple reading each and every info in the sculptures.There were very few tourists there and so with much patience we enjoyed reading the sculptures.My Mom and children rested on the mountain near the vettuvan temple.

Vettuvan Koil

The sculptures are of same style as that of Kailasnath temple-Ellora,monolithic in MahabalipuramThis is the only one of the monolithic pandya temple that still survive..It is 8th century shivan temple.
Jainism and Saivism both coexisted while still not interfering each other..You can find few carved on the walls at the back of the temple on the wall.They are incomplete.So this site is of more treasurable nature..
I was enjoying each and every second being there at vettuvan koil..Serene weather,Very few few visitors,lovely made my day worth..
The sculptures in the temple had many details.U can find Shivan,Brahma and vishnu on the top roof.Only the top of the temple is complete.If it had been complete it would have been World's best sculptures..U can see the influence of Chalukyas in the sculptures..I managed to take all the shots but could not cover few..


The dome of the temple was so much decorated with flowers and garlands made of stone.They are so beautiful than the original flowers..There are patterns of garlands,Jewellery..It is breathtaking to watch the temple decoration

look at the patterns and decoration

The patterns were so intricate that they were so beautiful.Some patterns were so uniform and they tell us the talent of the sculptors..

There are many african figures which are characterized by curly hair,short n stout figures with very thick lips.They are celestial beings called Bootha Ganangal.
Another one figure which just made me be there for hours together was the one which had lively eyes.The retina of the eyes were carved and it looked so lively.I have no words to explain about it..Just have a look at the one which winked at me..

note the retina carving..exceptionally beautiful
Here in this temple the depiction of the celestial bodies is different.Usually in other temples the celestial bodies keep praying to god but here they play music and do snake charming.This depict the life style of the people at that time.The people at that time were much into music and culture rather than myths..

look at the snake charmer

Look at the incomplete series

We tried to explore each and every part of the temple but still didn’t want to leave the place.may be if the sun would have been there we would not have spent so much of time there.It is a must see place for all who are interested in knowing more about history.
We left at 1 PM .We had our lunch at the foothills with much satisfaction of exploring the history..
Then we went to sankaran koil and finally to srivilliputhur and reached tuty at 8 pm via sivakasi route..
Though the place is named Kazhugumalai(hill of vultures) I could not spot even one vulture..



  1. lovely place amudha..i have so much interest in these kind of places, but unfortunately , we are not able to visit such places during our short visits.
    loved the pictures.I feel we both have many common interests.Are you in pinterest. try it, i think you will like it

    1. Tk u so much sumi...I am in Pinterest too..yes..we both do share some common interest...the number of page visits for this post is less when compared to that of a cookery post..that makes me sad when people don't want to learn their country's valuable treasure.
      An article had appeared in today's the Hindu newspaper(14th June) in Friday features explaining engineering marvel of kazhumalai vettuvan koil..have a look at it...this place stands top than the big temple n mamallapuram things!!!

  2. Very nice description. You might as well be a travel writer or a chronicler. Best wishes

  3. Very nice. you are a good travel writer/chronicler

  4. you are doing a great job, don't worry about how many people visited your page. You are doing quality work you should be proud of this

  5. Great description...Nice photos thanks