|Jinagiri Palli (Thirakoil)|
|Chandranathar (8th Tirthankarar)|
|Jinagiri Palli (Thirakoil)|
|Foot-hill Temple Dedicated to|
The natural caverns, found in many hilly terrains of Tamil Nadu, served as Jain abodes. More than one hundred Jain abodes have been identified archaeologists amidst rocky mounds and hillocks in Madurai, Pudukkottai, Periyar, Trichy, Tiruvannamalai, Vellore, Kanchipuram, Villupuram districts. Jain abodes at natural cavern bear the earliest Brahmi incriptions dating back from 2nd century BC to 3rd or 4th century AD communicating the early spread of Jainism in Tamil Nadu.
Tiruvannamalai district has seven taluks - Arani, Chengam, Cheyyar, Polur, Thandarampattu, Tiruvannamalai and Vandhavasi. Except Chengam and Thandarampattu, the other taluks are historically huge Jain region with plenty of Jain monuments as old as 5th century CE showing Jain sculptures, Jain paintings and Jain Beds in caverns everywhere. But they do not posses Brahmi inscriptions. The Jain monks resolved to spend their lives in splendid isolation, engaging themselves in contemplation and religious pursuits. The Pallava and Chola monarchs have inscribed their 'Pallichandham' endowments, land and other grants, gifts etc, to these Jain shrines.
Our first stop was Thirakoil (Tamil: திறக்கோயில்) in the Vandavasi taluk, Tiruvannamalai district. This 8th Century AD Digambar Jain Temple and Hill devoted to Adhinathar (Rishabhanathar), the first Jain Tirthankar or or "ford-maker" forms one of the important Jain Tirth (pilgrimage) centers of Tamil Nadu.
Though there are number of Jain caves all over Thiruvannamalai district, not many are well known to the heritage lovers. Thirakoil is a "must go place" if you like Jain heritage and architecture. Better to visit with friends or family and needs to accompany with a person knowledgeable about the district and heritage destinations.
Thirakoil, the tiny village is located one kilometer away from the Mazhaiyur - Desur - Thirakoil Road junction and can be reached here through private buses either from Desur or Kilputhur. The picturesque Thirakoil hillock and the scattered boulders runs through the village from north to north-east direction. Three modest, naturally formed caves in the hill were utilized as peaceful Jain Abodes (சமண பள்ளி) during 8th Century AD i.e, Pallava era. Now they are the old relics of the once flourishing Jainism in Tamil Nadu.
There are two ancient Digambar Jain Temples at Thirakoil Jain Temple complex. The most ancient among the two is the small square shaped ‘Adhinathar Shrine' located on top of the Thirakoil hillock and the second one is ‘Adhinathar Shrine’ at the foothills which came after one hundred years or so. The entire Thirakoil Jain Temple complex is protected by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
To the south of the Thirakoil hillock and near to the entrance of the Thirakoil Temple complex lies 'Jinagiri Palli' (ஜினகிரி பள்ளி) the globular rock bearing the sculptures of four Jain tirthankars. ASI has enclosed this historical rock within iron grills.
1. Adhinathar aka. Rishabanathar first thirthakara appear seated in padmasana (lotus posture) in dhyana mudra (meditation) on a lion throne. Above him are Prabha-chakra (Divine Aura) and triple umbrella. On his two sides are figures of chauri (whisk) bearers. The image faces east.
2. Mahavirar 24th thirthakara appear seated in padmasana (lotus posture) in dhyana mudra (meditation) on a lion throne. Above him are Prabha-chakra (Divine Aura) and triple umbrella. On his two sides are figures of chauri (whisk) bearers. The image faces east. There is a niche for lighting oil lamp.
3. Parsvanathar 23rd thirthakara standing on lotus flower with five -hooded serpent canopy above his head. Around his shoulder level Kamada preparing to attack the saint with stone. The image of the Yaksha Dharanendra kneeling down before the Lord and the image of Yakshi Padmavati keep spreading the umbrella and protecting the Lord from Kamadan's attack.
4. Chandranathar aka C handraprabhar appear seated in padmasana (lotus posture) in dhyana mudra (meditation) on a lion throne. Above him are Prabha-chakra (Divine Aura) and triple umbrella. On his two sides are figures of chauri (whisk) bearers. The lotus pedestal bears crescent moon emblem. The image faces north and receives the pilgrims at the entrance.
Three natural caverns mentioned above are located on the eastern and western sides of the hillock. At these natural caves number of Jain monks formed "Jain Muni Sangh" (Union of Jain monks) and observed meditation, practiced for self-recognition and purification.
The inscriptions at Jinagiri Palli address this place as Mai Siddhappalli ( .........மை சித்தப் பள்ளி). Since the first nine characters of the Tamil word group cannot be deciphered, the epigraphists read it as Mai Siddhappalli ( .........மை சித்தப் பள்ளி) and this name was coined by the scholars to address this temple. The word 'palli' (பள்ளி) has a strong association with Jainism and the ascetics used to call their education centre as 'palli'.
The Parakesarivarman Chola inscription (ARE 277 of 1916) is seen nearer to Adhinathar sculpture (on Jinagiri rock) speaks about the gift of sheeps made by Eranandhi for burning perpetual lamp in Thandapuram Jinapalli (தண்டாபுரம் ஜீனப்பள்ளி). The ancient name of this Jain temple was Thandapuram Jinapalli.
The Rajaraja Chola I's inscription located near Parsvanathar sculpture (on Jinagiri rock) dated 1007 AD. (ARE 277 of 1916) bears the name of this hill temple as 'Gangasoora perumpalli' (கங்கசூர பெரும்பள்ளி) located in Rajakesaripuram (இராசகேசரிபுரம்) - the other name of Thirakoil. In spoken language this temple is also known as Kangaraiyan Palli (கங்கரையன் பள்ளி).
Another Parakesarivarman Chola's inscription (ARE 279 of 1916) nearer to Adhinathar sculpture informs about the gift of paddy by Kanakavirasithadikal to the temple. There is one more inscription (ARE 278 of 1916) not readable fully - (on the western side of the Jinagiri rock) brings out the gift of gold for burning perpetual lamp.
A flight of narrow steps (carved on the highly sloping rock) leads to the top of the hill. The climb atop the hill is tremendous fun; and a bit taxing on your breathing rhythm. The view from the top is awesome.
The inscriptions indicate that this Digambara Jain temple devoted Lord Adhinathar on top of Thirakoil hillock as Mai Siddhappalli or Siddhaperumpalli. The present temple structure was constructed quite recently on the vestiges of the ancient hill temple. The shrine has sanctum, antarala, ardhamandapam, and mukhamandapam. The two pilasters standing between the ardhamandapam and mukha mandapam have the Pallava style Pothikai (cornice) on top. The previous rectangular shaped ancient brick structure would have constructed during 6th century AD. The sanctum and shikara got dilapidated over a period of time. The bricks used appear in unusual in size (L 26 cm x W 16 cm x H 7 cm). The vestiges of perimeter wall around the hill temple could be noted even now.
The idol of Lord Adhinathar, the prime deity got broken into three pieces. Now this sculpture is displayed in the Government Egmore Museum, Chennai. They have replaced the broken idol with new one from the foothills temple. This 3 feet tall and proportinally narrow idol, without the identification symbol of Tithankara kept at ardhamandapam, is considered as the most ancient among the idols worshiped in this temple. The wide triple parasol or umbrella above the head and the thick band of divine halo behind Him indicate the age of the idol. The stout hands and short ear lobes (not touching the shoulders) designate the idol to 7th century AD.
At the foothills there is Adhinathar temple with sanctum, antarala, ardhamantapam and mahamandapam, built after 'Jinagiri Palli' i.e, around 11th century AD. and the mahamandapam around 13th century AD. The vratta sthamba (rounded pillars) are seen both in the ardhamandapam and mahamandapam. The 13th century inscription on this pillar speaks about Idaiyaran Atkondan of Devapuram and his gift of rounded pillars to the temple. The three feet high idol of the prime deity Adhinathar (in seated posture) with damaged nose is kept at mahamandapam. The present idol of Lord Adhinathar, the prime deity is sculpted with white marble. The sculpture depicts him seated on the lions throne in the lotus position or kayotsarga.
There is an awesome bas-relief of Adhinathar measuring about 4 feet in height appear on one of the boulders located at the southern side of the foothills. It reminds the sculpture at Madurai Pechipallam.
How to get there
The Jain abode is located 15 km southwest оf Vandavasi, 7 km frоm Ponnur Kundkundar Philosophical Center. Only private buses and taxis are available from Desur or Kilputhur. Bus commuters to walk approximately one kilometer from main road to reach Thirakoil.
Nearby Jain Temples:
Desur: Shri 1008 Atheeswarar Jinalayam, a three-centuries old ancient temple. Lord Adeeswarar (Virushabanath) – the first theerthankara – as main deity.
Ponnur Hills: Ponnur Hills, which is famous for Acharya Kund Kund, is 8 km from here.
Thirakoil: Thirakoil, a historic cave temple, is 3 km from here.
Mel Sithamur: Mel Sithamur, a primary religious center for Tamil Jains with temples of Lord Parswanath and Mallinath, is 38 km from here.
Thirumalai: Thirumalai, with a Jain math and unique cave temples, is about 50 km from here.
Jinagiri Palli (Jain Abode) at Thirakoil, Tamil Nadu, India by R Muthusamy
Thirakoil Jain Heritage Site of 8th Century CE