Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Heritage Trail: Thiruvallam, Melpadi, Mahendravadi and Pullalur 4

Mahendravadi Rock cut Cave (Views)
Mahendravarman I split the rock to build temple for Murari
After a fresh juice we left Melpadi and proceeded to Mahendravadi. Journey between Melpadi to Mahendravadi was very long, tedious, and in many parts extremely difficult. We also relied on GP system for directions, when we could not find people to enquire for directions. Melpadi villagers suggested to follow Melpadi New Bridge Road, the muddy road surrounded by barren land and the road was almost empty. Ponnai - Wallajah road was better. Journey across rural Tamil Nadu was interestin and the roadsides are  dotted with cultivable lands, huts, cattle sheds, shady trees, slow moving flocks of buffaloes, cows and goats as well as bullock carts loaded with bales of fodder and occasional bazaars. We reached Sholingur and proceeded further in the Sholingur - Kaveripakkam road dotted with paddy fields and occasional villages. We took diversion at Banavaram. It was just 7 km to reach Mahendravadi.  We reached Mahendravadi finally and the lunch was served there. After lunch we proceeded into the fenced premises maintained by Archaeological Survey India. The grill gate of the sanctum was kept closed. We could not spot any ASI staff.

On the way we saw the huge Mahendravadi lake receiving supply from Palar river. The Pallava kings have also excavated huge tanks and lakes such as: Chitramega Tadakam (Mamandur), Vairamekan Tadakam (Uttaramerur), Thralaya Thadakam (Thenneri), Paramesvara Tadatakam (Varam Eri), Avani Narayana Chaturvedi Mangalam Lake (Kaveripakkam), Kanakavalli Tadakam (Vellore Kurram), Marutanadu Lake (Vandavasi Kurram) and some more lakes.    

Mahendravadi  (மகேந்திரவாடி), a historical village (Geo-location co-ordinates : Latitude 12.891 and 79.758 Longitude) located in Arakkonam taluk (அரக்கோணம் வட்டம்), Vellore district (வேலூர் மாவட்டம்), Tamil Nadu Pin Code 632502, is popular for its rock cut cave temple hewn by Mahendravarman I. The village is part of Mahendravadi Village Panchayat and as per census 2011 it has a population of 2503 people and 72.12 % literacy rate. Agriculture is the main source of income for the people of this village. Nemili, Sholinghur and Arakonam are nearest towns of Mahendravadi and is well-connected by bus transport.

Rock cut Caves of Mahendravarman I

Most of the rock cut cave temples Mahendravarman I 's  are located in small villages and a small or moderate lakes were dug out nearer to some caves. The inscription in the Mahendra-Vishnugriha (Mahendravadi) mentions about the presence of Mahendra-thataka (Mahendra Lake) around Mahendravadi.

Rock cut Cave Temples of Mahendravarman I 

The seven rock cut caves accompanying the inscriptions of Mahendravarman I
Rock cut Cave  Inscription Name Title Location
Mandagapattu Lakshidayanam Vichitrachittan Villupuram - Ginjee   Road
Mamandur (Dusi-) - Narasamangalam              -              - Kanchipuram - Vandavasi Road
Mahendravadi Mahendra-Vishnugriha Gunabaran Kanchipuram - Arakonam Rd; >> Senthamangalam - Nemili Rd; >> Nemili - Banavaram Rd
Pallavaram              -             - GT Road.
Seeyamangalam Avanibhajana-Pallaveshvaram Griham Lalitankuran Chennai - Tindivanam >> Tindivanam - Vandavasi >> Thellaru - Desur >> Seeyamangalam
Tiruchirapalli 'Lalithankura Pallaveshvara Griham Lalitankuran Tiruchirapalli Rockfort >> Upper western cave
Dhalavanur Satrumallesvaram Satrumallan Villupuram - Ginjee >> 28th km >> Dhalavanur

The three  rock cut caves do not accompany the inscriptions of Mahendravarman I. They depict the rock cut cave architecture styles employed during period of Mahendravarman I. Though these three caves do not accompany any inscription about the constructor, it is possible to consider them as Mahendravarman I style cave. The three caves include:
Vallam Caves nos.1 - 3 Vasanteshvaram        -             - Chengulpet - Tirukazhukundram Rd.
Kurananilmuttam Alvar of Kal-Mandakam            - Kanchipuram - Vandavasi Rd. >> 8th km >> left road >>
Sikhari  Pallaveshvaram Sri Sikhari  Pallaveshvaram            - Ginjee - Mel Malayanur Rd >> Singavaram >> Sikhari  Pallaveshvaram

Among the seven rock cut caves accompanying the inscriptions of Mahendravarman I, Mahendra-Vishnugriha, is the lone rock cut cave temple dedicated to Vishnu (Murari).

The east facing  Mahendra-Vishnugriha rock cut cave in Mahendravadi is small and cute. The well planned and well executed single sanctum rock cut cave is hewn from a free standing boulder measuring about 3.35 meter long and 7.62 meter wide from north to south. The cave comprise a facade, a rectangular mukha mandapa, ardhamandapa and the slightly projected cubical sanctum.

The facade floor is formed 0.50 meter above the ground level. The facade measures 5.71 meter in north south direction and 0.60 meter in east west direction.  The facade comprise two pillars with the features of square, octagonal kattu and square in the middle and two pilasters one on each side of the corners. There are three wide 'anganas' (bays) are formed between the pillars and pilasters.

The lower square and kattu are long when equated with the upper square. While all the upper faces of the square are decorated with circular lotus medallions, all the lower faces except the west face is adorned with flower medallions. The flower medallions appear different from lotus medallions and the square frames also have deep embellishments. While the upper south and north faces of the pilasters have lotus medallions, the east faces of the pilasters also have only half frame of the medallions and the west face is left blank.

The lone four line inscription of Mahendravarman I in Pallava grantha script and in Sanskrit language is inscribed on the north face of the southern pilaster just below the lotus medallion. The details of the inscription will be discussed in succeeding paragraphs.  The vettu potikas holding the prastara components such as uttira (beam) and vajanam. The mother rock is evenly sculpted and extended in a semi-circular shape. In spite of its appearance as kapota, the structure is not shaped as kapota in its full form. Also there are two deep grooves above the facade - the lower one is short and the upper one extends up to the entire cave length.

The open rectangular mukha-mandapa is formed between two rows of pillars i.e., row of pillars in the facade and the row of  rear pillars with the features of square, octagonal kattu and square in the middle. No medallions noticed on the faces of the square part. Here also the vettu potikas holding the prastara components such as uttira (beam) and vajanam. The floor level is raised above up to 0.05 meter. The side walls, measuring about 5.75 meter in length and 1.15 meter in width, are  left blank. The floor and roof are even and there is a band of vajanam running on all four sides.

We may call the space formed between two rows of pillars i.e., row of rear pillars and rear wall as ardhamandapa. Ardhamandapa measures about 5.87 meter in length and 2.22 meter in width. The floor level is still raised above up to 0.05 meter.

The sanctum is formed on the western lateral wall facing east and it is protruding out of the western lateral wall up to 0.39 meter. The sancum floor level is raised above up to 0.59 meter. The components of adhishtana of the sanctum includes  jagadi, kumuda, khanta and pattika flanked by kampa. The moldings are more distinct on the northern wing than the southern wing. A flight of three steps without ballustrades, cut from the mother rock, leads to the sanctum. The doorway is framed by east facing pilasters on either side.  There are two niches - one on either side of the sanctum, excavated up to 1.51 meter high on the western lateral wall. Both south and north niches houses two male dwarapalakas. The niches are framed patti (band) on all four sides. The roof is supported by uttiram, vajanam and rough kapota. The lateral walls of the sanctum are not even at roof level.

Lord Narasimha's Sanctum

Lord Naraimha's Sanctum
Lord Narasimha appears in padmasana posture in the sanctum and this could be the later addition. The original prime deity 'Murari,' as mentioned in the inscription could not be found.   The pilasters at the entrance and the rear row of pillars bear niches for lighting oil lamps. This also could be the lateral additions.

In this cave temple daily pujas are not offered to Lord Narasimha. At least the sanctum can be maintained with some respect. Let it not be used as store room for plastic pots, broomsticks etc. 

Dwarapalaks

Both the dwarapalakas (door guards) in Mahendravadi appear in parsavakosana, an unusual posture. The dwarapalaka in the right niche appear in parsavakosana with the left leg in parsva (foot slightly towards right) and the right leg 90 degree. The left and right heels are aligned and the thighs are firm and the right thigh outward and the center of the kneecap is in line with the center of the right ankle. The left hip slightly forward, towards the right and the upper torso extends back to the left. The face is upright and smiling. The left hand and the broken right hands are resting on his hips. He appears wearing headband, karandamakuta with chanka motiff and ornaments worn by him includes patra kundala in ears, sarapali in the neck, armlets (tolvalai). The yagnapavita is worn in niveta fashion. The knots of the waist attire is shown on the right.

The left niche dwarapalaka also appear in parsavakosana with the left in parsva (foot slightly towards left) and the right foot 90 degree. The left and right heels are aligned and the thighs are firm and the right thigh outward and the center of the kneecap is in line with the center of the right ankle. The left hip slightly forward, towards the right and the upper torso extends back to the left. The face is slightly bent and smiling. The right hand and the broken left hands are resting on his hips. He appears wearing headband, karandamakuta with chanka motiff and ornaments worn by him includes patra kundala in ears, sarapali in the neck, armlets (tolvalai). The yagnapavita is worn in niveta fashion. The knots of the waist attire is shown on the left.

Inscription

 

As told earlier the north face of the southern pilaster at the facade bear the inscription of Mahendravarman I in Pallava Grantha script and use Prakrit (Sanskrit) language (Epigraphia Indica Vol. IV pp. 152 - 153).



मह्हिततमं सतामु [प] महेन्द्र [त] टाकमि  [दम्]
स्थिरमुरु कारितं गुणभरेन विदार्य्य शिल [|म] [|]
ज [न] नयनाभिर [|] मगुणधाम   महेन्द्रपुरे
मह्हति महेन्द्रविष्णुगृहनाम मुरा [रि] गृ [हं] [॥]
(Script Cortesy: Saurabh)
Mahhitatamam sataamu [pa] mahendra [ta] taakami [dam]
Sthirmuru kaaritam gunabharen vidaaryya shila [am] [|]
Ja [na] nayanabhir [|] magunadhaam mahendrapure
Mahhati mahendravishnugrihanaam mura [ri] griha [ham] [||]
(Script Cortesy: Saurabh)
மஹ்ஹிதாதாமம் சதாமு [ப] மஹேந்த்ர [த]டாகமி [தம்]
ஸ்திர்முரு  காரிதம் குணபரன் விதார்ய ஷீல [அம்] |
ஜ [ந] நயநாபிர் | மகுநதாம் மஹேந்த்ரபு
மஹ்ஹதி மஹேந்த்ரவிஷ்ணுகிரிஹனாம் முரா[ரி] கிரிஹ  [ஹம்]  ||

English Translation: The wide temple of Murari (Vishnu), named Mahendra-Vishnugriha was caused to be made by splitting the boulder by Gunabhara (Pallava king Mahndravarman I) on the bank of Mahendra Tataka (Mahendra Tank) in the prominent (city of) Mahenthirapura and this is extremely appreciated by estimable citizenry.


How to Get There – Proceed up to 20 km in the Kanchipuram - Arakkonam road and take diversion on the left and travel further in the enthamangalam - Nemili road. From Nemili proceed further in the Nemili - Banavaram road. Mahendravadi is located in the 8th km on Banavaram-Nemili road.  
Reference:

  1. Amazing Temple Carved Out of a Single Block of Rock. Ram Subramanian. Tamilnadu.com Mar. 5, 2014
  2. Mahendravadi – Vishnu Temple of Mahendravarman. Saurabh. Indian History and Architecture. October 20, 2010 Purattatva.in
  3. Mahendravadi (Wikipedia)
  4. Seeyamangalam-cave temples of the Pallavas. Lakshmi Sharath. September 3, 2010
  5. Welcome to Pallava cave hunting. Lakshmi Sharath. September 4, 2010
  6. குடைவரை கோயில் அமுது கௌரி பாலன் October 16, 2014
  7. பல்லவர்கள் Maya Digi Media  9 February 2015
  8. மகேந்திர விஷ்ணு கிருகம் in மகேந்திரர் குடைவரைகள். நளினி, மு. மற்றும் கலைக்கோவன், இரா. pp. 80 - 88. 2012. 286 p. ரூபாய். 225/-
  9. மாமண்டூர் ஏரியை அமைத்த பல்லவர்கள். sathiyamweekly.com June 18, 2015. 
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