Friday, October 28, 2016

Kurathiarai Cave Temple: Hindu Rock cut Cave near Nagerkoil, Tamil Nadu, India

Picture Courtesy: RK Lakshmi (Facebook)
Kurathiyarai (குறத்தியறை) Rock cut cave temple is located in Thovalai (தோவாளை) taluk of Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu, India PIN 629851 and the village is forming part of  Azhagiapandiapuram (அழகியபாண்டியபுரம்), town panchayat. Kurathiyarai village is situated in the Nagerkoil - Kadukkarai road. Take diversion before Azhagiapadiapuram and and find out muddy road and travel one km to reach this village. The geographical coordinates of Azhagiapandiapuram are 8°18′35″N latitude 77°26′45″E longitude. As of 2001 India census, Azhagiapandiapuram had a population of 12,060 5966 male and 6074 female). Azhagiapandiapuram is 17 km away from Nagerkoil, 

Kanyakumari district well known for places of legendary, historical and artistic importance. You would be enthralled to see the lush green paddy fields, swaying palms, meandering dusty gravel  roads, bullock carts crawling with loads of straw bale, and criss-crossing water streams. Agriculture is the main occupation in this region. Thovalai and the surrounding area is involved in the fresh flower industry for sale to domestic and foreign markets. The Nagerkoil is the base destination to visit Kanyakumari, Udayagiri fort, Padmanabhpuram Palace, Muttam Beach, Tengapattinam Beach, and Krishnancoil temple.


The south facing rock cut cave is excavated on the slope of the hillock at the outskirts of the village. The cave cell is excavated 0.95 cm in width and 1.77 m in height and east-west in orientation. The entrance is 80 cm in width and 1.30 m in height. Local people made provision for wooden door and walls coated with cement. 

The horse shoe shaped cave excavation remains incomplete and the floor, roof and walls of the cave appear coarse. The sanctum is 1.52 m in east-west in length and 1.13 m north- south in width and 2.04 m in height. The niche carved on the rear wall measures 40 cm in height. The niche, flanked by two square pilasters,  houses Lord Vishnu. The pilasters support the angular potika and uttira.  The prastara including vajanam, valabi and kapota are absent.  

Picture Courtesy: RK Lakshmi (Facebook)

Lord Vishnu image appears in samapatha sthanaka posture on the rear wall and image is dull and smudged with oil. The Lord wears kreeta makuta, kundala ear-ring, yagnopavita (sacred cord) runs across his chest, and drapes dhoti as a five fold tuck in wrap (panchkacha) and the waist cloth (idaikattu) is tucked with knot. He holds the chanka (conch) in his back right hand and his back left hand holds Chakra (disc wheel). His right forearm rests on the hip and the left forehand kept half folded. Scholars assign the date of Vishnu as eighth century A.D. 

Picture Courtesy: RK Lakshmi (Facebook)

Two niches carved are carved outside on the rock slope one on each side of the cave entrance. The niche on the west of the entrance is 89 cm in height and 63 cm in width and houses Vinayagar idol The Vinayagar is seated in posture described as ‘Lalitasana’ (posture of royal ease) with his right leg drawn up and folded and the left leg resting on the ground. The Lord in ‘Lalitasana’ represents a calm and relaxed deity and the idol appear with trunk to the right side is known as valampuri Vinayagar (வலம்புரி விநாயகர்). The Lord wears karanda-makutam (கரண்டமகுடம்), sarapali (சரப்பளி) in the neck, armlets (தோள்வளை), bracelets (கைவளை) and short robe around the waist. The right tusk is present while left tusk is absent. The back left hand is damaged and the back right hand shows kapitha mudra. The right fore-hand holds an object which is not unidentifiable and left forehand rests on the lap.

The image on eastern niche is left incomplete and sculpting do not show any shape. However the local people worship this image as Avvaiyar.  Although the presiding deity in this cave is Vishnu, the temple is locally known as Avvaiyaaramman koil. The image on the left side of Lord Vishnu is believed to be that of Avvai.


The worship of Avvaaiyar in Thovalai taluk in Kanyakumari district is locally as Avvai Nonbu or Avvai Vratham. The Tuesdays of Tamil month Adi is most auspicious for Avvaiyar worship. Womenfolk offer 'Kozhukkattai' (steam boiled rice ball with sweet stuffing) to Avvaiyaaramman.

From inscriptions from Chitharal mountain, there was a Jain cave temple at the top of Chitharal mountain and was known as Thiru Charanathu Malai.  The monks belonging to the Digambara sect established Thiru Charanathu Palli – the abode of Jain monks during 9th century A.D. Thiru Charanathu Palli was a dynamic center of Jain learning - a monastery and a school. The male teacher was called ‘kuravar’ and the female teacher ‘kurathi.’ The word Kurathi (குறத்தி) also denotes a Jain nun. Influence of Jainism in Kurathiyarai is evident from the first syllable 'Kurathi. The inscription also cites the Ay king Vikramaditya Varaguna (885-925 AD). The scholars assign the date of the cave to 8th century A.D.

How to get there?

Bus Route: Thovalai is well connected by bus from Nagerkoil and Kanyakumari.
Nearest Railway station: Nagercoil Junction is a major railway junction connecting the southern tip of India with all parts of India.
Nearest Airport Thiruvananthapuram


  1. Kurathiarai Rock-cut Cave -Nagercoil -Kanyakumari DistrictRK Lakshmi. Facebook.
  2. Tales of Avvaiyaar March 6, 2009 (
  3. குறத்தியறை.  மு. நளினி. வரலாறு.காம் இதழ்  47. மார்ச் 16 - ஏப்ரல் 17, 2008.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Thirunanthikarai Cave Temple

Thirunandhikarai, (Tamil: திருநந்திக்கரை, Malayalam: തിരുനന്തികര )  also known as Thirunandhikara, rock cut cave is located in Thirunandhikarai village, Kalkulam (கல்குளம்) taluk, Kanyakumari (கன்னியாகுமரி மாவட்டம்) district, Tamil Nadu state, India PIN 629161. This village is located in the Kulasekaram (குலசேகரம்) - Pechipparai (பேச்சிப்பாறை) road and forms part of Thirparappu special village panchayat and Kulasekharam post office limit. The Latitude and Longitude coordinates of Kulasekaram are N 8° 22' 5.1445" (8.368096°) and E 77° 18' 3.0622" (77.300851°) respectively. The elevation / altitude of Kulasekaram is 280 meters (920 feet) above sea level.  

Kanyakumari, mostly preferred by travelers since it has many tourist attractions. There are around 25 tourist places in Kanyakumari district for the travelers to explore and they include Vivekananda Rock Memorial, Muttom Beach, Keeriparai Reserve Forest, and Ullakaarvi, all vie for attention. Other charmers include Government Museum, Thanumalayan Temple, and Kanyakumari Wildlife Sanctuary. Thirparappu Falls (திற்பரப்பு அருவி) is the famous falls in the Kothai River (கோதை  ஆறு). Kulasekaram has many rubber plantations. and has a respectable transport network Thirunandhikarai village and cave are located 3 km from Kulasekaram, 11 km from Pechiparai Dam (பேச்சிப்பாறை அணை), 5 km from Thriparappu Waterfalls, 38 km from Nagerkoil and 50 km from Kanyakumari. The nearest airport is at Thiruvananthapuram. The best season to visit places in Kanyakumari is between February - December. ISRO chairman Mr. Madhavan Nair was born and brought up in Thirunandhikarai.

There are two important Shiva temples in Thirunandhikarai:  Thirunanthikara Nanthishwaran Temple and Thirunandhikara Cave Temple. Nanthishwaran Temple is situated on the river banks of Nandhiaaru. Thirunandhikarai is the fourth shivalayam among the 12 saivite shrines in Kanyakumari district (1 Tirumalai, 2 Thikkurichi, 3 Thirparappu, 4 Thirunandhikkarai, 5 Ponmanai, 6 Pannippagam, 7 Kallkkulam, 8 Melancode, 9 Thiruvidaicode, 10 Thiruvithamkode, 11 Thiruppanticode and 12 Thirunattalam). There will be a marathon run by saivite devotees from shrine Thirumalai, the first shivalayam, to the twelfth, Thirunattalam on the day of Shivratri.  The traditional Shiva temple also houses shrines for Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.

The south facing Thirunandhikkarai 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 is 4.97 m in the north-south and 0.51 cm in the east-west directions. It 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 (பந்தல்). 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 Vettezhuthu inscriptions.(வட்டெழுத்து கல்வெட்டுக்கள்) 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 Vettezhuthu 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 through out 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 padhabandha adishtana with components such as jagadhi (ஜகதி), octogonal kumudam (குமுதம்), khantam with pada flanked by kampa and without patiikai.  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, yagnopavitha, 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.


Ay dynasty  ruled the land between Nagercoil and Thiruvalla and Vizhinjam, The Ay Kingdom located to the south of Chera kingdom "functioned for long as an effective buffer state between the declining Chera kingdom and an emerging Pandya Kingdom." Ay dynasty was later known as Venad (வேள்நாடு / வேணாடு) dynasty. This land was also the scene of many battles. In 788 A.D, Vikramaditya Varaguna (885–925), an illustrious Ay ruler ruled Venad. 

Jatilavarman Parantaka (Maranjadayan) the Pandya king waged a war over Ay kingdom and encircled Vizhinjam port. The Pandya conquered the Ays and made it a tributary state. Still the Ays refused to submit and fought against Pandyas for almost a century. Despite frequent defeats Cheras continued to exist as a fighting force. During ninth century Cheras rose again as a notable power. This region came under Cheras during the reign of Bhaskara Ravi Varman Tiruvadi (978 - 1036 A.D.). Rajaraja Chola I waged a war against the Venad ruler and captured the southern region and named it as Rajaraja Tennadu. Muttom is the fishing village in Kalkulam taluk. Rajaraj Chola I named it as Mummudi Chola Nallur. 

The department of archaeology was started under the initiative of Professor Sundaram Pillai and the then Maharajah of Travancore, Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma sanctioned the monthly grant of Rs. 50.00 for its functioning. The renowned  epigraphist T. A. Gopinatha Rao was employed as first Superintendent in the year 1908. T.A. Gopinatha Rao edited and published The Travancore Archaeological Series (T.A.S.) from 1910. Thus T.A.S. inaugurated the systematic survey and collection of inscriptions in the erstwhile Travancore state. The scholar also visited Thirunandhikarai and Chitharal caves in 1920-21 and copied and recorded the inscriptions from the caves. .According to T.A.Gopinatha Rao, the cave temple was built during the reign of the king Vikramaditya Varaguna. Chitharal was erected at Tirucharanam at the behest of a Jain priestess called Muttavala Naranakuttiyar, who also presented the temple a metallic lamp stand and a golden flower. Rao also believed that Thirunandhikkarai rock cut cave was excavated by Vikramaditya Varaguna, the Ay ruler in 9th century A.D in simple Pandya style. The rock cut caves were the founding caves of Jainism.  Thirunandhikarai cave also served as dwelling place to Jain ascetic Veeranandi, who came from Thirunarunkondai Melappalli and preached Jainism during 8th century. One more cave temple Kurathiarai  was also excavated in the ninth century when this region was under the influence of Jainism. Thirunandhikarai rock cut cave is under the maintenance of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).


This cave has four Vattezhuthu (வட்டெழுத்து) inscriptions (Travancore Archaeological Series (T. A. S.) vol. I., p. 413.)  inscribed one on each side of the entrance and others on each side of the pillars. One of which bears the name of the ruler and his regnal year. The inscription, dated in the 18th regnal year of Rajaraja Chola I (முதலாம் இராஜராஜ சோழன்) found on the western cave wall, registers the gift of Muttom (முட்டம்), the village  (name changed as Mummudi-chola-nallur மும்முடிச்சோழநல்லூர்) in Valluva-nadu (வள்ளுவநாடு) under Rajaraja-thennadu (இராஜராஜ தென்னாடு). The gift was made for the celebration of a festival for Mahadeva of Tirunandikarai (திருநந்திக்கரை மகாதேவர்) and also for ablution of the deity in the river, on the Satabhisha, star (சதய நட்சத்திரம்) day in the Tamil month Aippasi, (ஐப்பசி) (October - November) in the year 1003 A.D, being the birthday of the king. Records a provision made by the king for supply of one nazhi (நாழி) measure ghee every day for lighting the perpetual lamp in the name of Rajaraja Chola I in the temple.

Inscription Travancore Archaeological Series (T. A. S.) Vol. III, p. 206 records gift of nine buffalo(s) for the provision of burning a perpetual lamp with one uri measure ghee each day for Tirunandikarai Lord by Ainurruva Mutharaiyan alias Sithakutti Ambi of Veikottumalai under Nanjilnadu and the buffalo(s) were handed-over to Idayarmangalavan Pavithiran, an official serving under the village elders (sabha).  The inscription commences with these words 'the year of annihilation weaponry in Karaikanda Eswaram (‘கறைக்கண்ட ஈசுவரத்துக் கலமறுத்த யாண்டு’) refering the date of inscription. According to Gopinatha Rao, the temple 'Karaikanda Eswaram'  is the saivite temple located near Katikaipattinam in Eranial taluk. The inscription was inscribed in an year when the Chera war-ships were destroyed in Karaikanda Eswaram.    

Inscription Travancore Archaeological Series (T. A. S.) Vol. III, pp. 200-203 inscribed on a pillar, whose date assignable to eight century A.D., records the gift of 'Ur' (ஊர்-a village). For this purpose one Dhaliyazhavan (தளியாழ்வான்), along with the 'elders' of Tirunandikarai (திருநந்திக்கரை பெருமக்கள்) assembled in Kurunthambakkam (குருந்தம்பாக்கம்). The assembly converted the Ur's name into Sri Nandimangalam and gifted to one Nambi Ganapathi (நம்பி கணபதி) for purposes of mid-night offerings (நள்ளிரவுத் திருவமுது) to the Lord of the temple. The four boundaries (எல்லைகள்) are cited for the village under gift and include a river (name not known) (ஒரு பெயரற்ற ஆறு), Nandhi river (நந்தியாறு), Mudukonur (முதுகோனூர்) and Pakkamangalam (பாக்கமங்கலம்). Gopinatha Rao, who copied and recorded the inscription, has pointed out the present existence of  Mudukonur and Pakkamangalam near Nandhimangalam.

Inscription Travancore Archaeological Series (T. A. S.) Vol. III, pp. 203-206 comprising 40 lines was inscribed on another pillar. This inscription records the gift of land by Mangalacheri Narayanan Sivakaran to Tiruvallavazh Mahadevar of Tirunandikarai  (திருநந்திக்கரையில் உறையும் திருவல்லவாழ் மகாதேவர்). The inscription lists out the land pieces. Resolved the wages to be issued from the land produce accrued from the above land: four measures (கலம் Kalam) to Santhipuram, five measures (கலம் Kalam) to Uvachar (category of temple staff), five measures (கலம் Kalam) to Udayar (category of temple staff) and cleaning staff as well as for puja rituals, The perpetual lamps were lit using 60 measures (uri - உரி) of ghee from the remaining land produce. 

How to get there?

Road Transport : Thirunandhikarai and its nearest town Kulasekaram are well connected from Thirvananthapuram or Kovalam Beach or Kanyakumari. You can get busses from Nagercoil, Thuckalay, Marthandam, Kulasekaram. Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) organizes local site seeing tours. 

Nearest Railway Station is Marthandam. Nagerkoil railway station is 15 km away. Kanyakumari railway station is connects with major cities in India.

Nearest Airport is Trivandrum International Airport.

  1. A topographical list of the inscriptions of the Madras presidency (collected till 1915) with notes and references by Rangacharya, V. (Vijayaraghava); Archaeological Survey of India 1919
  2. Kerala State Archaeology Department (Wikipedia)
  3. On the southern tip of India, a village steeped in the past. The Hindu November 17, 2011
  4. Thirunandikkara Cave Temple in Thirparappu in Kanyakumari. Yatra to (
  5. Thirunanthikarai (Wikipedia)
  6. Thirunanthikarai Cave Temple. C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre, Chennai. (
  7. Thirunanthikarai Cave Temple. (
  8. Thirunanthikarai inscription. Kerala (
  9. திருநந்திக்கரைக் குடைவரை இரா.கலைக்கோவன், மு.நளினி வரலாறு.காம் இதழ் 63 (செப்டம்பர் 15 - அக்டோபர் 15, 2009)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Kallil Bhagavathy cave temple: Jain / Buddhist Natural Cave in Methala near Ernakulam, Kerala

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Kallil Bagavathy Temple
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Tirthankara Bas Relief
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Jain Saint
Kallil (കല്ലിൽ) cave temple,  a Jain temple, is located in Methala (മേത്തല) village, Koovappady (കൂവപ്പാടി) taluk, Ernakulam (എറണാകുളം) District, Kerala, India PIN 683545 and forms part of Asamannoor (അശമന്നൂർ) Panchayat. The Methla town in Trissur district should not be confused with this village. The cave temple is located 42 km towards East from district head quarters Ernakulam. 10 km from Koovappady. 22 km away from Kalady (കാലടി) (birth place St. Sankaracharya (ശങ്കരാചാര്യാ), 217 km from state capital Thiruvananthapuram. Kallil means 'in stone' in Malayalam language. The geographical coordinates of Mathala are 10.112921°N Lattitude and 76.5517132°E Longitude. The altitude / elevation is 30 m (100 feet). According to the 2011 census of India, Asamannoor has 4714 households and the population is 19311 (Male 9574, Female 9737) . The literacy rate of the village is 84.57%. The temple is owned by the Kallil Pisharody (കല്ലിൽ പിഷാരോടി) family. The overall administrative control of the temple remains with the present Karanavar (കാരണവർ) of the family and all its properties maintained by 'Chenkottukonam Sree Ramadasashramam' (സെൻകോട്ടുക്കോണം  ശ്രീ രാമദാസ് ആശ്രമം). But all that retrieved back due to some hassle between local people and Ashram authorities. The monument is protected by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Kallil Bhagavathy in Natural Cave

Kallil Bhagavathy (കല്ലിൽ ഭഗവതി), is natural cavern where legend, myth and history meet. It is considered one among prime ancient Jain temples in Kerala. It is located right in the middle of a jungle and it is as wide as 28 acres,  It is located beneath the huge monolith rock measuring a 75 feet in length, 45 feet in width and 25 feet in height and it stands sans the support on the ground. The flight of 120 steps leads to the cave temple. It is believed that the inception of the temple might date back to third century B.C.. Scholars also agree with this theory. The Jain cave temple is now converted and dedicated to Bhagavathy (a ferocious form of Mahishasurmardini i.e., form of Shakti). Bhagavathy is the prime deity of this cave temple.

Jain Images

The bas relief image of Lord Brahma is sculpted on top of the rock. It is believed that the rock is standing stable on its position due to the grace of Bhagavathy. The cave temple also houses images of Parshvanatha (also known as Parshva),  the twenty-third Tirthankara and Mahavira, (also known as Vardhamāna),  the twenty-fourth and last Jain Tirthankara and Padmāvatī the protective goddess or shashan devi of Lord Parshvanatha. The Jain monks might have frequented this cave and performed religious practices.

Bhagavathy Cult

The worship of Bhagavathi is popular and widespread in Kerala, Goa and Konkan. The Bhagavathi worship is also a part of Theyyam (Theyyattam ) (തെയ്യം) (spirit) worship, a popular ritual form of worship of North Malabar in Kerala. The term theyyam is a corrupt form of Dhaivam or God. It is also popular ritual art form of northern Kerala especially prevalent in the traditional Kolathunadu (the present Kannur and Kasargod Districts). Keralopathy, the popular historical book cites about the sanctioning of the festival such as Kaliyattam (i.e., Theyyattam or Daivattam) by Saint. Parasurama to the Keralites. The responsibility of performing Theyyam dance is assigned, by the saint, with the indigenous communities like Panan, Velan, Vannan and Malayan and Velan.

Theyyam Communities and Tamil Sangam Dance Traditions

Theyyam dancers are referred to in the sangam literature. The dancer, as per Sangam tradition, was "employed by the mothers of love born girls to exercise the malignant spirits from their daughters." The rituals of Sangam tradition described in Tamil Sangam literature (including Sangam commentaries are being totally observed by Velan and other dancing traditions. The Sangam literature describes Ezhimalai, the hilly region ruled by Udayan Venmon Nannan. It is believed that Ezhimalai region is now known as the present Kolathunadu near Payyannur. Hence it is believed that the Tamil Sangam Age cult still continues with regional variations.

Tantric Vajrayana Buddhism Vs Brahminical Hinduism in Kerala

Until the medieval period the people were almost Buddhists in mid and south Kerala. It will be surprising to learn that most of the popular Hindu temples in Kerala including Vaikam were originally Mahayana shrines and Buddhist Viharas, nunneries and monasteries. It is believed that Mahayana Boddhisatva idols are converted to gods Hindu pantheon i.e, Muruga, Ayyappa and Kuttikrishna in caste Hindnu temples. The Vajrayana Siddhas and Tara Devis began to be increasingly called as Tozhuvans and Hindu Bhagavatis in the post middle ages. Tara Devi turned from Buddhist Vajrayana Siddhi to Bhagavathi (Durga). In the 16th century Chennas wrote Tantra Samuchayam and absorbed the Tantric Buddhist deities into the Tantric Brahmanic mode, eventually completing the take over. The scholars believe that Tantric Vajrayana (tantric corpus of Buddhism) practice within the Buddhism might have led to Bhagavathy cult. Since Buddhism wiped out in Kerala i.e., in the dominant matriarchial setting, the Tara cult might have transformed into Sakthi cult and Spirit worship.

Untouchability and Class Struggle of Avaranas in Kerala

The Brahmanical Hinduism preached Varna (caste) system and the untouchability practice was enforced on the Avarnas including the current Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes between the 8th and 12th century in Kerala. The Avaranas were prohibited from walking on the roads surrounding the temple.  The cast Hindus (Brahminical Hinduism) might have enforced untouchability out of fear over Avaranas (original Buddhists who owned the temple i.e., Buddhist Viharas, nunneries and monasteries) and if Avaranas are permitted to access into the Hindu temples, they might recapture their own Buddhist Viharas, nunneries and monasteries.

Pooja Rituals

Daily Poojas are performed to the deity as per Kerala Agamas. The temple remin closed after midday (noon) and no poojas after sunset.


The annual festival of this temple is conducted for eight days commencing from the 'Karthika day' in Vrischikam month or Karthikai month (November–December). The idol is taken around on a female elephant for procession.

How to get there?

By Road: To reach the temple one has to travel a distance of about 2 km from Odakkali, on the Aluva Munnar Road and 10 km from Perumbavoor. Perumbavoor is the nearest town.
Nearest Railway station: There is no railway station near to Methala in less than 10 km. How ever Alwaye Rail Way Station is major railway station 22 km near to Methala 
Nearest Airport: Cochin Airport – 25 km


  1. Buddhism in Kerala. Ayaysekhar Margins January 3rd, 2010 (
  2. Dalava Kulam Massacre: Caste Killing in 19th Century Kerala Ajaysekhar in Margins . September 28, 2015 (
  3. Boddhisatva Idols from Kerala: Modification of Utariya into Sacred Thread and the Problems of Misrepresentation Ajaysekhar in Margins January 27, 2015 ( 
  4. Kasargod (
  5. Rise and fall of Buddhism in Kerala R Madhavan Nair. The Hindu. February 5, 2012
  6. Siddha of Kayikara: Vajrayana in Kerala. Ayaysekhar Margins January 12th, 2013 (
  7. Sree Kallil Bhagavathy Temple, Methala ( 
  8. Tara Buddhism (Wikipedia)
  9. Theyyam (Wikipedia)
  10. Theyyam : A Ritual Art Form of North Kerala. Map of India. April 14, 2015 (
  11. The Bhagavathi cult. Tulu Research. January 16, 2008.
  12. Vajrayana (Wikipedia)
  13. Vajrayana Buddhism Vis-Ã -vis Hindu Tantricism by Acharya Mahayogi Sridhar Rana Rinpoche (
  14. What wiped the Buddhism traces from Kerala History? History Beta (


        Sunday, October 2, 2016

        Vizhinjam Cave: Hindu Rock cut Cave in Vizhinjam near Tiruvananthapuram, Kerala

        Vizhinjam (വിഴിഞ്ഞം) rock cut cave is located  in Vizhinjam village, Athiyanoor (അതിയന്നൂർ) taluk in Thiruvananthapuram  (തിരുവനന്തപുരം) district, Kerala State, India PIN 695521. The cave is located 14 km towards South from District head quarters Thiruvananthapuram. Vizhinjam is located 2 km from Athiyanoor; 3 km from Kottukal (കൊടുക്കൽ ); and 3 km from Kovalam beach (കോവളം ബീച്). The Latitude and Longitude coordinates in degrees, minutes, seconds decimal and degrees decimal of Vizhinjam is 8°22′45″N (8.3932)  and 76°59′29″E (77.0046) respectively. The elevation / altitude of Vizhinjam is 71 meters above Sea level. As per 2011 Population Census 2011, the village has population 20714 (males 10277 and females 10437) and 5040 families in total The village is also the natural port located close to international shipping routes and it is an international deep-water multi-purpose shipping hub.  Neyyattinkara (നെയ്യാറ്റിന്കര),  Kollankodu (കൊല്ലങ്കോട് ), Nedumangad (നെടുമങ്ങാട്) are the nearby Cities to Vizhinjam.


        The Vizhinjam rock cut cave temple premises, under the maintenance of ASI, is located near Vizhinjam bus-stand. Like the Kilmavilangai and Mahendravadi rock cut caves in Tamil Nadu, Vizhinjam cave is excavated on a small boulder measuring about 3 m (9 feet 10 inches) in height and 3.50 m (11 feet 5 inches) in width. On the eastern face of this outcrop, is carved in a single cell sanctum measuring about 1 m (3 feet 2 inches) east-west in length,  0.70 m (2 feet 3 inches) north-south in width and 1.50 m (4 feet 11 inches) in height. The roof slopes towards east. The rear, south and north walls left unfinished. The single cell sanctum houses a loose sculpture of (east facing) Vinadhara Dakshinamurthy (an aspect of Lord Shiva as a guru (teacher) of all types of knowledge and the great teacher of music) of later period.

        There are two plain square pilasters (door frames) cut on either side of the sanctum entrance. The pilasters directly supports the prastara component uttira. Towards the south and north of the pilasters there are two rock cut niches housing bas relief images. The right side niche (formed without pilasters) houses the sthanaka Shiva accompanied by two dwarf images on either side. Shiva appear standing on his right foot planted on the even floor (Sthitha paadam) and the bent (folded) left foot firmly stamping upon the head of the demon "Muyalagan". The demon Muyalagan appear seated on two squatted legs. His left hand holds the bow. A roughly sculpted dwarf gana appears on the left side of Muyalagan. 

        Lord Shiva drapes a piece of loin cloth (A loincloth is a long piece of cloth, passed between the thighs and wound around the waist) and knotted waist cloth. Shiva appears with two arms and the left forearm holds the tall bow; the upper left hand holds ‘mazhu’ (the axe); the right fore arm holds the arrow while the upper right  hand in ardhapathaka (mudra) gesture. The jatamakuta is the hair dress with head band (நெற்றிப்பட்டம்).  The lord wears sarapali around his neck.and the Yagnopavita is worn in niveda fashion. He also wears a palm-leaf coil as ear-ring at his left ear lobe and the right ear lobe locked with kundala.

        The left side niche (formed without pilasters) houses the two bas relief images. The right side male image appears in dancing posture and his left leg is held in parsvatha posture while his right leg held in swastika posture. The face is tilted towards his right side. The lord wears conical jatamakuta. The left ear lobe is adorned with palm-leaf coil as ear-ring. The ankle is adorned with beaded chain.

        The left side female image rests her left hand on her hip and the right hand rests on her chin. The waist cloth tied with knots. The left leg is damaged and the right leg plated on the floor. The identity of these two images could not be established clearly.  


        In the words of Ptolemy the territory of Ay (ஆய்) flourished in the south of the Chera kingdom and extended from Nelcynda to Kumari and the Pandya kingdom lay only 'past Komaria.' According to Robert Sewell Ayes were the rulers of the hill country. Chera dynasty established themselves in major portions of Chera land (present northern Kerala) as the vital force only after Ay dynasty (ஆய் வம்சம்) established themselves around the Potiya hill (பொதியமலை), the southern most section of the Western Ghats. (presently the southern Kerala). So the Ay dynasty  ruled the land between Nagercoil and Thiruvalla and Vizhinjam, the port town, was once the capital of many dynasties including Ay dynasty.  Important Ay rulers are Ay Andiran (ஆய் அண்டிரன்), Titiyan I (முதலாம் திதியன்), Atiyan (அதியன்), Titiyan II (இரண்டாம்  திதியன்) and Nanchil Porunan (நாஞ்சில் பொருநன்). Purananuru (புறநானூறு) extols Ay Andiran as the philanthropic ruler who independent ruled the potiyi hills. He is praised for his patronage as Vel Ay (வேல் ஆய்) and Ma-Vel Ay (மாவேள் ஆய்) by the Sangam poets in Purananuru. Ay Andiran drove Pandyas from his territory and came to prominence around 96 - 140 A.D. Titiyan I was praised as 'Potiyir Selvan' (பொதியிற் செல்வன்). During the time of Atiyan Ay kingdom got disintegrated. It seems that Alakiyapandiyan waged war over Ay kingdom and defeated Atiyan and Ay kingdom was reduced as a tributary of Pandya kingdom. Later the battle between Talayalankanattu Ceru Venra Nedunceliyan Pandya king (தலையாலங்கானத்து செரு வென்ற பாண்டியன் நெடுஞ்செழியன்) and Titiyan II clashed at the historical battle  at Talayalankanam (தலையாலங்கானம்) and sealed the fate of the Ay kingdom. 

        Ay dynasty was later known as Venad (வேள்நாடு / வேணாடு) dynasty and the kingdom located to the south of Chera kingdom. It was later on known as the Tiruvidankur dynasty (திருவிதாங்கூர் வம்சம்).  Karunandadakkan (857-885 AD) (கருணானந்தக்கண்) an illustrious Ay king ruled with his capital at Vizhinjam. His earliest inscription in South India found dated in the Kali era (கலி வருடம்). It throws light on the working of ancient highways (salais) or Vedic colleges. According to the Huzur Office (copper) plates Ay (Vrishni Kula) King Karunandadakkan built the Parthivapuram Parthasarathy Temple (பார்த்திவபுரம் பார்த்தசாரதி கோவில் ) and consecrated in 857 A.D. Vikramaditya Varaguna (885-925) succeeded Karunandadakkan. The Paliyam Copper plate of Vikramaditya Varaguna (885-925) (விக்கிரமாதித்ய வரகுணா) records the grant of an extensive landed property to the Buddhist of Srimulavasa Vihara (ஸ்ரீமூலவாச விஹாரை) by the ruler. The Copper Plates indicates the origin of Ay from Ayars. (Ayars also known as Yadavas). .Ayakkudi (ஆயக்குடி) near Aralvaymoli (ஆரல்வாய்மொழி) gives some idea about Aye kingdom of Sangam age.

        The Chola Empire Parantaka I (907 - 955) Chola (முதலாம் பராந்தக சோழன்) defeated Maravarman Rajasimha (மாறவர்மன் இராஜசிம்ஹன்), the Pandya king and annexed the South Kerala and Nanchil Nadu (Tiruvidankur) during 10th century A.D. The inscriptions of Parantaka I are found in Suchindram.

        This land was also the scene of many battles. In 788 A.D, Jatilavarman Parantaka (Maranjadayan) the Pandya king waged a war over Ay kingdom and encircled Vizhinjam port. The Pandya conquered the Ays and made it a tributary state. Also military campaigns between the Kulasekara rulers (rulers of Venadu) and the later Cholas took place in this region. Vizhinjam also seems to have served as the former Dutch and British factory.

        Temple timings: 0900 - 1800 hrs. It remains closed on Mondays.
        Best Season: October to March

        The Vizhinjam International Transhipment Deep water Multipurpose Seaport is an ambitious project taken up by Government of Kerala. It is designed primarily to cater container transhipment besides multi-purpose and break bulk cargo.

        How to get there?

        Nearest Bus-station: K-S-R-T-C-Vizhinjam-Bus-Station. A good network of roads connect Vizhinjam with several tourist destinations. within Kerala and India. State buses and inter-state buses can be availed to reach Vizhinjam.
        Nearest Railwaystation: Nemem Railway Station , Balabnramapuram Railway Station are the very nearby railway stations to Vizhinjam. How ever Trivandrum Central Railway Station is major railway station 13 KM near to Vizhinjam
        Nearest Airport: Trivandrum International Airport- 14 KM

        1. Archaeological Survey of India. Thrissur Circle. (
        2. Historical background of Travancore - Shodhganga (PDF)
        3. History of South India – Part 5: Kingdoms of the Sangam Period - The Chera Dynasty. Bharat: An Untold Story. 
        4. Rock cut cave temple, Vizhinjam. Travelogues of a Compulsive Roamer. Saturday, 9, 2014
        5. Vishnu temple of Ay Dynasty. Varnam. February 2, 2005
        6. Vizhinjam Cave Temple. Wikipedia
        7. Vizhinjam in historical perspective. The Hindu July 27. 2015
        8. Vizhinjam Rock Cut Cave Temple. Indian
        9. Vizhinjam Rock Cut Cave, Thiruvananthapuram.
        10. விழிஞம் குடைவரைக்கோயில் இரா. கலைக்கோவன்

        Vizhinjam's cave temple wows tourists by asianetcablevision

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