Showing posts with label Tirthankara. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tirthankara. Show all posts

Friday, March 13, 2015

Tirunelveli Region Travelogue (Pandyan Yatra 2015) Part 3.2: Kalugumalai Jain Monastery

Picture courtesy: Bhusavalli Pandyan Yatra 2015 Kalugumalai Jain Monastery

Kazhugumalai Jain Monastery 

Kalugumalai is an ancient Jain heritage site that has the natural cavern with rock beds where Jain ascetics observed vigorous penance and an academic center for imparting knowledge in Jain theology for 300 years during early Pandya regime. A veritable open-air gallery of diminutive sculptures of Jina or Tirthankara in three long rows, bold relief panels of Jinas - Adinatha, Parsvanatha, Mahavira, Bahubali, Ambika Yakshi and Padmavati Yakshi. The open-air bas relief is an ensemble of over one hundred and fifty images sculpted with great skills on top of the granite rocky expanse.

The Jain ascetics,  sravakas (disciple), male scholars (bhttarars) and women scholars (kurattigal or nuns) from far off places in Tamilakam traveled to Kalugumalai and stayed in the natural caverns and resolved to spend their lives in splendid isolation, engaging themselves in contemplation and religious pursuits. They also taught or learned Jain theology and propagated Jainism from the 8th century A.D.  Kalugumalai is a "must go place" if you like Jain heritage and architecture. The name Kalugumalai (vultures' hill) originated quite recently i.e, about 200 years or less.

History of Jainism under Early Pandya Reign

It is important, for one who knows little about Jainism, to understand the history of Jainism under early Pandya reign to realize the intense rivalry of vedic or brahminical religion and the up-rise of the Bakthi movement and the hostile conditions under which Jains have survived and maintained and practiced their religion.

The 24 Tirthankaras or Arihants or Jinas were instrumental in spreading the doctrines of Jainism. Among the 24 Tirthankaras the first 22 were mythological personages and Parswantaha the 23rd Tirthankara (877–777 B.C.) and Mahavira the 24th Tirthankara (599 –527 B.C.) were the historical personages. The Sruktakevalin Badrabahu (433 - 357 BC ?) and Vaisaka Munivar, the last two pattadhars or disciples of Mahavira (totally 11 pattadhars or disciples),  were instrumental in founding Jainism in Tamil Nadu, especially in the early Pandya country. On foreseeing famine in large magnitude, Badrabahu left the Kingdom of Magada with the Maurya King Chandragupta (340 BC - 298 BC) and the Jain followers and reached Sravanabelagola in Mysore. Badrabahu acted as the Jain Acharya (religious head) of the Jains. From Sravanabelagola Badrabahu sent his disciple, Vaisaka Munivar, to the neighboring Chola and Pandya kingdoms to spread the gospel of Jainism to the laity.  It is believed that these mendicants reached the Pandya country first as early as the Sangam period - around 300 B.C. The Pandya rulers of the Sangam era were tolerant and broad minded in their religious prospect and hence all religions including Jainism prospered during their reign.

Mahavamsa, a Buddhist text affirms that Jainism was followed in Tamil Nadu even before the 3rd century B.C. Some other scholars believe that Jainism entered South India well before the visit of Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta around 6th century B.C. During 3rd century A.D. Digambara, a sect of Jainism with nudist adherents, recognized itself from the Svetambara, another sect with white-clad adherents. Digambara monks observed full monastic life  and the female wore white clothes and called as Aryikas. The Mula sangh (original assembly) was the ancient assembly and monastic order of Jain monks came from 430 A.D. and this Mula sangh was divided into four major groups: 1. Nandi Gana (நந்தி கணம்), 2. Sena Gana (சேன கணம்),  3. Deva Gana (தேவ கணம்) and 4. Simha Gana (சிம்ம கணம்). Every Gana had sub-sects such as Kachai (கச்சை) and Anvayam (அனுவயம்). The Pallankoil copper plate (பல்லன் கோயில் செப்பேடு) mentions about Vajra Nandi (வஜ்ர நந்தி), the Chief Jain monk Nandi Gana. Another Chola inscription refers about Gani Sekara Maruporsuryan, name of Jain monk from Nandi Gana. Tirugnana Sambandar (திருஞான சம்மந்தர்) in one of his Tevaram hymns (தேவாரம் பதிகம்) cites few monks such as  Kanaka Nandi, Putpa Nandi, Bhavana Nandi, Kumanama Sunaka Nandi, Kunaka Nandi and Dhivana Nandi from Nandi Gana. Bhava Nandi is the author who composed the Tamil Grammar work.

    ‘‘கனக நந்தியும் புட்ப நந்தியும் பவண நந்தியும் குமணமா
    சுனக நந்தியும் குணக நந்தியும் திவண நந்தியும் மொழிகொளா
    அனக நந்தியர்’’

Dramila Sanga (திரமிள சங்கம்) or Dravida Sanga (திராவிட சங்கம்) branched from Nandi Gana and Vajra Nandi was instrumental in instituting Dravida Sanga in Madurai in 470 A.D. (Vikrama year விக்கிரம ஆண்டு - 526).

However the splendid era of Jainism reached its down-slope due to intense rivalry between the vedic or brahminical religions and the up-rise of the Bhakti movement (பக்தி இயக்கம்) in Tamilakam (தமிழகம்) during 7th century  influenced the decline of Jainism in the 7th century A.D. Soon Jainism recovered from the adversities and it became a religion accommodating of the practices from brahmanical religion to withstand religious animosity and the sectarian rancor.

Jain Iconography

Jainism and Jain iconography attached much importance to ritualistic practices and idolatry worship of Jina, Arihant, or 24 Tirthankaras. Jain iconography depicts Tirthankara or Jina appear seated in a lotus posture on the lion throne or standing meditative posture (kayotsarga). The Tirthankaras generally have a triangular mole symbol (Sri-vatsa mark) on their chest, a triple umbrella and a circular halo (radiant light drawn around the head) above their heads and a distinctive lanchana or symbol indicated on the pedestal. The lanchanas are listed in such texts as Tiloyapannati, Kahavaali and Pravacanasaarodhara. Unless the conspicuous lanchana of Tirthankara shown or his name finds mention in dedicatory inscriptions, it is not possible to differentiate the specific Tirthankara image. Two exceptions are there: Parsvanatha identified with five hooded serpent and Adinatha (Rishabanatha) with lock falling on his shoulders.

The early ascetic-abodes in natural cavern (wherein iconic and ritualistic worship of Tirthankaras and their attendant deities received little attention  till about the 6th century A.D.) lost their prominence in the wake of Bhakti movement.  Yaksha and yakshini, or male and female Sasana-devatas or demigods or attendant / guarding spirits, who are also the devotees the Tirthankaras. According to Jain belief, Indra appoints one Yaksha and one Yakshini to serve as attendants for each Tirthankara. Soon the cult of Yakhas like Yaksharaja (Sarvahna or Sarvanubhuti) and Dharanendra Yaksha as well as Yakshis like Ambika, Chakreswari Devi, Jvalamalini, Padmavati Yakshini became popular. 

Several Jaina cavern in Pandyan region including Anamalai, Alagarmalai, Aivarmalai, Chitaral, Kilakuyilkudi,  Kalugumalai, Tirupparankunram, Uttamapalayam etc could be mentioned as the best examples for such new development.  Further to this Jain monks like Ajjanandi bhatarar, Gunasahara bhatara, Kanakanandi bhatara of Kurandai, Pavanandi bhatara, Arattanemi bhatarar, Vajranandi  and few others played the predominant role in spreading Jainism and Jain iconography and speeding up its growth. (SII, Vol. XIV, No. 102; Vol. 5, Nos. 310, 311, 359, 380, 397 etc.).

Pandya kings like Maran Sendan (-624 A.D.) and Arikesari Parankusa (624-674 A.D.) reposed strong faith in Jainism and the later Pandya rulers like Srimara Srivallabha (811-860 A.D) and Parantaka Viranaryana (866-911 A.D), lent adequate support to Jainism and Jain iconography. The inscriptions of Parantaka Viranarayana found at Kalugumalai as well as in Anaimalai, Arivarmalai and Arittapatti speak about the growth of monastic establishments here.

Kalugumalai Jain Bas Relief Images

Lisa Nadine Owen in her monograph, 'Demarcating sacred space: The Jina images at Kalugumalai' published in International Journal of Jaina Studies. 6 (4): 2010. pp 1 -28, explored the types arrangement of approximately one hundred and fifty independent bas relief sculptures of Jinas and Jain deities on the surface of its rock formations in Kalugumalai accompanied by individual donative inscriptions. The rectangular or square niches present the bas relief images. The author represented five separate  groups of images, based on the directional approach - the order in which one views the bas reliefs from north-west to south-east and not based on the chronology order i.e, from ninth or early tenth century A.D. (chronology as viewed by the author) for further analysis and discussion.

Group 1

From the Sastha temple you may find steps leading to the lone panel of Jina / Tirthankara. The rock face is enclosed within barbed wire fence. Lisa Owen categorizes this lone Jina / Tirthankara as Group 1. The deeply hewn niche measures about four feet in height. The Jina appear seated on lion pedestal with an elaborate throne back comprising a bolster and crossbar decorated with makara and vyla motifs at both the ends.  Behind the crossbar two fly-whisk bearers come out into view; also two more ardent male followers located at the sides of throne base. The Jina is crowned by the triple umbrella (chattra). The Tirthankara is seated under the broader canopy of foliage curls. The five foliage circle motifs are arranged in a semi-circle form and the middle circle bear the figurine of dancing girl and the four other circles bear four male musicians (two of the playing long string instrument and two others beat the drum with a pair of cymbals. The ethereal figures appear on top and to the sides of Jina with hands holding the lotus flowers and offering homage. Also figurines in a panel depicting a horse rider and an emerging elephant. Date assigned by the author - ninth or early tenth century.

Group 2 Jain Image Panels

Group 2

To the south - east of Group 1, five panels appear on a rock face just behind an Ayyanar temple. Lisa Owen assigns these panels as Group 2. The Ayyanar temple complex presents Ayyanar, Tamil village folk (prime) deity, gigantic and colorful statues of companion deities of Ayyanar seen mounted on horses or elephants. The Ayyanar temple, constructed about 100 years before the rock face, prevents from viewing the Group 2 and Group 3 panels.  Three distinctly bold panels, striking iconographic resemblance with Group 1 panels, are arranged horizontally across the rock face. The iconographic elements include lion throne, triple umbrella, halo, tree, fly-whisk attendants, standing devotees etc. The panel at the far left strikes precise similitude with the Jina appearing in Group I panel including five foliage circles bearing the dancer, musicians, horse riders and the elephant at the center. Above these two bolder bas reliefs, a long panel bears the series of seven diminutive images of  Jinas appear seated on double lotus seat (lion throne absent) and crowned by triple umbrella. The Group 2 images are accompanied with donative inscriptions.

Group 3

The panels of bas reliefs forming Group 3,  arranged on the broader rock face, are available somewhere contiguous to Group 2 panels.  The Group 3 major panels present both kinds i.e, individual Jinas appear seated on thrones as well as Jinas / Tirthankaras appear in series. Also there are minor panels which include lone Tirthankara figurines with triple umbrella and double lotus seat.

Group 3 Jain Image Panels
Parsvanatha Panel:

Parsvanatha, the twenty third Tirthankara and the historic personage who lived in the 8th century B.C. He was the the son of King Ashvasena and Queen Vamanadevi of Varanasi and was the prince of Ikshavaku dynasty. The prince abdicated at the age of thirty and became an ascetic. He attained kevalagnana (absolute knowledge) and became the twenty-third Tirthankara or Jina. He is recognized with the blue hue and a seven hooded serpent. He appears with his Yaksha  Dharaṇendra and Yakshi Padmavati.

An interesting legend about the previous life of Parsvanatha reveals his association with his Yaksha,  Yakshi and Kamdan. The Jina in his previous life attempted to protect a pair of serpents from being burnt in sacrificial fire of a brahmin. The Jina reborn as 23rd Tirthankara and the serpents were also reborn as Naga King Dharanendra and Naga Queen Padmavati.  The brahmin also reborn as a demon Kamdan. Kamdan was disturbing the Jina from attaining Kevalagnana and engaged in attacking with fire, torrential

Group 3 Parsvanatha Panel

Bahubali (Sankrit) aka Gommatesvara (Kannada) Panel

Bahubali is an outstanding name in the Jain legends. He was the second of the hundred sons of the first Tirthankara, Adinatha. The warrior prince fought with his on brother Bharata for the share of his father's kingdom. He conquered everything from his brother and could have become an emperor; instead he returned everything to the brother and chose the ascetic life and proceeded to the forest to perform asceticism. While he was in meditation for longer duration, the vines encircled all through his body. Though he attained kavalagnana, he never prophesy Samavasarana. Hence he is not considered as Tirthankara. The panel depicts Bahubali covered with vine creeper all over his legs and appear with two of his female attendants (Vidyadhari).

Group 3 Bahubali Panel

There is an iconographic convention of  pairing of Parsvanatha and Bahubali and the combination is prominent in the Jain caves at Aihole (7th century) and at Ellora (9th century) and other places including Kalugumalai.

After Group 3 panels the rock face shows a smooth bend and the huge tree with its projected branches provide shade. The panels of Groups 4 and 5 are noticed around the rock surface.

Group 4

Group 4 Jain Image Panels
The shallow depth panels bearing the bas reliefs, forming Group 4, are sculpted on the rock face in the lower right corner and the rock formation above the panels is shaped like a canopy.  The shelter appears like a natural cavern and the same could have been modified subsequently as panels of Jina bas relifs. The panels measuring about two feet depth and the central panel presents three Tirthankaras appear seated on double lotus seat and crowned by triple umbrella. The central panel is flanked by Bahubali and Parsvanatha appear standing in separate panels. Four more Jinas appear seated on the left corner panels and the right corner panels also present seated Jinas. The bas relifs are accompanied by donative inscriptions.

Group 5

The huge rock face presents highest number of bas reliefs forming Group 5 panels are nearer to this rock face. Panoramic array of sculpted panels are located on the far right side and are arranged in three rows and depict the seated Jinas on double lotus seat or lion throne and crowned by triple umbrella. Few panels also depict tanding Jinas with the respective iconographic style. Some othe bas reliefs of Jinas situated on the far left side of the rock face appear incomplete.

Group 5 Largest Jain Panels

Yakshi Padmavati Panel
Two Group 5 panels are also dedicated to Yakshi Ambika and Padmavati. Padmavati is adorned with karanda makuta and appear seated on single lotus pedestal in Lalitasana posture under five serpent hoods. The yakshi holds the fruit and rosary in her lower left and right hands and the upper hands hold a goad and a snake. Her panel is taller than the panels of her attendants. Two female attendants appear with flywhisks.

Yakshi Ambika, Husband, 2 Children & Lion

Yakshi Ambika aka Kusmandini attendant (Sasanadevi) to Tirthankara Neminatha occupies the pivotal position in Jain iconography. The cult of Ambika is popular during 7th - 12th century A.D. She appear in an exclusive panel with her husband and two children, a lion (simha) as her vehicle, and the holy tree 'kalpavriksha (areca nut tree).' 'Her husband is shown with a hand raised and his face has no detailing so as to depict his awe and the glare from her "golden appearance" falling on him.'

Legend of Ambika: Ambika and her two children were banished from the house by her husband Somasarman since she offered food (intended for sraddha ceremony) to the Jain monk. While her banishment they were feeling hungry and by divine intervention a mango tree and a water body came to their sight and they ate mangoes. Some miraculous events at Ambika's houehold turned her husband to justify Ambika's actions for a noble cause. Hence he decided to call his family back to his home. On seeing her husband Ambika got frightened and tried to hide herself. She died while hiding from her husband. Ambika was reborn as Sasanadevi to Neminatha Tirthankara. After the death her husband also reborn as her lion vehicle.

Kalugumalai Inscriptions (Vatteluttu)
The Jain Monastery at Kazhugumalai has 100 Vattezhuthu (வட்டெழுத்து) inscriptions (SII Vol V, No. 308 - SII Vol V, No. 406; Epi. Ind., Vol. XV, f.. n. 6.) and they are inscribed below the bas reliefs as label inscriptions.


From the available inscriptions it is inferred by scholars that they belong to different period. They have been generally ascribed to 8th century A.D. However K.V.Ramesh, eminent Epigraphist and former Joint Director-General of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) assigns them to the 10th - 11th century A.D.

Records, Messages

The prime Jaina deity at Kalugumalai Jain monastery referred to in the inscriptions as Araimalai Alvar of Tirunechuram (SII Vol.V, No. 357, 361). There are about one hundred and fifty sacred images (bas reliefs) were caused to be made by the followers of Jain faith (Tamil Jains) from a number of adjacent villages. The sacred images were caused to be made for the merit of their parents, bhttarars, kurattigal, village elders, Pandya officials and others. The largest donor was Pandya King Maran Sadayan who donated 17 sacred images. Among the other donors include the artisans like carpenters, potters, smiths as well as cultivators and others. Tirunechuram (திருநேச்சுரம்) was also referred to as Ilanechuram (இளநேச்சுரம்) vide an epigraph (SII, Vol. V, No. 369) as well as Perunechuram (பெருநேச்சுரம்) vide epigraph (SII, Vol. V, No. 361). 

The Kalugumalai monastery marked the revival of Jainism in Pandya country. Gunasahara bhattarar (குணசாஹர பட்டாரர்) of Tirunechuram was probably the chief among the monks looking after Jain establishments as well as endowments at Kalugumalai (ARE 117/1894, SII, Vol. V, No. 406). His  disciples administered the academic functions and services. Inscriptions refer to the order of monks and nuns in the Digambara Jain monasticism in Kalugumalai. An Acharya (ஆச்சாரியா) is the highest leader of a Jain order. Upadhyaya (உபாத்யாயா) is the learned monk, who both teaches and studies himself.  Bhattara (பட்டாரா) or Bhattarar (பட்டாரர்) is the male disciple or monk and Bhattari (பட்டாரி) is the female disciple or nun (SII, Vol. V, No. 356). A Muni (முனி) is an ordinary ascetic and Aryikas (ஆரீக) is an ordinary woman ascetic. Women disciples referred as Manakkigal (மாணாக்கிகள்) and women teachers as Kurattigal (குத்திகள்). Jain scholars and teachers (monks and nuns) from far-off Jain abodes and monasteries such as  Tirumalai, (திருமலை), Tirupparuttikunram (Jina Kanchi) (திருப்பருத்திக்குன்றம்), Perumandur (பெருமாண்டூர்), and Tirunarungondai (திருநறுங்கொண்டை),   traveled to Kalugumalai to pursue and propagate Jain theology and stayed in the natural caverns.  (SIL, Vol. V, Nos. 333, 334, 341,345, 355, 356,369, 371, 372, 373.) -  Tiruchara-nattuk-kurattigal (திருச்சார நாட்டுக் குரத்திகள்) (SII, Vol. V. No. 324, 326); Nalkur Kurattigal (நால்கூர் குரத்திகள்) (SII, Vol. V. No. 355, 356);  Ilanechuram Kurattigal (இளநேச்சுரக் குரத்திகள்)  (SII, Vol. V. No. 369); Kurattigal of Tirumalai (திருமலைக் குரத்திகள்) (SII, Vol. V. No. 370); Kurattigal of Tiruparutti(kundru) (திருப்பருத்திக்குன்றக் குரத்திகள்) (SII, Vol. V. No. 372); Milalur kurattigal (மிழலூர்க் குரத்திகள்) (SII, Vol. V. No. 394); Kurattigal of Kudarkudi (குன்றக்குடிக் குரத்திகள்) (SII, Vol. V. No. 396). It is believed from the Jaina inscriptions in Kalugumalai and others that the Jain theology classes could be coeducational and that ocassionally nuns served as teachers. (SII Vol. III, No.92 and SII Vol. V, No. 308 - 407). Nuns were students of male monks:
  1. Kurattigal (lady teachers) of Ilanechuram, disciples of Tirtha bhttara (SII, Vol. V. No. 369)
  2. Kurattigal of Tiruparutti (kunru - Jina Kanchi), the lady disciples of Sri Pattini bhattara (SII, Vol. V. No. 372)
Male Students studied under Woman Teachers (nuns):
  1. Enadi Kuttanan Satti, disciple of the Kurattigal (lady teacher) of Tirumalai (SII, Vol. V. No. 370) 
Women Students under Women Teachers
  1. Nattigabhattarar, the (lady disciple) of Kurattigal (nun) of Nalkur (SII, Vol. V. No. 355)
  2. Nalkur kurattigal, the (lady disciple) of Amalanemi bhattara (lady teachers) of Nalkur (SII, Vol. V. No. 356)
  3. Arattan nemi kurattigal, the lady disciple of Mammiakurattigal (371)
  4. Milalur Kurattigal, the lady disciple of Perurkurattigal who was the d/o Mingaikumaran of Pidangai in Karaikana nadu image (394)
The monastery was also frequented by common public from places like  Alattur (அலத்தூர்), Erahur Pereyirkudi (எலகூர் பெரெயிர்க்குடி), Ilavenbai (இளவெண்பை), Kalakkudi (கலக்குடி), Karaikkudi (காரைக்குடி), Kottaru (கோட்டர்), Kurandi (குறண்டை), Nalkurkudi (நல்கூர்குடி), Pidankudi (பிடங்குடி), Tiruchcharanam etc. 

Jainism condemned caste divisions and respected all humans as equals and the monks encouraged and practiced four forms of charity or dhana - 1.donating food to the needy (அன்னதானம்), 2. imparting education to all (கல்விதானம்), 3. providing medical assistance to the poor (மருத்துவ தானம்) and 4. affording refuge to the helpless (அஞ்சினான் புகலிடம்) - as their important duty. Owing to these, Jainism flourished in ancient Tamil Nadu and the monks brought the religion closer to the Tamil common public. The Tamil Jains influenced and forged the religion, politics, culture and society of the ancient Tamilagam.

Donating food for the needy:   An inscription at Kalugumalai monastery records the construction of a well and the gift of some land for providing some food to the ten  bhattarar expounding Siddhanta, and the Vairagiyar (monks) in the Tirumalai temple at Tirunechuram, by Siddhan of the village at Kadantaikudi, located in Nallur-tumbur kurram. The gift was entrusted with Gunasahara bhattara of Tirunechuram. Mentions some more names connected with the endowment. The Pandya king Varaguna II (Maran Sadaiyan), whose date of accession in 862 A.D. Date: 3rd regnal year (865 A.D.), is identified with  this endowment  (SII Vol V, No. 405).

Another inscription in the same site records some endowment to the deity known as Tirumalaidevar at Tirunechuram by Mahadevan, a resident of the village Perunavalur, located in Nallur - Milalai-kurram for feeding five Vairagiyar (monks - Jaina ascetics) and Bhatarar who expounded Siddanta (Jaina philosophy) to the laity in the temple. The endowment was entrusted to Gunasahara bhattarar of Tirunechuram, who was probably chief among the monks looking after Jaina establishments at Kalugumalai (SII Vol V, No. 406)

The Jain monastery became extinct after 13th century due to loss of Patronage after Pandya kings.

Reference (For Further Studies):

  1. Champakalakshmi, R. Jainism in south India, Delhi, 1974
  2. Desai, P.B. Jainism in South India and Some Jaina Epigraphs, Jainasamskriti Samrakshakasamgha, Sholapur 1957.  
  3. Ekambaranathan, A. Jaina Iconography in Tamilnadu. ed. 1. Shri Bharatvarshiya Digamber Jain (Teert Sanrakshini) Mahasabha, Lucknow.  2002
  4. Ekambaranathan, A.  Jaina Temples of Southern Pandiyanadu.
  5. Ekambaranathan, A. and C.K. Sivaprakasam, Jaina Inscriptions in Tamil Nadu: : A topographical list. Research Foundation for Jainology, Madras 1987. 464p.
    Jainism under early Pandyas. In Encyclopedia of Jainsim
  6. Ekambaranathan, A. Studies in Jainism (Tamil Nadu). Shree Sarita Jain Foundation, Chennai, 2011 
  7. Ghosh, A. (Ed.): Jaina Arts and Architecture, New Delhi, 1974
  8. Kazhugumalai deserves universal recognition.  The Hindu. August 8, 2012.
  9. Lisa N Owen. Demarcating Sacred Space: The Jina Images at Kalugumalai
    Opulent sculptures - Epigraphist V.Vedachalam's forte is the tudy of Jaina sites. Frontline. Vol 25, issue 21. October 11-24, 2008. 
  10. Ravishankar Thiagarajan. Jina Images of Kazhugumalai as seen by Lisa. Site Seminar Talk on 11 Jan 2015 at "Shrinidhi", 12/1 Reserve Bank Colony MG Road, Thiruvanmiyur, Madras 41.  
  11. Sivaramamurti. C.  Kalugumalai and Early Pandyan Rock-cut Shrines
  12. Sripal, tamizakattil jainam, T. S.  Madras, 1975
  13. South Indian Inscriptions (SII), Vol.14. Archaeological Survey of India.
  14. Tamil Jain by Mahima Jain The Hindu December 28, 2013
  15. Tamil Jain Wikipedia
  16. Vijayakumar.S. Engineering Marvel. The Hindu. June 14, 2013.

Dr. Lisa Nadine Owen
Assistant Professor of Art History, School of Visual Arts. University of North Texas
Demarcating Sacred Space: The Jina Images atKalugumalai (10 minutes on video)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thirakoil Digambar Jain Temple and Hill

Jinagiri Palli (Thirakoil)
Chandranathar (8th Tirthankarar)
Jinagiri Palli (Thirakoil)
Parsvanathar the 23rd tirthankarar
Mahavir, the twenty-fourth tīrthaṅkarar
Foot-hill Temple Dedicated to Adhinathar with sanctum, antarala, ardhamantapam and mahamandapam, built after 'Jinagiri Palli' i.e, around 11th century AD. and the mahamandapam around 13th century AD.

Digambara Jain temple devoted Lord Adhinathar on top of Thirakoil hillock known as Mai Siddhappalli or Siddhaperumpalli.
Bas-relief image of Adhinathar measuring about 3 feet in height appear on one of the boulders located at the southern side of the foothills.
Our team of five members decided to explore Jain monuments in Tiruvannamalai district from dawn to dusk on Sunday, 1st September 2014. Ramesh Muthian, Jeyaganthan and me assembled at a point and Devanathan Kannan was ready with his car by 05.30 am. We proceeded to Utharamerur and picked Sashi Dharan. Sashi Dharan desired to visit Kundhavai Jinalayam, Tirumalai village  near Polur and we proceeded to Vandhvasi and from there  we decided to  stop wherever a Jain monument appear.

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

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...