I was discussing Pallava rock cut sculpture and showing ( off) my site to a few friends over the weekend, when a friend from Trivandrum commented he had seen similar in a cave in Vizhinjam near Trivandrum. This set me off to search for that cave, and surprisingly very few information is available.

While i did manage to locate the cave and its amazing sculptures, very little information is available on the same. Some sites mention of it as a 18th C creation, while to me the style resembles pallava sculpture more ( kathie please help). Guess, i need to go back to reading more about cave sculpture in south india and when the tradition stopped. I was of the opinion that is stopped with the structural temples gaining prominence closer to Rajasimha Pallava. Anyway stylistically this looks much much ancient that whats its credited with.

side view 2 of the cave.jpg
side view of the cave.jpg
tha front view of the cave.jpg
the stone block.jpg

Some anomalies though, instead of the standard door guardians at the entrance we see sculptures of Shiva holding a bow ( surmise as Tripuranthaka ) and Shiva with Parvathi ( in a sad state). the main deity i head is that of Vinadhari Dhakshinmurthy, which however, is not carved out of the bed rock - but is a separate sculpture.

the main idol.jpg
vinadhari dhakshina murthi.jpg

Please have a look at the sculptures below.

another view of tripurantaka.jpg
shiva + parvathi.jpg
shiva n parvathi.jpg
the stone block.jpg

Chanced on this lovely video as well.

A lovely detailed video of the cave

Picture courtesy: Mr. Hari

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Category: Sculpture

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 15th, 2008 at 8:36 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

11 Comments so far


am off to trivandrum next month..shd have gone this weekend actually..would like to see this..are there more such cave temples there ?

December 15th, 2008 at 9:36

Vj, thanks for the photos and info. 18th century seems too late for such a stone work. Hope someone reading this would throw light on this.
Thanks to your friend for the info.

December 15th, 2008 at 10:34


வரலாறு.காம்-ஐச் சேர்ந்த வரலாற்று அறிஞர்கள் திரு.கலைக்கோவன்,குடவாயில் திரு.பாலசுப்ரமணியம் மற்றும் பல வரலாற்று வல்லுனர்கள் இதைப் பற்றி நிச்சயம் அறிந்திருப்பார்கள். அவர்களைத் தொடர்பு கொள்வது இந்தப் புதிருக்கு விடை அளிக்கும்.

December 15th, 2008 at 12:00

Hi Lakshmi

There seem to more. Maybe you can cover them enroute and share with us.



December 15th, 2008 at 14:08

Hi folks,

Making part 2 of this post, hang on


December 15th, 2008 at 14:09
Kathie Brobeck

You’re right, VJ I’m so happy to see this cave!
One of Shiva’s earrings should be a makara.
About the nearly identical crown, could the
same shilpa guild have carved them both, though working for different dynasties?

December 15th, 2008 at 21:14
Srinivasan N.

Quite possible Kathie. You see I have remarked to VJ (in the 2nd article on the subject) that the period of this sculpture has to be between 400-700 AD when the Pallavas reigned supreme in South India and founded the first large empire and were feuding with the Chalukyas also. At that time the Pallavas were lording over the Cholas and the Pandiyas but had very close ties with the Cheras who ruled over Karur-Kovai and over all of the Malainadu (modern Kerala). With such striking and stark resemblance between Mallai and Vizhinjam sculpture surely the common sculpting guild or at least the lead artisans were common to both the sites. In fact, when one analyzes the sculptures of the Hoysalas especially during the time of Veera Ballala II and his son Narasimha, both Chola and Pallava artisans are supposed to have made immense contributions to the temples at Halebid, Somnathpur and Belur, among others.

When you consider that between Somnathpur (built around 1265 - when the Chola empire was collapsing) and Belur (built around 1120 - when Vishnuvardhana Hoysala became independent after defeating the Chalukyas in Kannada country)… the continuation of architectural traditions of at least the Pallavas for almost four centuries after their extinction around 910 AD, the mind really boggles.

December 16th, 2008 at 13:15

Hi Cheenu,

Pallava extinction around 910 AD. Hmm, thats an interesting subject. The last in the line of the later pallavas!!

But there is one interesting character ( my fav) - Kopperunchingan - the Kadava kon, his deeds - of war, temple endowment, volume of inscriptions etc. continue to amaze me. He too claimed Pallava descent


December 17th, 2008 at 14:59

how did i miss this, a lovely article on this cave in varlaaru.com archives


June 29th, 2009 at 15:49

Hi Vijay,
Curious to know whether you have visited rock cut shrines at Narthamalai near pudukottai.

- RajV

March 20th, 2010 at 23:10

hi raj,

ofcourse- will feature vijayalacholeshwaram n the kadambar koils shortly. we carried an intro as as guest post some time ago



March 21st, 2010 at 9:23

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