Vilupuram Sengi Road. around 11.30 noon

Ragothaman: Hey, its getting really hot. we have been driving for almost an hour, how far did we come 30 kms
Chandru: Just under 30 kms, we need to turn right before that
Narayanaswamy: Oh, how far have we come as of now
Driver: 27 kms done sir
Satheesh: Hey, there is the ASI board, road to Pallava cave Dhalavanur
Vj: Atlast, we are there. Is it that hillock
Chandru: No, we need to go another 6 kms from the main road.
Venkatesh: ok, then it can’t be this chain of hills
Chandru: This cave is very easy to spot. You can see it from the road,but cant drive near. You got to park and walk for say 200 mtrs.

Venkatesh: There, there, can see it from here itself. What a wonderful location. Mahendra’s choice is indeed spell binding. amidst rolling green farms, the rock outcrop offers a spectacular setting.

the location

Chandru: Park the vehicle, by the side of the road, we need to walk up from here.
Farmer: Hey, don’t walk on the field, walk on the raised boundaries. we have just sown.
Vj: sorry we didn’t know. Wow, you got a pump set going, the cool water is inviting…

the cave dhalavanur
the huge boulder into which the cave is escavated

Ashok: What a setting. Its more a giant boulder than a hill
Venkatesh: Super spot
Vj: Hi chandru sir, the cave’s got an iron gate and is locked.
Chandru: The guard must be around here somewhere.

the dhalavanur cave front view

Farmer: Hi, i have the keys. They gave it to me , i only take care. They dont pay me any Salary !! if we don’t lock it the spoilt brats from the city come and …

Vj: ok, ok, we understand. We are not like that. Chandru sir, what pathetic work, how could they put these door frames on these stone pillars. and the blue paint, what a disgrace. they guy couldn’t even be careful enough not to spill on the pillar. and that too right over the superb pillar carvings…!! senseless brain dead @@@@@@

art protection
heavy price for protection
right over the floral patterns

Ashok: Hi vj, see up.what is that

the external makara thorana and koodu

Satheesh: Hey vj, see this beautiful set of Makara thoranas - facing each other. there are small ganas riding them as well

the left makara thorana
the makarathorana and koodu combo
the right makara thorana
the central gana in the makara thorana

Vj: Hey that is a kapota - kind of decorative arch with a face just peeping out. Reminds me of a cave in the Ellora group. need to check. Yes, satheesh wonderful stone work. reminds me of a similar one from Cambodia. will check !!!

another koodu
another koodu 2

Ashok: the door guardians are splendid. Look at their relaxed poses. They are majestic

the right outside door guardian
the left outside door guardian

vj: yes, the clothing styles and the left hand side guardians mace are very similar to Mandagapattu. See there are another set of them inside guarding the main shrine as well.
satheesh: see the inside structure, very different
Venkatesh: see that large crack running right across !!
Ragothaman: as we enter we seem to be inside a hall and then turn left to see the main shrine. very different perspective

floor plan

Vj: yes ragu, another set of mahendra pillars and two pillasters form a mini shrine inside the structure. The door guardians here are also in low relief, sculpted in profile, slightly turned in, classic pallava style. See the detailing on their dress and ornaments

the main shrine flanked by door guardians
the main shrine with the mahendra style pillars
the inside left door guardian
the inside right door guardian
closeup of the inside left door guardian
closeup of the inside right door guardian
look at the dressing style of the door guardian
the right hand signalling the lord of the door guardian
the rightside door guardian

Farmer: Can i show the camphor
All: Here we are all here, wonderful darshan of shiva
Vj: Satheesh, what is the name of the Lord.
Satheesh: Let me check in the book, Satrumalleshwaraaalayam
Vj: any inscriptions
Chandru: Yes, Pallava grantam of Mahendra again

the inscription

Satheesh: Let me read

This rock cut cave shrine on top of the hillock called sathrumalleswaraalayam was excavated by the one who humbled many kings by the might of his army, the one titled narendra shatrumallan.

vj: Shatrumallan - lovely name. Ashok, see here, they have started putting floral designs on the pillars here as well. But the top is not fluted.

the inner pillar design - top no flutes

Venkatesh: Come lets go on to the top and see the Jaina beds.
Narayanswamy: Is it very steep
Vj: Not that steep, they have cut steps in the stone like a ladder. so its easier. Ashok, you come as well

not very easy

Venktesh: Oh, what a view, what a location. Its breezy and cool depsite the sun at noon.

view from the top
views from the top
views from the top2

Ashok: must have brought our lunch from the car, we could have finished it here
Venkatesh: you are saying now, it would have been great
vj: From here you get an excellent view of all surrounding areas
Venkatesh: yep, but those coming up cant see, but the guys here can. Excellent location to hide and live in seclusion - foolproof safety precautions

But why did they have to hide and live in seclusion !!

Vj: This jaina bed is too comfortable, didn’t realise it will be so. My eyes are drooping.
Chandru: comes on guys, lets move on
The pump set - cool wash…hmm am hungry

Next on the agenda - Lakshithayanam, Mandagapattu Mahendra cave.

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23 Comments so far


படங்கள் வெகு நேர்த்தி விஜய்! நாங்கள் சென்ற போது பாதையே சரியில்லை. மேலே நீங்கள் குறிப்பிட்ட பாறை மேல் செல்லவில்லையே என்று உங்கள் படத்தைப் பார்த்துவிட்டு வருத்தம். ‘மகரதோரணம்’ வாயில் பெற்ற ஒரே குகைக் கோயில் இதுதான் என்று நினைக்கிறேன். On, Inscription here, especially in mentioning the name of ‘Narendra alaias Satrumalla’, the great Researchers KRS and KKV differ each other. KRS says Rajasimhan has a title of Narendra Simhan (VAYALUR inscpt). KKV’s argue on SATRUMALLAN as it belong to only Mahendra verman. quite interesting.


April 24th, 2009 at 10:46
Sivaram Kannan

Each time I see something like this, you are making me all the more guilty for not joining the trip. But I am sure, I will keep your blog as a reference when I plan for the trip.

April 24th, 2009 at 10:54


As Sivaram says… I do not want to be among those who would feel guilty later on. So here is my advance booking for any trips being planned in June 2009. I will be in Tiruchy either in the last week of May or certainly on 1st June.. Near Tiruchy there is what is believed to be the original Kailasanatha Temple which resembles the original very much.. I think I gave you the link of Tiruchytourism to you. Of course I have not seen Pallava temples closely except having visited Mallai as a child, then have seen the Triplicane Parthasarathy Temple plus the Thiruneermalai shrines… thats all.. In case any trips are planned to Mahendra or Pallava caves.. count me in.. you have my phone number too… pass it on to as many art loving friends as possible, who are based in the South and undertaking such trips.

By the way this too was an amazing piece.. Terrific..


April 24th, 2009 at 12:47

Also I think the reading or decyphering of the Grantha script so extensively used by Pallavas and Cholas (Pandiyans too) has not been perfect till now, I feel. The Big temple of Tanjore is full of Grantha inscriptions, as is the Thirumayyam shrine and the Srirangam temple. I (somehow) feel that Mahendra Shatrumallan is being read as Narendra Shatrumallan. But of course, if you see older Pallava inscriptions having deciphered by the ASI in http://www.whatsindia.org/ then you will find that it is Mahendra Pallavan who at least in three inscriptions calls himself as Shatrumallan (with the script and the period of inscription being ascribed to Mahendra Pallavan ONLY). As regards Rajasimha.. his age belonged to I think 698-728 correct me VJ… He was a successor of Narasimha Pallavan though not immediately because Narasimhan ruled up to 668… but what is important about Rajasimha Pallavan is that his era/rule is uniformly described by historians as an era of peace, prosperity and (necessarily and compulsorily) characterized by frantic building of (huge or very large) temples, the main among which are Kailasanatha and Vaikunta Perumal plus indeed the Talagiriswarar of Panamalai, among others. Also they say, almost all Rathas in Mallai are creations of Rajasimha and not of earlier kings and it is a wrong notion to attribute any activity at Mallai to Narasimha Pallavan… Narasimhan followed Mahendra in using Mallai as a very or the most important Port and also it was named after him.. but nothing beyond that… Your take, friends on this.

April 24th, 2009 at 12:54

What I missed is that among the Pallavas… it is definitely Simha Vishnu and Mahendra who have left inscriptions about (in addition to Buddha varman) who claimed to have defeated the Cholas and Pandiyans and thus, being supreme in Tamil country in addition to other areas…of these it is Mahendra who assumed the title Shatrumallan or Shatrumallah after his defeat of the Cholas and he called himself (like Simha Vishnu) as the fire that destroyed the Cholas or something similar…. So Shatrumalla is more ascribable to Mahendra Pallavan I think… VJ the architecture is again so flowing and originating at the bottom of living rock… it is nothing short of a miracle. The interior structures are superb.

April 24th, 2009 at 12:58

There was a claim about Narasimhan also having defeated the Cholas but there is no inscriptional back up to that claim.. sorry, but this is a minor deviation from this topic.. But the importance here is of why one would call Shatrumalla.. obviously one who vanquished his enemies… Mahendra’s main enemies were the Cholas and Pandiyans only… he assumed that title after defeating them…

April 24th, 2009 at 13:01

Vijay, If this is samanar padukkai, why does it have Sivalinga ? Was it placed recently ?


April 24th, 2009 at 16:46

dhivakar sir, There is a makara thorana on the rockface of Seeyamangalam as well. its defnitely is part of the original cave face - but is hidden between the cave and the later mandabam. yuo can see three photos in the seeyamangalam post. http://www.poetryinstone.in/lang/en/2009/04/16/the-first-ever-depiction-of-nataraja-in-stone-in-south-india.html


April 24th, 2009 at 19:16

hi shiva

glad u plan to do the mahendra trail.

hi chennu,

tks for the enthusiastic comments


April 24th, 2009 at 19:17

hi cheenu

The authorshio of mallai monuments are a subject of many debates. Dr Nagaswamy started this with his paper in 1962


Gr Gift Siromoney and Mr Michael Lockwood refuted this i think in 1967 or 1972.

This will go on. Will try to submit some evidences for both - evolution of styles and inscriptional.

Regarding the enemies of Mahendra - not sure if we can count Pandyas and cholas as his enemies. will check again


April 24th, 2009 at 19:23

hi thiru

please click on the first photo in the post. you will see the jaina bed and the cave. the jaina beds are on the top portion of the boulder, while the cave is carved into living rock.. the shiva shrine is inside the cave - see the floor plan


April 24th, 2009 at 19:25

This seems to have been a Jaina meditation centre earlier. Kindly correct me.

April 29th, 2009 at 22:36
Kathie B.

What fine door guardians! Love ‘em!
And faces in kudus : one happy, one not.
Great camera work. ‘Splendid’, as you say.
Thank you.

April 30th, 2009 at 5:53

Really fantastic. Photos are superb. Great job.
Good service. Wishing you all the best.

May 13th, 2009 at 12:57

Great work. No words to express. Continue…………………..

May 13th, 2009 at 13:04

hi uthira chitti and kavitha

what a pleasant surprise to see your comments



May 13th, 2009 at 17:02


May 14th, 2009 at 15:13

wonderful, keep it up!

May 14th, 2009 at 15:14

nice posts Really rocking !

May 22nd, 2010 at 13:28

Its really painful to see people who don’t understand the value of such great works and just spoilin them :(

May 22nd, 2010 at 13:32

hi vadivelan

yes, but if we can spread awareness among the youth, am sure we can atleast stem the rot..


May 24th, 2010 at 18:41

This is a very laaate response to this issue posted years back. but i thought it would be imperitive on my part to share whar I know so that people like me who are new to the site and join later would be benifited.
Mahendravarma wrote a satire in Sanskrit called Mattavilasaprahasana, due to which he has an epithet Mattavilasan. in the benidictory verse of the drama, we find the mention of the title Shatrumalla used for himself- “prashamita ripunaa shatrumallena lokah”. hence the term shatrumalla should be taken to refer to Mahendra, as it has been a title dear to him hence used by him in the work.

January 11th, 2011 at 22:40

neril sendru parkaasai padankal nandragaullana
indru ithai padithathu migaviruppamagaulladhu

July 20th, 2012 at 13:33

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