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Posts Tagged ‘Rock cut cave’

Fellow enthusiast Shankar had been pushing me to see a faint outline of a Ganesha for sometime now, but for some unexplainable reason, I never spent time to study it, despite him sending me some real high resolution images. Little did I realise then what it held in it and that it would choose its own time to reveal itself to us.

When Numismatist Sri Raman said that he had some photos that had come into a waste paper mart, which seemed to cover areas of my interest and if i would like to procure them, i hadn’t the faintest idea of what they would contain. Yet, he persisted and sent me a few scanned images. He had picked them wisely, one was an immaculate bronze and another the famed Tanjore big temple painting - but the images were atleast half a century old !!! I took the bait and asked him to get the entire lot.

When Arvind and me looked at the eclectic mix of fading monographs, one set struck our eyes. They were marked on reverse Thirunandikkarai and dated 1942.

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My thoughts raced to Shankar and he obliged by sending his entire collection as the cave stood today ” Thiru Nandikkarai - a cave temple protected by ASI in Kanyakumari district, 10Kms from Thiruvattaru ( 40 Kms from nagerkoil)”

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The insides of the cave ( as he had sent me earlier - you wouldn’t fault me for not going over it properly !)

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The cave itself is attributed stylistically to 8th C CE ( you can see the provision of a channel for the daily ablution water to flow out of the sanctum which is considered a later feature)

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sanctum

But what i had missed earlier was the faint red outlines which Shankar had been pushing me to study.

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It was when i say the half a century old photographs from the waste paper mart that i realised the folly.

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A classy Ganapathy complete with his own dwarf attendant on the top ( reminded me of similar ones from the Kanchi Kailsantha temple !) - notice the bold strokes of the hands. Sadly much has been lost since the time the photos were taken.

This was not all, there were more in the collection. Let me draw your attention to the wall we saw earlier, slightly to the top center right.

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Now to reference the photographs

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Simply stunning yet sad at the continuing loss of our treasures.

There are two more sets in the collection, which we have not been able to spot in current day.

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What are these depictions ?

Btw, the cave holds another very important historical information in its entrance.

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There is some speculation on the Birthstar of the Great Raja Raja Chola - if he is born in Aippasi Sadayam or Chittirai Sadayam.

Dr. Kudavayil Balasubramaniam in his book on Tiruvarur Thyagaraja temple, quotes an inscription of Rajendra Chola that gives clarity on subject::

” Naam Pirantha Aadi thiruvathiriyum
Nam Ayyan Pirandharuliya AIPPASI SADHAYAMUM .. ”

The article by sir and the text of inscription

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- says Rajendra I and gives a grant on the Natal Star of Rajendra I and his father Rajaraja I.

However, in this very cave in Thiru Nandikkarai there is an inscription of Sri Raja Raja himself,

TRAVANCORE STATE

Tirunandikkarai.

185. On the east wall of the rock-cut iva shrine. Belongs to
the eighteenth year of Rajaraja I and records grant to the temple
for the celebration of a festival in Aippasi, Satabhisha, the birth-
day of the king. See Trav. Arch. Ser. t Vol. I, pp. 291-2.”

Btw, we do not know which great soul these collection of old photographs are and how they ended up in a waste paper mart. There are no names on them and hence if someone could identify any, please let us know.

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With the familiar brand of Indian politics being played out regularly, its time to hit the rewind button and head towards one of Chennai’s best kept secrets, on a journey to find out, the sanctity that is accorded to the ruling of King. To start with, the very mention of Thirukalukundram would cause many of our local readers to frown, for reasons already mentioned in the previous post.. But, please read on, as there is a much more important and beautiful rock cut cave excavated just below Vedagireerswara shrine on top of the hill which we saw earlier. We are going to see the best kept secret of the town.

Half way up when those extra helpings of Deepavali sweets begin to give their attendance and you rest, you are met with a steep flight of stairs. This is the new route, there exists an older route which goes around hill. Take it and you will come to the Oru Kal Mandapam.

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Though being under ASI care, there is no one around and is locked ( do not know if i have to thank them or curse them for that)

The cave is stylistically dated to just after Mahendra Pallava’s period - post 630 CE. The first indications are the relatively smaller size of the pillars. The general layout of the cave is as below

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We begin with the main Shiva Linga, an imposing edifice in the main sanctum ( note there is no somaskanda relief carved in the back of the Sanctum)

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The Sanctum is flanked by our usual door guardians in slightly lower relief than normal

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What is interesting is the placement of Brahma ( four faced - 3 showing- with a very unique headdress) and Vishnu with their attributes, on the two sides of the main sanctum in the Ardha mandaba ( inside hall) This is a new feature not found in caves of Mahendra Pallava.

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Apart from these, there are two more figures carved in the mukha mandapa ( front hall)

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Now, we come to the operative part - the inscription ( Epigraphica Indica Vol 3 )
page 363.

(Line 1.) Hail! Prosperity! In the twenty-seventh year (of the reign) of King Rajakesarivarman ( Aditya Chola - 870 - 907 CE)
(L. 2.)Whereas Skandasishya had given (certain land) free from taxes to the feet of the God of the holy Mulasthana (temple) at Thirukalundram in Kalattur-kottam (and) in the subdivision called after itself, (and) as, accordingly, Narasingapottaraiyar ( Narasimha Pallava),the conqueror of Vatapi, had confirmed (the grant) in the same manner - I, Rajakesarivaraman, at the request of Puttan, the son of Gunavan of Andurai, have maintained ( the grant ) as the former Kings had maintained it. The feet of one who protects this charity, shall be on my head .

The greatness of one King to not only honor a previous King, that too of a different clan, but to state that he did so as the former King had done to another person - is indeed a lesson in ethics for today’s rulers. Not only that he addresses his predecessor ( of 267 years) with his title as the one who conquered Vatapi. True greatness or truly great.

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