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.
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)”
The insides of the cave ( as he had sent me earlier - you wouldn’t fault me for not going over it properly !)
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)
But what i had missed earlier was the faint red outlines which Shankar had been pushing me to study.
It was when i say the half a century old photographs from the waste paper mart that i realised the folly.
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.
Now to reference the photographs
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.
What are these depictions ?
Btw, the cave holds another very important historical information in its entrance.
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
- 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,
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.