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| Last Updated:: 14/09/2023

Narthamalai Cave Temples







Narthamalai a cluster of small hills is 25 km from Tiruchi in Pudukkotai District. Here can be seen some of the oldest rock cut cave temples, as well as the longest rock-cut edicts, similar to Asokan edicts and extremely rare in the south of India.


There are two cave temples facing east and a later structural temple complex, Vijayalaya Choleeswaram, facing the caves. The larger and earlier Jaina cave on the north side has been converted later as a Vaishnava shrine and its ardhamandapa has about 12 standing friezes of Vishnu.







Outside the Vishnu graham (the older cave temple) is a large mukhamandapa (adhistana only) wherein the Sapta Matrukkal (seven divine mothers) are located in two congregations. A granite block of three depicting Kaumari, Brahmi and Maheswari is stationed on the south side of the entrance to the shrine, while a group of four Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani and Chamunda occupy the northern side of the entrance. In addition, a dvarapala and a Vinadhara Dakshinamurty can be seen on the south side of the entrance and another dvarapala on the right side. An unidentified large sculpture occupies the extreme southern slot.










On the south side of the original Jain cave, another cave shrine has been carved out in the rock. This temple is called "Paliyili Isvaram". On the kumudha of the mukhamandapa (foundation) of this temple is recorded a Pallava inscription of 862 A.D. in the seventh regnal year of Nrpatunga Varman. It proclaims that Sattan Paliyili, son of Videl Vidugu Muttaraiyar (the subordinate chieftain of the Pallava ruling over Narthamalai) constructed (altered the Jaina one?) the cave temple for Siva and his wife Paliyili Siriya Nangai constructed the mukhamandapa (adhistana only), Rishabha, Balipeeta etc.










On the east of the above two cave temples, in a vast expanse of gently rolling rock is located the "Vijayalaya Choleeswaram", the early structural temple of the period of Vijayalaya, the founder of the Chola dynasty. A Pandyan inscription of (1228 A.D.) Ko Maravarman Sundara Pandya Deva near the Jaina Cave on the rock details the privsions made for festivals, processions, Thiru Veethi Kuttu etc. for the Vijayalay Choleesvaram Udaiya Nayanar, the deity of the temple. There is also another fragmentary inscription of 1015 A.D. in the reign of Rajendra Deva I.