Envis Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Friday, June 21, 2024

Tiruchirappalli Rock Cut Cave Temples










The Rock Fort temple complex in Tiruchirappalli is an important and famous monument in Tamilnadu. There are two cave temples in the fort- the upper cave temple and the lower cave temple. The upper cave temple was built by Mahendravarma Pallavan; the lower one is believed to have been built by Narasimhavarma Pallavan.




Upper Cave Temple






The upper cave temple called as Lalitankura cave temple is located at a height of about 200 meters from the ground level. It can be reached by steep flight of steps. The Rockfort consists of three temples - a small Manicka Vinayakar temple at the foothill, the big Thayumanavar (Shiva) temple at half way to hill top and Uchchi Pillaiyar temple at the top of the hill. The upper cave temple is located near Thayumanavar temple on the way to Uchchi Pillaiyar temple. It is unfortunate that the site remains closed nowadays and you can view the temple only from outside the grilled gates.




The front facade of the south facing cave temple is supported by four pillars and two pilasters. The pillars are cubical at top and bottom whereas octagonal in the middle. The hall has an east facing shrine. The entrance of the shrine has two bas-relief images of Dwarapalaks. Both the dwarapalaks carry clubs. There is no deity inside the shrine. It is believed that the shrine would have had Shivlingam and Parvati originally.








The main attraction of the cave temple is the huge bas-relief carved on the western wall. The bas-relief depicts Lord Shiva as Gangadhara - one who is carrying the river Ganges.









Lower Cave Temple







The lower cave temple is located at a distance of around 200 meters from the second entrance of the Rockfort complex. Unlike the upper cave temple, this has many bas-relief images. The front facade is supported by four pillars and two pilasters. Above the pillars, a lot of small sized gana faces are carved. Among them, the monkey faced gana is unique one.








The hall has two shrines on either side walls. The main wall is divided into five niches. The life sized bas-relief images of Ganesha, Subramanya, Brahma, Surya and Durga are found in those niches.













Both the shrines in the temple have a small pillared mandapas in their front sides. The either sides of shrines have two Dwarapalaks; additionally another pair of Dwarapalaks are found in both the shrines. One shrine doesn't have any deity. Based on the features of Dwarapalakas it is assumed that the shrine belongs to Shiva.  Unlike the upper cave, there is no solid proof about who built this cave temple.