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Sep 10, 2018 39 tweets 17 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
#History/#Art thread – From my recent trip to Madurai/Tirunelveli. On Jain sites (some with a rich history dating back to at least the 3rd cent. BCE), early Pandyan rock-cut cave temples (7th-8th cent. CE) & the amazing Vettuvan koil.

Pic: Mahavira (~8 cent CE), Kizhakuyilkudi
Before I start on the places, the history around all this is fascinating & splits opinion. Is it apt to call the script Tamili/Tamil Brahmi? Did it develop independently in the Tamil country/come with the Jain monks from the north? Were 8,000 Jains actually impaled in Madurai?>
>Were the Saivites overaggressive in promoting their faith? Shall only be happy to discuss on these separately (unless it gets too long/irrational). And I’m not posting every inscription from the places here, despite their importance. Again, shall be happy to discuss them.
1) Mangulam – One of the most important sites. Before recent excavations at Pulimankombai, Kodumanal etc., the inscriptions here were considered to be the oldest available Tamili inscriptions (at least 3rd cent BCE).

The view the Jain monks had from their beds (numerous here).
The inscription reads "வெள்அறை நிகமத்தோர் கொட்டியோர்", mentioning a merchant guild from nearby Vellaripatti. A valuable historical record of the region's commercial development way back then. Another inscription mentions a great pearl trader 'அந்தை அஸுதன் '.
Two inscriptions here mention a Nedunchezhiyan (underlined in pic of 1 insc), first showing that kings mentioned in Sangam lit. weren't just mythical. These are about donations to Jain monks made by the king’s employee & a relative (co-brother’s father to be precise😊).
2) Arittapatti - The Brahmi inscription here is believed to be around the same time as Mangulam. The inscription says the donor here is “சழிவன் அதினன் வொளியன்” from Tirunelveli! Another Brahmi inscription was also recently discovered here.
The rock-cut early Pandyan cave temple for Siva at Arittapatti (7th-8th cent CE). Has beautiful bas-reliefs of Vinayaka and Lakulisa (a preceptor of the Pasupata Saivism sect later elevated as an avatara of Siva - this icon is very rare here in Tamilnadu).
Jainism faced a decline with the conversion of Arikesari Parankusan (7th cent. CE) to Saivism by Sambandar & the ensuing Bhakti movement. Later, the former’s grandson Rajasimha I married a Jain princess from the Ganga dynasty and this aided the inflow of Jain monks from there.
From the 8th-9th cent CE, Jainism saw a revival and relief sculptures were made in the Jain sites of yore. Ajjanandi was a prominent preceptor who visited many of these places right from Chitharaal in Kanyakumari to Vallimalai in Vellore and commissioned icons there.
Worth noting that in சீவக சிந்தாமணி, one of the five great epics in Tamil, the protagonist’s preceptor is an ‘Ajjanandi’. This Tirthankara image, commissioned for him, was once painted and traces of colour can still be seen (Do zoom in and see in full size).
The 10th cent CE Vattezhuttu inscription reads “ஸ்ரீ திருபிணையன் மலை பொற்கோட்டு கரணத்தார் பேரால் அச்சணந்தி செய்வித்த திருமேனி பாதிரிக்குடியார் ரஷை”(Divine image made in the name of accountants of Tirupinayanmalai Porkodu for Ajjanandi; to be taken care of by Padirikudi people).
3) Kongar Puliankulam, formerly a major Jain Sangha with as many as 80 beds, three 2nd cent.BCE Tamili inscriptions & a 10th cent.CE Tirthankara image.

The place is just perfect to sit with a book. Or just & contemplate. (I did, if the ends justify the means, free will & blah).
4) Azhagarmalai (Kidaripatti) – Probably my favourite place from the trip. Ajjanandi has been here too and we see a Tirthankara image here accompanied by the Vattezhuttu inscription “அச்சணந்தி செய்வித்த திருமேனி”.
The cave here is a big one and there is a natural spring here. Even saw a stream of water as I was climbing up. The path up here can look scary at some places but is actually fine. The cave has been occupied since prehistoric times and has rock art from 9th-10th cent. BCE!
The view from up there is just lovely. Any side you look.(Arittapatti hills at the back?).

I saw the largest number of Brahmi inscriptions here. The name “Mathirai”, is seen in 2 of these inscriptions, dated to ~2(1?) cent.BCE. (Still dreaming of Sangam age Madurai after this!)
People from many a trade & profession have made donations here.Easy to forget this is 2 millennia & 2 centuries ago!
A goldsmith (மதிரை பொன் கொலவன் underlined in yellow in pic), an accountant (green), salt (orange), sugar (blue), iron (red) & cloth (pink) merchants are mentioned.
5) Tirupparankunram – Known for the Murugan shrine, these hills were also a Jain abode. In fact, they were one of the eight hills (எண்பெருங்குன்றம்) where Jainism flourished. 1st cent. BCE Brahmi inscriptions are seen here. There is also a rock-cut cave temple of 8th-9th cent.CE.
This Jain cave was converted into a Saivite shrine in the 13th cent.CE during Maravarman (மதுரையை மீட்ட) Sundara Pandiyan's reign. A Saivite preceptor, Prasanna devar, played a key role getting this done.

That’s a Muzhavu being played (Nandi in human form?) as Siva is dancing.
Above the main deity Ardhanaariswara, one can still see the remnants of the image of the Asoka tree that used to be a part of the Jain relief once. Also noteworthy is how this Bhairava looks very much like a standing Jain monk/Tirthankara.
6) Kizhakuyilkudi – A very important Jain centre. The section called Pechippallam, has a series of Jain reliefs (incl. Mahavira, Parsvanatha and Bahubali). The inscriptions here suggest they belong to 8th-9th cent. CE.
The dilapidated remains of a Jain monastery, “Maadevi perum palli”, are seen atop the hill. Inscriptions mentioning an influx of Jains from Sravanabelagola are also found around here. A Tamili inscription from ~2nd cent. BCE is also seen.
The section called Chettipodavu has the largest Mahavira relief in these parts (~6 ft. – the pic in the 1st tweet). I read later this may belong to 9th-10th cent. CE (not 8th cent. CE). The place was apparently a big school and inscriptions name a famous teacher Gunasena.
A series of reliefs are seen inside the cave atop the dome-shaped ceiling. The leftmost relief of the Yakshi (Ambika?) with 4 hands, fighting a male figure atop an elephant is unique. The inscriptions ascertain the presence of two Jain sects named as ‘Nandi gana’ & ‘Sena gana’.
And these are the places that I visited in Madurai!

There are at least 6 places more around Madurai that were very important Jain centres. Yanaimalai, Kizhavalavu, Varichiyur, Karungaalakudi, Tiruvaathavur & Perumalmalai. (All have Tamili inscriptions from BCE times!).
Add Vikramangalam to the list above!

7) Kazhugumalai – A visual treat. The reliefs here are very detailed & a real credit to Early Pandyan art. Both reliefs & inscriptions (Tamil & Vattezhuttu) are seen here in large numbers indicating how important a Jain centre this place was.
Some facts as mentioned in the inscriptions here:

*People from across Tamilnadu visited the place as a pilgrimage and commissioned images here.

* To protect the hill/its sculptures, there were two groups of warriors - “Tirumalai Veerar” & “Parantaka Veerar”.
* The place is called Tirunecchuram and the main deity, Araimalai Azhwar/ Tirumalai Merpatara (some opine that this is another place nearby and not Kazhugumalai).

* There were women teachers here who taught both male and female pupils.
Pandyan kings from the time of Nedunchadayan to Viranarayanan are mentioned (~765-900 CE). The latter was the Pandyan king who ascended the throne post his brother Varagunan II's defeat in the Tirupurambiyam battle to the Pallava-Chola army. The rise of the Cholas started then.
a) Tirthankara (Mahavira?) – The details!
b) Bahubali – With sisters Brahmi & Sundari
c) Parswanatha – With Padmavati, Dharanendra & Kamata(1st throwing a stone & repenting later). Separate panels for Yakshis Padmavati & Ambika with no reference to any Jina are also seen.
Let me end the list of Jain sites visited by me with this image of many Tirthankaras from Kazhugumalai – the contributions from across Tamilnadu.

Vettuvan koil is at the same place as here. But keeping it for the end after the Virasigamani & Tirumalaipuram rock-cut cave temples.
8) Virasigamani (#Tirunelveli district) – There is a rock-cut Siva temple here (7th-9th cent. CE,mostly likely 7th cent.later part). In Pandyan rock-cut cave temples,the main deity is excavated from the same parent rock as the temple,unlike in the Pallava ones. #History #தமிழ்
A Vattezhuttu inscription from Sundara Chola-Pandya's time (1021-1054 CE) is seen here. Chola-Pandyas were members of the Chola family who were placed as viceroys of their Pandya territories. This post was abolished c.1070 CE, during Kulothunga I’s time. #History #தமிழ்
9)Tirumalaipuram (#Tirunelveli dist.) – The interior walls of this rock-cut cave temple have bas-reliefs of Vinayaka,Brahma,Vishnu & Nataraja in the Chatura tandava pose (not very common in Tamilnadu). A closer look, as with the Tirthankara at Arittapatti, shows traces of paint.
The ceiling has been covered with lime plaster and painted. Unfortunately, it is now covered with black soot. I believe these paintings must be of the same period as the famous Cittannavasal paintings (another lovely Pandyan rock-cut cave temple). I could spot lotus scrolls here.
Vettuvan koil – Where does one even begin! This monolithic temple has been carved from the top down after scooping out the granite in this hillock. The sheer ambition to undertake such a big project & the clear vision of the architect(mistakes can’t be corrected)! #History #Art
The aesthetic sense! They've not compromised one bit here just because the project is grand. Right from the lotus at the top. I absolutely adore the ornamentation (karukku) here & all the arches (kudu). Can go on and on about each of this.

(That is Siva playing the mridangam).
Zooming in on some parts of the temple. The icons are just amazing. I love the many poses here & the proportion of the limbs. They seem so natural and show the amazing craftsmanship of the artisans of those times. Sharing just 2 examples here. #History #Art
The arches – There are just so many designs! The Early Pandyan era artisans/patrons clearly hated monotony.

Some examples. The 1st one is probably my favourite. Also, how beautifully ornamentation has been used as well, as in the 2nd pic! #History #Art #architecture

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