Ancient Cave Temples of Tamilnadu

There are several cave temples of Tamilnadu scattered all over the state. The Pallava kings were prolific builders of rock cut (cave) temples. Some of the famous cave temples are here.

Mahabalipuram cave temples -  The rock cut temples of Mahabalipuram are excellent examples of Pallava kings.  The main structures are ThiruKadal Mallai (Sthalasayana Perumal Kovil), Arjuna’s Penance, Varaha temple, Descent of the Ganges, the Shore temple, and Pancha Rathas (named after the Pandavas). These historic monuments built largely between the 7th and the 9th centuries, by Pallavas,  has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mandagapattu cave temple - Mandagapattu, located about 20 km from Viluppuram and 17 km from Gingee, is another example of Tamilnadu cave temples, built by Pallava kings. This small village comes under Viluppuram district, which is around 162 km from Chennai. The north facing cave shrine has two pillars and two pilasters in its front façade, thus forming three bays, with. 22 feet in length, 24 feet in width and 9 feet in height. There are two carved dvarpalas beyond the pilasters, on either end of the temple.

Pillayarpatti Cave Temnple  - The cave temple of Karpaka Vinayakar shrine at Pillayarpatti near Karaikudi is one of the oldest rock cut temples of Tamilnadu. This place is named after “pillayar” the Tamil name for Vinayaka. This temple also houses Lord Shiva and others as well. The presiding deity is portrayed with two arms and a trunk curled towards his right side, with a height of 6 feet. 

Thiruchirapalli cave temple  -  Tiruchirappalli is considered to be the 6th in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola kingdom. They are a collection of three temples namely Manikka Vinayakar temple at the foot of the hill, Taayumaanavar Koyil Shivastalam on the hill and the Uchhi Pillayar Koyil at the top of the hill. The cave temples at Thiruchirapalli are also quite famous among the cave temples of Tamilnadu.

The Satyagirinathan (Vishnu) temple - located in Thirumayam near Pudukkottai,  is a beautiful cave temple, where the Lord  in a reclining posture flanked by Garuda, Chitragupta, Markandeya, Bhrahma, the gods and the rishis  is an imposing one.  The guardian deities at the entrances of the fort are believed to be Bhairava, Hanuman, Shakti and Ganapati, and the grama devata karuppu. This cave temple is popular among the cave temples of Tamilnadu.

Jain Cave Temple  - at Sittanavasal  resembling other rock-cut cave temples of 7th century in plan and style, is another famous cave temple.  This temple is located in Pudukottai District, (58 kms from Trichy) and is called Arivar-koil (temple of the arhats), and  has relics of paintings of 9th century CE. It was a flourishing centre of Jaina influence where Jainism flourished for over 1200 years (3rd century BC to 10th century CE).  This site was  first noticed by S. Radhakrishna Iyer, a local historian, in 1916 and were recorded in his book "General History of the Pudukkottai State". 

Mahendravadi cave temple  - The Single Rock Cut Temple by Pallava Varman at Mahendravadi village in Arkonam, was excavated by Gunabhara on the bund of a large tank called Mahendra thataka in the city of Mahendrapura. The Garbagraha has an image of Narasimha. The village has a history of 1700 years. 

Thirunandikkara Cave Temple - is located near Thiruvattar in Kanyakumari district, which was earlier belonged to Kerala.  The most antique Murals of Kerala are found in this cave temple of Pallava art dated seventh and eighth century AD.  

Shervaroyan cave temple - is situated on the top of Shervaroyan hill at Yercaud is 5326 feet above the sea level. The highest point in Yercaud hill is the Sherveroyan temple, dedicated to God Shervaroyan and His consort the goddess Cauvery representing the Shervaroy Hills and the Cauvery river.

These are just some of the cave temples of Tamilnadu, and not the entire list. 

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