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Replete with history

This beautiful cave temple was not only conserved well, but also expanded with additional structures by the Pandyas in the 13th Century A.D. and the Nayak rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries A.D.


TIRUPPARANKUNRAM is a pilgrim centre sacred to Lord Subrahmanya. It is situated 8 km south west of Madurai.

To the Saivites, Tirupparankunram is one of the fourteen sacred places of the Pandyan region connected with the Saiva religion.

Among the Nayanmars, Thirugnana Sambandar (7th century A.D.) has sung songs on Lord Siva of Tirupparankunram.

Sundarar, the last of the Thevaram trio, who lived around 825 A.D. is said to have visited the Siva temple at Tirupparankunram accompanied by Chera, Chola and Pandya, the three crowned monarchs of the Tamil country. Sundarar has sung eleven songs on Siva.

Chief attraction

The hill at the centre is the chief attraction as well as sacred spot of this village called Paramgiri.

The hill is 300 feet high and has two cave temples one on its northern face and another on its southern face.

During the Sangam Age (1st - 3rd century A.D.) this hill was associated with Subrahmanya and not Siva.

But during the Bhakti age (7th - 10th century A.D.) it was associated with Siva and not with Subrahmanya.

Following the post-Sangam work, `Tirumurugatruppadai', written by Nakkirar, this place is today associated with Arupadai Veedu or the six holy abodes of Subrahmanya.

In the Sangam classics, this place is referred to in `Ahananooru' (vv.59 and 149), `Paripadal' (v.17), `Kalittogai' (`Palaikkali'-27 and `Marudakkali'-93 and `Maduraikkanchi').

In all these references, this place is connected with Subrahmanya, or Skanda-Karttikeya, locally called Murugan.

It seems highly probable that during the early centuries of the Christian era, Tirupparankunram was connected exclusively with Subrahmanya and then during the medieval period (600-925) it was exclusively connected with Siva.

The earlier tradition regained only after 825 A.D.

This beautiful cave temple was not only conserved well but also expanded with additional structures by the imperial Pandyas in the 13th Century A.D. and the Nayak rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries A.D.

Veerappa Nayak (1572-1595) added a seven-tier gopura and a huge compound wall to this temple complex in 1583. Tirumalai Nayak (1632-1659), the greatest among the temple builders in the Nayak dynasty, built a mandapa with eight pillars just in front of the cave temple complex. This mandapa has the portrait sculpture of Tirumalai Nayak with two of his royal consorts.

Entry point

Rani Mangammal, one of the greatest woman- administrators in South Indian history, being the regent of her grandson, Sokkanatha Nayak (1689 - 1706), added to this temple an `asthana mandapa' which is the entry point today. Upon the roof of this mandapa, there are a number of stucco figures of gods and goddesses, which serve as an excellent facade.

There is another cave temple on the southern face of this hill. This temple, popularly known as Umayandar Kovil, is not under worship, but is well maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Fortunately having no structural constructions added to it, the temple maintains its pristine beauty as a cave temple with all the features peculiar to the Pandyan caves. The two stumpy pillars and plasters in front, with exquisitely carved lotus medallions, show that this cave belongs to the 8th century A.D. It was further excavated during the 12th - 13th centuries A.D. adding an east facing cella with a beautiful bas-relief of Rishabantika Ardhanareeswara.

Bas reliefs

The south-facing wall has two big bas reliefs - one of Nataraja and the other of Subrahmanya with his two consorts.

The hill has in its western face a Jain cave with Brahmi inscription of 1st century A.D. Atop this hill there is a structural temple dedicated to Lord Siva, called the Temple of Kasi Viswanatha.

A big boulder in front of this temple has the bas reliefs of the Jain cult - of Parsvanatha and Bahubali.

Near this Siva temple there is a dargah, commemorating Sikkandar, the last ruler of the Madurai Sultanate, which came to an end at the hands the Kumara Kampana, the heroic Vijayanagar general and the son of Bukka.

Bukka was the younger brother of Harihara, who together founded the Vijayanagar Empire in 1336 A.D. as a bulwark against Muslim invasion.

S. SUNDARARAJAN

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