is a small village near Karaikudi in Tamilnadu, and is famous
for its ancient cave temple of Subramanya situated on a small
hill. It is also a place of considerable historical interest.
On the western side of the hill are three excavated cave shrines
at the ground level. These are in a line and are adjacent to one
another. Later structures have been added to these shrines in
the front. All these cave shrines are dedicated to Shiva. The
first two shrines are embellished with very fine sculptural details,
with beautifully carved 'Dwarapalas', but the third one is very
plain. There are a number of old inscriptions in this region which
are found to be useful to the research minded historians.
A finely carved idol of Chandikeshwara seated in 'Padmasana' with
his hands resting on the lap in 'yoga' pose is found to the south
of the first cave and in line with it. To the right is represented
his emblem, the 'Parasu' with a long handle. The first cave shrine
is regular in plan like other Pallava cave temples with the 'sanctum'
scooped out of rock in the centre of the hins wall. A rockcut
'Shivalinga' is in the centre of the Sanctum. The cave is supported
by two square pillars in the front and has sculptures on its side
walls. On the northern wall is carved a figure of Vishnu, as 'Garudantika',
with a high crown and having four arms holding his emblems in
the upper arms. The lower right arm is in the 'Kalyavalambita'
pose and the left is resting on the Garuda who stands to the left
of Vishnu with his arms crossed over his chest. The figure has
no representation of break or wings suggestive of the bird.
The eastern wall to the right of the 'sanctum' has a carved figure
of 'Lingodbhavamurthy'. Shiva wearing a 'jatabhara' is shown with
four arms. He holds the 'Parasu' and the 'Mriga' in the upper
arms. The lower left arm is in 'Kalyavalambita' pose and the right
in the 'Varada' pose. The 'linga' portion below his waist is shown
as a flat pillar, while the portion above the head is shown as
an arch with a garland. An idol of Brahma with three heads and
four arms in the 'Anjali' pose stands to the right. Though the
swan form of Brahma is represented, there is no boar form for
On the eastern wall to the left of the 'sanctum' are carved two
sculptures, one representing Durga and the other Harihara. Durga,
standing on the head of a buffalo, is shown with eigth arms holding
the usual attributes and emblems. The lowest right hand is in
the 'Varada' pose and the left is held across her body holding
a fire in a cup. On her right is shown a seated figure offering
'Navakanda'. On the left is another figure kneeling in the 'Anjali'
The adjacent figure of Harihara is shown with four arms. The upper
pair of arms holds the 'Parasu' and the 'Shankha', the lower right
is in the 'abhaya' pose, and the left is in the 'Kalavalambita'
pose. The right portion of the head-dress is treated with a 'Jatamakuta'
and the left is shown as a crown. The upper garment on the right
appears as a tiger's skin shown upto the middle of the thigh,
while on the left a 'Nilamsuka' is represented upon the ankle.
On the south wall is shown a beautiful idol of Nataraja with eigth
arms. He holds various attributes and emblems including a 'Vrishdhwaja'.
Both the legs are placed on the ground in crossed style. No 'Apasmara'
is represented. The 'Jatas' move sidewards and downwards. Two
'Ganas' are represented, one on either side. One plays 'Kundamuzha'
and other a pair of cymbols. At the back is shown the 'Prabha'.
Unfortunately, most of these beautiful idols are not distance
due to the frequent application of plaster during the recent years.
The side walls on the rock in front of the cave are also figured
with scupture. There are two 'Dwarapalas' one on either side.
On the northern wall is a standing figure of Subramanya with four
arms, the upper arms holding a 'Kukkuta' and 'Vajra'. An interesting
thick 'upavita' adorns the shoulders instead of the usual 'Yagnopavita'.
In the wall opposite to this is a seated Genesha.
The Second cave contains, apart from the 'Dwarapalas', only one
sculpture in the north wall of the rectangular wall. This cave
also resembles the first in plan. There are five sculptures in
the walls as in the first one. Vishnu and Garuda are the interesting
idols. The Garuda wears a peculiar style of cap and is standing
in the 'vinaya' pose. His wings are shown on either side.
In between the second and the third cave, the outer joining face
has a 'Shiva-linga' carved in half relief and in small size. The
third cave resembles the first and second in plan, but is totally
devoid of sculptures. A strange stone inscription in the 'Vatteluttu'
Characters relating to the eighth century A.D. is found in the
first cave, which reads, 'Masiliccuram'. Probably, this appears
to be an unfinished cave belonging to that period.
Another inscription on the pillar to the left of a Bhairava idol
in the second rock-cut cave is dated the eighth regnal year of
Tribhuvana Chakarvati Sundara Pandyadeva. It records a gift of
land by 'Uyyavandan Verumudisudan, Adalayur Nandavan, for providing
offerings to God Kshetrapala Pillaiyar set up in the temple of
Tennarrunnayakar at Tirukunnakkudi by Parpayanar Taliyasingapannan
of Sokkalur'. Evidently, it appears that the idol of Bhairava
now found in the temple is the Kshetrapala referred to in the
It is gathered that the name of the main deity in the second cave
is Tennarru Nayakar (the Lord of southern river). Another inscription
in the pillar of the third rock-cut cave relates to the 23rd regnal
year (1008 A.D) of Rajaraja Chola-I. It states that a gift of
land "for providing offerings in the temple of Tirukunnakkudi
Parameshwaran, by Kadan Sriyarur Devan of Mukundarrur, a 'Perundavam'
of Rajaraja Deva who had obtained Tennarrupokku in pandinadu of
Rajaraja Valanadu, as his 'Jeevitam'". It is clear from this
inscription that the deity in the third cave was called 'Tirukunnakudi
Kunnakkudi village is about 14kms from Karaikudi, and is connected
by a good road. Buses and vans operate in this route at frequent
intervals. It is preferable to camp at Karaikudi where good lodging
facilities are available for the tourists and visitors.