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Armamalai Cave

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 12.7250 N 78.7269 E (mistake up to 2000 m)
No:66        (list of all attractions)
Categories:Jain shrines, Caves, Petroglyphs and rock art
Values:Art, Architecture, History, Archaeology
Rank:7
Address:Asia, India, Tamil Nadu, Vellore District, between Vaniyambadi and Ambur, near Malayampattu
Age:the 8th century AD
Religion:Jain

The beautiful paintings of Armamalai Cave were brought to the knowledge of Western researchers comparatively recently - in the late 1960s - early 1970s.

This comparatively large cave is divided into three parts with walls of mud and adobe, turning it into complex of three shrines - trikūta. Earlier this structure had paintings in the so called "Northern Technique" - similar technique has been used also in Bagh Caves. First on the brick structure there was laid a thick layer of mud and then it was covered with lime. Material was bound by animal gum. The light surface of lime was suitable to make colourful paintings. Unfortunately these paintings have not been preserved up to this day. But the fact that this method has been used in Southern India testifies that it might have been used in other structures of this region as well. It is also quite possible that guilds of artists were moving around the medieval India, influencing the local traditions.

Happily cave had paintings in other technique as well - in the so called "Southern technique". These paintings have been preserved a lot better. Ceiling and walls of the cave are covered with beautiful color paintings depicting the stories of Jainism. These paintings are similar to murals in Sittanavasal cave which is located 250 km further to the south. Western part of ceiling is adorned with floral designs with lotus as dominating motive - similar as in Sittanavasal. Paintings show also a standing lady with other people.

The entrance in the cave is facing to the south. Cave floor contains deposit relating to Iron Age, in the valley below there are found remnants related to burials. In the debris of the cave there were found some fragments of sculptures - dvarapalas - guards of the portal, as well as details of lotus carving with Tamil inscription mentioning "Sri Kanaka... disciple of Nandi Bhatāra."

Armamalai Cave is exceptionally valuable and at the same time fragile monument of art and history - thus here is not given exact address of it.

Map

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