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Melakkoil - Kudumiyanmalai Cave Temple

Dvarapala in Melakkoil Cave Temple, India
Dvarapala in Melakkoil Cave Temple / Injamaven, Picasa / CC BY 3.0

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 10.4160 N 78.6576 E (possible mistake up to 200 m)
No:68        (list of all attractions)
Categories:Hindu shrines, Rock cut architecture
Values:Art, Architecture, History, Archaeology
Address:Asia, India, Tamil Nadu, Pudukottai district, 18 km west - north - west from Pudukottai, west from Kudumiyamalai village
Alternate names:Tirumerrali
Age:the 7th century AD

Popular tourist destination near Pudukottai is the impressive Kudumiyanmalai temple complex. One of the most interesting monuments of the past here is Melakkoil - rock-cut Hindu temple.

Melakkoil is created in the 7th century by Pandyas (Mahendravarma Pallavan) as a single monolith. One of characteristics for Pandyan temple is linga cut out of monolith just like the whole temple.

Melakkoil contains many inscriptions. One inscription is made in the 36th year of the reign of Kulottunga Chola I (1070 - 1118) and records commercial transactions that ensured supplies to the temple.

In the 13th century there was a case when the temple property was put for auction. Temple dancer Thiru-k-kaariyaan Magal Umaiyal Nachiar bought it and transferred back to the temple. She later built Soundaravalli Amman temple next to the cave temple.

Ragunaatharaayath Thondaimaan (1686 -1730) built the outer mandapam of the cave. Interesting detail since this time are sculptures of two seemingly relaxed dwarapalas (guards of the temple) standing at the portal inside the outer mandapam.

Around the 10th century there was built another temple on the other side of hill - Kuduminatha temple. It developed into impressive temple complex with especially impressive monument of architecture - 1,000 pillared mandapam (having "only" 645 pillars).

Shiva and Nayanmars near Melakkoil Cave Temple, India
Shiva and Nayanmars near Melakkoil Cave Temple / Injamaven, Picasa / CC BY 3.0

Close to the temple there are several more exciting monuments of the past.

Above the temple there is bas-relief os Shiva and Parvati sitting on Nandi, flanked by 63 Nayanmars - devotees of Lord Shiva from Tamilnadu. Nayanmars are arranged in long rows in both sides of the family of deities.

To the south from the temple there is famous Music Inscriptions - the 7th century cliff inscription in Sanskrit, treatise about the theory of music left for the benefit of students. Earlier it was considered to be a deed of king Mahendra Pallava, though late studies have shown that inscription is done by King Parama Mageshwaran.

To the south from the temple there is also a stone carving of Ganesh.


See Melakkoil - Kudumiyanmalai Cave Temple on the map of India!


  1. Confluence of different styles, The Hindu, April 10, 2009. Accessed on May 9, 2010.

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