Asia, India, Tamil Nadu, Tiruchirappalli District, 26 km south-west from Pudukkottai, large cliff monolith near Malaiyadipatti
Malaiyadippatti, Malayadippatti. Shiva temple is named Alathurthali, Vishnu temple - Olipathivishnu graham
late 8th century - early 9th century AD
South from the small Malayadipatti village there are located several granite hillocks. Here are located amazing monuments of the past - the two Malayadipatti rock-cut Hindu temples rich with stone carvings. Additional charm to these monuments is added by painted stucco covering some of these sculptures.
Although these temples have been made more than 1000 years ago, these are not the oldest monuments of history here. Granite cliffs contain three caves which served for Jain hermits in 3rd - 4th century AD, these caves contain also cupules made by people 3 - 5 thousand years ago.
Both rock-cut Hindu temples have been made in one granite monolith - hillock. This hillock is oriented in east-west direction and both temples are on the west side.
Both temples are active. With daily religious services held.
There are also two ancient stone buildings belonging to the temple complex - kitchen and Amman shrine.
Shiva temple is located a little higher than Vishnu temple, closer to the eastern end of hillock. Malayadipatti Shiva temple is called Alathurthali.
According to inscription this temple was excavated in 804 AD.
Temple consists of rock-cut mandapa. At the eastern end there is sanctum sanctorum of cubical form cut inside the mandapa.
In later times there has been built compound wall enclosing the cave and the front mandapa.
Mandapa contains four pillars - two rear pillars are connected with arched brick work with sculptures of Muruga and Vinayaga behind, on a rised platform.
Cave portal contains two pillars and two pilasters, it is 4.64 m wide.
Mandapa is 6.70 m long in north-south direction and 4.58 m wide. It contains sculpture of Chandeshwara, in the middle there is 1 m long sculpture of Nandi ox facing the sanctum. Nandi sculpture is not cut of mother rock, it is resting on platform of large stone blocks.
Entrance in the shrine is guarded by sculptures of two dvarapalas - guards (Mazhuvadiyar and Tirisulakar) resting on heavy clubs. The floor of the shrine is 2,11 x 2,10 m large, height is 1,90 m. Shrine contains lingam which also is cut out of mother rock.
South wall of mandapam contains 3.15 m wide Saptamatrika panel showing 7 goddesses sitting between Ganesha and Veerbadra.
West wall is adorned with a group of deities - Muruga, Sankaranarayana and the lion vehicle of Korravai in the centre. Unfortunately this panel is damaged by vandals.
Vishnu temple is located closer to the western end of hillock. Malayadipatti Vishnu temple is called Olipathivishnu Vishnugraham. Over the centuries long history of this temple it has turned into complex of several structures.
The rock-cut temple contains huge amount of artwork - beautiful reliefs and sculptures, often covered with painted stucco. Paintings cover walls and ceiling.
The presiding deity of this temple is Perumal, popular another name of Vishnu in Tamil Nadu. Temple though contains many more shrines for Vishnu, Shiva and other deities.
Rock-cut temple itself consists of mukha-mandapa (verandah), ardha-mandapa (entrance chamber) and sanctum sanctorum (the main shrine). The ancient temple is entered through a row of two square pillars and pilasters at each side.
Nearly whole surface inside the temple is covered with sculptures and reliefs, stucco and paintings.
One wall is covered with a sculptural group showing the presiding deity - Kanniraintha Perumal (Vishnu) together with his consort Lakshmi (Nachiyar). Vishnu is holding a sangu (sacred conch) and chakra. They are joined by Brahma and Shiva as well as Nrsimhadeva and various other murtis (divinities). This relief is covered with stucco and painted. While the rock-cut cave has been made in 8th - 9th century AD, stucco and paintings seem to be much younger - from 16th - 17th century AD.
On the western wall of mukha-mandapa Vishnu is shown in seated position together with his consorts - this relief is not cut in the main rock but fitted of three large separate stones.
Another wall is covered with large relief showing reclining Vishnu with Brahmadeva in attendance above, sitting on a lotus. Gandharvas are flying around the head of Brahma's head. This relief is cut from the cliff itself.
Temple contains many more sculptures of different deities, for example one wall is decorated with two large images of the demons Madhu and Kaitabha. There is shown also goat-faced Thakkan.
Ceiling is covered with beautiful paintings of the Dashavatara - ten incarnations of Vishnu.
In the front of the cave temple there are stone reliefs showing three Azhwars and Vishvaksena - considered to be a commander-in-chief of Vishnu's army.
Rock-cut temple is the oldest part of Shiva temple but in later time the front part of the cliff has got additions.
There is built wall enclosure of large stone blocks. It is entered through a gate tower - gopuram.
This structure is flat-roofed and ornamented with carvings of elephants, birds. At four corners there are projecting four makaras - mythological creatures comparable to chimeras.
Wall enclosure extends from both sides of gopuram and extend up to the cliff monolith to the south. Eastern wall separates both rock-cut temples.
Outside the gopuram entrance, to the left there is a sculpture of Ganesha sitting in a niche facing towards the north.
Many deities in the temple were made of destructible materials - stucco-covered wood or stone. Thus there were made and installed additional murtis of resistant material - metal or stone - which serve for daily rituals.
Vishnu cave contains 10 inscriptions. The earliest is made circa 960 AD but it is not foundation inscription - thus the cave is older.
Natural caverns with ancient monuments
Granite hillocks near Malayadipatti contain three natural rock shelters with interesting monuments of the past. Two caverns contain some 400 ancient cupules - cup marks, made some 3000 - 5000 years ago. Third rock shelter contains faint white painting, possibly made of lime. Painting shows bird and a human form.
In 3rd - 4th century AD these shelters were used by Jain hermits - in each of the two caves with cupules there is made one stone bed. It is possible that the painting also was made in this time.
One of rock shelters contains five-line inscription in Brahmi script.