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Thirunadhikkara Cave Temple - rock-cut temple with frescoes

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 8.3986 N 77.2977 E (mistake up to 1500 m)
No:71        (list of all attractions)
Categories:Jain shrines, Hindu shrines, Rock cut architecture
Values:Art, Architecture, History, Archaeology
Address:Asia, India, Tamil Nadu, Kanyakumari District, near Thiruvattar;
Alternate names:Thirunandikkara, Tirunandikara, Thirunanthikkara, Thirunanthikkarai
Age:the 7th - 8th century AD
Religion:Jain, Hindu

One of the earliest examples of Kerala style frescoes is located in rock-cut cave - Thirunadhikkara Cave Temple.

According to the legends, this rock-cut chamber was made by Jain ascetic named Veeranandi who came here from Thirunarunkondai Melappalli. This took place in the 7th century AD. Cave is made in large, oblique wall of cliff and is ascended by a flight of some 60 stone-cut steps. Rock-cut temple itself is small, the facade has two columns and two pilasters. Nowadays, to prevent the vandalism, the entrance is closed behind bars.

Jains were here until around the 9th century AD when the cave was taken over by Hindu.

In the 9th - 10th c. AD cave was decorated with paintings. Hindu painters first sketched outlines and then colored powders were sprinkled.

Now only hazy outlines of once beautiful frescoes remain. Drawings are considered to represent perfect early example of typical Kerala (earlier this cave was located in Kerala) style which later has been applied in numerous temples and palaces. At the same time drawings resemble the famous drawings in Sittanavasal Cave.

Paintings illustrate scenes from the stories of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Among the other figures here are seen Shiva, Parvati and Ganapathi. Technique of drawing resembles Buddhist tradition.

Cave contains 11 stone edicts, relating to Sadhaya festival of the Imperial Cholas in the 11th century AD. Here have been found also inscriptions on copper plates from the 9th century - back then here ruled Venad king.

Presiding deity of the temple is Thiru Nanthikeswarar. To the south there is located active temple built in later times.


See Thirunadhikkara Cave Temple on the map of India!

Thirunadhikkara Cave Temple is included in the following list:

Indian cave paintings map

Ancient and medieval Indian cave paintings - Internet encyclopedia


  1. A Cave and a Chronicle, The Hindu, 12 Nov. 2007. Accessed on May 12, 2010.

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