The beautiful paintings of Armamalai Cave were brought to the knowledge of Western researchers comparatively recently – in the late 1960s – early 1970s.
Map of the site
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This comparatively large cave is divided into three parts with walls of mud and adobe, turning it into a 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 bricks, there was laid a thick layer of mud and then it was covered with lime. The material was bound by animal gum. The light surface of lime was suitable to make colorful 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 medieval India, influencing the local traditions.
Happily, the cave had paintings in other techniques as well – in the so-called “Southern technique”. These paintings have been preserved a lot better. The ceiling and walls of the cave are covered with beautiful color paintings depicting the stories of Jainism. These paintings are similar to murals in the Sittanavasal cave which is located 250 km further to the south. The western part of the ceiling is adorned with floral designs with the lotus as a dominating motive – similar to in Sittanavasal. Paintings show also a standing lady with other people.
The entrance in the cave is facing to the south. The cave floor contains deposits 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… a disciple of Nandi Bhatāra.”
Armamalai Cave is an exceptionally valuable and at the same time fragile monument of art and history – thus here is not given the exact address of it.
- Nagendra Kr. Singh. Encyclopaedia of Jainism. New Delhi, 2001.
Armamalai Cave is included in the following article:
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