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Thirunadhikkara Cave Temple

WorldBlue  In short

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

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GPS coordinates
8.3986 N 77.2977 E (mistake up to 1500 m)
Location, address
Asia, India, Tamil Nadu, Kanyakumari District, near Thiruvattar
Hindu shrines, Jain shrines, Rock cut temples and monasteries
Alternate names
Thirunandikkara, Tirunandikara, Thirunanthikkara, Thirunanthikkarai
The 7th – 8th century AD
Jain, Hindu

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

According to the legends, this rock-cut chamber was made in the 7th century AD by a Jain ascetic named Veeranandi who came here from Thirunarunkondai Melappalli.

The cave is made in the large, oblique wall of the cliff and is ascended by a flight of some 60 stone-cut steps. The rock-cut temple itself is small, the facade has two columns and two pilasters. Nowadays, to prevent vandalism, the entrance is closed behind bars.

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

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 examples 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. The technique of drawing resembles Buddhist tradition.

The cave contains 11 stone edicts, relating to the 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.

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


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

Thirunadhikkara Cave Temple is included in the following article:

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