Site Name: Pallava cave temples
|Upper Cave Temple|
Mamallapuram is a popular heritage town located in the northern part of Tamil Nadu state which has many cave temples built mainly by the popular Pallava kings Mahendravarman I and his son Narasimhavarman (Mamallan). There are two cave temples in Trichy - the upper cave temple and the lower cave temple. The upper cave temple was built by Mahendravarma Pallavan; the lower one is believed to have been built by Narasimhavarma Pallavan. Unlike the universally popular Mamallapuram sites, the cave temples of Trichy are not very popular. Hardly anyone visits these sites. In fact, even the citizens of this city hardly know about them.
|Lower Cave Temple|
The upper cave temple called as Lalitankura cave temple is located at a height of about 200 meters from the ground level. It can be reached by steep flight of steps. The rockfort consists of three temples - a small Manicka Vinayakar temple at the foothill, the big Thayumanavar (Shiva) temple at half way to hill top and Uchchi Pillaiyar temple at the top of the hill. The upper cave temple is located near Thayumanavar temple on the way to Uchchi Pillaiyar temple. It is unfortunate that the site remains closed nowadays and you can view the temple only from outside the grilled gates.
As per the inscriptions found in this temple, it was built by Mahendravarma Pallava. It looks like this would have been his latest work. It is not sure why he chose Trichy, traditionally a Chola city, to build this shrine.
|Monkey faced gana - a rare sculpture|
The main attraction of the cave temple is the huge bas-relief carved on the western wall. The bas-relief depicts Lord Shiva as Gangadhara - one who is carrying the river Ganges. He is standing in tribhanga posture with one leg resting on the ground and the other leg resting on the head of a gana. If you notice carefully, you can find the right hand of gana is holding a snake. The lord is depicted with four hands. The lower right hand is holding a snake whereas his left hand is on his waist. His upper right hand is holding a tress of his hair; the river Ganga is shown descending over to his tress; the river is depicted in the female form. On left of Lord Shiva, an animal probably deer is found. There are two flying Vidyadharas on either side of the Lord. Below them, there are two devotees on their knees. Behind the devotees two thin images of rishis (seers) are found.
The lower cave temple is located at a distance of around 200 meters from the second entrance of the Rockfort complex. Unlike the upper cave temple, this has many relief images. The front facade is supported by four pillars and two pilasters. Above the pillars, a lot of small sized gana faces are carved. Among them, the monkey faced gana is unique one. The hall has two shrines on either side walls. The main wall is divided into five niches.
The life sized relief images of Ganesha, Subramanya, Brahma, Surya and Durga are found in those niches. There is one set of people who argue that Ganesha sculptures cannot be found in Pallava temples; however, this little known cave temple of Trichy has a relief of Lord Ganesha. He is depicted in the standing posture with four hands. This image and Subramanya's image are slightly damaged. All the deities except Durga are surrounded by two flying Vidyadharas at the top and two devotees near the feet. The sculpture of Durga is not so beautiful and remains incomplete. One devotee is trying to sacrifice his head near the Goddess' feet.
When you get a chance to visit Trichy next time, ensure that you do not miss this ancient heritage site.
Unlike the upper cave, there is no solid proof about who built this cave temple. Although ASI claims that it was built during the reign of the Pallava king Mammallan, there are some scholars who claim that it might have been built by Pandyan kings. The style of pillars and the life sized reliefs probably lead them to believe so. Whatever it is, whoever built this, it is true that this is not as good as the other creations by Pallava kings.
|Lower Cave Temple|
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