May 20, 2018

Kuranganilmuttam - Pallava period Cave Temple

Kuranganilmuttam is a small village located near Kanchipuram. As per the legend, the Vanara King Vali as Kurangu (monkey) and Indra as Anil (squirrel) and Yama as muttam (crow) worshiped Lord Shiva in this site. There is an ancient Shiva temple in this village. However, this article is not to focus on this legend or the temple, but the Pallava period cave shrines.

In the middle of the village, the cave temple is located. Not even five percent of the visitors of the Shiva temple visit this lesser known cave shrine.

The uniqueness of the cave temple is that it is excavated below the ground level. The east facing cave has three main cells in the east direction. There are two cells facing the south and two more facing the north directions. Thus, there are totally seven cells.

The cave is supported by four pillars and four pilasters in two rows. Thus, it is considered that the cave temple has Ardha Mandap as well as Mukha Mandap. The pillars have cubical blocks on top and bottom with octagonal shaft in the middle.

Each of the three cells have Dwarapalas. It is assumed that the temple is dedicated to Tri Murtis.

The central cell is assumed to be of Lord Shiva, based on the characteristics of the Dwarapalas. The Dwarapala on the true right side of the cell is half turned towards the shrine. His makuta shows two prongs of Trishul. He has his right arm rested on his waist whereas his left arm rests on the club. The club is entwined with a serpent.  He wears Sarpa yagnopavita. The left side Dwarapala faces front side. His makuta is eroded. He is not slanting like the other Dwarapala, but he stands in straight posture. He also wears Sarpa yagnopavita and his club is also entwined with a serpent.

The southern cell has two Dwarapalas. Both face front side in Tribhanga posture. They have their one arm rested on their waist and the next arm is raised above and hold probably a flower. As per the style of these images, it is assumed that this cell should have been dedicated to Vishnu.

The northern cell also has two Dwarapalas. They too are in Tribhanga posture and have their one arm rested on the waist. Their other arm is in Abhaya Mudra. They have jata makuta and wear yagnopavita. It is assumed from these attributes that this cell belongs to Brahma.

The village was called as Pallavapuram in the olden days. As per the style of the cave temple, it is believed to have been built by Mahendravarma Pallava I (r. 600 - 630 CE).

The cave temple has few inscriptions of Rashtrakuta King Kannara Deva (r. 756 - 774 CE).

Happy travelling.

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