Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Sivan Cave Temple||Ambal / Thayar:||–|
|Timing:||to & to||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Narthamalai||District:||Pudukkottai|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Pudukkottai (19 km)||Tiruchirappalli (41 km)|
|Karaikudi (59 km)||Thanjavur (64 km)|
Sthala puranam and temple information
Located opposite the grand Narthamalai Vijayalaya Choleeswaram Siva temple, are two separate shrines, which we will look at together as the Sivan cave temple.
The first of these is called the Pathinen Bhoomi Vinnagaram, and is located directly opposite the Vijayalaya Choleeswaram Siva temple. The other – the original Pazhiyili Easwaram – is a few steps to the south, readily identifiable because of the clump of trees it is located under.
Pathinen Bhoomi Vinnagaram
Despite its name (which we will come to shortly), this is a rock cut Siva temple. The entire temple is at an elevation of 8 or 9 steps, and is fully constructed out of granite rock. The borders on three sides of the elevated platform are beautifully carved with images of yalis, elephants, Vinayakar, etc. On the base of this mandapam are also carvings of Siva in Sukhasana, the Sapta Matrikas, Veena Dakshinamurti etc. On the fourth side is the shrine itself, behind which is the hillock. Inscriptions on the base of this mandapam are dated to the early part of the 12th century, and refer to Kulothunga Chola I, and identify this place as Thelingakulakalapuram.
Inside is a flat looking Lingam housed in its avudai, both of which are reckoned to be damaged. However, the shrine is in reasonably active worship – at least a priest performs daily puja here. There are some stone sculptures / /bas relief images flanking the sides to the garbhagriham entrance, but these are clearly placed here, and may or may not be original to this shrine. Inscriptions here identify the deity here as Tirumanickathazhvar.
The name “Vinnagaram” comes from the twelve bas relief sculptures of Vishnu that line both sides of the outer wall of the shrine. All twelve are of almost the same height and overall features, though the postures are different. These sculptures are said to be dated between the 9th or 10th century CE. The name “Pathinen Bhoomi Vinnagaram” itself finds mention in a 13th century inscription from the time of the Pandya king Sundara Pandyan.
This is also a shrine that is placed on a raised platform / mandapam, about 6 or 7 steps from the ground.
The rear of the platform is the shrine, with the hill behind it. The border of the mandapam features exquisite miniatures, and also features several inscriptions.
The inscriptions here suggest that the cave was excavated and this temple built, in the 9th century, during the time of the Pallava king Nrupathungavarman. This makes this shrine the oldest of the three structures here. The name Pazhiyili Easwaram is taken from a Muttaraiyar lieutenant named Sattan Pazhiyili who is said to have built this temple.
A very old Nandi faces Siva who is inside the garbhagriham, which is itself flanked by two bas relief images of dwarapalakas – one on either side. The Siva Lingam inside is probably relatively new.