April 17, 2018

Matangeswara Temple - A Hidden Gem from the Pallavas

When the south based historians complain that the Pallavas were not given their due in the annals of history, I could only think of this beautiful but neglected Pallava period temple called Matangeswara. It is such an architectural marvel. But, it remains unknown and is being neglected by the people of Kanchipuram, the ancient capital of the Pallavas. When its own people do not care to promote or recognize the heritage value of their own sites, how could we expect the others to recognize us?

Matangeswara Temple is a hidden gem in Kanchipuram, which was gifted by the great Pallavas. The temple is located in Hospital Road near Vaikuntha Perumal Temple. However, it is not very easy to locate the site. From the road, you could find only an ASI board at the entrance of a narrow lane. There is no way that anyone could guess that this short passage would lead to a temple with so much of heritage value. When the Pallavas constructed this temple, I hope it was surrounded by the trees. On contrary, it is now surrounded by multi storied apartments in all directions. Also, the people use this temple as kind of their study room. They use this secluded site to prepare for their government competitive exams. Only they visit this temple and not the regular devotees. Very rarely, you could  find some history enthusiasts.

Hoping and wishing that those who have encroached the surroundings of this temple would  spare this temple at least, let me start with the description of the site.

As it is believed that Shiv Linga was installed by Matanga Rishi, the deity is named as Matangeswara. This is one of the eight Pallava temples of Kanchi that remain today.

The west facing temple has sanctum and Mukha Mandap. The vimana is three tiered Vesara Vimana. As part of the vimana  is of Nagara style and the upper portion is of Vesara style, some Agama texts call this style as Nagara Vesara Vimana. (Thanks to Sri. Sankara Narayanan, the Sanskrit professor and scholar to provide this information).

The temple is situated on a raised platform. The sanctum enshrines the Pallava period Dhara Linga and the Somaskanda panel on the wall behind the Linga. Somaskanda is surrounded by the Devas on either sides. (There are few other temples in this city where such figures are found on either sides of Somaskanda. I personally think that the Devas are present at one side and the group on the other side must be Asuras. There are differences in the facial features between both the groups.)

There is no flag staff or bali peetha in this temple. Also, there is no gopura (tower) at the entrance. Nandi is found on the corner facing towards the sanctum. It's a new idol. The Ardha Mandap, which is more like a narrow passage, has a small Nandi idol too.

The Mukha Mandap is supported by four lion pillars and four lion pilasters. There are six panels in this mandap.

On either side of the entrance, the Dwarapalas are found in two panels. Both the images are large relief images. As they guard the entrance in the west direction, they are called as Durmukha and Pandura.

Dwarapala 1

The Dwarapala on the true right side of the sanctum has four arms. His lower left arm rests on the mace, whereas his lower right arm rests on his hip. A serpent in entwined in the mace. The large eyes, flying hair and the canines make the face look ferocious. His upper right arm holds something, which is eroded now. Probably it is kettle drum. His upper left arm is raised above. (What do we call this mudra? Can some scholars throw light on this?)

Dwarapala 2

The Dwarapala on the true left side of the sanctum has four arms. His lower right arm rests on the mace, whereas his left arm holds something, which is not clearly seen due to erosion. A serpent in entwined in the mace. He has crescent moon on his head. His upper arms hold few weapons, again, which are clearly visible. It is possible that he holds trident in one of his arms.

Ravana Anugraha Murti

The first panel on the south facing wall of the Mukha Mandap has the sculpture of Ravana Anugraha Murti. Ravana with ten heads and twenty arms is found lifting the Mount Kailash. Above the mountain, Shiva along with his consort Uma are found seated. Few frightened Ganas are found flying towards Ravan either out of fear or to attack him. This panel is mostly eroded. Not all the arms and heads of Ravan are found. We could not appreciate the facial expressions of the deities or Ravan.

Gaja Samhara Murti

The second panel on the south facing wall of the Mukha Mandap has the sculpture of Gaja Samhara Murti. Shiva is found with six arms and is found dancing on the flayed elephant hide. Uma is found watching this.

Urdhava Tandava Murti

The panel on the north facing wall of the Mukha Mandap has the sculpture of Urdhava Tandava Murti. The dancing Shiva has eight arms and has his right leg raised above. Along with him, the dwarf icons of two males and a female are found. One of them is playing flute whereas the other one is dancing. Both of them must be Ganas. The female figure, probably Kali,  is also found dancing.

Gangadhara Murti

The other panel on the north facing wall of the Mukha Mandap has the sculpture of Gangadhara Murti. Shiva is found with four arms. He embraces Uma with his lower left arm, whereas with his upper right arm, he accepts the descending Ganga, which is depicted in the female form. There is a small dog found on the upper right side of Shiva.

Sculptures on the outer walls

There are many sculptures on the outer wall of the sanctum and Mukha Mandap.

If we circumambulate the temple, the first sculpture that is found on the north facing wall is Nata Murti. Shiva has eight arms and is in the dancing posture. His lower right arm is in Abhaya mudra. An asura is found under his feet.

The next panel has Durga in the standing posture. Only two of her arms are visible now and I assume that her other two arms are eroded. Her left arm is found rested on her hip whereas she holds something (not clear) in her right arm. (The sculpture is badly damaged.) Chatra (the auspicious umbrella) is seen above her head. To her right side, the image of a lady attendant who holds a sword is found. To her left side, a highly eroded icon of a male is found. I assume he is probably chopping off his own head.

The next sculpture depicts Shiva as Chandesa Anugraha Murti. This icon is also badly damaged.

The next panel is that of Gangadhara Murti. Shiva has four arms and he embraces Uma on her shoulder with his lower left arm. Ganga in the form of female is found descending towards him. This sculpture is similar to the other Gangadhara sculpture which is found inside the mandap. Only the dog is missing.

The next icon is Shiva in yogic form. He is in the standing posture and holds Aksha Mala and Kamandalu. He is called as Yoga Murti.

The next panel also represents Yoga Murti again, almost with the similar features. The only difference is that he has two attendants on his either sides and a torana above.

The next two sculptures represent Jalandhara Samhara Murti in two different postures. In one sculpture, he is in the standing posture and he creates the discus with his leg. Two devotees are found on his either sides. In the other sculptures, Shiva is seated in yogic posture and the discus slaying Jalandhara is depicted in the lower portion of the panel.

To the right side of the devotees's sculpture, there are two Dwarapalas. But both of them are in different style and size. Both face towards the direction of Jalandhara Samhara Murti. However, there are no corresponding images of the other set of Dwarapalas on the other side.

The north facing outer wall has so many sculptures as mentioned above. The east facing outer wall has only limited number of sculptures. In the middle, Lingodbhava is found. There are two eroded figures found on his either sides, which are probably Brahma and Vishnu. The further right side of Lingodbhava has a female deity. This image is also not clearly visible. It appears like Durga, something similar to what is found on the north facing wall. There are no other icon found beyond Durga on the right side. However, on the left side of Lingodbhava, there is a female figure which resembles an attendant or Dwarapalika, and then two Dwarapalas. Both these Dwarapalas have different styles and both of them face towards Lingodbhava. We can assume that the other two sets of corresponding Dwarapalas on the other side are completely destroyed.

The icons on the south facing wall are completely gone. We could not find even the trace of any of these icons.

There are totally six sculptures of soldiers riding vyalas found on the corners of these three outer walls.


The inscriptions that are found in the temple are partially destroyed. As the inscriptions appear to belong to Rajasimha Pallava's period (8th century CE) but the style of the architecture is of later period, some scholars believe that the temple construction would have been started during the time of Rajasimha Pallava and got completed during the rule of Nandivarma Pallava II. As per Sri. K.R. Srinivasan, the koshta images were later addition. (The information about the inscriptions were provided by Sri. Sankaranarayanan G, the Sanskrit Professor from Kanchipuram).

Happy travelling.

April 13, 2018

Mamandur - Pallava Cave Temple

Mamandur is a small village, which is located at a distance of around 12 kms from Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu state of India. The village is famous for Pallava period rock-cut cave temples.

The first cave temple is the biggest among the three. The front facade of this east facing cave is supported by two pillars and two pilasters. The pillars have cubical blocks at the top and the bottom, whereas the middle portion is octagonal. The corbels above the pillars have very sharp curves. There are two rows of pillars and pilasters. There are three cells, which are probably dedicated to Trinity of Hinduism, namely Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. There are three sets of Dwarapalas. There is no deity found inside the cells. However, the middle cell has a Shiv Linga, which is definitely kept few years ago.

The middle cell can be considered as that of Shiva's based on the characteristics of the Dwarapalas such as their jata bhara and their clubs entwined with serpents.

The cell that is located on the true left side of the middle one has two Dwarapalas in similar attire. They have their one arm resting on their waist whereas the second arm is raised. This cell is probably dedicated to Vishnu.

The right side cell has two Dwarapalas in similar attire. They wear jata makuta and yagno pavita. Their faces are shown with beard. They rest their one arm on their waist and hold lotus on their second arm. This cell probably belongs to Brahma.

There are two Chola period inscriptions found in the second cave. One is dated to Parantaka Chola I and the other one belongs to the period of Rajaraja Chola I. The inscriptions call this site as Vaaleeswaram and Uttara Vaaleeswaram.

The second cave temple is also east facing. It has two pillars and two pilasters, but in a single row unlike the other cave temple. There is one cell, which has no deity and no Dwarapala at the entrance.The pillars have cubical blocks at the top and the bottom, whereas the middle portion is octagonal. The lotus medallions are found on the top and bottom cubical faces. There is an inscription on the wall of the Mukha Mandapa, which belongs to Mahendravarma Pallava I's period (7th century CE).

The third cave is located at a little distance. I did not visit this cave and hence I am unable to provide the details about the same. I heard that there is a fourth cave temple as well as if we further travel southwards. I could not visit that too.

Happy travelling.

April 9, 2018

Jina Kanchi - The Kanchipuram of the Jains

Kanchipuram is one of the seven sacred cities for the Hindus. It is called as the "City of Thousand Temples". It is generally said that this ancient city had four different divisions namely Shiva Kanchi, Vishnu Kanchi, Buddha Kanchi and Jina Kanchi. There are few counter arguments about these divisions and exact identification of these locations. However, the scope of this article is not to talk about them.  This article focuses only on the area which is identified as Jina Kanchi, the Kanchipuram of the Jains, if I can call so.

Tirupparauthikundram is a quiet village located at a distance of about 3 kms from Kanchipuram. This village has two ancient Jain temples and as per an inscription, this village was once called the Jina Kanchi. The village that was once a stronghold of Digambara Jainism, has just two temples remaining today. The beautiful Trilokyanatha temple and the smaller Chandraprabha temple are those two Jain temples. Let us explore them in detail.

Chandraprabha Temple

Chandraprabha Temple is comparatively smaller temple, but it is the oldest surviving Jain temple of Kanchipuram. The east facing temple was probably built by Nandivarma II Pallava in the 8th century CE. There is no record or evidence about the construction date or the contributor of this temple. Only based on the architectural style, it is believed that it was built by Nandivarma II.

Although the base is made of granite, sand stone has been mainly used for the construction. The rampant standing horned lions are seen on the pillars, which are clearly the signs of the Pallavas. The vimana is made of brick and mortar.

There is no deity on the ground floor. The sanctum, Ardha Mandap, the small Mukha mandap and a small prakara are all located on the first floor. It is believed that the ground floor was constructed during the Pallava period and the top floor was built in the later period. The presiding deity is Chandraprabha, the 8th Tirthankara in Jainism. He is found seated and doing meditation. The icon is a white colored stucco image. The two chamara bearers on his two sides were probably sculpted in the 15th century CE.

The small stone image of Vardhamana, the 24th Tirthankara, which was found near Kamakshi temple and brought here in 1922 CE, is found in this temple. A new marble image of Kunthunatha, the 17th Tirthankara, is also found.

There are three inscriptions from Rajendra Chola I (11th century CE)  found in the temple. But, they are incomplete inscriptions. They do not go beyond ''Meikeerthi''.

Trilokyanathar Temple


Tirlokyanatha Temple is comparatively bigger and more attractive Jain temple in this village. Although the current structure of the temple belongs to Chola and Vijayanagara periods, it is believed to have been built by the Pallavas in the 6th century CE. The earliest reference of the site is found in a copper plate from Pallan Kovil near Tiruvidaimaruthur. It is dated to 556 CE during the rule of the Pallava King Simha Varma III. The plate refers the deity as Vajranandi Kuravar of Paruthikundram. Mainly due to this copper plate, few scholars believe that the temple was built by the same King. It is believed that only the temple for Mahaveera was constructed using brick and mortar and was called as Vardhamaneeswaram.

The current structure of the sanctum, Ardha Mandap and Mukha Mandap belong to the Chola period. The sanctum is believed to have been reconstructed by Kulotunga Chola I in the early 12th century CE. These mandaps are made of sand stone with granite base. The apsidal and circular vimanas are made of brick and mortar. The Trikuta Basti portion of the temple was built in the 13th century CE (Kulotunga Chola III). The shrines of Pushpadanta and Dharma Devi were also built in the 13th century. Shanti Mandap, which is located in the prakara, was built during the period of Rajaraja Chola III (1236 CE).

The broad and attractive Sangita Mandap along with the beautiful paintings belong to the Vijayanagaras (14th century CE).  Irugappa, the minister of Bukka II built this in 1387/88 CE. It is said that he constructed this 61 feet lengthy mandap to fulfill the wish of his Guru Pushpasena. The minister became a saint himself during his later period. His image is found in a pillar in this mandap.

The east facing three tiered tower at the entrance was also probably built by Irugappa.

The shrines for the Jain sages, which are called as Munivasa, belong to later period.

There are many inscriptions found all over the temple from the Cholas and Vijayanagaras such as Kulotunga Chola I (1116 CE), Vikrama Chola (1131 CE, 1135 CE), Kulotunga Chola III (1199 CE, 1200 CE), Rajaraja Chola III (1234 CE, 1236 CE), Kopperunchenga (13th century CE), Bukka II of Vijayanagara (1362 CE, 1388 CE), Krishnadevaraya (1517 CE, 1518 CE) and few others.


The temple is east facing and has a small three tiered tower.

The main shrine has two sections namely, Trilokyanatha and Trikuta Basti.

In Trilokyanatha section, there are three sanctums. The middle one is the main and old sanctum, which is dedicated to Mahaveera. The other two sanctums have Pushpadanta and Dharma Devi as the presiding deities.

Adjacent to Trilokyanatha, the Trikuta Basti section is located. There are three sanctums in this section too. They are dedicated to Padmaprabha, Vasupujya and Parsvanatha.

Both the sections are east facing and they have their Ardha Mandap and Mukha Mandap separately.

The Sangita Mandap serves as the common Maha Mandap for both the sections. There is a common bali peetha and flag staff facing towards these shrines.

In the prakara, the shrines of Brahma Deva  and Rishabha Natha are found. The pillared mandap called Shanti Mandap and the group of five cells called as Munivasa are also located in the prakara. The sacred Kura tree is found behind the shrines.


This section has three shrines, as mentioned already. The middle one is dedicated to Vardhamana a.k.a. Mahaveera, the 24th Tirthankara. He is found seated in meditation posture. His color is golden yellow. Two chamara bearers (red and blue color icons) are found behind and the triple umbrella above. The lanchana (similar to vaahana in Hinduism) is lion, which is embedded on the pedestal below. His vimana is Gajaprshtha style (apsidal vimana).

To the true left side of Mahaveera, the shrine of Pushpadanta, the 9th Tirthankara is located. Pushpadanta is in white color; he is found seated ; his lanchana is Makara; the dark and red colored chamara bearers are found behind the deity. The vimana of Pushpadanta is circular, which is not very usual to find.

The third shrine in this shrine is dedicated to Dharma Devi. It is a stone icon unlike the other two deities seen above, which are made of wood. Dharma Devi is the Yakshini of Neminatha, the 22nd Tirthankara. She is found seated and has two arms. She has lions as her vaahana and the small relief images of her two sons and an attendant woman are found on the pedestal.

The icon of Dharma Devi belongs to 13th century, but the icons of Mahaveera and Pushpadanta should be hardly 200 years old.

Trikuta Basti:

This section also has three shrines.

Padmaprabha, the 6th Tirthankara, in reddish white color, is found in a shrine. He is in the sitting posture and has red lotus as his lanchana. His chamara bearers' icons are in dark and red color.

Vasupujya, the 12th Tirthankara, is found in the second shrine. He is also found seated doing meditation; his icon is in red color. His chamara bearers are in blue and red colors. He has buffalo as his lanchana, carved on the pedestal.

The third shrine is very small, which enshrines Parsvanatha, the 23rd Tirthankara. He is standing and has no chamara bearers. Five hooded serpent is found above his head. His color is green. It is said that this image was found in a well near the temple and was restored to the shrine around 200 years ago.

Other Shrines:

In the prakara, there is a shrine for Brahma Deva. He is found along with his consorts Poorna and Pushkala. Ayyanar or Shasta of Hinduism is worshiped as Brahma Deva in Jainism. The iconography for both the deities as well as the names of their consorts match. In Jainism, Brahma Deva is considered as the Yaksha of Sitala, the 10th Tirthankara. Brahmadeva's icon is in stone and it's period is probably of 15th century CE.

In Shanti Mandap, the shrine of Rishabha is found. This is also a later addition.

There is a set of five sub-shrines with a front side Mandap. They are called as Munivasa. One of the cells is assigned to Chandrakrithi, the saint of 12th century CE. Another cell is assigned to his disciple Anantavirya. Mallisena, the 14th century sage, has been assigned with two cells. He had authored many literary works related to Jainism. Another cell is assigned to his disciple Pushpasena. Munivasa should have been constructed in the 17th century CE or later. Currently, there is no icon found in any of these five sub-shrines.

The stone window that is found in the main shrine is a later addition. It has the image of two sages. It is believed that they represent Chandrakrithi and Anantavirya.

Tree with an Inscription:

The holy tree of the temple is Kura tree, which is found behind the main shrine in the prakara. There is a pedestal with few inscriptions that date 13th century CE. It is believed that it was probably made by Kopperunchengan. Also, a bali peetha is found near the holy tree.

The inscription on the bali peetha  has the small relief image of Anantavirya and also an inscription mentioning him. Few inscriptions mention about Mallisena.

Icons of Mukha Mandap:

In the Mukha Mandap, there are many metal icons found. The marble image of Mahaveera and few bronze idols of other Tirthankaras are found in the mandap. There is a shrine where all the utsav images are kept. They are Parsvanatha, Mahaveera, Anantanatha, Bahubali, Brahmadeva with his consorts, Padmavati, Dharma Devi, Jwalamalini, Nava Devtas and so on. They all belong to the 18th century or later.

Mural Paintings:

The main highlight of the temple is the beautiful mural paintings found on the walls and ceilings of Sangita Mandap. The paintings were done originally during the Vijayanagara period. When the faded out paintings were redone, the original feature and style were maintained, it appears.

The length of the mandap is 61 feet. It serves as the Maha Mandap for both the sections of the temple. There are 24 pillars of variety of shapes such as circular, square and octagonal. Few images of sages, dancing girls, animals and various designs are found on these pillars.

The mural paintings depict various legends of Jainism such as the story of Sri Sena and his rebirths, the entire history of Rishabha, the history of Vardhamana, the legend of Neminatha, the legend of Krishna and the legend of Ambika. There are also some paintings representing the cosmology as per Jainism and other few aspects of the religion.

After visiting Jina Kanchi, I would laugh at anyone who claims to have visited Kanchi if he/she has not been to this place. It should definitely find a place in your Kanchipuram itinerary.

Happy travelling.


Although I have written this article based on my observation during my visit, I have refereed the following sources for some historical information and technical terms.

An excellent presentation by Mr. Shyam C. Raman
Jina Kanchi - book authored by Dr. Ajitha Das

Thanks to Tamil Heritage Trust for arranging this visit.