Thenparankundram Cave Temple

I was blessed to meet Dr. Venkataraman, a History Professor worked in Madurai Kamaraj University and an Archeologist. My father introduced me to him as he is residing in our residential complex. Professor took us to a Cave temple located in Tiruparankundram hill near Madurai city. The following are the details of that small cave temple.

·  Thenparankundram (behind Thirupparankundram) Cave temple has the age dated to 750 AD, which was originally a Jain cave.

·  In 1250 AD it was converted to Hindu Saiva cave by Maravarman Sundara Pandian

·  In 1310 Malikapur (Muslim general of Alauddin Khilji, Sultan of Delhi) destroyed this cave temple

·  During the decade of 1910 Archeological Survey took this cave for study.

·  The inner part of cave (Karuvarai in Tamil, Garbhagraha in Sanskrit) has the statue of Ardhanareeswarar (Lord Shiva as one half and Goddess Parvathi as other half vertically).

·  Statues of Natarajar, Sivakami, Murugan with his wives Deivayanai (Goddess of Heaven) and Valli (Goddess of Earth) can be found in the cave.

·  The Goddess Parvathi (with Natarajar, who is a dancing form of Shiva) will be referred as Sivakami.

·  Kali in North India will be referred as Karaikkalammiyar in South. A small statue of her can be found near Natarajar statue.

·  This cave contains inscriptions of Sundara Pandian of 1256 AD, who captured Madurai from 3rd Kulothunga Cholan. Also, the inscription refers him as “Chonaadu Vazhangiya Sundara Pandian” means he who has gifted Chola dynasty to 3rd Rajathiraja Cholan (who is son of 3rd Kulothunga Cholan)

·  It also has the inscriptions of taxation as ‘Puravu Varithinaikalam’ means Tax office.

·  The Lotus medallion symbols present on the pillars of cave ascertain this cave was originally a Jain cave. This lotus medallion symbol refers to cosmic symbol, which means Ordered Universe called Cosmos.

·  “Pandiyan Well’ (Pandiyan Kinaru in Tamil) is present near to this cave temple

·  Outside of this cave, we can find statues of Tamil Saiva scholars Appar, Sundarar, Sambhandhar and Manikavasagar. Sambhandhar is standing on a small pedestal (peedam) which is a special privilege given to him as he was the person who took off Jainism from Madurai and introduced Saivam after rescuing the king KoonPandiyan from severe ailment (in Tamil, Veppu Noi) by singing the song “Mandiramaavadhu neeru”.

·  Manikavasagar statue is in sitting position (Suhasanam, means relaxed position) in order to give comfort to him as he has hailed from Madurai.

·  Then statues of Bhairavar and Ganapathy can be found.

·  This hill was used by Sikkandar Sha, who was the last Muslim ruler of Madurai as the bunker during war against Kumarakampan of Vijayanagara Empire (lineage of Harihara-Bhukka). Sikkandar Sha was defeated in the hill and he was punished by putting him inside a large pan of hot oil. Hence, Thiruparankundram will be referred to as ‘Sikkandar Malai’ by Muslims.

Professor talked about many subjects on history, anthropology, culture, religion, linguistics, etc. Some of the points which I’ve gathered are listed below, which will be useful for future study.

·  Several religions have many myths on “after a man died, what happens to his soul”, like Saiva says, soul go to the feet of Lord Shiva. But Kashimiri Saiva Pandits argues, the soul gets integrated to Lord Shiva and in turn they say Lord Shiva is in his soul and he himself Shiva.

·  Vedic Aryans came to India from Volga region of Russia during 1500 BC

·  In 1000 BC Greek mythology flourished

·  Later Zoroastrianism religion flourished and believed in fire god

·  Non-vedic people (i.e. Dravidians – historians won’t use the word ‘Dravidians’, but refer them as Non-vedic) believe in rituals, but Vedic people only composed poems on god. The concept of ‘fasting’ came from Jains.

·  Jainism and Buddhism believed in chain of life which is a continuous cycle of birth and death. They believed, a person can be relived from the cycle of life, if he commits suicide (called as Sallahana). In Tamil, this will be referred as Vadakkiruthal.

·  Jains believe in cosmic laws and they introduced the concept of Vegetarianism (Ahimsa Paramodharma). Later Brahmins took this vegetarian practice in their culture.

·  Ancient civilizations are Egyptians and Indus valley.

·  Indus valley civilization records from Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa reveals three races of people were stayed there. The races are Mediterranean (includes Indians), Mangoloids (Chinese) and Astraloids (Black people).

·  Mediterranean people didn’t have the knowledge of Iron and Horse. They knew about Copper and other animals in their culture like bull and elephant.

·  Vedic Aryans introduced horses to Mediterranean people.

·  In 450 AD during Gupta period and in 500 AD during Chalukya period the cave concept came to South and it can be found in Badami (Vathapi) region.

·  In 550 AD MahendraVarma Pallavan embraced cave and he built first cave temple in Mandahapattu, which is smaller than Mammallapuram (Mahapalipuram near Chennai)

·  Then Pandya kings took cave temple in 700 AD

·  As of today a total of 1200 cave temples are found in India, of which 900 caves belong to Buddhism, 100 to Jainism and 200 to Hindus (includes both Saivas and Vaishanavas)

·  The best caves can be found in Ellora (which has caves for all 3 religions) and Ajantha (which has only Buddha caves)

·  During 550 BC Buddha and Mahaveera lived

·  In 300 BC, Asoka created first cave temple (In Tamil, its called ‘Kudavarai Kovil’) in Barabar hill of Bihar. Jains were staying in that cave temples.

·  Normally Jains will stay in cave for 4 months (during rainy season) and during this period they do writing and painting arts.

·  After that they come out (on the day of Mahakarthigai) and live outside for 8 months.

·  After the first cave by Asoka, around 50 caves were built for Buddhas in Bombay region exactly near Nasik, Ajantha and Ellora during 200 BC to 450 AD time frame.

·  Browline is the slanting shield present on top of temple (which has been changed as Gopuram in recent centuries) is being derived from Greek mythology.

·  Tholkappiar and Thiruvalluvar are basically Jains, as per some historical findings.

·  Olden people in India (i.e. Non-vedic people, includes Dravidians) had accepted a supreme power above all and they’ve referred as God (In Tamil, they call as Saami). They don’t have the concept of naming each God and giving gender to God. They believe God is present in a Sacred Tree and during some festival occasions they sacrifice animals in front of the sacred-tree. All the kings in north and south Indian region before 5th century had belief in Sacred Tree concept.

·  In 5th century AD around 550 AD, Gupta built a cave in Udaygiri of Bhopal which has the Hindu god ‘Varaahamoorthy’ (which is a form of Lord Vishnu with Pig head with Earth on his nose and Mahalakshmi on his hand). This was referred as first statue of a Hindu God built in India. Later many kings in North and South India embraced statue worship of Hindu Gods.

·  Lord Muruga (second son of Shiva) is referred as Tamil God, but none of the famous kings in Chera, Chola and Pandiya dynasty had their name equivalent to that of Muruga. But some of the Gupta kings named after Muruga are SkandhaGupta and KumaraGupta.

·  Oldest cave was found in Pyrannes, which is present in the border of France and Spain. The French side of the cave referred as Lascaux has many paintings and characters. The Spanish side of the cave referred as Altamara has symbols of bull and other animals.

·  Olden characters of a language are belongs to Egypt and Mesopotamia.

·  Egypt civilization letters of 2500 BC are called as hieroglyphics. In Egypt both king and priest is same person. Only in Vedic culture, king (Kshathrian) and priest (Brahmanan) are different.

·  Mesopotamia (meaning ‘between two rivers’) initiated as Sumerian culture. After the fall of Sumerian, Babylonian culture flourished and after that Asyria culture flourished. This region introduced the Cuneiform letters. This language has the first written literature of the world, Gill Gamish. This was written in Clay tablets. This story looks similar to that of Kandapuranam, in which enemies become friends after the course of war.

·  Panini written grammar for Sanskrit. The language Prakrita was refined and introduced with grammar and it became Sanskrit. This happened in 4th century BC

·  Tholkappiar (who is not single person, but many Jain scholars in course of time), written grammar for Tamil language during 4th century BC to 5th century AD and it became Refined Tamil (Senthamizh)

·  Grammar of a language should be an unconscious process, which should come on the flow from mankind. The moment if we put consciousness to a language, it’ll become difficult to practice and evolve.

·  Language always comes from common man, but scholars make refine the language. Much language refinement may disguise the root part of a word. For example in Tamil language, the root part (Urichol) of certain words like Vellai, Velicham is ‘Vell’ means Light. This same root was used by common man for the word ‘Velakku’ means lamp (used in one film song ‘Velakku vecha nerathula maaman vandhaan). But scholars refined this ‘Velakku’ as ‘Vilakku’, which destroyed the root of the word itself.

·  Jains refined Tamil language during their time period.

·  Proto-Dravidian language is the root for six Dravidian languages Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Tulu and Brahui. If the term ‘proto’ is used, then it means that language is currently not in existent.

·  “Knowledge is Wisdom”. Knowledge needs to get sharper day by day. And one has to know when the knowledge has to put aside, is called Wisdom.



6 comments so far

  1. senthilkumaran on

    Great post. Could grasp only a very few points during the first read. Need to read it one more time 🙂

  2. சாணக்கியன் on

    excellent pieces of information. As usual, your memory power rocks!

  3. nanditaprabhu on

    Very nice post. Good Job

  4. Kavinmaa on

    What is ‘veppu noi’?

  5. Mital on

    Well written. Thanks. I’m a big fan of Dr. V who is a treasure of knowledge & full of life.

    I just want u to make a correction in your understanding of Jainism –

    ‘Jainism and Buddhism believed in chain of life which is a continuous cycle of birth and death. They believed, a person can be relived from the cycle of life, if he commits suicide (called as Sallahana). In Tamil, this will be referred as Vadakkiruthal’

    A person can be relieved from the cycle of life only through moksha. Suicide is a sin. Pls get this clarified by Dr. V again if you can.

    • prabhuh on

      Thanks for the inputs.

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