Varichiyur Cave Temple

A surprise offer from Dr. Venkataraman today to visit cave temples located in Varichiyur, 15 kms east of Madurai.  The hillock is exactly located in Kunrathur village (locally referred as Kunnathur), which is the hometown of my grandmother.  I’ve started early in the morning around 6:30 with John and Senthil, thanks to Dr. Krishnakumar, son of Dr. V, who gave us a free ride in his car.  Around 30 members were assembled for the explanation from Dr. V and he was giving historic details about the cave, Jainism, Hinduism and philosophies around it.

There are two small caves carved in the hillock, one facing east named Udayagiri and other facing west named Asthagiri (from the word  Asthamanam).  Originally used by Jain monks for their shelter during rainy days and then converted to Shiva temple by erecting Linga in it.  The age of the caves dates back to 750 A.D.  Small Nandi statue could be found in front of the Linga in both caves.  Udayagiri cave has one Vinayagar statue embossed on the wall, which is not a completed one.  Dwarabalagar statues could be found nearby in it.  The earliest Hindu cave is located in Madya Pradesh which also has the same name Udayagiri dated 450 A.D.  In Asthagiri cave in front of Garbhagraha, a small space could be found for sheltering a man or two, which is referred as Arthamandapa.  It is being believed that a Pandya king regularly came to this Asthagiri cave and does prayer in Arthamandapa and having the view of sunset, which symbolizes the end of life.  In the same hillock, we’ve seen another cave which also has Linga in it and nearby place is referred as Samanar Padukkai.  All these caves are incomplete in its form as it was build during the war period between Pallavas and Pandyas.  Some of the below points have been captured during the speech of Dr.V.

*  The basement of Linga could be square, octagonal or circular in shape.  There are 11 meanings for Linga as symbol, god, gender, etc.  Based on the gender Linga could be referred as Purusha Linga (male), Stri Linga (female) or Purustri Linga (neutral).

*  The Hinduism revolves around the concept of creation, protection and destruction.  Equivalently the Linga has its parts as bottom basement refers to Brahma, middle pedestal to Vishnu and upper stubha to Shiva.  So worshiping Linga becomes the integral part of Hindu religion.  Linga worship dates back to 2500 BC of Indus Valley civilization.

*  In Hinduism, God is perceived in all forms of life and world.  Hence the phrase ‘Sarvam Shivamayam’ or ‘Sarvam Vishnumayam’ is used regularly.  It gives the complete liberty to people to choose their form of worship/practice for Hindu Gods.  Hence atheist-hindus were also accepted as a group under Hinduism.

*  Buddhism and Jainism refers life as sufferings whereas Hinduism refers life as joy (Ananda).

*  The early caves were build by Ashoka for Aajeevakas (other group of people similar to Buddhist/Jains), whose philosophy was neither God nor man can help mankind.  And this group was not widely accepted by subsequent kings and it got perished.  Some words have been mentioned about this group in Tamil epics Manimegalai and Silappadhikaaram.

*  Samanar Padukkai referred as ‘Kalkanchana’ means ‘stone bed’.  The cave shelter was referred as ‘pali’ by Jains and it was reformed as ‘Palli’ (school) later in Tamil.


2 States – Chetan Bhagat

Yet another time-pass novel by Chetan Bhagat, but worth give a reading for the fun-filled contents.  I’ve felt more emphasis was given to characters and lifestyle of Tamilians, as its natural to read the novel from the eyes of a Punjabi.  It was cinematic on how Punjabi-lad wooing Tamil Brahmin family and Tamil-girl impressing the Punjabi parents.  I’ve felt more humorous sense during the final wedding chapters.   All his novels would be definitely best-seller for masala-loving Bollywood-tight Indian society.

Thirumayam, Kundrathur Cave Temples

My Deepavali 2009 holidays had a memorable heritage trip with Dr. Venkataramaman, my father, brother and friends.  We went to Thirumayam and Kundrathur cave temples and spent valuable time there.  We are thankful to Professor Dr.V. who spent his valuable time in taking us with great interest and explaining all the historical and archeological information about Hindu culture, Buddhism and many other stuffs.  Below are some of the points which I’ve managed to gather from his continuous flow of information.

  • Thirumayam cave temple in Pudhukottai was built by Videlvidugu Mutharayar

    Thirumayam temple

    Thirumayam temple

  • Mutharayars were descents of Pallava and followers of Buddhism
  • Old cave pillars are big in size divided into 3 equal parts with comparatively less ornamental work
  • Contrapose sculptures in old caves were of flexible body position carved on stone; this type of sculpture was first initiated in Greece around 4th century AD.  Pallavas, Pandyas and Mutharayars were best in depicting these sculptures
  • Dwarabalagar statues (two statues on side of main deity) were known as Nandhi and Bringi.  Nandhi could be identified by the 2 horns near the shoulder/head of the human statue.
  • First cave in India came around 2nd century BC by Emperor Ashoka in Barabar (Bihar)
  • The bronze statues used in Hindu temples as Urchavar were introduced by Cholas



  • The deity Lingothbhava always kept as West facing; its a “pillared flame” structure; story revolves as competition between Brahma and Vishnu to see the head and foot of Lord Shiva, in which former takes Swan form, flies high to see the head and the latter takes Swine form enters into ocean to see the feet.  Brahma lies to Shiva saying he saw the head, so getting the curse of not get worshiped by people as separate temple for him.  Whereas Vishnu accepts the eternal power of Shiva and the Lord himself grants equal status for Vishnu and he gains popularity among people.
  • “Kadi-hathsam” is a mudra shown by hand fingers, which is the left hand position of Lord Venkateswara
  • “Aasuva-hathsam” is a mudra show by fingers to invite the people who are seeing the statue
  • “Bodhigai” is a part between 2 pillars in cave; the shape and style in bodhigai will be useful to study the age of the cave (e.g Tharangam-bodhigai)
  • Rishtorm and Kumudham (Virudha kumudham, Muppattai kumudham) are bottom parts of stone mandapam surrounding the main deity.



  • Ashoka derived “Lion symbol” as a majestic symbol from Persians
  • Pre-Ashoka deity Kali had Tiger as her vehicle (Kali – symbol of fire)
  • Post-Ashoka deity Durga had Lion as her vehicle (Durga – symbol of water)
  • 3 earlier places of Kali worship in India were at Bengal, Ujjain and Tamilnadu (in name of Kotravai)
  • Kotravai’s son was Murugan (the father was unknown) and later Kotravai was banned in Hindu religion and Murugan was pulled into Shiva’s family
  • Total of 1200 caves are in India, in which 900 belongs to Buddha, 200 to Hindus and 100 to Jains
  • Ajantha has one of the best caves esp. cave number 19 and 29;
  • (First stage of Hindu art) From 402 AD Hindus took cave depictions initiated by Chandra Gupta II in Udhayagiri
  • First Hindu cave art sculpture is Varaaha Murthy (dynamic sculpture of swine face of Vishnu taking Bhoomadevi fast from Thirupaar Kadal)
  • Second stage of Hindu art at 587 AD by western Chalukya Pulikesi II king’s Chithappa Mangaleshwar build Badami Cave (in Karnataka); same time Elephanta cave for Shiva also emerged.

    Nandi (Dwara-balagar)

    Nandi (Dwara-balagar)

  • Third stage of Hindu art around 600 AD by Mahendra Varma Pallava ; first work at Mandagapattu then came to South Arcat, Thiruchy and Kancheepuram; Followed by Narasimha Varma Pallava at Mahabalipuram.
  • Varaaha cave and Mahishamardhini cave in Mahabalipuram are best work
  • Pandya king’s early cave temple located near Sankaran Kovil known as Malayadi kovil developed by Chezhian Sendhan Pandyan
  • In Madurai, Narasimha cave in Yaanaimalai depicted at 770 AD, Thiruparankundram cave at 773 AD and Thenparankundram cave at 780 AD
  • After 850 AD no caves were established in India
  • One example of Massive cult structure is Brahadeeswara temple in Thanjavur by Rajaraja Chola at 10th century AD.  This was derived from Brihat Buddha structure of Bamiyan Buddha statue which is 175 feet tall belongs to 5th century AD.
  • Hindu mythology imported deities and ideologies from Greece e.g. Durga is equal to that of Diana, Saraswathi is equal to Minarva.
  • Nandhi nagari, Deva nagari are scripts of North India.  Ashoka age’s Brahmi script is considered as mother of all Indian scripts
  • Suryan and Chandran deities are identified by the flowers they hold in their hand.  Lotus of Suryan and Lilly for Chandran, because these flowers blossom after seeing their respective deities.
  • Rig Veda the earliest Hindu text came at 1500 BC, which is much later than Egyptian civilization which belongs to 3000 BC.  Indus Valley civilization belongs to 2500 BC.
  • The Vishnu deity carved in the Vishnu temple of Thirumayam is a beautiful sculpture of Vishnu in Sayanakolam, with Brahma sitting on a lotus rooted on Vishnu’s naval.  Many deities like Sridevi, Bhoomadevi, Ayudha Purushaas, Snake in rotated fashion, Fire flames killing Asuraas (Madhu and Kaidabhar) carved in the entire wall of that cave.
  • Best AnandhaSai statues (Vishnu in Sayanakolam) can be found in Dhiyogar, Thirumayam and Mahabalipuram.

    Octagonal Temple Tank

    Octagonal Temple Tank

  • Saiva temple symbolizes god as Fire (so they do Dheebhaaraadhanai), whereas Vaishnava temple symbolizes god as Water (so they give Theertham)
  • Vishnu’s Chakra on left hand normally showed by its flat surface (as seen in Thirupathy).  9th century Vishnu’s Chakra will be shown by its side surface (the Chakra’s usage form) known as PrayogChakra.
  • Buddha’s mother had a dream of white elephant with 6 tusks, enters into her stomach without any pain.  Astrologers revealed this as a sign of giving birth a son, who will achieve great heights in people’s minds.
  • Buddha’s life includes marriage, great enlightenment, preaching and death.
  • Elephant calf symbolizes Buddha’s early stage (child Buddha), Horse symbolizes the event of detaching himself from house, Tree symbolizes Nirvaana (great enlightenment), Deer symbolizes his preachings and ‘Stone on top of Peedam’ (stone structure surrounds the golden box contains bone of Buddha) symbolizes PariNirvaaana (death)
  • Representing Buddha with the symbols (of animals and other structures) belongs to Heenayaana buddha.  During Mahayaana buddha period Buddha’s face was depicted.

    Fort View

    Fort View

  • During later stages, Buddha was depicted as Bodhisatva and Avalakoteswara in which he wears big crown, many garlands and rich clothings.  This can be seen in China, Nepal and other places.
  • Afghanistan’s Gandhara Art might be considered as the cradle of Indian Art.
  • Badami’s cave number 3 has a wonderful sculpture of Vaigunda Nadhar (Vishnu sits on top of snake)
  • Temples foundation depth would be very less following a model called ‘Floating foundation’.  Brahadeeswara temple is 200ft high but its foundation is only 6 ft.  Inside the 6 feet series of stones would be laid and forming an artificial hillock.  On top of that stone structure, temple would get constructed.
  • Kundrakudi Cave temple Linga was under worship between 8th century AD to 12th century AD.  After that Murugan temple became dominant.
  • SaptaMaathargal (Saptakannigal – 7 women) derived from Chalukya’s period.  Varaagi, Vaishnavi, Gowmaari, Maheswari, Narasimhi, Chamunda and Jeshtadevi are those 7 gods.  Jeshtadevi considered as prominent god among themselves flanked by her son (bull faced) and her daughter.

    Our gang

    Our gang

  • Saint Francis of Assisi (in Italy) established Capuchin Order – a set of practices to follow.  He had Stigmata (wounds in certain part of body from which blood comes out with pain similar to that of Jesus crucification)
  • Famous words from Saint Francis – “O Lord! Make me as instrument of thy peace”
  • Advise to us from Dr.Venkatraman – “Come out of Foolishness, Spread the generosity”; Break the shell of own religion and observe the best from all religions.
  • Rumi is a Sufi saint, who has to be known by everyone for his ideologies.
  • Books to read : (1) Autobiography of Thomas Merton (2) “Asia Journal” by Thomas Merton

Kaviri Maindhan – Anusha Venkatesh (Volume I)

Readers who loved Ponniyin Selvan would be interested to read this Tamil historic novel.  Its a story on Chola empire which starts exactly after 5 years of Ponniyin selvan novel plot.  The readers could re-visit their favourite characters Vandhiya Thevan, Arulmozhi Varman, Kundhavai, Aazhvaarkadiyan and others.  The author Anusha Venkatesh did her part best in describing the scenes and making it interesting to read.  In this first volume Kandhamaaran, the Kadambur prince looks like the protagonist.  Yet to read the remaining 2 volumes and update the blog.

IIT Madras – Student’s paradise in TN

Recently I had a chance to visit IIT Madras and stunned by the cool atmosphere amidst hot Chennai city.  Gifted by the surrounding forest environment and serene location, its an ideal place for students to pursue their studies and research. Alma Mater for many brightest brains in country has many facilities and infrastructure for students and all residents.  During the same time of my visit, the technical festival Shaastra was happening and I was viewing the in-house Robot car races.  Had food at Tiffany’s and Gurunath and watched part of movie at OAT (Open Air Theatre).  All places inside the campus including Departments, Hostels, Residential enclaves, Durgai Peeliamman temple, Play ground, Shiva temple, Cafe, Central Library would easily get located from the centre Gajendra Circle.  Apart from these man-made facilities, insiders could enjoy the natural gift of chillness and fauna – Deers and Monkeys.  Altogether, it a great place for nurturing scientific and technological research.  From this highly-funded institution, people of India are expecting more contributions to our country and mankind.

Harry Potter – Part 2 and 3

Completed reading the books “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”.  Harry completes his second and third year at his Hogwarts school by learning many magic skills.  Rowling is good in story telling by providing some mysterious plots.  Harry found his parent’s identity and their best friend.  Readers would find it interesting to surmise the culprits on the course of story.  I’ve given a break to Harry Potter series now to read a Tamil novel.  After that, I’ll be entering into Wizard World soon.

Endrendrum Vairangal – Vairamuthu Thirappadalgal

This is a thanks-giving show held in Madurai for Tamil Cinema Lyricist Vairamuthu.  Recent M.P. of Madurai and Central Minister, Azhagiri solicited the function.  Notable songs were sung in the show by Airtel Supersinger Jury Trio -Unnikrishnan, Sujatha, Srinivas.  The new comer Shwetha, daugher of Sujatha was at her best in singing the song “Minsaara Poovae” of Padayappa with Srinivas.  I liked the songs “Narumugaiyae”, “Netru Illadha Maatram” sung by lead singers.  The show was quite different from ordinary musical show, such that in between songs Vairamuthu shared his past experience and memorable moments of notable music and film directors.  He gave an information on Madurai Thamukkam ground, where the show was organized.  The word ‘Thamukkam” derived from the Telugu words ‘Thamu’ along with ‘Kamu’.  (I think I forgot the meaning of those words, will update if I get that info).  After a dozen of songs, the show ended abruptly without any formal closure.  It could have been organized well.

Chief Guest of Inauguation of CSE association 2009

Today it was a great honour for me to be the Chief Guest in our college function.  The annual inauguration event of CSE association of Thiagarajar college of Engineering happenned.  I’ve received a warm welcome from our College staffs and students.  I was inauguarating the function by lighting a Kuthuvilakku followed by an hour speech on current market trends along with technologies of IPv6 and Virtualization.  After that I made a visit to Computer Science department labs and CCC lab infrastructure.  Had a chat with students and staff on current ongoing projects and gave some suggestions too.   Impressed by the current infrastructure in the college.  Also, I had a meeting Principal and placement officer.  Overall an honorable and memorable day for me.

Team Outing to Club Cabana

Club Cabana, I see as a neatly maintained club, is located in north of Bangalore about 18 kms from Hebbal flyover.  17 of our team members started early(?) today in the morning at 8:30 from NetApp office at EGL software park and reached the club around 10:00 AM.  With Welcome drink and simple nice breakfast, we’ve started playing Cricket as team activity.  Followed that we’ve played Volleyball with participation of all team members.  With hungry we had a good buffet lunch and I liked the hot jilabis with ice cream.  Then parts of people indulged in Tennis, Pool and other games.  Three of us spent quality time in water waves pool and lazy river.  After having a nice tea, we were back to our home by having a good chat about college events.  Overall it was another memorable team outing.  Advise to the people who are visting Club Cabana:  Buy couple of tennis balls, cricket balls, squash ball and shuttle corks in Bangalore itself, to avoid shortage in the club.

HP and the Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling

I too indulging myself with the Wizard Utopia of world-wide Harry Potter fans by reading this first volume.  Nothing to praise about the exemplary story-telling skill of the author, as its implicit for the fame.  Its worth reading the book for kids as it shows the bravery and good-will of characters Harry, Hermione and Ron.  Also, it improves the basic vocabulary and imagination for school goers.  Looking forward to read the subsequent miracles in Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardy.