Archive for the ‘cave temple’ Tag

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.