Thirumalapuram Rock Cut Cave Temple

Continuing my research northwards from Kanyakumari on lesser known heritage sites in India, I came across articles mentioning a rock cut cave temple in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. I was intrigued, as the cave temples I am familiar with are largely from the West of the country.

Photos reveal a cave with three openings hewn into what looks like a large, black smoothly sloping hill, also called Varanasimalai. The caves are not very high above the ground level and can be accessed by a small flight of steps. Photos reveal some interesting sculptures within the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The temples were believed to have been excavated by Pandyan kings in the 8th Century CE, making them younger than the famous Ajanta Caves and roughly of the same age as the Ellora and Badami caves. There are only two caves here though – one finished and the other unfinished, compared to the larger number of caves at these other more renowned cave temples. Having said that, the age (and location) of this cave temple in the extreme southern end of mainland India merits, I believe, a visit.

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