Location: District, Tamilnadu State, India
Property Type: Business And Leisure Hotel
Breathing Life Into Stone:
Not far from the bustling town of Pudukottai, on the periphery of the
sleepy village of Annavasal, is a cluster of rock caves, which, on the one
hand, show traces of the Iron Age and, on the other, can be termed as the
Ajanta of the South.
Megalithic burial sites near the Sithannavasal caves testify their hoary
past while the rich sculpture and painting adorning the caves are
reminiscent of the famous Ajanta caves on the other side of the Indian
Weather and vandals have taken their tool of the caves, which were used by
Jain Tirtankara for meditation and penance, a fact borne out by the remains
of granite beds carved out of rocks, and inscriptions in Asoka Brahmi
Tourist Attractions of Pudukottai
The sculpture, paintings, etching and inscription, as well as the
Megalithic burial site, together make it an important archaeological site,
not to speak of it being an art lovers delight. The meditation and penance
caves are located on the southern side of the rock, as shown by the names of
Jain leaders etched on the walls, while a temple has been carved into the
western face. This cave in highly ornamental with sculptures and painting on
the inner walls, making a work of art that, historians say, is paralleled
only by the Ajanta caves. At the entrance to the cave temple stands a
pillared structure brought from the nearby Kudimiyanmalai. The roof of the
forecourt, archaeologists say, was brought from a quarry adjoining
Beyond the forecourt is situated the ardhamandapam façade, which
comprises two pillars cubicled at the top and bottom and with an octagonal
belt in between. And there are supporting corbels, with a highly carved beam
and a cornice.
An almost life-size figure of a Jain saint in a seated posture of
meditation in located under an umbrella. In another niche is the figure of
Parsavanath, the 23rd Tirtankara, in a similar posture, under a canopy of a
five-hooded snake and having an inscription at the base, which reads
Thiruvasiriyan, meaning teacher. The sanctum sanctorum has a row of
meditation Jain Tirtankaras, in bas-relief. The murals in the ceiling of the
sanctum as well as the ardhamandapam are an artists dream come true.
Historian J Ramachandran, in his book Cave Temple Painting of
Sithannavasal, describes them as a canopy of carpet pattern woven over the
Parsavanath niche with lotus flowers and buds against back-ground of lotus
leaves. The ceiling on the north face is again canopied similarly in a
carpet pattern, with a background of circular floral design. In addition to
these canopies there is the Dhama Chakra carving. A continuous and by far
the most important theme of painting here features a tank with lotuses,
lilies, fish, a crocodile, elephants, birds, buffaloes and three men
(bhavyas) wading through it gathering flowers.
The cave temple and its artistic, religious and cultural treasures remained
buried in the sands of time till it found mention in A General History of
Pudukottai State, complied by S.Radhakrishnan Iyer who was commissioned by
the Dewan Regent of Pudukottai State in 1899 to catalogue the archaeological
wealth of the state.
In this book, Iyer has described in detail the caves, their structure and
the sculptures and painting within. Detailing the painting, he wrote: On the
ceiling of the hall are pictures in water colours of birds seated on lotuses
in thank. These pictures, which are likely to be more than 10 centuries old,
look as fresh as though they were painted only 10 or 20 years ago.
However, Iyers book, perhaps because of its insular character and limited
readership, did not have the same impact as that of a later work and the
monograph on Sithannavasal by a Frenchman, Jouveau Dubreuil, in 1920.
Dubreuil, who collaborated with well-known iconographer Gopinath Reddy, was
instrumental in placing Sithannavasal on the archaeological of India.
Buddha Statue Dound In Siva Temple :
A Buddha statue, dating back to the tenth century, was found in the
Ekambareswarar Kamatchiamman temple at Sundarapandian pattinam on the
borders of Pudukottai and Ramanathapuram district on the East Coast. The
statue was identified as that of Buddha by Dr. J.Raja Mohamad, curator of
the Government Museum at Pudukottai during his field survey as a part of a
study of the maritime trade history. Earlier, only Ponparri (Ponpethi) was
considered by scholars as having connection with Buddhism.
Sundarapandian pattinam has been a flourishing port even until the latter
part of the 19th century, when it has trade ties with Sri Lanka. The statue
of the Buddha, in a standing posture, measures 40 inches in height and wears
a robe extending from neck to the feet. According to the curator, the face
is oval shaped, with the nose, lips, chin and other features caved elegantly
with meticulous care. The ear lobe is elongated and the forehead has a tilak
like mark. The right hand depicts the abhya mudras. This is the third statue
of Buddha in a standing posture in this part of the country, according to
Dr. P. Jambulingam, Buddhist research scholar in Tamil University, who
examined the statue along with Raja Mohamad. He said that it was akin to the
style of Buddha idols found at Nalanda.
Adjacent to the Siva temple is a Mandapam in ruins, which Raja Mohamad
feels may have been a Buddhist monastery from its architecture. According to
him, the Buddha statue may have been taken from here and installed in the
Siva temple. Scholars here feel that the discovery of Buddha statues in this part of the
country reveals another phase of Buddhist history, which had hitherto gone
un-noticed. Reminicent of A Glorious Era :
The restoration work of the delicate 17thcentury murals in the
Ramanathapuram palace in Tamil Nadu is going on in right earnest. These
marvellous murals cover a whopping 28000 square feet of walls and ceiling of
Tourist Places to See Pudukottai
The grandeur of the Palace, known as Ramalinga Vilasam, lies in the panels
consisting of breathtaking painting in vibrant colours. The painting belong
to the celebrate School of Nayakas, dating back to 300 years. The panels
depict the staunch religious faith of the rulers of the land and the prime
privileges of royal life-valour and love. The kings of Ramanathapuram played
the role of guardians to those who came from far and near to have a holy dip
at Rameshwaram, one of the most sacred places for Hindus.
The painting are based on themes of valour, administration, trade,
religion, love and benevolence. The palace has been divided into four
sections. The painting in the Public Hall detail important events that took
place during the reign of King Muthu Vijaya Raghunatha Setupati along with
the 10 avatars of Lord Narayana. The adjoining Proceeds Hall and the Durbar
Hall have illustrations from Sri Krishna Bhagavatham and Sri Ramayana.
Nearly 300 panels have been devoted to Ramayana and Bhagavantham, said Mr.
Karunandan, the author of book on the Ramayana painting of the palace. The
first floor has painting, which explore the exotic territories of love.
Dr. O.P. Agrawal, Director General of Indian Council of Conservation
Institute and well-known conservators, said the style, colour, image
treatment and the inscription of Telugu script resembled the murals of Sri
Ranganatha Swamy Temple at Srirangam. The paintings are done in lime plaster
using Tempra technique which is the most common feature of Indian murals.
The colour derivatives used are extracted from vegetables and from other
The stunning panels provide a contrast to the damp and dark atmosphere the
prevails inside the palace. The State Archaeology Department took over the
Palace in the late Seventies. A quick scanning of the paintings shows the
intensity of decay that has set in. The palace, built with lime, has no
drainage system. The seepage of rain water has damaged many panels. Wild
plants grow on the wall and the dropping of birds and bats with its acidity
content have obliterated many classic panels.
The vandalism by the visitors should be seen to be believed. Electrical
switch boxes wires and various other accessories have been nailed right on
top of the paintings. Many more have been buried under a thick coating of
whitewash. Several unknown bio-data have been inscribed on the murals with
The restoration work has been taken up with meticulous care and the Indian
Council of Conservation Institute (ICCI) of the Institute of Indian National
Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has been entrusted with the job
of restoring the murals. The group of leading conservation scientists of
art, working under the guidance of Dr. Agrawal is led by Mr. S. Subbaraman,
Directors of ICKPAC Bangalore, a unit under INTACH.
According to Dr. Agrawal, a six-member expert committee is working on the
project expected to be completed in five years. The project is estimated to
cost Rs. 20 Lakh of has already been sanctioned by the Tamil Nadu
The experts have divided the work into different phases. The first phase
includes a graphic documentation of each panel. They also are being
numbered. Vital inputs regarding the location of panel in the Palace, its
defect, theme and background, whether historical or religious, are also
being documented. We want to keep a faithful record of each panel. Dr.
Agrawal added. The second phase involves consolidation and strengthening of
plaster as well as the paint layer to remove the air pockets with the help
of hypodermic syringes.
The restoration is expected to provide a fresh lease of life to the
decaying panels of rare art of orient charm.