Introduction – Kudumiyamalai is located about 20 km from Puddukkotai town. The village is centered around a small hillock, where a cave temple has been carved on its foot. This cave temple, locally known as Melaikkovil, has been extended continuously during later times which suggests that this place held quite an importance in the past. We found many inscriptions in and around this temple which go till the advent of British which suggests that this region would have enjoyed the continuous patronage from various dynasties which ruled over this region. However once bustling with social and cultural activities, at present this is a small idle village.
History – River Vellar, flowing north of Puddukkotai town, was the boundary line between the Cholas and Pandya empire. During the time of Mahendravarman I (CE 600-630) this region might be under Pallavas through their vassals, northern part of Puddukkotai, however they were not able to retain it for long and Pandyas won back this from them. Mahendravarman I would have got this region from his father, Simhavishnu, in heritance. Simhavishnu in turn would have won this from the hands of the Cholas. The Cholas were in hibernate mode till their resurgence in ninth century. Till that time, this region oscillated between the Pallavas and the Pandyas. Hence Puddukkotai became the important town witnessing various clashes between these two dynasties. Muthariyars and Irukkuvelirs were the vassal chief of the Pallavas and the Pandyas, which acted as the proxies in the wars between these two kingdoms. There are very few reference of the Pallavas found in inscriptions of this region, one such reference is the defeat of Nandivarman Pallavamalla (CE 730-796) in the hands of Maravarman Rajasimha (CE 730-760) at Kodambalur in Velvikudi and Sinnamanur plates of Pandyas. The presence of musical inscription, written in seventh century Grantha script, suggests that this cave temple would have been in existence at or before that time. There are other early Pandya inscriptions as well which are dated to seventh and eighth century. From the time of Cholas, we have many inscriptions telling us the continuous extensions of the temple. As the early inscriptions are found in the cave temple and in its boundary wall, hence the main structural temple seems to be remodeled in later times. This remodeling would have done in the time of Maravarman Sundara Pandya I. The Cholas won over vast region of Tamilnadu in ninth century and kept it with them till thirteenth century. Pandyas re-surged in thirteenth century and got back the region from the hands of the Cholas. After them, this region came under the Vijayanagara rulers. The temple got patronage under Vijayanagara rulers as we see mention of prince Vira-Kampana-Udaiyar and viceroy Gopa-timma in inscriptions. After the fall of Vijayanagara, Madurai Nayakas ruled over this tract of land. Later this went into the hands of Marungapuri chiefs and after them to Pallava Rayars. Sivendezhunta Pallava-rayar did many extensions to the temple in form of gopuram, mandapa, flower gardens and temple car. Rock-cut cave temple was extended in the reign of Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (1686-1730) who built a mandapa in front of the cave with his minister Kurundha Pillai. In 1730 Pacchai Tondaiman opposed the succession of Vijaya Raghunatha Raya and took shelter in this temple. However he was defeated and forced to surrender to Vijaya Raghunatha Raya. Vijaya Raghunatha Raya (1730-1769) was crowned in this temple in 1730. Later he built the steps to the mandapa, built earlier by Raghunataha Raya. In 1865, Raja Ramachandra Tondaiman celebrated a kumbhabhishekam in this temple.
This town would have been known as Tirunalakkundram in 8th century as suggested by one inscription of Kochadayan Ranadheeran or Sadayan Maran (CE 700-730) of early Pandyan dynasty. Later in 14th century, this has been referred as Siganallur (Shikhanallur), with the main deity as Siganaatha (Shikhanatha) in the temple. Later in 17th century we see a reference to Kudumiayanmalai, with the main deity as Kudumiyaar. There is an interesting story behind this name, Kudumiyaar. As per the story, from sthala-puranam, a king, Sundara Pandiyan, used to visit the temple daily in the evening to perform his prayers. The priest used to give the prasadam to the king after his evening prayers. One day the priest was waiting for the king and the king did not turn up. Since it was getting late so the priest gave prasadam to a temple dancer. Just when the dancer was leaving the king entered into the temple. The priest got scared as prasadam was finished, so he borrowed the flowers from the dancer which were already worn by her. The priest offered those flowers to the king as prasadam. The king noticed as strand of hair in those flowers hence asked for explanations for the presence of the hair from the priest. The priest was very scared so he lied that the hair is of the lord, Shiva’s head. The king was astonished and locked the priest inside the temple telling him that he will come tomorrow to see if the deity really has hair or not. The priest prayed the whole night to lord Shiva to save him. The next day the king arrived and he found a tuft (kudumi) on Shiva lingam. When he tried to pull it, the blood came out of lingam. This is how the deity in this shrine is known as Kudumiyaar and the place as Kudumiyamalai. Another version of the story replaced the temple dancer with the lover of the priest. There is another interesting fact that kudumi not only meant tuff of hair but also the top of hill. In that case Kudumiyaar seems to the god on top of the hill. It seems, this story may have been invented in 17th-18th century. Let’s go to the monuments now.
Cave Temple – Excavated on the eastern slope of low rising hillock, this cave temple would have been excavated in early seventh century. Originally this cave temple was attributed to Pallavas, however now it has been seen as an early Pandya shrine. As per K R Srinivasan, Pallavas were never in this region hence it is hard to assign this to them. However though Pallavas were not directly ruling this area, but it was with Muthariyars who were vassals of the Pallavas. The original cave temple is 12 feet by 13 feet hall. The ardha-mandapa inside, measuring 23 feet by 8 feet. In front of the cave, is a maha-mandapa, which was built in the reign of Kulottunga Chola I (1070-1120). The mandapa in front is built during the reign of Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (1686-1730) and his minister Kurundha Pillai. Later Vijaya Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (1730-1769) built the steps to this mandapa. The pillars of the ardha-mandapa are very different from Pallava pillar style as they resemble more to Chalukyan style of Badami. Inside the main sanctum is a Shiva linga, carved out in situ from the original rock of the cave. Above the sanctum door lintel are four dwarf figures. Two figures are in opposite direction just above the sanctum door, while two figures are shown moving away are placed at the corners of the door lintel. All the four are shown in flying profile. There is a Ganesha, valamburi (referred if the trunk is curled to right), figure carved on the inner wall of this temple. He is shown with two hands, left hand is holding a rosary while the left hand is holding some unidentifiable object. He is wearing a karanda-makuta on his head and a yajnopavita across his waist. There are two free standing images inside this cave, one is of Chandikesvara and another is of Somaskanda.
On south of the mandapa of this cave, on prepared wall of the rock, is carved the celebrated musical inscription. There is a five feet high Ganesha, this time idampuri (if the trunk is turned to left), image carved in relief to the right of this inscription. This musical inscription is a topic of controversy. Inscribed in Pallava Grantha script in Sanskrit language. Now, we know that Pallava Grantha script was started during Pallavas. This Grantha script evolved in style during its usage in later times. In the evolution of this script, we find four stages, archaic & ornamental, transitional, medieval and modern. The initial archaic and ornamental Grantha script is known as Pallava Grantha script. Being archaic and ornamental, this script was perhaps only used to inscribe inscriptions but not in regular daily usage. Transitional Grantha script is seen in later Pallava times and Pandyan times. As stated earlier this musical inscription is written in Pallava Grantha, hence the common understanding would be that it was done by some Pallava king. Among Mahendravarman I, Mamalla and Rajasimha, this Pallava Grantha script is also used by Mutharaiyar chiefs. Many scholars, like of K R Srinivasan, are in opinion that this region was not under Pallava reign so this inscription could not be related to that dynasty. We will talk about it in details while dealing with the inscriptions of this monument. Out of the cave, on little north of the cave, on the hill above are carved figures of sixty-three nayanars with Shiva with Parvati and Nandi standing in the middle.
Shikanatha Temple – This is the main structural temple of the complex. The current temple is the result of continuous growth and extensions with time. This temple consists a garbha-griha (sanctum sanctorum), ardha-mandapa, maha-mandapa, sabha-mandapa, anivetti-kal-mandapa and ayirakkal mandapa. The original sanctum and ardha-mandapa would have been built during tenth century during the Chola reign, however the current sanctum and ardha-mandapa are recent structure, even later than of other four mandapas. When you enter into the temple, you first pass through ayirakkal mandpa (thousand pillars mandapa) supported on 645 pillars. The pillars have sculptures of Vishnu incarnations and various scenes and figures from epic Ramayana. From the style and architecture, this would have been executed during Vijayanagara period. We also see similar thousand pillar mandapa at other locations, which were also executed during Vijayanagara period. From this mandapa, you will pass through anivetti-kal mandapa (vasanta mandapa). This hall has life size sculptures of various gods, including Kama (Manmatha), Rati, Ganesha, Ravana, Narasimha, Shiva as urdhva-tandava-murti, Rama, Vishnu, Subramanya, Mohini. There are two figures of Nayaka rulers as well in this mandapa. At the end of this hall, entrance into sabha-mandapa, are two dvarpalas in portrait sculptures. They are shown with four hands holding a massive club which is entwined with a serpent. One feet of the dvarpala is resting above the hood of the serpent. Passing through these dvarpalas, you enter into sabha-mandapa. This mandapa is built in Pandya style and has exquisite bronze collection. There is a stone image of Nataraja which is about 6 feet high. In the bronze collection, you will find Chandkeshvara and Somaskanda. Next you enter into maha-mandapa where more bronze statues are enshrined. You will find Ganesha, Subramanya, Subramanya as Shashta, Sapta-matrikas, Shiva as Bhikshatanamurti. There are two nayanars, Sambandar and Manikka-vachakar as well among the bronzes. After this you pass through ardha-mandapam which is remodeled recently. Though it is remodeled, it preserves the old sculptures, in which you will find a Ganesha sculptures and dvarpalas of ninth century. There is a covered pradakshina-path around the main shrine. On the inner walls of this path you will see Lingodbhavar, Sapta-matrikas, Jyestha, Subramanya, Gaja-Lakshmi and Saiva saints (nayanars). These images are from various periods. The niche of the main shrine house Dakshinamurti on south, Vishnu on west and Brahma on north. The arrangement of deities in niche are as per shilpa-sastra and this arrangement is very common in the temples of Chola period.
Subsidiary Shrines – In this temple complex, two more shrines are constructed, Akhilandesvari Shrine and Soundara-nayaki Amman shrine. The first one is located in the pradakshina-path of the maha-mandapa of main temple. There is a rashi-mandapa in front of this shrine, where on the roof are carved twelve zodiac signs. Soundara-nayaki Amman shrine is located south of the cave temple and was built by danseuse of Kudumiyamalai. As per an inscription, a deva-dasi Umaiyalvi-Nachchi, referred to as the daughter of Durgai-aandar, bought some of the temple’s lands for 73,300 gold coins. She also built Amman shrine dedicated to the goddess Malaiya-mangai or Soundara-Nayaki. This shrine is consisted of garbha-griha, ardha-mandapa and mukha-mandapa. Above the hill is located a Murugan shrine which seems to be Pandya construction of thirteenth century.
Inscriptions of the Cave Temple – There are about 120 inscriptions found in the cave temple and in the temple. Most of the inscriptions are of the nature of some grant or endowment towards the temple in various periods. These inscriptions have helped a lot to trace the history of the town and the temple. However the most important inscription of the cave temple is the musical inscription carved on the living rock on south of the cave temple. This inscription is carved on 13 by 14 feet wall and is in good state of preservation. This inscription is written in Pallava Grantha script and is in Sanskrit language. The Pallava Grantha script used in this inscription is of archaic and ornamental style which was in use during seventh century among the various Pallava inscriptions. This inscription was discovered in 1904 by Rao Saheb H Krishna Sastri and was edited by Rao Bahadur P R Bhandarkar in Epigraphia Indica volume XII. He states that the characters of the inscription resemble closely to early Chalukyan period and belong to seventh century. He edited the inscription with relation to the musical notes but not on the epigraphy comparisons. The earliest music treatise of India is Natyasastra of Bharata Muni. However the chapters of this work are handled and re-handled and all parts of it are not from same period. This text can be assigned to fourth century. The next treatise on music is Samgita-ratnakara by Sarngadeva, which is written between CE 1210 and 1247. Hence the discovery of a music inscription, dated in between these two works, is of great importance. It is divided into seven sections corresponding to the seven classical ragas of the time. These seven sections are 1) Madhyamagrama, 2) Sadjagramah, 3) Shadava, 4) Sadharita, 5) Panchama, 6) Kaishikimadhyama, and 7) Kaishika. Each section consists of a collection of groups of four notes, arranged in sub-sections of sixteen, each sub-section taking up one line of the inscription. The music in the inscription appears to be intended for the vina, since it has been given the title chatushprahaarasvaragamah or authoritative texts of notes produced by four striking (of the string). It is clear that the seven ragas of the inscription do not appear in the Natyasastra of Bharata, but they appear in Samgita-ratnakar. Hence this inscription is the earliest record of these seven ragas however when they came into existence is not very clear. Let’s have a look at the inscription first,
सिद्धं I नमः शिवायः ॥
मध्यमग्रामे चतुष्प्रहार स्वरागमा:
१ संनेपुंस गिनेगिस नेधुनेस मुंपुंनेस
मिरगिस रुंगेंनुंसुं सगिनेस नेगुंपेसुं
मिगनेस पेंमुंनेस रमिगसे धुनेगिस
नेपुंनेस पिमपिसे गधुनेस मुंनेपु
२ नपेंरुंगे मिगरेग नेसरगि धुनेरगि
सगिनेंगु पेंमुंरगि [मुं] पेंरुंगें गिसरगि
सनेरगि रुंगेंनुंगें पिगरेग नेपुंरगि
सुंगेंरुंगें गरेमिग पिनेरगि सेरमिग ॥
३ पुंस [मुं] पें गिसनेपुं नेसनेपुं मनिमपि
धुनें [मुं] पें संमुंनेपुं निमानिप रेगमुंपें
धुसु [ने] पुं मिधनेपुं सधुनेंपु नेसंमुंपे
गुंपेंमुंपें सगिनेपुं नेधुनेपुं गिसमुंपें
४ नेंपुंधुने मुंसधुने रगिधुने गिसधुने
निमपनि नेसधुने मुंनेधुने समिधुने
मिगसेनु सेगमेनु गसेमुंने पुंसगुने
सनेधुन [मुं] गिधुने निमधेन पेसुंगिने
५ मुंसपेंमुं गिनेसमुं नेमिसमि सधुनेमुं
नेगिसमि मुंपेसमि रगिपेंमुं गिसंपेंमुं
धेंसनेमुं गसेपिम सुंगेंसुंमं मिधुनेंमुं
रगिसेगुं नेसनेमुं निसेपिमं रुंमेंगुंमे
६ सगिधेस सुंरुंगेंसुं मिगधेस धेसेपेंसुं
गिनेधुसे पुंसधेस पेंनपेमुं सगिपेंसुं
सुमुंगिस पुंधुनेस नेरगिस धिनेपंस
रुंगेंधुंसें धिमगेंसुं सुपं [धेसु] नेपुंगिस
७ सुंरुंगेंरुं गेंधुसरें गिधगिर गसेगिर
पुंनेगिर धेसनेर धिगगेंरुं रधेगिर
धेसगिर पिसेगिर पुंगिधेरु न [पें] गिर
धुनेसिर नेपुंसेर धेरुंगिर गिरधेरुं
८ गुपेंरुंगें गिधेरगि सधेरगि धेमुंरगि
धेसुरगि सपेंरुंगें मिरमिग धेगरागि
रुंगेंसुंगें पिसेरगि समिरगि धेगिरगि
धुसेमिग नेपुंरोग धिपसुंगें गपेसुगें
९ नेपुंरगि पुंधुनेपुं गिधु [नेपुं] नपेंगुपें
मुंधेनपें रगिनेपुं गिरनेपुं नेसरपि
पुंसेनेपुं धेनगुंपें [संरं] गिपें पिरगुंपे
पसेगपि धुंसेगपि धेसगुंपें गिसगंपें
१० धिनेपुंधे गपिगधे गिसनेधु [नेपुं] गिधे
गुंपेंनधे पिसेगधे सेगनेधु समिगधे
धुंसुंगेंधुं पेंसुंन [धे] रगिपुंधे पिरगिधे
सुंरुंगेंधुं गेंसुंगेंधुं सगिपुंधे मिर [गिधे]
११ नेगिधुने धुसेधुने गिपुंधुंने सपुंधुने
पुंगिधेन धेगिधेन गिधुसने र [धे] सने
पुंधुसेनु रेगसेनु गिसगिने गसेपुंने
पुं [नु] धुने गपिधेन पेंसगिने पिगधुने
१२ गुंनधेमुं सगि [धे] मुं गिधेसमि सेरगंमि
रुंमेंसुंमे गिसधेमुं नेसधेमुं मरेगमि
गेंरुगुंमे रुंगुंधेमुं गधुनेमुं मिगधेमुं
पिरेगमि मुंगिधेमुं रेगधेमुं सपुंधेमुं
समा [प्ता] [स्वरागमा:]
षाडवे चतुष्प्रहारस्वर [|] गमा:
१३ सधुनेस मुंधुनेस नेधुरसे मिनेधुस
रुंउंमेंसुं मेसुंपंस अमिपेमुं रिसधुसे
मुंनेधुसे रघुनेश धेमुंरिसं रिधेरिस
धेनरिसे मुंधेरसे सुरेंधुसे मिरधुसे
१४ रुंधेसरि धेनधेरुं मिरधेरुं सरिधेरुं
अमिधेर धुंसुंमेंरु मेंसुंमेंरु रिमधेरुं
नेधुसेर मुंधेसरि समुं [धे] रुं धिएमरे
धेनेसेरि धेरुंमिर मिरमेरुं रमिसेर
१५ मेंसुंरेंधुं सुंरुंनधे सधुनेधु रिममुंधे
सनेमुंधें [रुं] मेंनेंधे मिरनेधु सेमुंनेधु
से [र] मुंधे नधेमुंध उमेंनधे मि [र] मुंधे
मुंधेनधे रिसनेधे नेमुंनेधु सधेमुंधे
१६ नेधुने [मुं] रिधेनमुं मसेअगि धुसेअगि
धुनेउंमें [अ] सेअमि मेरुंउंमें धिमसेमुं
पधिएम [रे] सुएम धुनेउंमें धिसुएम
पुंधेनमुं नधेउंमे मिधुसेमुं धे [रुंउंमें ]
१७ संपुंकेस मुंधेपुंस धेपुंकेस रिसपें [सु]
कसिपेंस सुंरुंपेंस धेरुंपेंस रिधेपुंस
पुंधुकेस मेंरुंमेंसुं मिसेरसे रपुंकेस
मेंरंपेंसुं मिर [कु] से अमिरसे पुंधेर [सें]
१८ सेंपुंधेरु समेंसुंरें मिमेधुरे पुंधेसरि
उंमेंसुंरें धसिधेर धेरधेरु सधेसरि
पुंधेमिर धेपुंधेरु मिपुंधेरु सधेमिर
मिरसुंरें सुंरुंमेंरु धि [म] धेर धेंपुंसरि
१९ धेसंपुंधे पुंकेसधे सपुंसधे रिसपुंधे
सुंरुंसधे रिकेसधे मिरसेधु केसपुंधे
रपुंसेधु केरि [प] धे मुसपुंधे धिरेपंधि
सेरपुंधे रुंधेपुंधे सधेपुंधे मिरपुंधे
२० पुंसधेमुं धेसधे [पुं] मएधिप रिसधेपुं
संधेरुंपें रुंपेंरपि धेरुंधेपुं गएमपि
सपुंधेपुं धेसरुंपें उंमुंधेपुं धिपरेपुं
मि [रे] धेपुं केसधेपुं अमिरुंपें मुंस [धे]
२१ पुंसधेमुं मिरसेमुं सेमुंअमि अमिसेमुं
सधेउंमें रिसधेमुं पुंधे [स] मि धेपुं -
- [पि] एम सुरेधिम रेपुंधेमुं मि [सुं] धेमु
सुधसेम पुंके [से] मि मेसुंधेमुं धि–[मु]
२२ पुंनेधुसे रपिमसे पिमुंपेंसुं ने [उं] मेसुं
रामिरसे धुनेमिस नेसपेंसुं रिसमेंसुं
सधेरिसं नेपुंरिस पुंसेरसे धिअमिसे
नरुंपेंसुं नेरमिसे धुरापि [से] मिअमें [सु]
२३ मुंपेंसरि नेमुंपेरुं सधुनेर पिमसेर
रुउंमेंरुं मधेनरि नेधुनेर पिरसेर
धेनपेरुं रिसमेरुं गपिमेरु पुंधुनेर
रनपेरुं धेन [में] रुं पिअमिरे स [उं] मेरुं
२४ पेसुंरमि रुंगेउमे मपिअमि नेरसेमुं
पिरपेंमुं पिमसेमुं नपेरुंमें रुंधउंमें
रुंपेसुंमे नषेउमे मिसेरमि नेपुंनेमुं
सरेअमि रसेरमि धुसेपिम पिरसेमुं
२५ धुनेसधे नधेपुंधे पिरमिधु नेपुंनेधु
रधुनेधु नेरिसधे मुपेमुंधे रिसरिधे
अमिरधे मुंपुंनेधु सेरमुंधे पिसनेधु
से [मुं] पुंधे रुंमेंसधे रमिपुंधे धिनेमुंधे
२६ नेस्धेन उंमुंधेन रिसधुने रनेधुने
पुंरंधुने सुरिधेन पेमुंधेन मिरधुने
[र] मिधेन रिपुंधेन धेरुंधेन रुंउंमेंन
मुंपुंधेन धेरुंसने धिपुंधुने सरिधेन:
२७ [रु] एमपि मेंउंमेंपें रिसनेपुं रधुनेपुं
मपिरेपुं नेउंगुंपे रुंपेउंपें धिएमपि
[र] मिउंपें रुंनगुंपें मिएमपि धेनरिपें
रिपुंनेपुं धेरुंनपे सुपमपि र [ने] मु [पें]
२८ समुंकेस मुंधकसि धेमुंकेस मिरमिसे
रि [स] केस सुंगेंधसि धेमुंकेस अमिकेस
धुंसेंरिस धैरिकेस रिसरेंसुं संधंकेस
सुंरुंकेस मिरकेस रमिकेस में [सि]–
२९ धिमसेर धेंरिसरि रुंधेसरि सरिसुंरें
सकेसरि मुंधेमिर केसमिर मिकेसरि
धुकेसरि केसधेरु रिकेसरि धेरुसरि
संएंमरें रमिधेरुं रिधंमुंरुं सके–
३० धुकेसधे मि [सं] मुंधे मधिसेधु सेकुसेधु
केसमुंधे उंमुंसधे रिधेसधे सउंमुंधे
समुंसधे धिएमपि धेसमुंधे सुंधेसधे
धिरेमधि धेरुंसधे मुंकेसधे मधि–
३१ संमेंरुंमैं रिसधेमुं केसउंमें धुंरेंधुंमें
समुंधेमुं केसधेमुं धिमएम धुसेधुम
रुंमेधमें सधेरुंमें रिंकेसमुं धेकसिमुं
मधिरुंमें धुंमैरुंमें मिकेसमुं धे [स]–
कैशिके चतुष्प्रहार [स्व] रागमा:
३२ सउंमेंसुं रिकेरिस धेमुंधेस मुंकेरिस
रिधुकेस धुकेरिस केसधुसे अमिकेस
रुंमेंधसि मेंधमेंसुं सिंधमेंसुं सकेरिस
केसरिस उंमंधेस धिसुंमेंसुं क [मि] –
३३ मुंधेमिर पिसेमिर मेंउंमेंरुं अमिमरे
मिरमेंरुं सकेमिर सुमेपरु धेपुंसरि
उंमुंकेर मिअधिर अपिसेर पेरुंधेर
केरसेर मिसेधिर सुंपेंसुं [रं] म [पि] –
३४ [सुं] रुंमेंउं सिधमेंउं मेंधगेंउं मिअकेउं
मपिमए धुसमि [अ] धि [मके] उं धेरुंमेंउं
रसेमिअ कुंसेमिअ मिअमेंउं मेंरुंमेंउं
रपमए रुंउंमेंउं मस– —–
३५ सेकुंसेमुं रपेंउमें [सुरेंसूं] में पिएषिम
सेमपें [मुं] रपेंउंमें पिरे [अ] मि रुंधसुंमें
उंमेंरुंमें सरिपेंमुं धिपएग एमपिग
उंमुं [धेमु] रिधेरुंमें अपिए- —-
३६ समिरधे रुंकेसंधे मिअमि [धि] [पे] मुंरधे
रुं [में] रधे मिअ [प] धु [रस] रिधे रमिरधे
रुंउंमेंध सिधेसुंधे अपिमधि धेमुंस [ध]
[पु] एमधि धेपुंगधि —- —–
३७ केरसे [कु] समुंसके सुंरुंसके रिधुसके
सुंरुं [मं] कु रमिसके रिकसेके एमसेकु
मधिसेकु धिमसेकु [से] अमिके धुरसेकु
सधु [सके] मिरसे [क] —- —–
३८ धु [कें] सपुं [के] समुंपें सरिमुंपें रसिरुपें
मुं [कें] समुं [के] सउंपें सम [ए] पुं रिकेसपुं
सधेसपुं मिधुरेपुं [के[ सरुंपें मुंपेंरपि
सेकुंसेपुं मिसेमपि ----- -----
श्रीरुद्राचार्य्य शिष्येण परम-
माहेश्वरेण रा [ज्ञा] शिष्य-
हितार्त्तः क्रता: स्वरागमा:
Authorship of this inscription – Who authored this inscription is a topic of controversy. Let’s go through various aspects of this topic in details. Sankiranjati is a well known biruda (title) of Mahendravarman I, as seen from inscription of his from Trichy. This Sankirnajati has two meaning, one could be the mixed-race and second could be a new kind of tala (musical notes). Pallavas claimed to be born of Brahmana-Kshatriya race so they should be treated as mixed-race descendants. Also if this inscription is from Pallavas then they were right in assuming this biruda as they showed their expertise in music notes here. Dr C Minakshi interprets this biruda with musical expertise of Mahendravarman I. Professor Sambamurthi agrees with Dr Minakshi’s association of this biruda, sankirna-jati, of Mahendravarman I with music. Hence these two scholars assign this inscription to the Pallava king Mahendravarman I (CE 600-630). G Jouveau Dubreuil though did not say anything about this particular biruda, however based upon the script of this inscription, he assigns this to Mahendravarman I. T V Mahalingam also assigns this to Mahendravarman I based upon the script used. However K R Srinivasan states that as the Pallava rule was not till this region hence it is not possible to assign this inscription to any Pallava king. These are few of the statements from eminent scholars about the authorship of the inscription. Now we will look into few observations which can be made from the above article:
1. First point to ponder is that we should not try to relate the author of the inscription with the creator of the cave temple. Both can be different people from different period. So we will first deal with the characteristic features of the cave temple and then will move to the inscription.
2. The cave temple does not have characteristic pillars of Mahendravarman I, which are seen in all his other cave temples. Hence this can be easily said that this cave temple was perhaps not excavated by him or other immediate Pallava kings.
3. To support the above statement, is the absence of inscriptions in this cave. In other Pallava caves, either we find no inscription or inscriptions of their birudas. Now if we say that this musical inscription was of Mahendravarman I then as no inscription is present in the cave so the cave temple cannot be attributed to him. If he could take up the effort to inscribe such a long inscription on external wall of the cave then he would surely have inscribed his titles inside the cave as he did in other cave temples.
4. The rock-cut Shiva lingam inside the sanctum is carved in situ. Such a Shiva lingam was not found in any other cave of Mahendravarman I or other immediate Pallava kings. Also there are disputes whether Shiva lingam was under worship during the rule of early Pallavas. In such a case, it does not seem to been excavated by Pallava rulers.
5. It is mostly accepted that Pallava rule did not extend further south of Kaveri. In that case, Pallavas were not ruling on this part of land hence shrines of this land cannot be assigned to the Pallavas.
6. From point 2, 3, 4 and 5 it can be stated that this cave temple was not excavated in the reign of Mahendravarman I or better we say that it was not excavated by him or under his orders.
7. Now about the inscription, the inscription is written in Pallava Grantha script which was in use during seventh century. This script was mostly used by the Pallavas only hence termed as Pallava Grantha script. This clearly suggests that this inscription would have been executed by the Pallavas of seventh century.
8. However we have seen the usage of this script by the vassals of the Pallavas, such as Muthariyars. In that case some Muthariyars chief can also be the author of this inscription.
9. The acharya, Rudracharya, mentioned in the inscription is not known by any other inscription. Hence his identity is also very doubtful which makes our task tougher.
10. There is no name mentioned for the disciple of this acharya, the only thing known is that disciple was ‘paramamaheshvara’. Some scholars took this as a biruda of Mahendravarman I, however paramamahesvhara means an ardent devotee of Shiva, which could be stated for any king or chief who was a devotee of Shiva. Hence this should not be taken as an exclusive title of some king. Also as this cave temple is dedicated to Shiva so it is natural that the person inscribing this inscription would have been a devotee of Shiva.
11. What if we say that Pallavas did inscribe this, however the cave temple was built by someone else. We accepted earlier that the first cave temple in this part of country (Tamilnadu) was excavated by Mahendravarman I. Now we are trying to say that within his reign, another cave temple was excavated which differs in style and architecture. This seems very confusing. Either Mahendravarman I was not the first to start the cave temple architecture, or this inscription was not inscribed during the reign of Mahendravarman I. Mahendravarman I ruled from CE 600 to 630, if we take dates from K R Srinivasan then it is CE 580-630. In the course of 30 years, he excavated the first cave temple of the country and in his reign only, someone else excavated another cave temple in different style, seems possible? I will say no as 30 years are very short for such a change in style.
12. Many of the Mahendravarman I cave temples are located near a tank. Though this temple also has a tank nearby but that tank was dug by Raghunatha Servaikar, son of Lingappa Servaikar, a military officer under Vijaya Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (1730-1769).
13. Another fact about Mahendra caves is that these are located very near to Jaina sites. Kudumiyamalai also has Jaina vestiges around the hill. However these kind of Jaina vestiges are found in most of the parts of the country as it was under Jaina influence for quite a time before the rise of Brahmanism. And most of the Jaina sites are located on secluded hills. However Kudumiyamalai does not look like secluded hill, so it appears that Jaina would have left these sites as soon as the town started shaping up. The town was already in place during the seventh century as seen from endowments to the temple.
14. We need to check up the usage of Pallava Grantha script among the Pandya rulers, then only we can say anything about the author of the inscription. However it seem ok to state that the cave temple is not a creation of the Pallava rulers. Checking this script with Pandyas is pending on my side, will update this article as soon as I get information on this part.
There is another inscription, above the Ganesha relief image on north side of the musical inscription, which is also written in Pallava Grantha script, and it refers to some stringed musical instrument. This consists of a single label which gives the name of the musical instrument called ‘Parivadinida’. It seems that the notes in the musical inscription would have been meant to be played on this musical instrument.
Apart from this celebrated inscription, there are many other inscriptions of interest. Four of them are published in South Indian Inscription Vol. 19, number 413-416. The text, cited from this volume, of the inscription is given below:
No. 413 – On the east wall of the rock-cut shrine, right of entrance Melaikoyil temple
This records an endowment of a village Marudangudi for conducting the tiruchchennadai (service) of god Tirumulattanattu-Perumanadiga at Tirunalakkunram by Madirantakan Irukkuvelar alias Achchan Vikramakesari. It has been suggested in the M.E.R for 1908, para 90, that this donar might be same as the chief Bhuti Vikramakesari the builder of the Muvarkoyil at Kodumbalur. This is evidently an inscription of Parantaka I.
No. 414 – On the east wall of the rock-cut shrine, right of entrance Melaikoyil temple
This gives details of the endowment (recorded in No. 413 above) of the village Munainariyar Marudangudi, and states that the income was to be utilized for offerings and worship to Paramesvara and for the maintenance of the yogis performing worship the deity.
No. 415 – On the east wall of the rock-cut shrine, right of entrance Melaikoyil temple
This records a gift of 7½ kalanju of gold and a lamp-stand for burning a perpetual lamp in the temple of Tirumulattanattu-Perumanadigal by one Seruvidai Arinjigai. This is probably a record of Parantaka I.
No. 416 – On the east wall of the rock-cut shrine, right of entrance Melaikoyil temple
This also records a gift of 7½ kalanju of gold for burning a perpetual lamp in the temple of Tirumulattanattu-Perumanadigal at Tirunalakkunram by Kadangi a resident of Pambaiyur in Kunriyur-nadu. This may be assigned to Parantaka I.
Food and Accommodation – This is a small village with no proper accommodation facility. You may either stay at Trichy or Puddukkotai and visit this place. Food will be available from small village restaurants however if you are very specific to hygiene and preparations then use your own discretion. I ate food at small stall there and I should accept that food was really delicious.
How to Reach – Kudumiyamalai is 20 km from Puddukkotai on Puddukkotai-Kodambalur road. Bus facility is available from Puddukkotai to Kudumiyamalai, however frequency is not very good. You can also arrange a taxi as this is not very far from Puddukkotai town.
- Epigraphia Indica Vol. XII, Archaeological Survey of India
- South Indian Inscriptions Vol XIX, Archaeological Survey of India
- Inscriptions of the Pallavas (1988) by T V Mahalingam, Agam Prakashan, Delhi
1. The Creation of Pallava Grantha Tamil Script by Michael Lockwood
2. Virtual tour of Kudumiyamalai by S Sumitha
3. Poetry in Stone
4. Melaikkoil – Kudumiyanmalai Cave Temple
5. Aparna’s article on Kudumiyamalai
6. Evolution of Grantha Script
7. Kudumiyamalai in www.pudukkottai.org