Kudumiyamalai is located about 20 km from Puddukkotai town. In its early inscriptions, of the Pandya and Chola period, the town was known as Tirunalakkunaram, meaning the scared and prosperous hill. From 1161 CE, as in an inscription of the Chola king Rajaraja II (no 190 of IPS), the town started being referred as Shikhanallur. The present name Kudumiyamalai is first found in a seventeenth century CE record of Mallappa Pallavarayar (no 906 of IPS)1. The gazetteer2 describes that this queer name is based upon a legend. Once the temple priest gave his lover the flowers intended for divine worship. When the ruler unexpectedly arrived in the temple, he offered him the flowers worn by his lover as prasadam. The king noticed few hair in it and asked for an explanation. To conceal his offense, the priest asserted that the God himself had natural hair meanwhile praying to the lord to save him. His prayers were heard and a kudumi or lock of hair miraculously appeared on the linga.
There is a suggestion that the name of the village was given after the early Pandya king Palyaga Mudukudumi Peurvaluti (Palyāka Mutukuṭumi Peruvaḻuti). This Pandya king is known from various references, including the Velvikudi grant of the Pandya king Varaguna-varman I (765-815 CE). Except the similarities in names, there is no definitive connection between the village and the king. Provided that Kudumiyamalai has an inscription of Pandya king Varaguna-varman I where the village is referred as Tirunalakkunram, we can safely say that the village was not named after the Pandya king Palyaga Mudukudumi Peurvaluti.
Antiquity of the town may go back to pre-historic period as attested by various megalithic burial sites and cairns in vicinity. In the early centuries of the present era, Kudumiyamalai would have been an important Jaina center as attested by the rock-cut beds meant for Jain monks found in a natural cavern on the south-western side of the main hill. A Brahmi inscription3 of 2nd-3rd century CE in this cavern reads, “The pa(li)y made by Korrantay of Nalai”.
Cave Temple (Melaikoyil) – The cave temple is situated in the west of the village and excavated on the eastern face of a hill running north-south. The cave temple has been variously referred as Melaikoyil, Tirumulattanam and Tirumerrali in its inscriptions. The lord is referred as Perumanatikal, Mahadevar, Paramesvarar and Kunritan konta nayanar. The façade has two pillars and two pilasters. Inter-columniation is not equal, the central bay is wider than the side bays. The ardha-mandapa is wider than the front façade, allowing deep niches on its lateral walls. These niches are carved with dvarpala images. Both the dvarpalas are shown standing in tri-bhanga posture, with one hand at their waist and another resting over a huge club. Both are shown with a third eye over their fore-head. The southern dvarpala is shown wearing a yajnopavita while the northern is not wearing.
On the southern hind wall of the ardha-mandapa is an inscription reading, “parivadinida”. Below this inscription is cut a niche housing an image of valampuri Ganesha, with his trunk turned towards right. Ganesha is shown with four hands, in his upper hand he is holding a broken tusk and padma while in his one lower hand he holds a modak while the other is placed over his waist.
In the rear wall of the ardha-mandapa is cut the opening to the garbha-grha flanked with two tetragonal pilasters. Over the pilasters is placed a beam over which are shown four bhuta-gana in posture of supporting the beam with their hands. The bhuta-images at the extreme are facing out while the inner two images are facing towards the garbha-grha opening. The square garbha-grha is finished slightly above the ground floor of the ardha-mandapa, reached via three steps. In the center is provided a large square linga-pitha, cut from within the rock. This linga-pitha supports a rock-cut linga.
Immediately to the south of the rock-cut shrine’s façade is inscribed the musical inscription. We will discuss about this inscription in detail later in the article. To its immediate south is carved a niche housing idampuri Ganesha, trunk turned to left. In his upper arms he is holding an ankusha and pasa while one lower arm is broken tusk and the object held in lower left arm is not identifiable. Dayalan4 mentions that the sculpture can be later than the cave temple whereas Minakshi5 believes that both the Ganesha sculptures probably belong to the same period, the Pallavas. This rock-cut cave temple was extended by Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (1686-1730), the king of Pudukkottai, by building a mandapa in front of it. 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 temple of the complex. The present temple is the outcome of a continuous growth and extensions carried out in different periods. It consists a garbha-griha, ardha-mandapa, maha-mandapa, sabha-mandapa, anivetti-kal-mandapa and ayirakkal mandapa. A visitor first enters the ayirakkal-mandapa (thousand pillared mandapa) which has monolithic pillars carrying sculptures of Hanumana, Matsya-avatara, Kurma-avatara, Varaha-avatara, Narasimha-avatara, Rati-Kama riding over parrots etc. Next is a larger hall known as anivetti-kal-mandapa. It is famous for its portrait sculptures over its pillars, including those of Ganesha, Kartikeya, Ravana, Ugra-Narasimha, Rama, Kali, Nataraja, Vishnu and other various forms of Shiva. There are also two portrait sculptures of chieftains belonging to the Nayaka period.
The next is sabha-mandapa entered through a door flanked by two huge dvarpalas. This mandapa is built in Pandya style and has exquisite bronze collection. There is also a stone image of Nataraja, about 6 feet high. In its bronze collection are found Chandikeshvara and Somaskanda. The next is maha-mandapa where more bronze statues are kept, Ganesha, Subramanya, Subramanya as Shashta, Sapta-matrikas, Shiva as Bhikshatanamurti. There are two nayanars, Sambandar and Manikka-vachakar as well among the bronzes. A doorway flanked with two dvarpalas of Chola period leads in to a ardha-mandapa. The original structure of the ardha-mandapa with its attached garbha-grha was built during the Chola reign of tenth century CE, however it has been renovated at later periods. A covered pradakshina-path is provided around the main shrine. On its inner walls are installed Lingodbhavar, Sapta-matrikas, Jyestha, Subramanya, Gaja-Lakshmi and Saiva saints (nayanars). These images are from different periods. The niche of the main shrine house Dakshinamurti in the south, Vishnu in the west and Brahma in the north. The temple commanded quite an importance in later period. In 1730 Raja Vijaya Raghunatha Tondaiman was crowned here. In 1773, his military chiefs Lingappa and Raghunatha Servaikar, dug out tanks for public benefit. In 1872, Raja Ramachandra Tondaiman did a kumbhabhishekha of two of its shrines.
Subsidiary Shrines – In this temple complex, two more shrines are constructed, Akhilandesvari Amman 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. Its entrance is topped with an exquisite makara-torana enclosing an image of Gaja-Lakshmi. Soundara-nayaki Amman shrine is located south of the cave temple and was built by danseuse of Kudumiyamalai. As per an inscription dated in thirteenth century CE and eleventh regnal year of the Pandya king Jatavarman Vira Pandya, 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 Tirukkamakkottathu Nachiar Arivudaya Malaiya-mangaiar or Soundara-Nayaki. This shrine is consisted of garbha-griha, ardha-mandapa and mukha-mandapa. Above the hill is located a Subramanya shrine which seems to be Pandya construction of thirteenth century CE.
Inscriptions – There are more than 120 inscriptions discovered in and around these two temple complexes. Many of these inscriptions are published only with their original texts but no translations. A separate page of this article has around 60 inscriptions which were published with English translation. Here, we will only discuss the most famous and controversial musical inscription, text of the same is also provided in another page of this article.
The Musical Inscription – This famous musical inscription is carved on the south of the rock-cut shrine described above. It is carved on 13 feet by 14 feet wall and is in good state of preservation. This inscription is written in the Grantha script and Sanskrit language. This inscription was first mentioned by Rao Saheb H Krishna Sastri in 1904 and first edited by Rao Bahadur P R Bhandarkar in Epigraphia Indica volume XII. The inscription is divided into seven sections, each section consists of a collection of groups of four notes (svaras), arranged in sub-sections of sixteen. Each sub-section takes up one line of the inscription. In all these sections, musical notes are arranged in a specific manner and mentioned under specific heading, 1) Madhyama grame chatsprahara svaragamah, 2) Shadja grame chatsprahara svaragamah, 3) Shadave chatsprahara svaragama, 4) Sadharite chatsprahara svaragama, 5) Panchame chatsprahara svaragama, 6) Kaisika madhyame chatsprahara svaragama and 7) Kaisike chatsprahara svaragama. At the end are two colophons, one in Sanskrit and one in Tamil. Sanskrit colophon reads, “Texts of notes made for the benefit of pupils by the King, who is devotee of the Supreme Lord (Siva) and a pupil of Rudracarya (sic)”6.Tamil colophon reads, “These are appropriate to eight or seven”7. A single label, also written in the Pallava Grantha script, is inscribed near this musical inscription. This label reads, ‘Parivadinida’, taken by various scholars for a musical instrument, probably a type of vina.
Placement of this inscription among musical texts and treatise:
- We do not have many musical texts predating this inscription, important ones are the Natya Shastra of Bharata and Dattilam of Dattila. Natya Shastra is dated between 200 BCE-200 CE and it does not mention the gramas enumerated in the Kudumiyamalai musical inscription. However, Widdess mentions that five of these ragas are mentioned in Bharata’s treatise.
- Dattila is suggested either contemporary of Bharata or later, majoritarian view is in favor of later dating. Widdess mentions that the ragas mentioned in the inscription do not form part of the system of jatis described by Dattila. However, the Dattilam translated by Nijenhuis8 includes two of the gramas, madhyama and sadya.
- It is usually quoted that Indian heptatonic scale was introduced in China by a musician named Sujiva during 6th century CE. Sui shu, a Chinese text completed in 636 CE, mentions five of these under the list of Western modes. This mention is made during the events related during the period of 561-78 CE9.
- Brhaddesi of Matanga Muni, dated between 6th and 8th century CE, mentions all the seven as a group of pure (suddha) ragas.
- Naradiya Shiksha and Markandeya Purana, dated during the first millennium CE, mention all the seven as gramaragas (basic ragas)
- Sarasvatihrdayalamkara or Bharatabhasya of Nanyadeva, dated around 1100 CE and Sangitaratnakara of Sarangadeva (around 1200-1250 CE) mention all the seven modes
- From above we can conclude that there was a gap of around 500 years between the last treatise of the second century CE, Dattilam, and Brhaddesi of eighth century CE. And this makes the inscription of utmost importance for the music scholars.
- The inscription is written in the Grantha script, also popularly known as Pallava Grantha as used mostly by the Pallava kings for their inscriptions. One argument favoring the Pallava authorship is the use of this particular script.
- However, this script is also used by the Muttaraiyars and Pandyas.
- Two Pandya grants are known to be written in the Grantha script, Velvikudi grant10 and Madras Museum grant11. Krishna Sastri, while editing the Velvikudi grant, mentions that paleographically, the Grantha characters in these two grants differ however both of these are to be attributed to the Pandya king Parantaka Nedunjadaiyan alias Varaguna-varman (765-815 CE).
- We may conclude that just based upon the use of Grantha script in this inscription, it will not be accurate to treat it as a Pallava record.
- The inscription is not dated therefore its dating is primarily on paleographic studies.
- P R Bhandarkar12, who first edited this inscription, assigns it to seventh century CE mentioning that it closely resembles with those of the early Chalukyan period.
- K V Soundara Rajan13 dates the cave temple not later than the middle of the eighth century CE.
- Dayalan14 is of opinion that the cave temple precedes the musical inscription, the former was excavated during the first half of the eighth century CE while the latter in the second half.
- The earliest dated record found in the cave temple belongs to the Pandya king Varaguna-varman I (765-815 CE), dating 787-88 CE. As it is not a foundation inscription therefore the cave temple existed prior to this inscription. Therefore it would be safe to date the temple in eighth century CE, probably to the first half of the century.
- The colophon at the end of inscription reads, “Texts of notes made for the benefit of pupils by the King, who is devotee of the Supreme Lord (Siva) and a pupil of Rudracarya.” Two persons are mentioned in the inscription, Rudracharya and his pupil who composed the inscription. The composer is also said to be a king, however this is based a conjecture made over the damaged word of the inscription. In all probabilities, this conjecture might be the best possible match or reconstruction of that damaged word.
- P R Bhandarkar, who first edited this inscription, is silent on its authorship. He mentions that it would be impossible to say if Rudracharya is same as Rudrata mentioned by Matanga.
- Dubreuil15 was the first scholar to suggest that the inscription was authored by the Pallava king Mahendravarman I (600-630 CE). His assessment is based upon two factors, that the king authored a Sanskrit work Mattavilasa-prahasana and his Mamandur inscription has references of svaras and varnas of music. Therefore, Dubreuil takes Mahendravaraman I as an accomplished musician. As the script of this inscription is very similar to other inscriptions of Mahendravarman I, therefore Dubreuil suggests him as the author of this inscription.
- T N Ramachandran16 draws attention towards sankirnajati, a biruda of Mahendravarman I found at Pallavaram. He also attests that the Mamandur inscription of the king praises his musical talents. He suggests that the king was the inventor of a method of keeping musical time (tala) which was called or which he named sankirnajati. Therefore, he assigns the authorship of this musical inscription to Mahendravarman I. Further, He identifies Rudrata of Sringaratilaka and Kavyalamkara with the Rudracharya of the inscription.
- C Minakshi17 mentions that the characters of this inscription are very similar to the Tiruchirappalli inscription of Mahendravarman I (600-630 CE). She also mentions that the region of Pudukkottai was included within his dominion. Minakshi also agrees that the Mamandur inscription of Mahendravarman I has references to musical terms. She also draws attention to, Sankiranjati, a biruda of Mahendravarman I found in his inscriptions at Tiruchirappalli and Pallavaram. She agrees with Krishna Sastri that Sankirnajati refers to a variety of musical time invented by Mahendravarman I. She concludes that so many arguments favors the authorship of the inscription to Mahendravarman I. She also opines that in all circumstances Rudrata was an early authority on music and flourished during the seventh century, making him contemporary of Mahendravarman I. Therefore Rudracharya of the inscription can be identified with Rudrata mentioned by Matanga.
- R Sathyanarayana18, who also edited this inscription in 1957, agrees to assign it to Mahendravarman I.
- J R Marr19 writes, “There is no need to dispute the view that the characters are of the Pallava period and on palaeographical grounds they may be assigned to the age of Mahendravarman (c. A.D. 600 to 630); the characters closely resemble those of his inscription in the rock-cut cave at Tiruchirapalli (sic)“. He suggests that Mahesvara stands for Mahendravarman and Rudracharya for Rudrata mentioned by Matanga.
- T V Mahalingam20 suggests that this inscription is a notation on Sankirna Jati or Misra ragas invented by a king (Mahendravarman I), the disciple of one Rudracharya and also Paramamahesvara.
- Sridhar, T S21 also favors authorship to Mahendravarman I.
- Soundara Rajan22 and Dayalan23 are silent on any specific author, however they assign this cave temple to the Pandyas.
- This colophon at the end of the inscription reads, “These (svaras) are appropriate (also) to eight and seven“
- Bhandarkar, who first edited this inscription in Epigraphia Indica vol XII, is silent on this colophon as he only provids a translation but no interpretation
- Ramachandran24 interprets it that Mahendravarman I probably introduced an eighth raga and all the svaras mentioned in all the seven sections would also apply to that eighth raga.
- Minakshi25 suggests that Mahendravarman first tried these notes on a seven stringed-vina, parivadini and it is attested by a label inscription. He was not content with it and tried with a eight stringed instrument and succeeded in that. Therefore, he added a post-script suggesting that these notes work for seven as well as eight stringed instrument.
- Widdess26 suggests that the number eight and seven should be taken in sense as the number four occurs in this inscription. The number four in the inscriptions refers to measure of four beats or strikings. This means that the same modes can be applied to eight beats or strikings. Seven might be a derivation of the eight beat system. And therefore number eight comes first and number seven later in the inscription as eight suggests a regular eight beat system while seven is a derivative of the former.
- In my opinion, Widdess is right in stating that these numbers should be taken as beats. Connecting it to a musical instrument was only because of a label inscription reading “parivadini”. However, it should be noted that this label inscription is in Grantha script and located at a distance from this Tamil colophon suggesting there to be disconnected. Also, important is to note that eight is inscribed before seven, a rather unusual but may have a meaning. This probably can only be explained when eight represents the regular term and seven refers to something restricted or not-regular. Widdess’ theory fits in explaining eight as regular system of beats and seven as irregular system.
- This single label inscription in Grantha script is inscribed besides the music inscription and reads, “parivadini”
- Minakshi (pp 248-249) provides reference from Amarkosha which mentions parivadini as a seven stringed vina. Buddha Charita of Ashvagosha mentions parivadini as a big vina with golden strings.
- Mahalingam interprets that the music of the inscription was mainly intended to be played on the vina and is the result of the experiment that the author of the inscription conducted on yal (parivadini) and the vina.
- I believe that there is no doubt what this label may mean, being inscribed near to an inscription related to music, it is not hard to accept if it refers to a musical instrument. Also, such label inscriptions are also found at other sites in Tamilnadu, Thirumayam and Malaikoil (Nachandupatti). At Thirumayam, we also know that there once inscribed a music inscription. As the script of this label is same as that of music inscription, both should be not be very distant in timing. It may be assumed that this label inscription was an after thought and to explain on which instrument these ragas could be experimented. However, it would be interesting to ponder why this label was inscribed in such a cryptic manner.
- This architectural comparison is made between the Pallava and Pandya period characteristics. The comparison cannot be done as absolute because we cannot assign and restrict art traditions between dynastic periods. However, there are few typical characteristics which are very specific to a dynasty hkhkhk
1 Dayalan, D (2014). Cave-temples in the regions of the Pandya, Muttaraiya, Atiyaman and Ay dynasties in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, part I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 173
2 Venkatarama Ayyar, K R (1944). A Manual of the Pudukkottai State vol II part II. Sri Brihadamba State Press. Pudukkottai. pp 1041-1053
3 Dayalan, D (2014). Cave-temples in the regions of the Pandya, Muttaraiya, Atiyaman and Ay dynasties in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, part I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 174
4 Dayalan, D (2014). Cave-temples in the regions of the Pandya, Muttaraiya, Atiyaman and Ay dynasties in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, part I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 182
5 Minakshi, C (1938). Administration and Social Life under the Pallavas. University of Madras. p 244
6 Widdess, D R (1979). The Kudumiyamalai inscription: a source of early Indian music in notation published in Musica Asiatica vol 2. Oxford University Press. pp 115-150
7 Widdess, D R (1979). The Kudumiyamalai inscription: a source of early Indian music in notation published in Musica Asiatica vol 2. Oxford University Press. pp 115-150
8 Nijenhuis, E Te (1970). Dattilam. E J Brill. Leiden.
9 Widdess, D R (1979). The Kudumiyamalai inscription: a source of early Indian music in notation published in Musica Asiatica vol 2. Oxford University Press. pp 115-150
10 Epigraphia Indica vol XVII. pp 291-309
11 Indian Antiquary vol XXII
12 Epigraphia Indica vol XII. pp 226-237
13 Soundara Rajan, K V (1998). Rock-cut Temple Styles: Early Pandyan Art and the Ellora Shrine. Somaiya Publications. Mumbai. ISBN 8170392187. p 83
14 Dayalan, D (2014). Cave-temples in the regions of the Pandya, Muttaraiya, Atiyaman and Ay dynasties in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, part I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. pp 173-182
15 Jouveau-Dubreuil, G (1917). Tha Pallavas. Pondicherry. p 39
16 Ramachandran, T N (1933). The Royal Artist, Mahendravarman I published in The Journal of Oriental Research Madras vol VII. Madras. pp 303-308
17 Minakshi, C (1938). Administration and Social Life under the Pallavas. University of Madras. pp 244-253
18 Sathyanarayana, R (1957). The Kudimiyamalai Inscription of Music vol I: Sources published in Sri Varalakshmi Academy Publication Series, no 3; Bulletin of the Board of Research, no 2. Sri Varalakshmi Academies of Fine Arts. Mysore/ R, Sathyanarayana (1999). Keynote Address in The Tirumala Music Inscription, Sastri & Ramachandra (ed.). T. T. Devasthanams Publications. Tirupati. pp 24-25
19 Marr, J R (1972). The Kutumiyamalai Music Inscription published in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. Cambridge University. pp 615-20
20 Mahalingam, T V (1988). Inscriptions of the Pallavas. Indian Council of Historical Research. New Delhi. pp 102-110
21 Sridhar, T S (2006). Select Inscriptions of Tamilnadu. Department of Archaeology. Chennai. p 219
22 Soundara Rajan, K V (1998). Rock-cut Temple Styles: Early Pandyan Art and the Ellora Shrine. Somaiya Publications. Mumbai. ISBN 8170392187. p 83
23 Dayalan, D (2014). Cave-temples in the regions of the Pandya, Muttaraiya, Atiyaman and Ay dynasties in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, part I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. pp 173-182
24 Ramachandran, T N (1933). The Royal Artist, Mahendravarman I published in The Journal of Oriental Research Madras vol VII. Madras. pp 303-308
25 Minakshi, C (1938). Administration and Social Life under the Pallavas. University of Madras. p 249
26 Widdess, D R (1979). The Kudumiyamalai inscription: a source of early Indian music in notation published in Musica Asiatica vol 2. Oxford University Press. pp 115-150