Caves in Tamil Nadu

The earliest extant religious vestiges in Tamil Nadu are the famous Jain caves scattered throughout the region, which were once the dwelling places of several Jaina monks. Caves in tamil nadu,caves of tamil nadu,tamil nadu caves,monuments in tamil nadu,caves at tamil nadu,jain caves tamil nadu,madurai caves,tamil nadu monuments Found in some of the hills in Tirunelveli, Madurai, Pudukottai, Periyar, Trichy, South Arcot and North Arcot districts, these caverns are set amidst picturesque surroundings and provided ideal conditions for the monks to spend their lives in splendid isolation, so that they could engage in contemplation and religious pursuits.

The Caves in Tamil Nadu are considered important because they are among the earliest lithic monuments in these regions. Caves in tamil nadu,caves of tamil nadu,tamil nadu caves,monuments in tamil nadu,caves at tamil nadu,jain caves tamil nadu,madurai caves,tamil nadu monuments They contain the earliest epigraphic records in Brahmi script, assigned to a period from 2nd century BC to 3rd or 4th century AD and above all, they provide authentic evidence of the early spread of Jainism in Tamil Nadu. These monuments caves contain engravings of the names of the monks who lived here and the men who carved them.

The natural caverns were made suitable for habitation by cutting stone beds in them. The beds were chiseled smooth with one side raised a little to serve as headrest. The upper portions of the caves were cut in such a way as to prevent rainwater from flowing into the cave shelters. Sometimes, the caves had some structural additions built in front of them, in the form of thatched roofs supported by wooden poles. These caves were mostly located near springs of water so that the basic needs of the ascetics were well-met.

Most of the caves at Tamil Nadu are located in and around Madurai. Caves in tamil nadu,caves of tamil nadu,tamil nadu caves,monuments in tamil nadu,caves at tamil nadu,jain caves tamil nadu,madurai caves,tamil nadu monuments There are about twenty-six caves in places like Anaimalai, Alagarmalai, Arittapatti, Tiruparankundram, Muttupatti, Vikramangalam, Karungalakkudi, Kilavalau, Kongarpuliyankulam, Mankulam, Tiruvatavur and Varichiyur. Trichy district has caves at Pugalur, Sivayam and Trichy Rock Fort. South Arcot too has three caves at Jambai, Paraiyanpattu and Tirunatharkunru.

Accessibility
Most of the caves being located near Madurai, they are easily accessible because Madurai is well connected by air, rail and road.

Jainism might have originated in North India.But it has a 1000-year history in South India,particularly Tamil Nadu.The several monuments scattered in the peninsular region of the Indian subcontinent only confirm this. There are many Jain shrines, images, and monasteries carved in the hills of Tamil Nadu.

Curiously, most of these monuments are concentrated in and around Madurai.There are about 26 caves in Anaimalai, Alagarmalai,Muttupatti, Tiruparankundram, Vikramangalam, Karungalakkudi, Mankulam Kongarpuliyankulam, Tiruvatavur, and Varichiyur. The caves belong to the 2nd and Ist centuries B.C. The names of the monks who lived in these cave-dwellings and the men who carved them are engraved on these monuments.

Inside The Caves

The stone beds in these caves prove that they were abodes of the monks. There are several flat stones in theses caves. One end of these horizontal rocks is slightly raised as headrest. The upper portions of the caves are shaped in such a way as to prevent rainwater from entering them. Wooden poles were driven into holes on the ground in front of these caves, and thatched roofs were erected on them. These residences were located near water sources to meet the basic need of the ascetics.

Importance of The Caves

These caves are considered important because they are among the earliest stone monuments in these regions. They also contain epigraphic records written in the Brahmi script. It is even said that the Hindu temples in and around Madurai were fashioned after these caves. Thirunarankondrai, a village near Ulundurpet, was a famous Jain pilgrim centre. It was also a seat of learning where monks and scholars from all over India gathered. The carved images of Paraswanathar, the 23rd Jain Tirthankara, is found on the top of a hill here. He is portrayed in a standing position, with a serpent's hood spread above his head. The people in this area refer to Paraswanathar as Appandainathar.

Accessibility

Since the caves are located in and around Madurai, they are easily accessible to the tourists. Madurai is well connected all by air, rail and road.

Staying

Madurai has a slew of inexpensive hotels. Good, clen and economical hotels are located along the Town Hall road and Dindigul Road.

More great attractions can be found in the Explore Wildlife in India page.

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