Friday, September 28, 2012

Chitharal


Chitharal is a village situated about 4km to the north east of Kuzhithurai in Knyakumari District of Tamilnadu. This village stands the small rocky hill called the Triucharanattu Malai. The Bhagavati temple at Chitharal is located on the top of the hill is a natural cavern upon another. The cave is facing west.

The natural cavern at Triucharanattu malai, formed by overhanging rock with relief on one side depicting Jinas and their attendant Yakshis, was one of the most important Jaina centres of the region. Of the reliefs, the most important are Parsvanatha and Padmavatidevi, both standing gracefully and canopied by a multi hooded cobra. Small figure shown seated in the ardhaparyanka pose each underneath a three-tiered parasol may be of Mahavira or other Tirthankaras. The central niche contains a figure of Jina Mahavira, with chhatratrayi, chaitya-tree and two attendants. Another beautifully executed figure, standing elegantly in tribhanga on a padmasana, accompanied by attendant figures including two children and the lion mount, is goddess Ambika. All the prominent figures are accompanied by flying vidyadharas or worshippers.

















Each of the rock-cut votive figures has below its seats short inscription in vatteluttu characters, mentioning donor's name and place. It is evident from these inscriptions that this Jaina establishment continued to exist till atleast upto the middle of the thirteenth century. The Bhagavati temple faces west. The cave has been extended at a later date with a masonry mandapa in front, a verandah, balipita and a tidappalli(kitchen). The shrine is divided into three chambers, houses a tirthankara in the middle, Devi on the right and Parsvanatha on the left. The inscription on the southern side is written in Vatteluthu characters and in Tamil language. It belongs to the 28th year of the reign of the Vikramaditya Varaguna Pandya. It records that Gunandagi-kurattigal, the disciple of Arattanemi-bhatara of Peravakkudi gave some golden ornaments to 'Bhataraiyar' of the Tiruchchanam malai.

An inscription engraved on the mandapa is written in Tamil characters dated to 475 KE(1300 AD), states that one Narayanan, Tamil appalla Variyan of Rajavallapuram in the Kil Vembanadu gave some money for the expense of Bhagavati temple. This is a centrally protected monument under the control of Archaeological Survey of India since 1964.

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