Veerasigamani Rock Cut Cave Temple, Thirunelveli
Veerasigamani Rock Cut Cave Temple is located in Sankarankovil Taluk in Thirunelveli District of Tamilnadu. This is also called as Kailasanathar Cave Temple. This Rock Cut Cave Temple belongs to early Pandyan Period. Above the rock cut temple, there were about 8 - 9 Jain beds with inscription on one of them.
The entire rock cut cave temple is protected by the perimeter wall on three sides. There is a Nandhi mandapam with Nandhi statue. The rock-cut cave has a facade, mukha mandapam and the sanctum. The external rock slope outside the cave temple bears two koshtas. At the southern part of the koshta bears a Pillaiyar (Vinayaka) bas relief image and the northern part of the koshta contains Vishnu (doubtful identity) bas relief image.
The facade measures about 0.60 meters and 4.94 meters in east-west and north-south directions. The facade of the cave has been cut inwards leading to overhanging cornice. The cornice is devoid of any architectural element such as kudu or mini-shrines etc. The facade has 90 cm high platform (padabandha adhishtana) comprised of, from below to top upana, jagati, eight-patta kumuda, kantha and pattika. Above the pattika the mother rock forms the evenly paved upper floor surface.
The facade also bears two pillars in the middle and two pilasters on both sides forming part of the side walls of the mother rock. Pillars and pilasters form three spaces between the pillars (anganas). The anganas in the facade are almost equal. The middle angana forms the entrance to the cave with the flight of three-step staircase in middle front of the cave with balustrades on either side.
The pillars are in usual early rock-cut cave style, cubical top and bottom (Brahma kanta) with intermediate octagonal shaft (Vishnu kanta). The upper cubical parts of the pillars facing north and south are adorned with lotus medallions. The Taranga potikas (fluted corbels) above the pillars and pilasters are molded with a median patta (band). Similar fluted corbel style is seen in later Pallava constructions.
The rectangular mukha mandapa measures about 5.52 meters in north-south and 3.68 meters in east-west directions. The front wall to the sanctum has flight of single-step staircase in middle front of the cave with balustrades on either side. The niches on both sides are arched in the top. The roof and Vajana of the mukha mandapa are damaged. Two niches, flanked by square pillars, are found at the middle of the each lateral wall (south and north walls) of the mukha mandapa.
The niche at the south measuring about 0.79 meters in width and 1.78 meters in height bears the image of a rishi and the locals have identified this as Dharma (Mahabharata). The niche at the north measuring about 0.91 meters in width and 1.81 meters in height bears the image of a rishi and the locals have identified this as Sahadeva (Mahabharata). The projecting niche at the rear wall of the mandapa measuring about 0.71 meters in width and 1.41 meters in height bears the image of a rishi and the locals have identified this as Nakula (Mahabharata).
The sanctum is a rectangular cell with a monolithic Shivalingam with square Avudayar. The sanctum is simple and plain and devoid of any ornamentation. The rectangular Avudayar measures about 1.35 meters in width and 1.55 meters in length and to a height of 0.66 meters and the plinth of the Avudayar is formed as a padabandha adhishtana with the elements of jagati, kumuda, kantha with pada and flanked by kampa, pattika and upari kampa. The rock cut Vesara bana is 0.59 meters height. The gomukha is seen on the northern side of the Avudayar with a spout like formation.
The side niches have two Dwarapalakas (door guards), one on each side of the doorway. The Dwarapalaka in the left niche to the entrance is showing in 'tribhanga' posture one leg bent at the knee another leg resting on the ground and leaning imperiously on a club entwined by a cobra. His head gear is slightly strange - with karantamukuta and beneath his hair cluster fall in beautifully on his shoulders. He appears wearing all the ornaments like necklaces, kankans (forehand armlets), keyuras (armlets), udara banda (waist belt) etc., are worn by him.
The Dwarapalaka on the right niche assumes distinctly different pose from the first. He has his left hand resting on his waist and the right hand with bent at the elbow and extending towards his right side. The sacred thread worn by him extends from left shoulder to the right shoulder and the iconography suggesting the date as 7th or 8th century A.D. His head and trunk slightly bent to exhibit a magical force, and his hair is arranged like a jatamakuta with jata-bhara behind their head.
A Vattezhuthu inscription dated in the 8th regnal year of Sundara Chola Pandya is found on the south facing top square section of the northern pilaster at the mandapam. The inscription speaks about the perpetual lamp donated to this temple. There is no inscription evidence regarding the origin of this cave shrine is traceable. Nevertheless scholars consider the origin as latter part of the 7th century A.D. based on the cave architecture and bas relief images.
Veerasigamani village lies on the Sankarankovil - Puliangudi road. Veerasigamani is located at about 17 Kms from Sankarankovil, 15 Kms from Kadayanallur, 70 Kms from Thirunelveli, 27 Kms from Tenkasi, 130 Kms from Thiruvananthapuram, 115 Kms from Thoothukudi and 160 Kms from Madurai. Nearest Railway Station is located at Kadayanallur. Nearest Airport is located at Thiruvananthapuram, Thoothukudi and Madurai.