Monday Jun 17, 2024

Seeyamangalam Shiva Cave Temple, Thiruvannamalai


Seeyamangalam Shiva Cave Temple, Seeyamangalam, Vandavasi taluk, Thiruvannamalai district Tamil Nadu 604501




This rock cut Shiva temple was built by Mahendravarman I in 7th century C.E. The main deity Shiva, is called here as Thoon Andar and Stambeshwara in Sanskrit. “Thoon” means pillar and “Andar” refers Lord and hence thoon andar means Lord of Pillars. This name is because of the presence of two pillars in front of this cave temple. This temple is also called Stambeswarar Temple, Avanibhajana Pallaveshwaram temple dedicated to Shiva, located in the town of Seeyamangalam, Tiruvannamalai district in Tamil Nadu, India.. The cave temple had later additions from the Chola and Vijayanagar Empire. One of the pillars has a sculpture of Nataraja, believed to be the earliest representation of the deity in South India. The temple has a small three-tiered rajagopuram, the entrance tower. The temple is declared as a heritage monument and administered by the Archaeological Survey of India as a protected monument. The other side of the hillock houses the Jain beds established in the 9th century during the reign of Ganga King Rajamalla II.

Puranic Significance

Stambeswarar temple was built during the reign of Pallava king Mahendravarman I (600-630 CE) during the 7th century. It is one of the earliest representations of Rock-cut architecture. The place is called Avanibhajana Pallaveshwaram temple as Avani is one of the titles of King Mahendravarman. Though the image of the lions in the pillars lead to an assumption that the temple might have been possibly been initiated by Simhavishnu, the father of Mahendravarman. The inscriptions, accounted in Epigrahia Indica, is written in Sanskrit with Grantha-Pallava alphabet. The inscriptions indicate that it was dug out by Lalitankura, which is similar to that of cave temple in Tiruchirapalli Rock Fort indicating Mahendravarman. The temple had later additions from the Chola and Vijayanagar Empire. The gopuram, the gateway tower is believed to be an addition by the Vijayanagar kings. The other side of the hillock houses the Jain beds established in the 9th century during the reign of Ganga King Rajamalla II. The temple has a three-tiered rajagopuram a set of scattered shrines. The shrine of Stambeswarar is housed in the circular sanctum in a rock cut cave. There is a large pillared hall and narrow pillared Ardhmandapam leading to the cave sanctum. The shrine for Nandi is located outside the pillared hall axial to the central shrine. The sanctum is guarded by two Dvarapalas, the guardian deities. The sanctum houses the image of Shiva in the form of lingam. In the pillars, lotus is carved on the upper portion, while images of lion are seen in the lower half. The presiding deity is called Thoonandavar or Stambeswarar on account of the presence of two pillars in front of the temple. One of the pillars in the temple has one of the earliest representations of Nataraja (the dancing form of Shiva) in Ananda Thandava posture. There are two attendants of Shiva ganas of Nataraja, with one of them playing Miruthangam (a percussion instrument) and other in praying posture. The pillared hall has images of yalis, the mythical creatures representative of Vijayanagar Art. The images of other attendant deities of Shiva are housed in smaller shrines around the sanctum.

Special Features

Two dvarapalas are located on the either side of the entrance of Sanctum sanctorum of the shrine. The interesting feature of these dvarapalas is the presence of trisula prongs in them. Unlike other temples, here the main deity Thun Andar is facing the west direction. Lord Shiva was carved in the temple pillars as Natarajar and Vrishbhantika. This is the first temple in Tamil Nadu having the image of Lord Natarajar. Also, the dwarf Muyalaka is missing from the Natarajar image.




7th century.

Managed By

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)

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