A visual treat created by nature and sculptors together….that is Kazhugumalai or Kalugumalai. Kazhugumalai can be reached by travelling around 66 km via Sankarankovil from Tirunelveli [the route goes as Kottayam, Punalur, Thenmala, Thenkashi, Tirunelveli, Sankarankovil, Kazhugumalai]. Kazhugumalai is a place full of huge rocks and boulders. The most important scenery in Kalugumalai is Vettuvan Koil that is believed to have been built between the 8th and 9th centuries.
I started my trip from Tirunelveli to Kalugumalai enjoying the early morning Tamil village scenery made beautiful by vast paddy fields, herds of goats and good roads. There is a large pond and a small temple at the valley of Kalugumalai. Past this, climbing up the rock takes us to Vettuvan Koil which is seen on the left side. It is properly fenced and locked. When I enquired whether it will be opened, I got the information that after sometime, the watcher will come and open the lock. So, I decided not to waste my time and I went on to climb Kalugumalai.
I saw the wonderful sight of a huge boulder balanced on a beveled rock. Past the rock, there is a temple that looks not very old. I bowed before the deity. I turned around to see the rock walls of the eastern hill of the temple full of intricate carvings. I took a close look and then I understood that they were all carvings related to Jainism. There were attractive images of Mahavira, Bahubali, Thirthankaras, etc. The newly constructed temple stands in such a way that all these images are forgotten in a second. From here, I continued climbing up through the rock-cut way. After a short distance, I reached a cave face.
Temple On Kazhugumalai
It is an ancient cave and cannot be entered. I continued climbing up. When I reached the top, I felt like the whole world is underneath my feet. The view from the top is very beautiful. Kalugumalai offers a festival of scenery with the stunning sights of Kovilpatti, Tamil villages, ponds and temples, in the background of palmyra palms, windmills, buildings resembling matchboxes and various other lovely scenery; all looking as pretty as a picture in a canvas. Kalugumalai was an important center of Jainism during the 3rd and 4th centuries. There is a stone pond uphill that is full of water.
I enjoyed the scenery uphill and then I slowly started climbing down onto the valley. When I reached down, I found Vettuvan Kovil open. It is a wonderful monolithic structure carved out of a huge rock on the slope of the hill, facing east. When viewed from the top, the granite rock looks like a blooming lotus. The eastern face of the temple has the image of Siva with his consort Uma.
In the south, Dakshinamurthy is depicted playing mridanga (percussion instrument). The other faces of the temple walls are full of images of the attendant deities of Siva, like ganas, the Brahmin, Narasimhamurthy and various niches of Nandi, the sacred bull of Siva; each image looking more beautiful than the other. Siva depicted as playing mridanga is a rare image.
Vettuvan Kovil Stone Sculptures
The construction of this temple is incomplete. There are 2 murder stories connected with Vettuvan Koil. One is that some architects who came to build a Siva Temple without the knowledge of Jain monks were murdered. The other one says that the chief sculptor was infuriated by the sight of his son chiseling sculptures and thinking that the son will become more efficient and famous than the father, he killed his son. Whatever the legend is, the reality remains that the temple construction stands incomplete. Another story says that later somebody installed the idol of Ganapati here.
I reached downhill enjoying the scenery and the stories. Downhill, there is another shrine known as Kazhukachalamurthy Temple, a very beautiful structure with stone pillars, images of dragons and various other sculptures. Adding to the beauty of this, near the temple, there is a lake with a mandapa (pavilion for public rituals) in the middle.
Lake With A Mandapa
This is a temple dedicated to Muruga which is believed to have been built by Aadhi Madurai Pandyan in the 8th century. It has been constructed by cutting through the foothill.
Thoroughly enjoying Kalugumalai, I started my journey back to my native place.