Narthamalai Cave Temple, Pudukottai
Narthamalai Cave Temple : -
This cave temple is also called Padhinen-bhumi Vinnagaram. ‘Padinen’ refers to the ‘eighteen regions’. Vinnagaram means temple for Vishnu.Perhaps, it was originally a Jaina cave in the 7th century AD, but converted into a Vishnu shrine in 12th or 13th century AD. The date of this conversion is still under debate.
This pitham is also carved out of the living rock.The ardha-mandapam has two massive pillars and two pilasters in the front, also carved out of the rock. It houses twelve identical but wonderful relief sculptures of Vishnu on the walls.The twelve figures perhaps represent those of the twelve common names of Vishnu - Kesava, Narayana, Madhava, Govinda, Trivikrama, Vamana, Achyuta, Sridhara, Padmanabha, Damodara, Vasudeva and Madhu-sudhana.
In front of this cave temple is a stone plinth of the maha-mandapam. Judging from the remains, this mandapam must have been a closed one supported by square pillars, with walls ornamented with pilasters crowned with capitals.There are a number of loose sculptures broken parts sculptures kept on this plinth and also inside the ardha-mandapam. Those on the plinth include two dvara-palaka-s, a Sapta-matrika group and an Ayyanar. Those inside the ardha-mandapam include two Ganesa-s. All these sculptures are excavated in and around Narthamalai.