Sittanavasal (Tamil name: சித்தன்னவாசல்) is
a small hamlet in
Pudukkottai district of Tamil Nadu, India. It is
known for the
Sittanavasal Cave, a 2nd-century Jain cave complex.
From the 7th to the 9th century A.D., the village flourished as a Jain
4 Architectural monuments
4.3 Jambunatha Cave
There are several interpretations of the word Sittanvasal. In Tamil
language, Sit-tan-na-va-yil means "the abode of great saints".
Another explanation is that this was a suburb of Annalvayil, called
chiru-annal-vaayil, meaning "smaller Annalvayil". It is also said that
Sittanavasal is a derivative from two
‘'Siddhanam’' and ‘'vasah'’ meaning "abode of siddhas".
Alternative suggestions are that
Sittanavasal is a
Tamil name that was
used in the Sangam period, or that is a derivative from
Siddhaanaam-vaasah, of north Indian origin which was corrupted first
to "iddhannavaasah" and finally as "Sittannavasal". In the Brahmi
script, the name mentioned in the inscriptions is
Aerial view of Sittanavasal
Sittanavasal village is about 20 kilometres (12 mi) to the
north of Pudukottai, just before Annavasal village and about 58
kilometres (36 mi) from Trichy. The entrance to the village has a
welcome arch. Within its geographical setting there is a prominent
hill of 70 metres (230 ft) height, which runs in the north-south
direction, where many Jaina cave monuments are located. Megalithic
sites of the 1st century BC have also been excavated near the village,
on the road to the monuments. It was a flourishing village during the
Jaina period from the 7th to 9th century AD. Before entering
Sittanavasal and on the road to the monuments, remains of
prehistoric burial sites are seen. The Jain natural caverns, called
Ezhadippattam are approached from the foothills. On the western slope
of the central part of the hill is the cave temple which is approached
by climbing a few 100 steps.
The village was settled during the megalithic period from the 1st
century BC according to excavations of several megalithic sites near
Jainism flourished here from 1st century BC to 10th
century AD. The Arivarkovil or the Temple cave is initially dated to
Mahendravarman I (580-630AD) prior to his conversion from
Jainism to Hinduism. The village later fell under the reign of the
Pandyans in Tamil Nadu, and an inscription attributes renovation of
the cave to a
Pandyan king, probably Maran Sendan (654- 670AD) or
Arikesari Maravarman (670-700AD). The Jain beds on the hill top
indicate a Jaina era pilgrimage centre which lasted till the 9th
The archaeological monuments found in the area surrounding
Sittanavasal village are the architectural features of the Arivar
Kovil (Sittanvasal Cave), on the western side of the hill towards the
north and the painting and sculptures found within its precincts, the
Jaina beds, also known as Ekadipattam or Ezhadippattam in a natural
cavern on the eastern side of the hill, the Samavasarana, a place of
assembly of a tirthankara in the form of mural paintings on the roof
of the cave temple, megalithic burial urns, stone circles, cairns,
dolmens, cists from the Iron Age called mudu-makkal-thaazhi, and a
submerged tarn called the Navach-chunai to the north of the natural
cavern in the hill. The Archaeological Survey of
responsible for the maintenance of the Arivar Kovil and the Jaina
A fresco-secco painting
Sittanavasal Cave, also known as Arivar Kovil, is a Jain monastery
of the 7th century, small in size, excavated in a bluff on the western
slope of the hill in its centre. It is noted for its paintings which
have been painted in fresco-secco technique with many mineral colours.
The painting themes depict a beautiful lotus pond and flowers, people
collecting lotuses from the pond, two dancing figures, lilies, fish,
geese, buffaloes and elephants. Mulk Raj Anand said of the
Pallava craftsmen used greens and browns and puqiles, with
a genuine ability and a lyrical flow of line. Lotuses spring up from
imaginary ponds amid variegated greenery, under a bluish sheen." In
addition, inscriptions of the 9th and 10th century are also seen. The
exquisite ceiling of the Ardhamandapam is decorated with murals from
the 7th century. The cave temple has placid pillars and sculptures
of Jain Tirthankaras. However, most of the frescoes which were covered
fully in plaster have been severely defaced or not clearly visible due
to inadequate security and maintenance resulting in vandalism in the
past five or six decades. Originally, the entire cave temple,
including the sculptures, was covered with plaster and painted. The
paintings are on the theme of Jaina Samavasarana, the "most attractive
heavenly pavilion", referring to the attainment of
Nirvana and Khatika
Stone beds or Ezhadippattam with inscriptions of Jain saints
Walk way along rocky cliff with guard rails to the Jaina Beds or
Ezhadippattam or Jaina beds is a natural cave, marked by a horizontal
floor space which is laid out with well-polished rock beds that were
used by Jaina ascetics. There are seventeen beds at the top marked on
the floor. These carved beds have headrests cut in them in the form of
a raised pillow. The oldest Tamil
Brahmi inscriptions seen inscribed
on the beds are dated to the 3rd century BC, although recent research
by Iravatham Mahadevan dates it to the First Century BC and extending
to the 10th Century AD. On one of the oldest and largest beds, the
inscription in Tamil is of Tamil
Brahmi script of the 1st century BC,
considered as the oldest lithic record of South India. Also, names
of ascetics who engaged in sallekhana(fasting unto death) are written
on their respective beds.
A plaque at the entrance to the monuments in Sittanvasil
Jambunatha Cave or Navach-chunai, in the style of late Pandya temples
of the 13th century AD, is a tarn located between Ezadippattam and
Arivar Kovil caves. It is on the eastern slope on the central part of
the hills. This is a small rock-cut temple which is submerged in a
small lake (tarn). Hill climbing is required to reach the cave temple.
An old jambu tree (Syzygium jambolanum) is seen near the lake, which
gives its name to the cave. It is a
Shiva temple with a lingam in the
centre, which is worshiped by baling out water from the lake.
Excavations carried out in 1934-35 in the Sittanvasal village have
Megalithic burial sites near the hill, which are in the
form of both cist and urn burials. These are located on both sides of
the road leading from the monuments to the main road, after about 100
metres (330 ft) from the Ezhadippattam; more are seen on the left
side of the road leading to Pudukkottai. Antiquaries collected from
the sites also include specimens of garnet, red jasper and rock
crystal at the foot of the hill have been picked up near the foot of
the hill, pottery pieces with coating of molten and coloured glass
inside, and also small pieces of coloured glass; all these are
indicative of glass manufacturing in the area.
Jain Sculpture close to Sittanavasal,India
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sittanavasal.
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^ "Rock-cut Jaina temple, Sittannavasal". Archaeological Survey of
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Places of interest
Atmanatha Temple, Avudaiyarkoil
Government Museum, Thirukokarnam
Kokarneswarar Temple, Thirukokarnam
Murugan Temple, Kumaranmalai
Sikharagiriswara Temple, Kudumiyamalai
Viralimalai Murugan temple
Cities and tow