Rock-cut Jaina temple, Sittannavasal
Known as Arivarkovil or Temple of the Arhats, this rock-cut temple was earlier considered to be an excavation of Pallava king Mahendravarman I (AD 580-630) before his conversion to Hinduism from Jainism However, considering its geographical location in the Pandyan country and the inscriptional references to its renovation by Pandyan king, this cave-temple is now assigned to the reign of Pandya kings Maran Sendan AD 654- 670) and Arikesari Maravarman (AD 670-700), when the Pandya rule was at its high and the latter was a Jain prior to his conversion.
The facade, slightly cut into the original rock-line, has two pillars and two pilasters with square base and top with intervening octagonal portico. Behind this portico, are another hall and a square sanctum at the back. The entrance to the sanctum has flight of steps with balustrades. In the hall, there are bas- relief of Jaina thirthankara Parsvanatha (northern niche) seated in dhyana pose with five -hooded serpent above his head and that of a saint seated in dhyana pose (southern niche) under a single umbrella. Below the second sculpture, there is a label inscription reading Tiruvasiriyan (great teacher). In the sanctum are three more bas-reliefs of two Jaina Tirthankaras as denoted by the triple chhatris and an acharya (teacher).
However, the most significant feature of the cave-temple is the occurrence of mural paintings depicting the theme of Samavasarana, the most delightful of Jaina heavens, and particularly the second bhumi (level) viz. khatika-bhumi or the region of tank. Tile painting depicts a vast tank full of lotus flowers. Also depicted are bhavyas (or the faithful), elephants and fishes, one is flying out of water pillars, are figures identified with Pandya king Srimara Srivallabha (9th century A.D.) and his queen paying respects to Ilam Gautaman, an acharya from Madurai. Upon cleaning the paintings, another layer of painting was also discovered depicting the same Samavasarana theme in a carpet-design in the garbhagriha.
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