Sittannavasal

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Sittannavasal is the oldest and most famous Jain center in the region. It possesses both an early Jain cave shelter, and a medieval rock-cut temple with excellent fresco paintings. One of the steep hills in the village contains an isolated but spacious cavern. Locally, this cavern is known as Eladipattam, a name that is derived from the seven holes cut into the rock that serve as steps leading to the shelter. Within the cave there are seventeen stone berths aligned into rows, and each of these has a raised portion that could have served as a pillow-loft. The largest stone berth has a distinct Bramhi inscription assignable to the second B.C.E., and some inscriptions belonging to eighth C.E. are also found on the nearby beds. The Sittannavasal cavern continued to be the “Holy Sramana Abode” until the seventh and eighth centuries. Inscriptions over the remaining stone berths name mendicants such as Tolakunrattu Kadavulan, Tirunillan, Tiruppuranan, Tittaicbaranan, Sri Purrnacandl”an, and Nityakaran Pattakali as monks, who no doubt, were resolved to spend their lives in isolation at Sittannavasal. The neighboring hill, not far from these natural caverns, possesses a rock-cut temple consisting of a rectangular shrine with a mandapa at the front The weight of the roof is borne by two free-standing pillars in the middle, arid two pilasters in antis. They are of a simple pattern with a square base and top, and an octagonal middle portion. Their substantial capitals are trapezoidal in shape, and are provided with the taranga (wavy design), bound by a patta in the centre. The pillars are adorned with circular lotus medallion on the square parts. The basement mouldings of the shrine are rather simple and its architectural style belongs to seventh century. The shrine has a row of three Tirthankaras carved on the rear wall. These icons are almost identical in seated padmasana posture and crowned by triple umbrellas. They are said to be Adinatha, Neminatha and Mahavira, even though their identifying symbols are conspicuously absent. The lateral walls of the mandapa contain two niches accommodating bold relief’s of Parsvanath and another unidentified icon, probably of a preceptor. The image of Parsvanatha is majestically shown seated in the dhyana posture and is canopied by a five-hooded serpent. The calm countenance in contrast to the sturdy nature of the torso exhibits the superior skill of the Pandya sculptor.

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Sittannavasal is a village located approximately sixteen kilometres from the town of Pudukkottai.

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Post Author: JHC