Monday, 22 March 2010

Exploring Pandyan lands

There is an interesting group of people in Madras called the Hayagriva Study Circle, put together by Dr Gita Vasudevan. They come from all walks of life and are curious about filling in the gaps on subjects that interest them. I have attended lecture series on ayurveda, history and art with them, and its history that I've gone back for again and again.

We went on a short tour of the countryside around Madurai, to explore Pandyan history. I came back from this tour with a better understanding of a strand of history that I knew so little of - the Jain influence in Tamil Nadu. I have written about various highlights over a few blog posts, that I have summarised here.

We visited Thenparankundram and Thirupurakunram, rock cut Jain caves from the 7th and 8th century AD.

Then there was the Vettuvan kovil - the most beautiful rock-cut temple I have ever seen.

Did you know there are some hundred Jaina sites in Pandya country? Kazhugumalai was one such. It was a seat of Jain learning in centuries past, and the Jain bas reliefs we saw date to around 800 AD.

After some off-road driving we arrived at Arittapatti village, in Melur taluk. Once again there was the side-by-side existence of old Hindu relics and vestiges of Jainism. Arittapatti has one of the earliest known Tamil Brahmi inscriptions.