East view of rock-cut ratha on the hill, Kallugumalai, Tinnevelly District
Photographer: Archaeological Survey of India
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the rock-cut Vattuvan Kovil Temple at Kalugumalai in the Tirunelveli District of Tamil Nadu, taken by a photographer of the Archaeological Survey of India in 1899-1900. This unfinished Shiva temple, with its pyramidal roof topped by an octagonal dome, looks like a stone jewel nestling in a granite box. Fine sculptures decorate the temple; these consist of a frieze of ghanas or mythical dwarves beneath the eaves, sacred Nandi bulls, the vehicles of Shiva, seated at the corners, images of various gods and arches with elaborate foliage and jewelled garlands. It is reminiscent of the rathas at Mahabalipuram and has been therefore dated to about the 7th century when the Pandyas ruled this region. The Pandyas were an early South Indian dynasty who were known to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The dynasty extended for several centuries, from c.4th century BC to the 14th century AD, with their main centre at Madurai.