Kazhugumalai, which literally means hill of vultures lies around 100 kilometers from the ancient city of Madurai, the famed capital of Pandyan rulers. Kazhugumalai’s twin monuments from the Pandyan era, one the Jaina rock cut sculptures and second a monolithic rock cut Vettuvan Kovil are prime examples of rock cut architecture that flourished at the time of Pandyan rulers. It is also an example of how a Jaina and Shaiva monuments stood side by side even as there was rivalry, change in patronage for one religion or other as the ruling kings changed from one to other.
Historians say Kazhugumalai was an active Jaina centre of learning for over 300 years starting from 8th CE to which the Jaina monument is dated. This place was a monastery with a college and monks from both genders, and also a place of worship.
Writer and historian R.Champakalakshmi says the “Trikala Caturvimsati Tirthankaras” at Kazhugumalai unique. The beautifully sculpted bas-reliefs of Thirtankaras, seated on Lotus pedestals are unique indeed.
Also seen are Yakshi Ambika with her children, and Yakshi Padmavati.
This place has recorded 102 inscriptions referring to Jainism, and there are Brahmi inscriptions dating back to 2nd and 1st BCE, as well in Vattezhuttu script dated 8th to 12th CE.
Definitely one of the most important Jaina monuments of Tamil Nadu, and a must visit. A day trip from Madurai is very easy to do, as the roads a very good, and one can combine this visit with other famous temples around the area, Sankaran Kovil and Srivilliputhur.
There is fencing and gate that prevents access to the site, and it is better to see if the watchman is around which he generally is during working hours, and check if it is open before climbing up the hills. It is an easy climb, and everyone can do it.
Part of the panels are hidden by an Ayyanar kovil, a temple for local deity that seems to have cropped up a 100 years ago according to some. Unfortunate though is that animal sacrifices seem to be taking place there from tell-tale signs one saw there – the site seems to be under the control of local Municipality.