Prototype of Ellora in Kalugumalai?

It is believed that the Vettuvan Kovil was established during 8th century by Pandya Maranchadayan king. This is a rock cut cave complex and cut out temple, on the style of the Mahabalipuram Shore Temple and cave sculptures, enshrines Lord Shiva. This monument is also called as “Ellora of South”. 

This monolithic cave temple is sculpted from a single rock, with only the top portion of the temple having been completed. This portion itself houses about 122 beautifully executed sculptures of various gods, goddesses, and animals, including the Nandi (Vahana of Lord Shiva), lions and monkeys. These carvings typically reflect the reigning southern style of architecture. On the ridge of the mountain, Vatteluthu inscription is found which says that “Samanar School was formed by Paranthka Nedunchadaiyan.” There are lot of Jain exquisite bas-relief sculptures found in the inscriptions. The Vimana (ceiling over the sanctum) has niches of Parsava Devatas, the attendant deities of Shiva (Ganas), Dakshinamurthy playing mridangam, Shiva with his consort Uma etc. The temple also has an unrefined entrance and main hall for the residing deity. 

This rock-cut cave temple is located on a hilltop in Kalugumalai, a small panchayat town in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu. Another interesting feature here is the 8th-century Kalugumalai Jain Beds that are carved out of the rock surface. The temple itself is carved from a single granite rock in a rectangular area measuring about 25 feet in depth. The granite rock looks alike blooming lotus with rocky hills surrounding it from three sides. 

There are some interesting local legends associated with this temple. One legend says that a great rivalry existed between a father and a son. Sculptors with the son claimed that he would complete carving a Murugan (which is called Kalugasalamoorthy) temple in the foothills before his father could complete the Shiva shrine uphill. Since the son finished first, the father got enraged and killed the son, thus leaving the Shiva temple incomplete. Another legend suggests that a father sculptor wanted his son to first learn the tricks of carving before starting his work. So, when he heard the son chiselling away in defiance in the inner chamber, the father got so enraged that he killed his son. 

Though there are many rock-cut temples in Tamil Nadu which includes Pancha Rathas complex, and Mukunda Nayanar temple at Mahabalipuram, Vijayalaya Choleeswaram at Narthamalai in Pudukkotai District, Vettuvan Kovil remains unique and forms a major spot of tourist attraction.  

Research by several historians, today, claim that the Vettuvan Kovil could also be a prototype to Ellora. This speculation is being assumed because there are similar patterns of art and architecture found in Ellora. One fact is that both the structures were built in 8th century AD. But nothing can be conclusively found out. If it is evidentially found out, then it draws several socio-political connections among various clans and kings and numerous secrets would be unravelled.