Sittanavasal Jain Heritage Site

  • IASbaba
  • September 28, 2022
  • 0
History and Art and Culture
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In News: With three-fourth of the art in the Sittanavasal rock cave temple in Pudukottai district of Tamil Nadu either damaged or vandalised, Archaeological Survey of India has undertaken conservation measures and also introduced digital checks to track public access.

  • Periodic maintenance in the form of conservation (for structural repairs) and chemical preservation (for the restoration of paintings) of the monument is being undertaken.

About the caves:

  • Sittanavasal Cave (also, Arivar Koil) is a 2nd-century Tamil Śramaṇa complex of caves in Sittanavasal village in Pudukottai district of Tamil Nadu.
  • Sittanavasal is the name used synonymously for the hamlet and the hillock that houses the Arivar Kovil i.e., temple of Arihats – Jains who conquered their senses, ‘Ezhadipattam’ (a cavern with 17 polished rock beds), megalithic burial sites and the Navachunai tarn (small mountain lake) with a submerged shrine.
  • This is the only place in Tamil Nadu where one can see Pandya paintings.
  • The site and art were first mentioned by local historian S. Radhakrishnan Iyer in his 1916 book General History of Pudukottai State.

About the artwork:


  • The artwork on the ceiling of the sanctum and the ardha mandapam of Arivar Kovil is an early example of post-Ajanta cave paintings of the fourth to sixth centuries, done using the fresco-secco technique (a process that dispenses with preparation of the wall with wet plaster).
  • The ceiling paintings show ‘bhavyas’ (exalted souls who work to achieve moksha or spiritual liberation) enjoying themselves in a pool, full of blooming lotuses.
  • Faint outlines linger of dancing girls on the ‘ardha mandapam’ pillars.
  • The pillars of the verandah (added by the Maharaja of Pudukottai at the instance of then Diwan Alexander Tottenham in the 1900s), were brought from Kudumiyanmalai.
  • The colours are a mixture of plant dyes and mineral elements such as lime, lamp black, and clay pigments such as ochre for yellow and terre verte for the greyish-green tints.
  • The design elements hint at its possible earlier existence as a Saivite shrine.
  • Inscriptions in Brahmi and ‘vattaezhuthu’, from the third century AD are present here. Early Tamil inscriptions from the ninth century AD of the Jain monk Ilan-Gautaman, are inside the complex.
  • Of the 20 cave temples in Pudukottai district, 19 belong to Saivite and Vaishnavite streams of Hinduism; Sittanavasal is the only Jain temple with sculptures.


  • Unrestricted public access and general exposure to the elements have led to a gradual fading away of these paintings.
  • Some inscriptions have been vandalised beyond recognition
  • Small heaps of litter can be seen throughout the compound.
  • Groups of monkeys run free amid visitors, looking for scraps of food.


  • ASI has put in digital checks by introducing electronic ticketing to track visitor numbers.
  • To increase the number of security guards
  • Installation of closed-circuit TV cameras
  • Programmes to create awareness about Sittanavasal among young people.
  • Building of a centre to study Jainism’s influence in the region.

Source: The Hindu               

Previous Year Question

Q.1) Which one of the following statements is correct? (2021):

  1. Ajanta Caves lie in the gorge of Waghora river
  2. Sanchi Stupa lies in the gorge of Chambal River.
  3. Pandu-Leni Cave shrines lie in the gorge of Narmada River.
  4. Amaravati Stupa lies in the gorge of Godavari River.


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