Tamil Nadu is famous for its temples with many going back to ancient times. This southern state is also a favorite pilgrimage spot for Hindus from all over. Not only will you find huge temples with spectacular sculptures and carvings, but you will also find awe-inspiring carved cave temples, with many being built on top of hills.
One wonders why they were built in such remote out-of-the-way areas…. It could be because only the very devout would make the effort to climb up high to offer worship or it could be that meditation and prayers are more sincere when offered in the quiet hills away from worldly distractions. Here are a few of the memorable hill temples of Tamil Nadu:
Chitharal Hill temple
This Jain temple sits atop the hill near Marthandam, Thikkurissy village on the way to Kanyakumari. You need to trek for 20 minutes through neatly paved stone pathways to reach the top. Interesting carvings and inscriptions of Buddha, as well as the great scenery, stretched out all around makes it worth the climb.
Arittapatti Rock-cut Shiva temple
This is located in the Arittapatti village of Melur Taluk, about 25km from Madurai city. Though the hillock looks like any common pile of rocks, the Shiva temple here belongs to the 7th-8th century CE and follows the typical Pandya rock-cut temple architecture style. The Shiva Linga here is chiseled out of the same bedrock as the body of the temple. There are exquisitely-carved bas relief sculptures on the walls of the ‘mandapam’.
Sivagiri Balasubramania Swamy temple
This temple is located in Sivagiri, about 108km away from Madurai on the Kuttralam route in Tirunelveli district. The temple rests atop a small hill. Legend has it that when Lord Muruga was returning back after destroying the demon Soorapanma, to wed Mother Devanai, he met the sage Agasthya performing penance at the temple site and stayed there awhile. The temple was built there later.
Thalamalai Sanjeevi Perumal temple
This renowned Vaishnava temple is built on the peak of the Thalamalai hill which resembles a human head. The temple is only open from mid-September to mid-October and was built by the Madurai Nayaks. It’s about 10km from Appananallur and there is a 4km trekking through rocky terrain needed to access the temple.