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Situated on the Tamiraparani riverbanks, Chitharal is famous for its hillocks and ancient Jain monuments which containing rock-cut sculptures of Thirthankaras and dieties.
A protected monument under Archeological Survey of India (ASI), this place attracts lots of visitors history buffs and devotees who try to trace the medieval Jain pilgrims of South India.
Chitharal is one of the last few vestiges of Jainism. Around the period of the decline of Jainism during the rule of the Cholas in the 11th Century, it is believed that Chandragupta Maurya, along with a Jain ascetic Badrabhahu, reached Sravanabelagola in 298 BC. Their disciples travelled to this area to spread Jainism and chose this hillock for meditation.
Historically known as Thirucharanathupalli – the abode of Jain monks belonging to Digambara sect, these sculptures are situated inside and outside the caves on a very long hill locally called Chokkanthoongi Hills.
To reach the Rock-Cut Temple, one have to take a 10 minute walk to the top of the hill. At the foot of the hill, at the entrance one can see a Kerala style arch made of rocks. There is an information board on the way to temple. Besides a huge banyan tree with so many branches.
There are benches for tourists to relax and colorful flowers and trees around these benches complets the beauty of this rocky place. Both the sides of the way are surrounded by medicinal value plants and trees. Ruined parts of ancient temples believed to be of Charanas (Jain ascetics) can be seen here. At the top of the hill, one can see two large rocks. The view from a small window created by these rocks is spectacular - one can enjoy the beauty of rivers, lakes, fields, villages, coconut fields, western ghat.
The temple was cut out of a rock dating back to the 9th century. It was clearly a Jain temple, converted into a Hindu temple in 1250A.D. Now it is under the control of Devasom Board. The entrance of the temple made with three stones without any attachment. Inside the temple there is an image of Bhagavathy. Among the three rooms, two rooms are empty. The temple has many stone pillars. Puja is done in the morning and evening everyday.
In front of the temple there is a pond with many fishes. But it very polluted. Near to this, there is a rock named as Urunchi Paarai (sucking rock). The local people say that, there is a hole in the rock. If we fix our nose in the hole and suck, water will come out by the hole.
The cave now has a mandapa, a verandah and a bali pita. Carved in half-relief, the figures of the Tirthankaras and attendant deities indicate that this was once a Jain monument. The central shrine has three chambers. In the middle is the figure of Mahavira Tirthankara and on the left, Parsvanatha Tirthankara, and to the right, Padmavathi. Above the central shrine is a brick gopura, a portion of which was apparently destroyed by lightning.
Take care, because there is no facility for the tourist people. So, it is better to to Chitharal with a group or family with proper planning.