The divine percussionist

The dynasty of the Pandyas ruled over a vast area of south Tamil Nadu from Madurai, their capital-city, between the 6th and the 10th centuries AD. They were great patrons of art and architecture. Gems of iconography from their era are visible in various monuments in the regions under their jurisdiction. One among their lesserknown structures is Vettuvankovil in Kazhugumalai, a small town located midway between Kovilpatti and Sankarankovil, approximately 120 kilometres from Madurai. Here, on a barren granite hill, the supremely talented architects and sculptors of the 8th century AD, worked from the top of the hill downwards to create a rockcut, free-standing monolithic of huge proportions. Even the garbha-griha or sanctum-sanctorum was completed, and the temple was to be dedicated to Siva, but unfortunately work stopped before completion. Many other parts, including the side walls remain incomplete. This Pandyan era monument closely resembles the more famous monolith called the Kailash temple in Ellora (Maharashtra) of the same century, though it is not certain which was made first. It is a protected monument under the care of the Tamil Nadu Department of Archaeology.