The Jain Beds

Pranav Menon

A one hour drive from Madurai in Tamil Nadu, India brings us to a small industrial town called Kovillpatti. Another 20km drive from Kovillpatti and we reach a remote location called Kolugumalai. When entering deep into the small town, we see the existence of Jain culture in the air of the region. The entire space resonated with it, but only to be converted to other cultures through modern society’s acceptance of such aesthetic cultures. Going in, we see a hill - small yet steep - a rock climber’s or trekker’s paradise. As we go up, we see steps and circular and other shaped rocks scattered here and there like sprinkled salt. There is a staircase leading towards the Jain beds which was visible as a mere carving on the rock. We went ahead towards the beds and the kind care-taker let us in. We being explorers obliged to his kindness.

We then saw a majestic beauty in front of our own eyes, a sculpture which felt rare to the eyes of every human. The scripts had different languages of Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and others (I saw characters which resemble these languages, from which I concluded that there was a mixture of different cultures). The place is believed to have been built in the 8th century. Historians believe that the rock cut carvings and the caves are remnants of dwelling of Digambara sect of Jainism in the region. During modern times, some of the Digambaras attempted replacing the idol of Lord Murugan in the lower cave temple with that of Mahavira. The inscriptions indicate the position of Jain religious women in the society compared to their male counterparts.

There are around 150 niches in the bed that includes images of Gomateshwara, Parshvanatha and other Tirthankaras of Jainism. Kalugumalai Jain beds is maintained and administered by Department of Archaeology of the Government of Tamil Nadu as a protected monument. The location was chosen as a rural tourism site in the Incredible India campaign by the Tourism Ministry of the Government of India. Through this, the ministry allocated ₹10 million to develop the infrastructure around the region in 2008. The tourist inflow to the town increased to 3,000 persons per month during 2009 from 400 per month during the previous years.

Additional Sources: Wikipedia 
Courtesy: Pranav Menon & Vinod Menon