Kalugumalai got its name from the hill of the same name which translates to “Hill of Vultures.” It is a small panchayat town of Thoothukudi district but is visually beautiful and has rich historical ties. It is believed to be an important Jain settlement where Lord Mahavir used to preach and be worshipped. A must visit for Jains. It is famous mainly for its rock cut Kalugasalamoorthy Temple, monolithic Vettuvan Koil and Kalugumalai Jain Beds.
Divided into two parts namely Kazhugumalai and South Kazhugumalai or Kottai Kalugumalai, the village also served as a trade route in ancient times. In the past, the hill of Kalugumalai went by names such as Araimalai or Thirumalai and Nechchuram or Tiruneccuram before that.
Epigraphies mention that there even used to be a palace of the Pandya king Ettimannan. At the foot of the hills, an urn-burial cemetery was also discovered. This place was also a witness to the Kalugumalai riots of 1895. Apart from the three major temples, it also has a huge church making it a religious place in a nutshell.
Kalugumalai Jain Beds or Jaina Abode
Housing rows and rows of images of Gomateshwara, Parshvanatha and other Tirthankaras of Jainism in rock-cut architecture, this place is a beautiful Jain cave temple. It was built during the reign of Pandyan king Parantaka Nedunjadaiya and for some reason, remained unfinished. The carvings found in the temple indicate the presence of Digambara sect of Jainism in that period.
Jain monks and nuns observed penance here. Several inscriptions found reveal that the Jains were passionate supporters of education and women empowerment. Araimalai Alwar was the name of the chief deity. Due to loss of patronage and the Bhakti Movement, the monastery became extinct after the 13th century.
Also known as the Kalagumalai Murugan Temple, this temple is dedicated to the worship of Hindu God, Murugan. It has been constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture and is said to have expanded during the 18th century. The gateway leads to the sanctum and a pillared hall. Every day, four rituals are performed, and several yearly festivals including the ten-day are also celebrated here.
These include the Vaikasi Visagam in May-June, 13-day Kanthasasti, 10-day Thaipoosam during January-February and the 13-day Panguni Uthiram during March-April. According to a mention in the Kanthapuranam by Kachiappar, this is the only temple where Murugan is seen facing south in a seated posture. It has also been included in the Incredible India campaign as a rural tourism site.
Translating to a sculptor’s paradise, this place houses some of the most intricately designed granite statues. It is a Hindu temple constructed in the 8th and 9th centuries. It spans over an area of 50 acres at the height of 300ft, but only the top portion of the temple is completed. There is also an interesting legend surrounding the unfinished parts of the temple.
It is said that a sculptor was commissioned to construct a temple at the foothills of Kalugumalai. The sculptor and his son got into an argument about the style of architecture. The son started working on a temple on his own without the knowledge of his father. Upon finding out about his son’s disobedience, the enraged sculptor threw his chisel at him, which struck his throat and he was killed. Thus stands the unfinished work of his son till date.