Madurai's Thiruparankundram Hills Stand As Confluence Of Religions

Thiruparankundram Hills in Tamil Nadu are over a century old. Apart from a rich history, the hills serve as a key centre for many religions and local legends
Thiruparankundram Temple located near Thiruparankundram Hills
Thiruparankundram Temple located near Thiruparankundram Hills Parikh Mahendra N /

The Thiruparankundram monolithic hills, situated on the outskirts of Madurai, are famous for the Lord Murugan Thiruparankundram Temple and are considered a natural landmark. The rock of Thiruparankundram stands tall at over 1000 feet and provides an ideal base for rock carving. In fact, it is believed that the eastern side of the rock was chosen as a material source for many parts of the Minakshi temple in Madurai.

Confluence Of Religions

The Thiruparankundram Hills hold significance for various religious groups. According to Hindu beliefs, the Pandavas once inhabited the caves, earning them the moniker "Pancha Pandava Caves." Given their close location to Thiruparankundram Temple, the hills are largely known after Lord Murugan. The hills are special to Murugan devotees, who refer to them as "Skanda Malai". "Skanda" is another name for Muruga, while "Malai" means hills. The hills are also considered sacred to Muslims and are known as "Sikandar Malai". In the 14th century, the last Madurai Sultan, Sikander Shah, was killed in these hills. He was considered a religious man with miraculous powers, and in his memory, the Thiruparankudram Dargah was constructed by his devotees.

Thiruparankundram Temple

This temple was constructed during the reign of Pandyas in the 8th century. It boasts a unique feature among Hindu temples as the idols of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu face each other. The intricate stone carvings make the temple a fascinating structure. It is one of the six temples of Lord Muruga and is believed to be one of the most auspicious places for marriage, as legend has it that Lord Muruga married Goddess Devasena here. The rocks also feature Mahishasura Mardini, Karpaga Vinayagar, Andarabaranar, and Uggirar carvings. With their exquisite pillars, the artistically made mandapams add to the temple's attraction and mesmerize visitors.

Samanar Hills
Samanar HillsShutterstock

Visit Nearby

Located about 20 minutes from Thiruparankundram Temple, Samanar Hills or Samanar Malai is an ancient Jain heritage site situated in Keelakuyilkudi, Tamil Nadu. It comprises cave temples, paintings, monoliths, temples on hillocks and carvings — probably dating between the 10th and 15th centuries.

The monuments found in the hills date between the 2nd century BCE and the 12th century CE. Sculptures of Gomateshwara, Mahavira, Yakshi and Yaksha have been found here. The main attractions here are the Settipodavu site and the Pechipallam site.

Pechipallam has eight Jain sculptures, including Bahubali, Mahavir and Parsvanatha, with rare iconographies. These sculptures of Tirthankaras are believed to have been built by Jain monks during the 9th century BCE.

As per archaeologists, these caves have more than 2000-year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions and Vatteluttu writings. Most of the inscriptions can be found around the entrance of the cave. According to these inscriptions, many Jain monks took sallekhana here, which means fasting unto death. One can also see many flat stone or stone beds which the monks used to rest.

Best Time To Visit

Madurai boasts a hot tropical climate which makes it a year-round destination, although December to February is the ideal time to visit for the ultimate experience.

Getting There

By Air: The Madurai provides direct connectivity to Colombo, Dubai, and Singapore, as well as popular domestic destinations like Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and New Delhi.

By Road: For those driving, National Highways 45 and 45B link Madurai to Chennai, while NH 49 connects Bengaluru to Madurai.

If you're travelling by bus, Madurai has three bus terminals: MGR Bus Stand (Mattuthavani), Arappalayam (for intercity buses), and Periyar Bus Stand (for intracity buses).

By Train: Madurai Junction is the central railway head that serves the city.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Traveller