Pancha Pandava Malai Jain Caves is an ancient Jain Caves located on Pancha Pandava Malai hillock near Vilapakkam Town in Vellore District of Tamilnadu. The name Pancha Pandava Malai is associated with Pandavas from Mahabharata. The hill is locally called as Tiruppanmalai, meaning Scared Milk Hill. It is one of the largest cave excavations among the Mahendra style caves. The hilly area was a flourishing Jain center during the early medieval period as it is evident from the rock cut cave temple, natural caverns with Jaina figures and inscriptions. The rock cut cave temple is a large excavation on the eastern lace of the huge hill.
Pancha Pandava Malai seems to have been a flourishing Jaina center from ninth to eleventh centuries as evident from inscriptions on and near this area. As per an inscription of Chola king Parantaka I found in a structural temple in this village, it is suggested that in the first half of tenth century, this town was under the strong influence of the Jaina ascetics.
There are seven cave temples in the hills, belonging to Nandivarma Pallava period (740 AD). The rock cut cave temple is one of the largest cave excavations built in Pallava style. This east facing cave is excavated at the foot of a large hillock. The cave has a large mukhamandapam supported by twelve pillars arranged in two rows. The pillars are uniformly square from top to bottom. There are curved corbels above the pillars and pilasters.
There are seven niches carved out on the back wall of the cave with empty cells. The side walls are left with square un-carved blocks. The side walls are left with square uncarved blocks, which suggest that the plan was to excavate these little deeper intended for a cell probably. There are two staircases, one on north and another on south. However, these were not carved out of native rock.
There is also a cavern atop the hill with a spring. There are carved figures of Yakshi, Naganadi and a Jain Thirthankar in the cavern. The figure of Yakshi is carved on a large rock face near a pool of water. Yakshi is shown sitting under a tree with one leg on the ground and one leg bent on the seat holding a chauri (fan). There are four figures around Yakshi. There is a Jain Tirthankara figure on the top of the rock face shown seated in Yogaasana.
On southern face of the same rock we see two carved figures, one of naked male figure and an animal. An inscription near the figure says “Naranan has carved the figure of Pon Iyakki (Yakshi) for his guru Naganandhi during the reign of Nandivarma Pothatharasar”. As per an inscription, this hill is referred as Tiruppanmalai. There are two inscriptions on this rock face, one of the Pallava king Nandivarman and another of the Chola king Rajaraja I.
Another inscription belonging to Chola period tells about the donation of a village Kooraganpadi, by a kind of Lada country, Veeracholan and his queen. Hearsay tells about a palace at the Malligai Medu village (Lalaimedu) to the west of Arungundram. It is also believed that there existed 108 Siva temples in and around Arungundram village and the hills. Even now one can see remnants of Siva temples and lingams scattered all around the paddy fields of Arungundram.
Legend / Local stories
How to Reach:
This Jain Cave Complex is located at about 3.5 Kms from Vilapakkam Bus Stop, 7 Kms from Arcot, 11 Kms from Ranipet, 13 Kms from Walajah and 27 Kms from Vellore. Nearest Railway Station is located at Ranipet (11 Kms) and Nearest Airport is located at Chennai (113 Kms).