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Mandagapattu Temple – The First Cave Temple in Tamil Nadu

Written By: Siji Ram

Throughout the history, not many ancient temples has survived the course of time. Invasions and other reasons that cause the damage of the temples could be factors for the same. Compared to North India, South India has more of these temples.

Explore some ancient cave temples in India

The inscriptions of a temple, the material used for construction and the architectural style tell us of the period a temple or a structure was built. Let us find out more about such a temple in Tamil Nadu - the Mandagapattu Cave Temple.


Mandagapattu Cave Temple is located in the Villupuram disctrict of Tamil Nadu, and is one of the oldest cave temples of the state. Built by the Pallava King Mahendravarman I, this rock-cut cave temple is one of the unique temples worth exploring for its architecture and historical significance. From the two pillars to the other components of the temple, the structure has been built using the principles of Shilpa Shastra, the ancient science of arts and sculpture.

The Inscriptions on the Temple

An interesting aspect about the temple is the inscription found on the front pillar of the cave. An inscription here, which is in Pallava Grandha script, says that the temple was built for the Hindu Trinity Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; and is built with no use of wood, metal, brick or timber. This probably could have been the first temple of its kind, that these words were inscribed on the pillar.


The two dwarapalakas(divine gatekeepers) carved into the front facade is another attraction here. The dwarapalakas seem to face the devotees facing the temple, slightly inclined to the temple. These sculptures are said to have fierce, yet majestic looks.

Inside the temple, you can also find traces of paintings, which tells us about a past where deities were painted on the temple walls.


Reaching the Temple

The temple is located around 20km from Villupuram and around 17km from the Gingee Fort. The nearest railway station is at Villupuram and the nearest airport is at Chennai, which is around 160km away. Since local transport like auto rickshaws and carts may not be always available around the temple, it is advised to hire a taxi from Villupuram or the nearest town you reach.

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