THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Far away, atop a hillock, ringed by rocks rests a rock-cut monument and ruins of civilisation from the days of the yore. This 9th-century relic remains like a sentinel, overlooking the march of civilisation in the valley, lost in history, lost in time. Believed to be built around the 9th century, the Chitharal Malai Kovil or the Chitharal Jain temple is a serene escapist paradise for travellers and history buffs alike.
The temple located in Chitharal, near Marthandom in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu is a two hour drive away from the capital. This is one place which leaves you humbled, with its vast expanse and list of unanswered questions.
Lying utterly isolated, overlooking some dramatic landscapes is this architectural wonder. The relics can take you to a meditative state and let you experience the imprints left by an ancient community.
It is an uphill journey to the Jain architectural ruins. A stone laid pathway leads you up till the rock-cut cave temple. Since the pathway is cut across a jumble of huge rocks, there are ample opportunities to climb up the nearby rocks. Once you are on the top of these rocks, the consistent wind hits you and so does the sigh-inducing landscape. Each one offers grand views of the unending vista of mountains and verdant valleys.
Walk further ahead and after some twenty minutes, you reach a narrow passageway between the rocks. This is the way to the temple which has a corridor, pavilion and pedestal for the sacrificial offering.
The temple has three small chambers, and consecrated inside the temple are the statues of Mahavira, Parswanath and Padmavathi Devi. According to historian O A Gopinatha Rao, the temple was built during the reign of Vikramaditya Varaguna.
In the 13th century, this Jain centre was transformed into a Hindu temple and the idol of the goddess was consecrated. There is no pooja performed here and one can meditate in the pavilion. The Tirthankara statues and stone inscriptions including the vattayezhuthu speak of a wonderous historical past.
Once out, walk a bit further, and perched precariously over the rock is the ruins of a structure that resembles a temple. Since the place is exposed to the elements, if you reach here in the afternoon, you will feel the sun all over your body. It is ideal to explore the place while the sun is not at its peak.