|Tiruchirapalli Rock Fort|
|Town or city||Tiruchirapalli|
|Construction started||Various times since 580 A.D.|
|Owner||Archaeological Survey of India, Government of Tamil Nadu|
|Structural system||Indo Saracenic Dravidian Architecture.|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Various (Pallava, Chola, Madurai Nayak)|
The Tiruchirapalli Rock Fort is a historic fort and temple complex built on an ancient rock. It is located in the city of Tiruchirapalli, which is in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is constructed on a 273-foot high rock. There are two Hindu temples inside the Rockfort, the Uchchi Pillaiyar Koil and the Siva Temple. Geologically the 83 m high rock may date to over one billion years ago. Other local tourist attractions include the famous Pallava-era Ganesa temple and the Nayaka-era fort. The fort complex has witnessed fierce battles between Madurai Nayakas and Bijapur, Carnatic and Maratha forces. The fort played an important part during the Carnatic wars, helping lay the foundations of the British Empire in India.
The name Rockfort comes from the fact that the place was used for military fortification, first by the Vijayanagar emperors and later by the British during the Carnatic wars. The oldest structure in the fort is a cave temple built by Pallavas in 580 AD. During the Cholas period, the nearby town of Woraiyur was their capital, but the Pallavas did not keep control of this strategic city and lost it to the Pandyas. The Cholas reasserted themselves in the 10th century. Trichy continued to be in their possession until the decline of the empire, after which it became a Vijayanagara stronghold. In the mid 14th century, the region was under the Delhi Sultanate, after Malik Kafur's raid on South India. They were ousted and the region came under the control of Vijayanagara Empire. During the early part of the 16th century, the region came under the control of Madurai Nayaks, who were the earlier governors of Vijayanagara Empire. However, it was under the Nayaks of Madurai that Trichy prospered in its own right and grew to be the city that it is today. The Nayaks of Madurai constructed the Rock Fort Temple Lake along with major walls as foundations, establishing the town as a trading city and later, their capital. The fort palace also witnessed the transfer of power from Queen Meenakshi to Chanda Sahib, as he ruled in conjunction with the French alliance. He lost this command when his uncle, the Nawab of Arcot along with the British, seized the fort after the Carnatic wars. This enabled the British to gain a foothold in Tamil Nadu and later South India. The fort, in modern times, is maintained and administered by the Chennai Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India. The fort is one of the prominent tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu.
As the Fort was the capital of the Madurai Nayak Dynasty, the fort has witnessed fierce battles. One of the largest was the Battle of Toppur for supremacy between the Aravidu Dynasty of Vijayanagara Emperor and the Madurai Nayaks. The former won, with support from the Mysore and Tanjore rulers in the 16th century. Later, the Nayaks faced fierce attacks from Bijapur, Mysore and Marathas troops. The Fort complex formed the northwest territory to the Nayaks. During their two-century rule, they had occasional skirmishes with their neighbours, the Tanjore Nayaks, the Tanjore Marathas, and more often with the invading Bijapur, Mysore and Maratha armies.
Carnatic Nawab Era
During the mid century, Chanda Sahib, aided by the French, made this fort his home base. He battled with the combined forces of the Carnatic Nawab and British. He was defeated in the Carnatic wars and was forced to cede his lands to the British.
In the late 18th century, Hyder Ali was a major threat to the British, as were the French who were still fighting for their colonial supremacy in this region. By now, the town was firmly established as a Cantonment town and the fort's gate was known as main guard gate.Robert Clive lived near the tank when he was in Tiruchirappalli.
The rock is said to be one of the oldest formations in the world. It is 3.8 billion years old, making it as old as the rocks in Greenland and older than the Himalayas. Quartz, used in glass making, and feldspar, used in ceramics, are found in this rock formation.
As the name suggests, the Rock Fort Temple is situated on 83 metre-high outcrops. The Pallavas initially built this temple, but the Nayaks made use of its naturally fortified position and designed it again. It is a long climb up the 344 steps cut into the stone to the top.
The temple complex in the fort complex is a collection of three temples:
- the Manikka Vinayakar temple at the foot of the hill, dedicated to Lord Ganesha
- the Ucchi Pillayar Temple at the top of the hill, dedicated to Lord Ganesha
- the Taayumaanavar Koyil Shivastalam, a rock cut temple dedicated to a Nayaka era saint, Taayumaanavar. Mathrubutheswarar, dedicated to Lord Shiva, has a lingam which is a projection of the rock itself. It is reached by a flight of steps on the way to Ucchi Pillayar Temple.
There are two rock cut temples in the fort, one in the lower part of the fort called Lower Cave temple and other in the complex outside the Thayumanswamny on the way up to Uchi Pillayar Kovil, called the Upper Cave temple. An archaeological study in 2010 revealed that the layout of the rock-cut caves in the temple is similar to that of other rock-cut temples such as the Pundarikakshan Perumal Temple at Thiruvellarai and Pechipalai cave temple. The unfinished caves in the temple, along with the lower cave temples in Thiruvellarari and Tiruparankunram, each have a shrine for Shiva in the east and Vishnu in the west, separated by a central bay between them. The study also revealed that the Lower Cave temple along with Kudumiyan Malai temple exhibited unique form of pillars, which are otherwise not seen in other temples in Tamil Nadu.
The rock-cut temple in the hill temple complex was built during the Pallava era and is named Lalitankura Pallaveswaram, with several inscriptions attributed to Mahendravarman I. The Cholas, the Vijayanagar rulers and the Nayaks of Madurai have made extensive contributions here. The two-storey-tall Taayumaanava temples are considered to be a masterpiece of construction.
- Sundararaj, T. (1981). "Journal of Indian History". Dept. of Modern Indian History. p. 119.
- India By Sarina Singh, Joe Bindloss, Paul Clammer, Janine Eberle
- "List of Monuments and Sites: Trichy sub circle". Archaeological Survey of India. http://www.asichennai.gov.in/trichy_sub_circle.html. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- Pippa de Bruyn: "Frommer's India", Frommer's, 2010, ISBN 978-0-470-55610-8
- "Rockfort Temple". Tiruchirapalli Municipal Corporation. https://www.trichycorporation.gov.in/cityvisit.php#menu. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
- "Study uncovers interesting details of cave temple architecture". The Hindu. 2010-10-27. http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/study-uncovers-interesting-details-of-cave-temple-architecture/article852218.ece. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
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