Vettuvan Koil Temple

Vettuvan Kovil

Useful Information

Location: Kalugumalai, Thoothukudi.
(9.152941, 77.704293)
Classification: SubterraneaMonolithic Church
Light: bring torch
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Vettuvan Koil Temple, Sankaran koil, Kalugumalai, Tamil Nadu 628552.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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8th century temple constructed.


The Vettuvan Koil Temple (Sculptor's Paradise) is a monolithic church, a church which was cut out of massive rock. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his pet cow Nandi, but unfortunately it is unfinished. According to local lore a father and a son created the temple, but at some point the father killed the son and the temple was unfinished. It's hard to say if there is a grain of truth in this legend, but one thing is obvious: two person were never able to create the temple that far in a lifetime, by cutting massive granite with the tools available in the 8th century. The legend is probably a result of the name Vettuvan Koil, which has two meanings. It could be translated either Heaven Sculptors or Temple of Murderers. Most likely the temple was named Heaven Sculptors and later the legend was created to explain the other translation.

The architectural style of the temple is called Pandyan or Dravidian. In the ancient book Vastu shastra it was described as one of three styles of temple building. This Hindu temple architecture originates from South India and in Sri Lanka, beginning in the 5th century and reaching its final form in the 16th century. The dominating feature is the high gopura or gatehouse at the edge of the compound. Other characteristic features are the dwarapalakas, twin guardians at the main entrance and at the inner sanctum of the temple and goshtams. These deities are carved in niches on the outer side walls of the garbhagriha.