A small rusty board brings our car to a sudden halt. Surrounding us are lush paddy fields with massive boulders in the backdrop. A lone woman works on her crop, as we cut through the thorny bushes and walk across the fields. We meet a huge hill with boulders stacked precariously.
The hill seems to open out to us, as we walk through the narrow opening to reach our destination — the cave temple at Mandagapattu carved out of a 100-foot hillock.
“Welcome to Pallava cave hunting” says Vijay Kumar, who had initiated me into the world of Pallava and Chola temples through his website www.poetryinstone.in. At Mandagapattu, I realise I'm already lost in the world of stone.
Built by Narasimhavarman I or Mamalla, the rock-cut cave temples here, I am told, owe their inspiration to Mahendravarman's cave shrines strewn around Ginjee, Tindivanam, Kancheepuram, Arakonam and Chengalpet, among others.
“The early Pallava style has bulky pillars, not too many embellishments even in the form of relief sculptures, and the depiction of the door guardians is not too bold. Later, the architecture became more evolved as they moved towards building structural temples,” explains Vijay.