Tiruchirapalli Rock Fort
|Tiruchirapalli Rock Fort|
|Town or city||Tiruchirappalli|
|Construction started||Various times since 580|
|Owner||Archaeological Survey of India, Government of Tamil Nadu|
|Structural system||Indo Saracenic Dravidian Architecture.|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Various (Pallavas, Cholas, Madurai Nayaks)|
Tiruchirappalli Rockfort is a historic fortification and temple complex built on an ancient rock. It is located in the city of Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, India. It is constructed on a 83 metres (272 ft) high rock. There are two Hindu temples inside, the Ucchi Pillayar Temple, Rockfort and the Thayumanaswami Temple, Rockfort. Other local tourist attractions include the famous Pallava-era Ganesha temple and the Madurai Nayak-era fort. The fort complex has witnessed fierce battles between the Madurai Nayakas and Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur, Carnatic region and Maratha Imperial forces. The fort played an important part during the Carnatic Wars, helping lay the foundations of the British Empire in India. The Rockfort is the most prominent landmark of the city.
The name "Rockfort" comes from frequent military fortification built here, first by the emperors of the Vijayanagara Empire and later by the British Empire during the Carnatic Wars. The oldest structure in the fort is a cave temple built by the Pallavas in 580. During the Chola 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 controlled by the Delhi Sultanate after Malik Kafur's raid on South India. They were ousted and the region came under the control of Vijayanagara. During the early part of the 16th century, the region came under the control of the Madurai Nayaks, who were the earlier governors of Vijayanagara Empire. However, it was under the Nayaks of Madurai that Tiruchirapalli prospered in its own right and grew to be the city that it is today. The Madurai Nayaks 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 alliance with the Kingdom of France. He lost this command when his uncle, the Nawab of the Carnatic along with the British, seized the fort after the Carnatic wars. This enabled the British to gain a foothold in Tamil Nadu and later all of South India.
As the Rockfort was the capital of the Madurai Nayaks, the fort has witnessed fierce battles. One of the largest was the Battle of Toppur for supremacy between the Aravidu dynasty of Vijayanagara and the Madurai Nayaks. The former won, with support from the rulers of Mysore and Thanjavur in the 16th century. Later, the Nayaks faced fierce attacks from Adil Shahi, Mysorean and Imperial Maratha troops. The Fort complex formed the northwest territory to the Nayaks. During their two-century rule, they had occasional skirmishes with their neighbours, the Thanjavur Nayak kingdom, the Thanjavur Maratha kingdom, and, more frequently, with the invading Adil Shahi, Kingdom of Mysore, and Imperial 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 Tirupparankunram, 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 Vijayanagara emperors and the Nayaks of Madurai have made extensive contributions here. The two-storey-tall Taayumaanava temples are considered to be a masterpiece of construction.
- India By Sarina Singh, Joe Bindloss, Paul Clammer, Janine Eberle
- Sundararaj, T. (1981). "A Historical Sketch of Trichinopoly Rock Fort". Journal of Indian History. Dept. of Modern Indian History. 59: 119.
- Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Governments of India. p. 185.
- "List of Monuments and Sites: Trichy sub circle". Archaeological Survey of India. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- Pippa de Bruyn: "Frommer's India", Frommer's, 2010, ISBN 978-0-470-55610-8
- "Rockfort Temple". Tiruchirapalli Municipal Corporation. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
- "Interior of a Temple on the Rock of Trichinopoly". Wesleyan Juvenile Offering. IV: Vignette. January 1847. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
- "Study uncovers interesting details of cave temple architecture". The Hindu. 27 October 2010. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
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