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Kalugumalai, Tuticorin Overview

A tiny tranquil town in the district of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, Kalugumalai or Kazhugumalai is famous for its ancient rock-cut temples and monolithic Jain beds. The city got its name from the hills surrounding it with the same name, which translates to "Hill of Vultures". The hills that surrounding the town gives a unique physical beauty to the whole place. They were earlier known as known as Araimalai or Thirumalai.

The town is divided into two parts Kazhugumalai and South Kazhugumalai or Kottai Kalugumalai and also served as a trade route during the ancient times. According to epigraphies, once upon a time, there was also a palace of the Pandya king Ettimannan, here. It is also believed that Kalugumalai was once an important Jain settlement where Lord Mahavir used and preach and worship. At the foot of the hills, an urn-burial cemetery was also discovered. This place was also a witness to the Kalugumalai riots of 1895. Apart from the three major temples, it also has a huge church making it a religious place in a nutshell.

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Kalugumalai Jain Beds or Jaina Abode

Housing rows and rows of images of Gomateshwara, Parshvanatha and other Tirthankaras of Jainism in rock-cut architecture, this place is a beautiful Jain cave temple. It was built during the reign of Pandyan king Parantaka Nedunjadaiya and for some reason, remained unfinished. The carvings found in the temple indicate the presence of Digambara sect of Jainism in that period.

Jain monks and nuns observed penance here. Several inscriptions found reveal that the Jains were passionate supporters of education and women empowerment. Araimalai Alwar was the name of the chief deity. Due to loss of patronage and the Bhakti Movement, the monastery became extinct after the 13th century.

Vettuvan Koil

Translating to a sculptor's paradise, this place houses some of the most intricately designed granite statues. It is a Hindu temple constructed in the 8th and 9th centuries. It spans over an area of 50 acres at the height of 300ft, but only the top portion of the temple is completed. There is also an interesting legend surrounding the unfinished parts of the temple.

It is said that a sculptor was commissioned to construct a temple at the foothills of Kalugumalai. The sculptor and his son got into an argument about the style of architecture. The son started working on a temple on his own without the knowledge of his father. Upon finding out about his son's disobedience, the enraged sculptor threw his chisel at him, which struck his throat and he was killed. Thus stands the unfinished work of his son till date.

Kalugasalamoorthy Temple

Also known as the Kalagumalai Murugan Temple, this temple is dedicated to the worship of Hindu God, Murugan. It has been constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture and is said to have expanded during the 18th century. The gateway leads to the sanctum and a pillared hall. Every day, four rituals are performed, and several yearly festivals including the ten-day are also celebrated here.

These include the Vaikasi Visagam in May-June, 13-day Kanthasasti, 10-day Thaipoosam during January-February and the 13-day Panguni Uthiram during March-April. According to a mention in the Kanthapuranam by Kachiappar, this is the only temple where Murugan is seen facing south in a seated posture. It has also been included in the Incredible India campaign as a rural tourism site.

History of Kalugumalai

Kalugumalai or the “hill of the Vultures” was earlier known as Araimalai or Third malaiyyo. Few epigraphs even suggest that during the Panda dynasty the place was officially called Ettimannan. During the ancient time, the village also served as the trade route. Apart from that, Kalugumalai is also famous as the background for the riots of 1895 in which 10 people were killed in communal clashes.

Best Time To Visit Kalugumalai

The city experiences a tropical climate with very hot summers. Rainfall occurs from July to December. Winter is cold but tolerable. The best time to visit Kalugumalai is during the winter or the rainy season if you want to escape the scorching hot and humid climate of the region. 

How To Reach Kalugumalai

The nearest airport is Tuticorin Airport at a distance of 62 km. Regular buses ply from Tuticorin. Nearest railway station is at Kovilpatti at a distance of 18 km.

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