Thoonandar Seeyamangalam

Thoonandar, Seeyamangalam

Saivite Temples, Thiruvannamalai District


Thoonandar, facing west


Maragathambikai, facing south

Other Deities

Ganesha, Bhairava, Dakshinamurthy, Periyandavar, Muruga

Thoonandar Seeyamangalam is a cave temple housing a large and beautiful shiva lingam.  The temple is called Avanibhajana Pallaveshwaram and Stambeswarar Temple. Entrance is from the north through a large 5 tiered Raja Gopuram. The sanctum sanctorum is deep inside and reached after passing through 3 doorways across the Mantapas. There is a small Nandi inside facing the Lord and a larger one outside in a Mantapa. There are two large Dwarapalakas on either side of the circular Sanctum Sanctorum. The lingam is about 5 feet tall and more than 6 feet wide at the Aavudayar (base portion). There are other Mantapas in the campus apart from the main Maha Mantapam leading to the Sanctum Sanctorum. One of the pillars has a carving of dancing Shiva, believed to be the earliest carving of the Nataraja form in South India.

Holy Water (Theertham) – No information

Sacred Tree (Sthala Vriksham) – No information


Thoonandar Seeyamangalam was created by the Pallava King Mahendravarman I (600-630 CE) during the 7th Century CE. This cave temple has later additions by the Chola and Vijayanagar Empires. The place is called Avanibhajana Pallaveshwaram temple, Avani being one of the titles of King Mahendravarman I. The inscriptions here in Pallava Grantha script mention that the cave was dug out by Lalitankura, another name of Mahendravarman. The same title is mentioned in the cave temple of the Rock Fort at Trichirapalli. Later additions to the temple were made by the Chola and Vijayanagar Kings. The Gopuram is believed to be an addition by the Vijayanagar Kings. The other side of the hillock houses the Jain beds established in the 9th Century CE during the reign of Ganga King Rajamalla II.

Following information gleaned with thanks from
As per Mr.R.Nagaswamy the original name of the place was Simhavishnu-Caturvedi-Mangalam and it was named after Mahendravarman’s father Simhavishnu, probably corrupted to it’s present name Seeyamangalam. As the cave temple is attributed to Mahendravarman, it would be appropriate to assume that this village was already in existence when this temple was excavated. Also there are two pillars (Thoon in Tamil) from which the main deity’s name come. These pillars have the carving of Lion’s in their upper part. As lions are not associated with Shiva worship the reference could have been to Mahendravarman’s father Simhavishnu. On the same pillars are bas relief’s of Shiva as Vrishbhantika along with Nandi and Parvati in Tribhanga posture.

On the other pillar is the earliest depiction of Dancing Shiva with four hands and flowing tresses. On either side are two Gana’s, one playing a Maddalam (Drum) and another praying. The usual Muyalikan is absent below his feet, whereas a snake with spread hood is depicted. Mr.R.Nagaswamy’s study on this panel explains the snake’s presence thus. Bhujanga-trasita-karana (scared of snake) is well defined in Natya Shshatra and it states, ‘Raise the bent foot, turn the waist and also the thigh and knee to the side to form this kanaran’. This is the beginning of the dance and the movement is derived from the frenzied action of an individual on seeing unexpectedly a snake by his side.

There are four inscriptions in this cave, 2 of the Pallavas and 2 of the Cholas.The Pallava inscriptions mention the title of Mahendravarman, creation of the temple and donation of ornaments and deeds. Another Pallava inscription mentions the contribution of a village headman towards building the Mantapa in the front.


The name of the main deity is because of the two pillars (Thoon) which seem to have had a lot of importance at the time of creation of Thoonandar Seeyamangalam.


Thoonandar Seeyamangalam is about 23 kilometers south west of Vandavasi and can be reached via Thellar and Desur or via Mazhaiyur and Desur.

Stay and Food

None locally. Closest for food would be Vandavasi or Chetpet.

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