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06 Dec 2023, Edition - 3067, Wednesday

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Will Sithannavasal regain its lost glory?

U. Bharath


Sithannavasal, the world renowned 7th century centre of learning and culture, situated 50 km from Tiruchi, is getting ready to welcome more tourists and visitors.

The long-neglected Jain monument was spruced up at a cost of Rs.1.42 crores a few years back. The ASI, the custodian of the Jain centre, has now sent proposals for landscaping and construction of the boundary wall around the massive hillock. “New amenities would come up at an estimated cost of Rs.1 crore,” said an ASI official.

Sithannavasal attracts large number tourists thanks to its hoary antiquity and secluded serenity. Towed away in sylvan surroundings, from the hustle and bustle of the nearby Pudukkottai and Tiruchi towns, this impressive hillock had once served as the abode of Digambara Jains (sky-clad) during the reign of Pandyas in 7th century AD.

The monks who stayed here led a life of austerity. They lived and slept in natural caverns in the hillock. The rock-cut beds, called Eladipattam could be reached by climbing the hillock through a long-winding rock cut steps.

The monks, who lived so close to Mother Nature reportedly wore no clothes, led a life of seclusion.

The mandapam walls that might have served as a Jain temple in the foot hill, has the world famous frescoes painted on its ceiling.

The frescoes could be matched with the ones found in Ajantha for its craftsmanship. Ladies bathing in lily-strewn natural pond are painted with such artistic finesse by the monks using only the naturally available dyes and charcoal.

The civil society contributed its mite by establishing a society for the promotion of this ancient monument.

Registered as Sithannavasal Tourism Promotion Society, the members mobilised funds – they made personal contribution and also collected donations and the district administration then entered the scene.

A recreational park, an artificial lake with boating facility and a sculpture park were set up.

Unfortunately, the play equipment in the children’s play area and the fountain the park do not work due to lack of maintenance.

Lack of adequate public transport is a major cause for concern to the visiting tourists. “We have to rely on personal or private transport to reach the place,” said a tourist.

“The name Sithannavasal is derived from Sithan vayil meaning the abode of Siddhhars. Out of 41 markers of Jain culture, 38 markers identified by ASI were found here. Even though the historically-rich Pudukkottai district boasts of many historical places such as Sithannavasal, Avudaiyar koil, Thirumayam and Sri Brihadambal temple, lack of patronage to these sites is worrying. If TTDC introduces packages, it will go a long way in popularising these tourism spots,” said historian A. Raja Mohamed of Pudukkottai Historical society.

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