Chitharal / Chidaral is located in the kanyakumari district at about 7 kilometers from Marthandam, the nearest town. You can find ancient jain monuments, carvings and sculptures of Jain Thirthankaras namely Parsvanatha and Mahavira. At present Indian Archaeological survey is looking after the ruins of the temple and the sculptures.
Ancient Jain Monuments in Chitharal / Chidaral, in the state of Tamil Nadu
Chitharal / Chidaral is a small village situated at about 7 kilometers from the town of Marthandam and about 55 kilometers from Kanyakumari, the well known tourist destination of the state of Tamil Nadu in India. Chitharal was also known by the name Thirucharanathupalli or the Thirucharanamalai in the earlier days which was the abode of the Digambara Sect of the jain Monks.
About ancient Chitharal Jain Monuments
Chitharal is a tranquil and calm spot and a confluence of history and religion, you can experience the sernity after your hard and tedious climb up the hill. Chitharal / Chidaral is becoming a tourist destination in its own rights for the beautiful and panoramic views they can get from the top of the hills.
There is a hillock which has a cave containing the rock cut sculptures of the Jain Thirthankaras and the attendent deities. These sculptures are carved inside and outside the cave dating back to the 9 AD. Jain influence in the region is believed to be due to the Jain King Mahendravarman I during the 7th century. Later the area was converted to Bagawathy temple which is believed to be in the 13th century.
The climb to the Chitharal Parsvanatha and Mahavira temple
There is an arch which reminds you of the Kerala Architecture welcomes you. After that it is a hard climb for about 10 - 15 minutes. It would be better if you coud reach here early in morning before the sun starts beating you down. As you reach the top you can get the panoramic and spectacular views of the valleys, Western Ghats , rivers and roads coconut and palmyra groves villages dotted here and there and many more.
There is a narrow opening between the two rocks resting against eachother, squeeze through this opening and go down the natural stair case. On the northern side there are carved images of Thirthankaras with their distinct hanging earlobes, the three-tiered umbrella over their tonsured heads, in sitting and standing postures. The carved figures also have broad shoulders, slender waists and a contemplative expression on their faces. Between each image there are inscriptions in Vattezhuthu.
Ruins of the Parsvanatha and Mahavira Temple
Now as you go round the wall you will see another flight of steps which takes you to the ruins of an ancient temple atop the hill. Most of the deities are believed to be Thirthankaras in the central shrine that is namely Parsvanatha and Mahavira. The central shrine is divided into three chambers one each for the Goddess, Mahavira and Parsvanath. there is another flight of steps which leades to a pond in front of the shrine. there is a big gopuram on top of the shrine which is a three storeyed pagoda believed to have had images of Mahavira. It seems to have been destroyed in lightening in the early 20th century.
How to Reach Chitharal / Chidaral?
Chitharal / Chidaral is located at about 47 kilometers from Thiruvananthapuram, 55 kilometers from Kanyakumari, 36 kilometers from Nagercoil and 7 kilometers from Marthandam.
The approach road is from Kandapuram, leading to Elanthavilas. Chitharal is located exactly 4 kilometers North East of Kuzhithurai.
You can reach Thiruvananthapuram International airport, if you are travelling by air. you can get early morning buses from the Thiruvananthapuram bus stand to Marthandam which is about a little more than an hour's drive on the NH 47 which goes to Kanyakumari.
From Marthandam you can travel about 7 kilometers to reach Chitharal / Chidaral.
If you are travelling by rail in the Thiruvananthpuram Kanyakumari line, you can get down at Kuzhithurai railway station and drive for the rest of the 4 kilometers to Chithral / Chidaral.