Well, let me begin by clearing the air first that the Tiger Cave is not really a cave and tigers do not live here either. It is a rock-cut Hindu temple complex with carvings of tiger heads around the structure, located near the coastal village of Saluvankuppam near Mahabalipuram. These rock-cut structures with tiger-head like shapes are believed to have been constructed in 7th century during the Pallava reign.
Among the many sculpted wonders of Mahabalipuram, Tiger cave is one of the lesser visited monuments. Located at about 5 km drive from the Shore Temple also makes it somewhat inaccessible. I guess auto rides should be available to this place but I had my car around so that was a big help.
This park is also maintained by ASI, but it doesn’t require any tickets. There was a lone coconut seller near the gate waiting for tourists to come in.
In my earlier articles I have tried to pen down the numerous caves, excavated in hill-scarps and used as temples around the Mahabalipuram hillock. The Tiger Cave is a prominent examples of this form. Just like its counterparts, it was commissioned in the early 8th century by Pallava King Narasimha Varman II also known as Rajshimha.
The gate led us into a big park. The Tiger cave is the first structure just after the gate on the right.
Tiger Cave Mahabalipuram
The cave gets its name because of the crown of carved heads of a tiger. But this is said to be dedicated to goddess Durga. The main deity has most possibly been removed or stolen. This rock also has a relief sculpture dedicated to Narasimha Varman II.
The facade looks like a stage more than a temple, conveying perhaps it was used as a place for performances. The cave is below ground level and buried to some extent in the sand. The monolithic rock out of which tiger cave has been chiselled out is in the shape of a sitting tiger.
A few steps lead up to the cell at the center. Two pilasters on either sides and rampant tiger heads surround the sides of the cell. Two other smaller cells on the left have elephant heads chiseled beneath them.
A few paces from the Tiger cave lies another one of the precariously standing boulders that I have written about in my article on Krishna’s Butterball.
The first thing that comes to mind is how in the hell is it standing like that. It’s like its molded at the base in that angle. No other reasoning is possible.
From here I drove back to our resort – the Five Chariot Beach resort making a quick stop at the old lighthouse on the way.
Thanks for reading. Please leave me a comment if you liked the post or follow my story as I visit the old lighthouse in Mahabalipuram.