Climbing the stairs towards the ancient Thrikkakudi rock cut temple at Kaviyoor, Pathanamthitta, one can't help feeling like venturing into a long-lost era, ruled by kings and queens.
An air of mystery fills the ambiance of the majestic temple, that is heavily influenced by art and architecture from Pallava dynasty of the 8th century CE.
Right at its entrance are two massive rocks and a few trees, which add to the mystical feel of the historic complex.
The main ardhamandapa (entrance porch) of the temple, with a flight of stairs in the middle, leads to the inner sanctum of the shrine. The ardhamandapa walls have statues of two 'dwarapalakas' or sentries. A sculpture of Ganapati and images of various hermits also adorn the walls. According to experts of history, they have a striking similarity to anicent statues found in Mahabalipuram.
Apparently, there are several myths surrounding the temple. According to one of the popular stories, the temple was built by Pandavas during their exile, as they loved the picturesque location and its pleasant climate.
Halfway through the construction, Hanuman apparently informed Bhima that Kauravas were aware of their presence, and left the spot immediately. The story has it that the construction remains incomplete as the Pandavas left in haste.
The local people claim that the shrine, that comes under the Travancore Devaswom Board, is frequented by devotees of Lord Shiva from all over the country, alongside historians and tourists who are often enamored by the intricate carvings on the rocks, which are often termed the earliest of the kind in Kerala.
Adventure seekers can try trekking up to the topmost part of the rock temple through a route adjacent to the entrance. The aerial view and the ambiance on top are quite overwhelming. However, as the terrain is rough and filled with plants, it's generally advised to finish exploring it before sunset.
The Department of Archaeology is preserving the temple, which is closed on Mondays.