Vettuvan Koil – Temple of the Slayer

Feature and Cover Vettuvan Koil Temple of the Slayer

Vettuvan Koil is a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The Dravidian-style temple is located in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, precisely in the district of Thoothukudi, Kalugumalai. The monolithic temple is known for its rock-cut Pandyan architecture. The temple is claimed to have been an unfinished work in the early 8th century by the Pandya rulers.

The temple is currently maintained and administered by the Department of Archaeology of the government of Tamil Nadu.


It is believed that the temple was built in the 8th century, which was the early Pandyan era, under the leadership of Parandhagan Netunjadaiyan. It was built along the Kalugumalai Jain Beds. It’s a monument dedicated to Lord Shiva, and from the rectangular rock in Vettuvan Koil, a Dravida vimana is emerging. Not much history about Koil is available about the temple other than the myths and tales associated with it.

Vettuvan KoilGeography

The temple is perched atop a stone hillock towards the eastern side. It opens up a view to the east. The entry path lines the western hillside, the Kalugumalai Jain Beds (Highway 187). The upper section of the Vettuvan Koil was carved from a single granite rock. The carvings depicted various engravings of “Parsavadevatas,” or the attendant deities of Shiva. These included Goddess Uma, known for fertility, love, beauty, marriage, and children; Goddess Nandi, also known as the gate-guardian deity of Kailsa, the house of Lord Shiva; and artwork of various animals such as monkeys and lions. This architectural beauty creates the illusion of a lotus blossom in bloom.

Tales on Vettuvan Koil

The legend says that the temple was built over a rivalry between a father and son over superior architecture. It is believed that the son built the Murugan shrine, while the father built the Vettuvan Koil. When the son made fun of the koil, the father, out of anger, killed his son. The abandoned temple remains unfinished, followed by the grief of the father.

A different version of the story recites that the father attempted to impart trade knowledge to his son. The son, disregarding his father’s instructions, began carving the inner chambers of the koil. Enraged by his son’s disobedience and hearing the sound, the father killed him.

And with the legends came the names “Temple of the Slayer and “Heaven of Sculptors” for Vettuvan Koil.

Things to do at Vettuvan Koil

On reaching the temple, the viewers are treated to magnificent sculptures of Uma Maheswarar, Dakshinamoorthy, Vishnu, Brahma, and other lords that can be found atop the temple.

Other places nearby to visit during your time at Tirunelveli are:

  • Kanthimathi, or Nelaiyapper Temple, is known for its big size and intricate workmanship on stone. It gives a peaceful place for dharshan and prayers.
  • New Jerusalem Church
  • Ram’s Funn City is a soft play area mainly focused on kids.

Lord Thirukuttralanthar, a historic temple shaped like a conch with hal of paintings or Chitra Sabai of the 5 Sabais

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