SITUATED AT THE HEAD of the fertile Caveri Delta, this city is named after the fierce threeheaded demon (tirucira) who attained salvation after being slain by Shiva. The town’s history is interwoven with the political fortunes of the Pallavas, Cholas, Nayakas and finally the British, who shortened its name to Trichy. Today, Tiruchirapalli is Tamil Nadu’s second largest city.Dominating the town is the massive Rock Fort, perched dramatically on a rocky outcrop that rises 83 in (272 ft) above the flat plains. This impregnable fortress was constructed by the Nayakas of neighbouring Madurai, who made Tiruchirapalli their second capital in the 16th and 17th centuries. They also expanded the Shiva temple, where the god is worshipped as Thayumanavar (the “God who Became a Mother”). Legend says that when a flash flood prevented a mother from coming to her pregnant daughter’s aid, Shiva assumed her form and helped in the childbirth. Further up, on the summit, is a small Ganesha Temple from where there are spectacular views of verdant rice fields and the sacred island of Srirangam.
At the base of the southern rock face is the first of the two cave temples. The lower one dates to the 8th century, and the upper one to the reign of the great Pallava ruler, Mahendra Varman (r.600-630). This contains one of the great wonders of Pallava art, the Gangadhara Panel, depicting Shiva holding a lock of his matted hair to receive the River Gangs as she descends from the heavens. Much of the present town dates to the 18th and 19th centuries, Chen the British constructed the cantonment and numerous civic buildings and churches. Many of thee buildings are located around the large Teppakularn Tank at the base of the fort – a busyarea surrounded by fruit, vegetable and flower markets. Among the town’s earliest churches are Christ Church (1766), founded by Reverend Frederick Christian Schwartz to the north of the tank; the Neo-Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes (1840), to the west of the tank; and the Jesuit St Joseph’s College, also to the west of the tank. In the cantonment, which lies to the southwest of the fort, is the Church of St Bohn (1816).
ENVIRONS: At Kallanal, 24 km (15 miles) northeast of Tiruchirapalli, is a 300-m (984-ft) long earthen dam across the Caveri river, the Grand Anicut. This formed part of the huge hydraulic system created by the Cholas to divert water from the river into a vastnet work of irrigation ls.The original no longer exists and the dam in operation today was rebuilt by British engineers in the 19th century. Other places of interest are the 7th-century Shiva temple at Narthamalai , 17 km (11 miles) to the south, and the 9th-century Bain cave temples at Sittanavasal, 58 km (36 miles) to the southeast. Faded paintings here portray dancing girls, and a lotus tank with swans and fishes.