Located in Keelakuyilkudi village which is around 12 km away from Madurai, Samanar hills are beautiful blend of nature with history. Declared as a protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India, this hill is an interesting site to visit when on Madurai Tour, presenting a glimpse into the historical richness of southern India. These hills are associated to Jainism with Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions depicting various facets of the religion.
Also known as Samanar Malai as the Tamil word Malai means hills, it boasts of ancient caves with carvings dating back to 1st century A.D. Samanar hill has many prominent sculpture and ancient inscriptions giving an insight into the history and into the Jainism religion which flourished here during ancient times. The inscriptions on the hills are said to be more than 200 years old. These caves were the homes of many Jain monks during ancient era.
At the entrance of the caves, one can see various religiously significant sculptures of Gomateshwara, Mahavira, Yakshi and Yaksha. The two sculptures, Settipodavu and Pechipallam are the major attractions of this hill. Settipodavu presents an image of Lord Mahavira who was the last tirthankara of Jainism. Another sculpture, Pechipallam has eight different sculptures including those of Bahubali and Mahavira. These sculptures of Jain Tirthankaras are said to be built by Jain monks during the 9th century B.C.
As per archaeologists, these caves have more than 2000-year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions as well as Vatteluttu writings. Most of the inscriptions can be found around the entrance of the cave. According to these inscriptions, many of Jain monks took sallekhana here, which means fasting unto death. One can also see many flat stone or stone beds which were used by the monks to rest.
According to archaeological findings, there used to be Jain school at the top of the hills. Many inscriptions in Kannada and Tamil present information on this school. This Jain monastery was known as Maadevi Perumpalli, where many Jain monks and nuns used to come to receive education. It is said that kings of Pandyan Dynasty also visited this school as well as many senior monks from Shravanabelagola of Karnataka also studied here.
Samanar Malai is an ideal spot to spend some quiet time amid the pious surrounding of religiously significant place. These hills presents a refreshing setting, different from other sightseeing places in Madurai. It is often visited by people to meditate. Calmness and spiritual serenity of these hills is sure to leave every visitor rejuvenated. The view of the surroundings areas from the top of the hill is also worth climbing the hill. It is also an interesting place to visit for those who seek adventure. Trekking up to the hills and exploring the areas nearby will give you the opportunity to spend some time with flora and fauna of this place.
When visiting Samanar hills, one can also visit the Karuppanasamy temple which is located at the foothills. This temple constitutes a few idols that were made by the Jain monks. There is also a lotus pond at the bottom of the hills.
Reaching Samanar Hills / Samanar Malai from Madurai
Samanar Hills are located at a distance of 12 km from Madurai. From Madurai railway station, it is about 9 km away while from Madurai international airport, the hill is around 24 km away. Tourists can either book a cab from Madurai to the hills or take a bus. Samanar Hills is connected via all the major modes of transportation.