The Rock Fort of Trichy

The Rock fort or Malaikottai as it is known locally, is synonymous with Trichy. It towers tall above the city, providing a magnificent view of the expansive city that Trichy is. It is an omnipresent imposing structure, visible from most corners of the city. The old city of Trichy too was build around this citadel from ancient times. The ancient rock on which the fort is built is said to be 3.8 billion years old. The rock is as ancient as it can get – older than the Himalayas.

Uchhi Pillayyar temple in the Rock fort of Trichy as seen from a distance.
PC: Manu Manjunath. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rock_Fort_Trichy.JPG

History of the Rock Fort Temple

The rock fort is actually not just a fort but a temple complex of 3 shrines. One Ganesha shrine (Manickar Vinayagar) is at the base of the fort, the other is the Thayumanaswami temple of Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati is halfway through the fort, and the Ucchi Pillayyar (Ganesha) shrine is on the very top.

The rock fort is about 273 feet in height. There are 437 steps cut into the rock that serves as a staircase to reach the summit. Not an easy task to carve out monuments from ancient monolithic rocks. However, it all started with the Pallava king, Mahendravarman I, who built the Uchhi Pillayyar temple in the 6th century AD when Trichy was under his rule. The temple was renovated later by the Cholas, Pandyas and the Vijaynagar empire (Madurai Nayaks) as Trichy changed hands. The Madurai Nayaks, who were the vassals of the Vijaynagar empire, also fortified the rock between the 14th and 15th century to protect Trichy from its invaders and thus the rock turned into a rock fort. 🙂

The view of Trichy and Cauvery from the rock fort temple
Panoramic view of Trichy with the Cauvery flowing beside it and the Srirangam island beyond.

Legend of the Rock Fort/Ucchi Pillayyar Temple

The rock fort temple complex
On the way up to the summit

It is believed that Vibhishana, the younger brother of Ravana, was carrying the idol of Lord Ranganathaswamy to Lanka after attending the coronation of Lord Rama in Ayodhya. The devas did not want this to happen and requested Lord Ganesha to help prevent the Ranganathaswamy idol from reaching Lanka, the land of the Asuras.

The catch here is that the idol is never to be placed on the ground as once placed, it can never be removed from that site. When Vibhishana was passing over Trichy, he wanted to take a dip in the holy Cauvery and relax for some time. He finds a small cowherd grazing his cows on the banks of the river and requests him to hold the idol in his hands for him. Once Vibhishana enters the water, the young cowherd who is none other than Lord Ganesha, places the idol on the sands of the river Cauvery.

Vibhishana loses his temper on seeing this and chases the cowherd who runs to the top of this nearby rock and hides there. Vibhishana finds him and hits him on the head in anger. Even today, the idol of Ucchi Pillayyar has a cut on his forehead which reminds us of this story. Lord Ganesha then reveals his true self to Vibhishana and explains to him that Lord Ranganathaswamy is destined to be in Trichy and not in Lanka. He then sends him off to Lanka with his blessings.

Ages later, the Ranganathaswamy idol is discovered by a Chola King in a forested area near Cauvery, and he builds the Srirangam temple in its honour. Today, it is the largest temple complex in the entire world. The shikhara of the Srirangam temple is seen from the rock fort temple.

How to Reach Trichy

Flight – The nearest airport is Tiruchirappally International airport

Trains – There are 7 to 8 trains running between Bangalore and Trichy. The time taken is approximately 7 hours

Bus – Buses too ply to Trichy and the average time taken is around 6 hours from Bangalore.

The Rock fort is in the centre of the old city and is not wheelchair friendly. Finding a parking at the base of the Rock fort is a difficult task. Hence, it is advisable to hire a cab or an auto to visit the rock fort.

Entry Fee & Timings:

The Ucchi Pillayar Vinayaka temple is open from 6.00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and from 4.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. The Thayumanaswamy temple is open from 6.00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 4.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m.

Entry fee: Rs 10 per person. Very nominal, isn’t it!

Where to stay in Trichy?

Trichy city has no dearth of good hotels if you are planning to visit the city. We stayed in Courtyard by Marriot and the experience was good. Click here to know more about the top hotels in Trichy.

For us, Trichy and Thanjavur just happened along with our trip to Mahabalipuram. However, it was a very refreshing trip to visit such amazing temples, gorge on delicious food and understand our ancient culture up close. I am sure you too will like reading about it.

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