Uchi Pillaiyaar Kovil, India

The Rock Fort Temple, perched 83m high on a massive outcrop, lords over Trichy with stony arrogance. The ancient rock was first hewn by the Pallavas and Pandyas, who cut small cave temples on its south side, but it was the war-savvy Nayaks who later made strategic use of the naturally fortified position. There are over 400 stone-cut steps to climb to the top.

From NSB Rd on the south side, you pass between small shops and cross a street before entering the temple precinct itself. Then it’s 180 steps up to the Thayumanaswamy Temple, the rock’s biggest temple, on the left (closed to non-Hindus). A gold-topped tower rises over its sanctum, which houses a 2m-high Shiva lingam. Further up, you pass the 6th-century Pallava cave temple on the left – it’s usually railed off but if you get inside, note the famous Gangadhara panel on the left, showing Shiva restraining the waters of the Ganges with a single strand of his hair. From here it’s just another 183 steps to the small Uchipillaiyar Temple at the summit, dedicated to Ganesh. The view is wonderful, with eagles wheeling beneath and Trichy sprawling all around. Back at the bottom, check out the lower rock-cut cave temple, with particularly fine pillars (right past five or six houses as you exit the temple precinct, then right again down a small lane).

The stone steps get scorchingly hot in the midday sun and it’s a barefoot climb, so time your visit carefully.

Visit India Epic India Route © Monika Newbound

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