The clear evidence of the conversion of a Jain Heritage into Bhagwati temple is found at Kallil. The statues of the theerthankaras must have been destroyed by the vandalisers and in it s place a Hindu goddess statue has been installed. The proof of the conversion can be seen on the unfinished image of Buddha or Jain theertankara which belongs to 800 AD as per carbon dating. The location chose by the Bhikshuks was ideal for meditating, which was practiced far away from the dense human settlement. If we go by the terrain, it must have been close to some river or water source. The monks used to walk up to the water source for their daily chores of bathing and fresh up.
According to me the Buddhist figure on the rockface must have belonged to the Ashokan period, when the emperor relinquished violence to spread Dhamma. In view of large scale vandalism of the remains, one cannot conclusively prove whether this place belong to jain or buddhist heritage.
The 100 odd steps leading up to the temple seems to be laid of late, after it was declared a protected monument in 1965. Previously the steps must have been laid on the rock bed circumbulating around the rocky phase and leading upto to the temple. There is new laid out pathway currently with skid proof tiles laid out of cemented tiles. The entire area is now being converted to ensure flow of vehicles and parking slot is being designed to attract piligrims.
Behind the Bhagvathi temple we find the meditating area which is well laid out with ancient steps. The serenity of the atmosphere is quite captivating. There are some ancient statues preserved belonging to the converted segment of Bhagvathi. Animal sacrifices must have been taking place in terms of chicken etc to please the goddess, which seems to have been stopped. There is one cave like crevice which may have housed ancient mankind too, if one has time one can keep exploring the surroundings, but we were running behind schedule.
The priests family have naturally occupied the surrounding areas and thriving. We had to take permission to photograph the Buddha image on the rock face, which they reluctantly gave us, since it was the evidence of conversion.
Crude form of conversion of Jain places of worship will be dealt with elsewhere, which will reveal an indirect method adopted to take over the premises. I am wondering why the Hindus followed this coercive method, particularly when Jainism and Buddhism could almost be considered to part of Hinduism. Is it the brahmanical hatred against the dalits which compelled them to undertake such coercive methods or is it the easy way out to transform the Buddhist or Jainism place into Hindu place of worship. This phenomenon is most found in Kerala region, where even today the conservative practice of removing the shirt before entering the temple premise is followed. Rest of the areas have discarded this practice. Some temples I did not enter as a mark of protest, even though being a hindu, I preferred to prostrate outside the temple premises, maybe it would keep the priests happy.
LOCATION : Enroute to Munnar from Keladi to Kallil can be covered from Ernakulam or Angamally in kerala. It is approximately 4 kms detour from Oddakali which is 15 km away from Perambavoor. There is one more route via Kottapadi and one can exit towards Oddakali and join the main route to Munnar. The approach road to the temple is incomplete, which one has to trek almost a km to reach the destination.