Religion under Pandiya Empire
After the decline of the Kalabhra rule, Hinduism was once again revived and Buddhism and Jainism began to decline. The Pandyan kings had patronized Vaishnavism, Saivism and Jainism.
The Nayanmars had preached Saivism while the Aiwars preached Vaishnavism. They had spread the spirit of Bakthi among the people. The spread of Bakthi cult inculcated religious feelings and service mindedness among the people. These qualities had taken deep roots in the Tamil society.
The Saivaite Saints, namely Thirugnana-sambandar and Manickavasagar had lived in the Pandya country and propagated Saivism. Similarly the Vaishnavaite Saints, Nammalwar, Perialwar and Andal had preached Vaishnavism in the Pandyan kingdom. The Pandya kings generally followed religious tolerance. They had made liberal donations and gifts to the Jain monks and to their educational institutions.
We have studied the rock cut cave temples of the Pallava period. The Pandyan kings had also carved several rock cut cave temples in their kingdom. More than fifty cave temples have been found in different parts of the Pandyan Empire. The most important of them are found in Malaiyadikkurichi, Anaimalai, Thirupparankundram and Tiruchi. These caves were dedicated to Siva, Vishnu and Brabma.
These temples were built of Stones and bricks. They are very simple in their style. Each temple consists of a Garbagraha, Ardhamandapa and Mahamandapa. The stone temples of the Pandyas were found at Kovilpatti, Thiruppathur and Madurai.
The Pandyan period bad also witnessed the development of sculptures. The sculptures of Siva, Subramanya, Ganesha, Brahmma and Durga are found on the walls of the rock-cut caves. The Thirupparankundram temple contains wonderful sculptures and they provide evidence for the growth of sculptures in the Pandyan kingdom. They knew the technique of bronze casting. Bronzes are kept in temples as Utsavamurthy.
The trace of the Pandyan paintings can be seen in the Chittannavasal cave temples. The ceilings and pillars bear the painted figures. The technique is known as fresco. The paintings represent the dancing girls, the king and queen, plants and animals. The paintings of Chittannavasal are compared with those found at Ajantha caves. The contribution of the Pandyan rulers for the Tamil art and architecture is commendable.