Rockfort or Malai kottai, Tiruchirapalli

Rockfort Temple: The Iconic Landmark Of Trichy

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Right from childhood, we have visited Rockfort Hill countless times, and it is one of the best hangout spots for locals, devotees, and tourists. Standing tall at 80 m and located in the city center, the huge fortress is visible from our home terrace and from different parts of the city.

The most visited and underrated spot for tourists is the iconic landmark made of a huge monolithic fort where a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha is located at the hilltop. Called by various names like Uchi Pillayar Temple or Malai Kotai in the regional language of Tamil, it is a historical Hindu shrine and fortress residing in Tiruchirappalli or Trichy city and a must-visit destination for travelers visiting Tamil Nadu. 

Don’t worry. We’re not just going to hype the place and leave you to find out the how, when, and where by yourself. In this blog, you will get all the necessary information you need to climb this fortress by yourself. Let’s get right to it. 

Rockfort Temple, Trichy

History

The history of Rockfort Hill can be traced back to the 3rd century BC when it served as a major military base for the early Cholas. Over the centuries, it was occupied by various dynasties and rulers, including the Pallavas, the Pandyas, and the Vijayanagara Empire. Although initially built by the Pallavas, the current fortifications at Rockfort were built by the Nayaks of Madurai in the 17th century, who established Trichy as their capital. During the colonial era, Rockfort was occupied by the French and the British during different periods.

History says that a pregnant woman named Rathnavathi was an ardent Shiva devotee. When her mother was unable to attend her delivery, Rathnavathi prayed to Lord Shiva, and he appeared before the young woman in the form of her mother. The deity at Rockfort Hill is thus named Thaymanaswamy (Translation: The one who acted as the mother). The temple is also mentioned by great Tamil poets such as Thirugnana Sambandar and Appar in Tevaram.

Near the Uchi Pillayar Temple is a secret cave that is said to have existed since the 3rd Century. The underground path led people to Tanjore Brahadeshwarar Temple and was used as a secret escape route during wars. The cave has been locked for several years now and remains inaccessible to visitors. What’s truly fascinating are the inscriptions in the temple. Several reasons indicate that the Rockfort Temple is older than the Himalayas.

The Uchi Pillar or the Ganesha Temple on the hilltop has stories that seem to be a part of the Ramayana. The stories have been passed across generations from our ancestors, and some people narrate the same stories with the Murudeshwar temple as the backdrop. However, since there is no proof, there’s no definitive way of knowing the legitimacy of these stories. Thus, whether such stories are, true or mere myths will remain a mystery to us.

One of the most prominent stories is about Ravana, The Demon King from Ramayana. We shared the same story even in the Murudeshwar Temple blog, which you can check out here. Back to the story. Ravana was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. He regularly performed rituals and went into penance to attain immortality. Happy and satisfied with his prayers. Lord Shiva granted him the boon of immortality, but there was a catch. Ravana had to carry Atma Linga to Lanka (Now Sri Lanka) without placing it on the ground. 

When Lord Ganesha and Lord Vishnu learned this, they knew if Ravana were successful, he would wreak havoc on Earth. So the two crafted the perfect plan to trick Ravana. While Vishnu created an illusion of sunset, Ganesha disguised himself as a Brahmin. The two knew Ravana offered prayers every day before dusk, so he would have to pray. As the sun was about to set, Ravana was worried he wouldn’t be able to offer his prayers to his deity. At this point, the Brahmin (Ganesha in disguise) encountered Ravana and offered to hold the Atma Linga on a simple condition. Whenever the Brahmin calls Ravana thrice, the latter should appear before him. 

So, Ravana went to perform his ritual, but when he returned, the Linga was already on the ground. Vishnu removed the illusion, and it was day again. Ganesha turned into his original form. Realizing he had been tricked, Ravana got furious but couldn’t do anything. The people praised Ganesha and worshipped him.

Best Time To Visit Rockfort Hill

Rockfort Ganesh temple at the hilltop

Although Rockfort can be visited throughout the year, the best time to visit is during the post-monsoon months. During these months, the temperature is relatively low and humid. So your climb to the top becomes much easier. Also, start during the early hours of the day to beat the heat.

How To Reach Rockfort?

By Air

Tiruchirapalli International Airport (IATA code: TRZ, 9 Km) is the nearest airport. You can book Ola or Uber services from the airport or hop on the bus just outside to reach the central bus stand. From the central bus stand, you’ll have to hop on another bus to the Chathram bus stand and step down at the Theppakulam bus stop.

By Rail

Tiruchirapalli Fort Station (station code: TP, 1 Km) is the nearest station. You can walk or hop on a tuk-tuk to reach Rockfort.

Tiruchirapalli Junction railway station (station code: TPJ, 5 Km) is the main railway station of the city. This station has very good connectivity to most of the south Indian cities, including Madurai, Chennai, Kanniyakumari, Coimbatore, Bangalore, and some parts of Kerala and North India.

By Road

Chathram bus stand and Tiruchirappalli central bus stand are the two main bus stands in the city. Numerous buses run to and fro every 5 minutes. Step down at the Theppakulam bus stop and walk for about 200 m to reach the Rockfort entrance. 

Network Availability

Rockfort is situated in the city center and has excellent connectivity from all the network providers.

ATM Availability

Many ATMs are available in the region. Digital UPI payments are also accepted in all the shops.

Languages Spoken

The regional language of Tamil is widely spoken by the people of Trichy. Most people converse in English.

Parking Availability

There is no dedicated parking space. Two-wheelers can be parked on the side of the road but do watch out for “no parking” boards. Four-wheeler parking (paid) can be done at shops like Mangal & Mangal, situated nearby.

Note: This is a one-way road for both 2-wheelers and 4-wheelers. So, watch out for sign boards.

Restroom Facilities

Restrooms are available but closed to visitors because of poor maintenance. These super helpful public restroom tips come in handy during your travels.

Where To Eat?

Numerous restaurants are available in the vicinity of the hill. If you’re vegetarian, you can try Sangeethas, and if you’re non-vegetarian, try Kannapa.

Where To Stay?

There are numerous stay options in Tiruchirapalli. Below are our recommendations.

 

Things To Do In Rockfort

Rockfort temple entrance at the base

Rockfort is a picnic spot for residents living nearby. Tourists and worshippers usually hike up the hill to get blessings from Lord Ganesha and Lord Thayumanavar (Shiva), relax on the hilltop, and watch the sunrise and sunset.

The three main temples are the Manicka Vinayakar (Lord Ganesha) temple, located at the base, Thayumanavar (Lord Shiva) temple, located midway, and the Uchi Pillayar (Lord Ganesha) temple, located on the hilltop.

It is a common practice of the Hindus to worship Lord Ganesha before doing any important or good rituals. Before visiting the Uchi Pillar, people seek blessings from the base Ganesha or Manicka Vinayakar.

Hiking Details

Distance to the base: 1 Km from Chathram bus stand and 5 Km from Tiruchirapalli central bus stand, 328 Km from Chennai

Cost: Free entry. Rs. 20 for the camera. Extra charges for special pooja.

Registration: No registration or pre-online booking is required.

Timings: 5:30 AM – 12 PM, 4 PM  – 8:30 PM

Duration: 30 mins – 1 hour to ascend and 20 mins to descend

Summit Height: 83 m

Hike Distance: 400-500 steps approximately

Difficulty Level: Easy – highly subject to your fitness level.

Terrain: Rocky steps

Hiking Route:

Manicka Vinayagar temple or Ganapathy temple

The hike starts from the Manicka Vinayagar temple at the base. Remove your footwear, get blessings from Lord Ganesha, and start your climb on the steps ahead of you.

View of the hill top from the base while climbing uphill

After a flight of stairs, cross the road and a mandapa, where you can spot an elephant dedicated to the temple. You can find the ticket counter here.

Beyond this, you’ll find stairs and several rock-cut cave temples on either side of your path.

Malaikottai or rockfort hiking steps

Climb until you reach a door entrance on your right that leads you to the open terrain.

Thayumanaswamy Temple or Shiva temple

Towards your left is the Thayumanaswamy Temple, where Lord Shiva is represented in the form of Nandi. It is said that all your prayers can be answered here, especially if they are related to childbirth.

From there, enter the open terrain via the gate. Proceed to climb the stairs that are cut on the rock. A few shops and a large tree can be found here. Relax here for some time. You can also see the Ganesha Temple at the summit.

Rockfort last stretch to hilltop Ganesha temple

Climb up the last flight of stairs to get blessings from Lord Ganesha or Uchi Pillayar, also known as Vinayakar. The return route is the same.

At The Rockfort Summit:

View of temple and trichy city
View of Kaveri bridge, river from the Rockfort hill

Voila! Your trek is complete. You’ll get 360° views of the city. Some iconic landmarks visible from the top include Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Cauvery Bridge, the Cauvery River, and Srirangam Raja Gopuram (big temple tower), to name a few.

Important Things To Remember

  • A guide is not required to hike Rockfort Hill.
  • The use of plastics and smoking are strictly prohibited. As a hiker, it is incumbent on you to be responsible and not litter. Collect and bring back the waste with you and dispose of them in proper dedicated bins.
  • Water bottles, cool drinks, and snacks are available near the base and at the hilltop.
  • Footwear needs to be removed at the base. You’ll have to climb the steps barefoot. Only the last stretch of the hike is on open terrain, yet hiking steps are covered with asbestos sheets on the top to prevent your feet from burning under the scorching heat.

Essential Things To Carry

  • Ensure you carry at least 1 L of water per person.
  • Have your first aid kit handy.
  • Cap, sunscreen & sunglasses are essential to ward off the summer heat.
  • Carry a poncho or raincoat in case of rain.

Read the blog to know more about what we usually carry for day hikes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a guide required for the Rockfort?

No, a guide is not required for visiting the Rockfort temple as the route is straight all the way up, and the probability of getting lost is nill.

Is camping allowed in Rockfort?

Camping is strictly not allowed in Rockfort.

Can Rockfort be hiked in a day?

Rockfort is a small hill that can be hiked in a day.

What are the places to visit around Rockfort?

There are many places to visit in and around Tiruchirapalli. Refer to this Trichy guide for more places to visit and things to do.

How many steps are there in Rockfort?

There are around 400 steps in the Tiruchirapalli Rockfort.

Who built Rockfort?

Initially, the Pallavas built the Rockfort. The current fortifications were built by the Nayaks of Madurai in the 17th century, who established Tiruchirapalli as their capital.

When was Rockfort built?

The inscriptions in the temple indicate that that fortress existed since the 3rd Century BC. It is also said to be older than the Himalayas.

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