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Temples in Nidur

Nidur is a northern suburb of Mayuram, the headquarters of a taluk of the same name in the Tanjavur district, and a railway station on the main line from Madras to Tiruchy. The deity of the main temple here is called Somanathesvarar and the Amman is called Toli-ammai. The sacred tree of the temple (sthala-vriksha) is the makilam tree. Tradition has it that the place received its name from its ‘eternal character’. Indra, Surya, Chandra, Kali and a crab are believed to have offered worship to the deity. The place has the alternate names of Vakularanyam, Makilaranyam and Magilavanam. The Tamil Saiva Saint Sundarar of the 9th century a.d. has sung the praise of the Lord here and calls Him ‘Nidur-kuttan’ (‘the Dancer of Nidur’).

Somanathesvarar (Umaiyodu Nilavina Perumal) temple

The ancient structure of the temple is no longer there; what we have now is the one rebuilt of stone in the first decade of the twelfth century a.d. On the walls of the mandapa at the southern entrance to the central shrine is an inscription of the 46th year of Kulottunga I in Tamil verse, from which we learn that one Kandan Madavan of Kulattur, the Chief of Milalai nadu, built of stone the vimana of the temple of‘Umaiyodu Nilavina Perumal’ at Nidur, a village in Tiruvindalur nadu in Sonadu, and we further learn that this record was also engraved on the northeastern side of the hall (ambalam) of the Nataraja temple at Chidambaram (ARE 535 of 1921). A record (ARE 534 of 1921) of the 48th year of the same ruler, found on the south wall of the central shrine, confirms the fact of construction of this temple by Kandan Madavan who was the (Chief) of Milalai nadu and the nephew of the Chief who was the patron of the literary figure Amita Sagarar (Amrita Sagarar), the author of galak-karigai, a treatise on Tamil Prosody.[1] From these inscriptions we learn that the author Amita Sagarar came to live in Siru-kunra nadu at the instance of an ancestor of Kandan Madavan of Kulattur.

There is an interesting record of Tribhuvanachakravartin Rajaraja deva, who must be identified with Rajaraja III, relating to his 16th year (a.d. 1232), which mentions inter alia that the country was formerly ruled by Kopperunjinga; this inscription, found on the wall of the southern prakara, mentions that the Great Assembly met in the Pugalabharana Vinayaka-pillaiyar temple in Rajasikhamani chaturvedimangalam, a village in Tiruvindalur nadu, a subdivision of Rajadhiraja valanadu, and revised the earlier rules in regard to tenancy cultivation (ARE 536 of 1921). As will be seen in a subsequent chapter, after the Second Pandyan invasion of the Chola country in a.d. 1228 and the defeat of Rajaraja III, he was reduced to a mere titular king and many of his subordinates started asserting their independence; the most spectacular among them was the Kadava chief Kopperunjinga, who functioned from his provincial capital of Sendamangalam. From Vriddha-chalam, we get records of Rajaraja III dated in his 14th year, which go to show that his rule still persisted in this region and that as late as that year, the Kadava (Pallava) Chief was a feudatory of the Chola ruler; seeing Rajaraja III worsted in battle by the Pandyas, die Kadava Chief entertained ambitions of building an independent kingdom for himself and so attacked the Chola army at Tellaru, where a furious battle ensued, resulting in the defeat of Rajaraja III, who was taken prisoner along with his queen and other relatives and his ministers and confined at Sendamangalam, the Kadava capital. That he and the other prisoners were rescued by the Hoysala king Vira Narasimha, after worsting the Kadava Chief at the battle of Mahendra-mangalam on the banks of the Kaveri, is seen from the Tiruvahindrapuram record of Rajaraja III dated in his 16th year, and as if to confirm that Rajaraja III was back as the Chola monarch we have in this Nidur inscription a reference to the temporary eclipse of the Chola emperor, between his 14th and 16th regnal years.

A beautiful specimen of Later Chola bronzes is found in this temple. Siva with Uma and Skanda on the same rectangular bhadra-pitham presents a picture of perfection. Less rounded than bronzes of the Middle period, tending, particularly in the female figure, towards the concept of slender beauty, Siva is shown with the malu and the mriga in the upper arms. They are held aloft between the stretched fore and middle fingers in both hands. The proper right lower arm is in the abhaya pose and the left lower in the ahuya pose. Jata-makuta adorns the head, and the ears sport the patra and the makara kundalas. Siva is seated on a padma asana, the right leg hung down to rest on the ground, the left being folded in a sitting posture. Vajibandha, upavita, udarabandha, bracelets and anklets adorn the icon. Uma wears a karanda makuta, has a sharp narrow waist followed by broad hips and very slim legs. Her left leg is hanging from the (separate) padmasana on which she is seated and the foot rests on the ground. The right leg (corresponding to Siva’s left) is folded in a sitting posture and raised at the knee as in a yoga posture. The left arm is resting on the left thigh and the right arm is holding a lily (missing). Skanda is a diminutive nude figure standing in the samabhanga pose, wearing a karanda makuta. He stands on a thin rectangular flat platform; all the three figures are on a common bhadra-pitham, which has the usual mouldings of upanam, kumudam and kantham with a vari on top.

This set of Somaskanda is a fine example of Chola metals of the late 11th century and of the early phase of the Later Cholas.

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Footnotes and references:

1.

The treatise soon came to be regarded as a major contribution to Tamil literature, and its importance was recognised by naming the place where it was composed as Karigai-kulattur.

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