Early Chola Temples

by S. R. Balasubrahmanyam | 1960 | 105,501 words

This volume of Chola Temples covers Parantaka I to Rajaraja I in the timeframe A.D. 907-985. The Cholas of Southern India left a remarkable stamp in the history of Indian architecture and sculpture. Besides that, the Chola dynasty was a successful ruling dynasty even conquering overseas regions....

Nangavaram is about 11 miles (17.70 km.) northwest of Tiruchy. It has an ancient Siva and a Pidari temple. It is said that the daughter of a Chola king of Uraiyur was born with the face of a jackal, and by her devotion to the Lord of this place, she came to have normal human features. Hence this place is called Mangai-varam or Nangai-varam (or puram), whose corrupt from is Nangavaram. In local inscriptions, it is called Nangai-brahmadeyam alias Arinjigai Chaturvedimangalam, so named after[1] Arinjigai or Arinjaya, son of Parantaka I; the prefix Nangai is perhaps meant to commemorate the above miracle.

In the north eastern part of the prakara of this temple there is a stone sculpture of Jyeshthadevi which should have originally belonged to the shrine of this temple. The shrine of Jyeshthadevi occupied, in the early Chola period, the northwest corner of the prakara. When her worship fell into disuse, her statue was removed from her original home, and deposited on an open platform in the eastern side of the northern prakara of this temple. Her original shrine is still there, but a statue of Mahalakshmi is installed in her place; this figure (of Jyeshthadevi) is mistakenly identified by the local people as the Chola princess born with a jackal’s face; the existence of the crow banner with a male and a female figure on either side of this image (son and daughter) will dispel any doubt about its identity (see plan).

The prevalence of the widely spread popular legend of the miracle of the Lord of the temple of Sundares-varar at Nangavaram who is credited with the restoration of the human face of the daughter of the Chola King of Uraiyur born with a jackal’s face is echoed in two inscriptions of the middle of the 17th century as found in the neighbouring temple of Darukavanesvara at Tirupparaitturai (SII, VII, no. 598; AR no. 289 of 1903; SII, VII, no. 599; AR no. 290 of 1903, Tirumalai-nayakar, son of Visvanatha nayakar of Madurai, dated Saka 1564=circa, a.d. 1641).

1. Sundaresvara temple (Maravanisvaram)

The deity of this temple, now called Sundaresvara was known in the past as Tiru Maravanisvarat-tup-Perumal.

Some of the Parakesari inscriptions in this temple should be assigned to Parantaka I or to Arinjaya himself. One of them (330 of 1903) of the 4th yeai concerns a gift of land for the engaging of two trumpet-blowers, in addition to two already in service, to the temple said to be located in Arinjigai Chaturvedi-mangalam, a devadana and a brahmadeya on the southern bank of the Kaveri. Another of the same year (331 of 1903) mentions a gift for a flower-garden and for the maintenance of three gardeners and five servants. In the 10th year of a Parakesarivarman (337 of 1903) one Solapperundeviyar Perunangai, the consort of Sembiyan Irukkuvel alias Pudi Paran-takanar, made a gift of 1080 kalanju of gold on her birthday which fell on the day of a solar eclipse. The Perunguri Sabha (General Assembly) of Arin-jigai Chaturvedimangalam received the money and made over some lands to the temple of Maravan-isvarattup-Perumanadigal for food-offerings, festivals and worship.

The inscription runs thus:

“Sembiyan Irukkuvelar ana Pudi Pirantakanar deviyarana Solap-perundeviyarana Perunangai tirup pirandanal surya-grahanam aha udakam panni Perumanadigal melerrina marrili sempon 1080 kalanju......”.

This chief, Sembiyan Irukkuvel alias Pudi Parantakadevar figures as a donor at Andanallur also between the 10th and 14th years of Parakesari who is to be identified with Parantaka I.

A record (342 of 1903) of the 4th year of a Raja-kesarivarman—perhaps Gandaraditya or Sundara Chola—mentions that one Trailokkiyan alias Kodan-darama Marayan of Karkodai near Kodumbalur bought a piece of land from the local sabhai for 80 kalanju of gold and made a gift of it for maintaining a boat plying in the tank at Arinjigai Chaturvedimangalam; the part ‘Kodandaraman’ of his name makes him closer to the period of Aditya I (who had this surname).

An inscription of the 12th year of a Parakesari (332 of 1903) mentions that one Lakha Vidyadhara Brahmamarayan reclaimed some waste-land and presented it to the Goddess (Uma Bhattaraki) with the permission of the local sabha. It may be a record of the days of Parantaka I. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that this is the first inscriptional evidence of an independent gift being given to the consort of the main deity of the temple, and perhaps the reference is to the bronze image of Bhogesvari set up in this temple and placed perhaps in the garbhagriha or the ardhamandapa of the temple, as per the prevalent custom of this age.

The Sundaresvara temple has to be assigned to the period of Parantaka I. It is a dvitala karrali facing the east.The garbhagriha is a square 19 ft. 4 in. (5.89 m.) side. There is a central projection on each of the three sides. The devakoshtas in the south and the north are now empty; they originally contained Vinadhara Dakshinamurti (now lying in the subshrine of the Saptamatrikas) and Brahma (a standing figure, found broken into two pieces and lying on the floor, and since removed to a Bombay museum) respectively; that in the west contains Vishnu (Pis. 19 to 27).

The ardha-mandapa extends forward 13 ft. 6 in. (4.11 m.) and there are two dvarapalas at its entrance. There is a later mukhamandapa (32 ft. 6 in. by 23 ft. =9.91 m. by 7.01 m.).

The pilasters are 7 ft. (2.13 m.) high; they have cushion-capitals and palagais, and their brackets are adorned with roll ornament with a central band.

There is a bhutagana frieze below the cornice and a yali frieze above it. The kudus have human-heads in the centre and simha- heads above.

The second tala has salas and kutas. At the top we have another cornice and a frieze.

There are niche-figures on the four sides of the griva with four bulls at the four corners. The sikhara and stupi are circular, later treated.

The old subshrines still in existence are those of the Saptamatrikas (rectangular structure with wagon-roof), Ganesa (apsidal) and two others with round sikharas. There is also a shrine for Chandesvara (Pis. 29 to 30).

2. Pidariyar Sattanur Nangai Koyil

Besides the Sundaresvara temple, there is also a Pidari temple here, called that of Pidariyar Sattanur Nangai in an inscription of Parantaka I whose date is lost. It makes provision for rice offerings to this deity: the village is called Arinjigai Chaturvedimangalam. This makes it clear that the village was known by this name even in the days of Parantaka I. On the walls of this temple, there are two Rajakasari inscriptions of the 4th and 12th years; perhaps they belong to Sun-dara Chola. It is mentioned that a separate body called the Kali Ganattar was in charge of the administration of the affairs of this temple.

Footnotes and references:


One Pudi Arindigai, wife of Videlvidugu Ilangovelar of Kodumbalur, makes a gift of 27 kalanju of gold for offerings to the temple of Adipurisvarar at Tiruvorri-yur in the days of Kampavarman (174 of 1912). K.R. Venkatarama Ayyar opines that it is the name of this lady that is associated with Nangapuram called Arinjigai Chaturvedimangalam or Nangaikkudi. There is no evidence for such an identification.

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