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....

Temples in Pullamangai (Pasupati Koyil)

Pullamangai, on the outskirts of Pasupatikoyil, about 9 miles (14.48 km.) from Tanjavur, has one of the finest of Early Chola temples. It is now called the Brahmapurisvara temple, but, according to its inscriptions, it was known in the past as that of Tiru Alandurai Mahadevar.

Brahmapurisvara temple (Tiru Alandurai Mahadevar)

There are a number of Parakesari inscriptions here without distinguishing epithets, and some of them could relate to Parantaka I; one, of the third year (549 of 1921), mentions that the Village Assembly met in the mandapa in front of the Tiru Alandurai Mahadevar temple and executed the sale of some land (of extent \\ma) to the temple of Kala Pidari in Nadu-virchcheri (perhaps the modern village of Nalluch-cheri) for 25 kasu, making the land tax-free. An inscription of the 6th year of a Parakesari, which could be assigned to Parantaka I, registers a gift of land by Sembiyan Mahabali Vanarayar for conducting the morning service to this Lord. This chief is the famous Ganga feudatory Prithivipati II, on whom Parantaka I had conferred the Bana country and the titles of ‘Banadhiraja’ and ‘Sembiyan Mahabali Vanaraya’ after his conquest of the Banas with the help of Prithivi-pati.[1]

There are two inscriptions of Maduraikonda Para-kesari, Parantaka I, of the 11th and the 18th years (558 and 555 of 1921). The first refers to a gift of land for a lamp by a private individual, and the second to a royal gift of 5½ veli of unalienated land and five kalanju of gold to this deity.

An inscription of the 5th year of ‘Parakesarivarman who took the head of the Pandya’, Aditya II, also relates to a gift for a lamp.

A Rajakesarivarman inscription of the 15th year (556 of 1921), also recording a gift for a lamp, should be assigned to Sundara Chola. Thus it will be clear that the stone temple should have come into existence in the days of Parantaka 1, though it might have existed earlier as a brick structure at least from the days of the Nayanmars (7th century).

The temple faces the east. The garbhagriha and the ardhamandapa are the only components of the old temple of the days of Parantaka I. The central shrine is a square of side 25 ft. (7.62 m.). The mouldings of the plinth deserve special mention. The layers kumudam, kandam, kapotam and (of yalis) are of exquisite workmanship and finish.

On the outer walls of the garbhagriha and the ardhamandapa, there are five devakoshtas containing Ganesa, Dakshinamurti, Lingodbhavar, Brahma and Durga. At the base of the koshtas and in the moulding of the kandam below the kapotam, there are panels of miniature-sculptures of delicate workmanship and fine finish. The kapotam is adorned with circles on its edges and scroll-work in the middle and at the two ends. This is surmounted by a frieze, and at the edges there are makara heads, with human beings in various wonderful postures set within their gaping mouths. Over this yali frieze in each of the there are four panels of miniature-sculptures. In addition to the main figures of the devakoshtas, there are attendant deities and their vehicles in the adjacent wall-space between the inner semi-circular pilasters, flanking the niche-figure and supporting the torana above, and the octagonal pilasters enclosing the whole bay. The upper portions of the shafts of the pilasters are adorned with scroll-work, and the abacus (palagai) is thick and large in size. There are at the bottom two gaping makaras with riders placed so as to face two other makaras at the top, with a number of smaller makaras in between. This outer border of the torana is crowned with a figure at the top. The pediment contains another line of small-sized makaras enclosing the figure of a deity in the centre. The pilasters are decorated with bas relief, floral scrolls, dancing figures, birds, yalis, and garlands of beads or pearls. Over the palagai of the octagonal pilasters and below the main cornice, there are bracket-figures, rearing yalis with riders which seem to be flying in the air as in the to-ranas of Sanchi.

Between the devakoshtas, there are pancharas in two talas. The lower tala has two four-sided pilasters resting on a yali varimanam and two base-panels of miniature-sculptures. The corbels are angular with roll-ornament. The central band has human beings entwined by flower-creepers. The cornice is full of scroll-work from end to end, with two kudus crowning the two pilasters. The kudus are more or less semicircular in shape and covered with scroll-work and crowned by a simha head. There is a horizontal crossband in the centre. The yali frieze is repeated over the cornice, with two open-mouthed makara heads at the ends. The second tala of the pancharas is in the form of an attic with a central niche-figure of marvellous charm in a striking tribhanga pose, flanked by two rampant yalis on the sides. Its sikhara is rectangular and has a wagon-roof shape, and this is inserted into the kudu of the main cornice. Between the architrave and the main cornice of the garbhagriha, we have a bhutagana frieze, full of animation and a variety of forms interspersed with birds, animals and a sculpture of Lord Ganesa. The cornice is adorned with circles at the edges and kudus along the facade.

There are two more talas above the garbhagriha. There are rectangular, wagon-roofed pancharas (salas) in the centre and cubical ones at the ends.

Above the third tala, we have the griva. There is a figure-niche on each of the four sides surmounted by an elaborate kudu crowned by a simha- head. There are Saivite figures in the niches. The sikhara and the stupi are four-sided and curvilinear. Though originally this temple was of stone, the upper storeys have been largely remodelled in plaster in recent times.

The ardhamandapa, also a part of the original temple, is supported by four pillars with pilasters at the sides. It measures 26 ft. by 22 ft. (=7.92 m. by 6.71 m.). The edges of the cornice are adorned by miniature shrines. On the sides of the entrance to the ardhamandapa, there are two dvarapalas in two different postures as in the temple of Tirukkattalai. The headdress, the thick rolled yajnopavita, the necklace and the armlets recall Later Pallava sculptures (Pis. 32 to 42).

The shrines of the parivara-devatas have disappeared.[2]

Footnotes and references:


Vide: Takkolam inscription of the 24th year of Rajakesari Aditya I: Epi. Rep. no. 5 of 1897, E.I., XIX, no. 12.

Pullamangai: Epi. Rep. no. 559 of 1921, E.I., XXVI, no. 10.

Sholingur inscription of the 9th year of Parakesari Parantaka I: Epi. Rep. no. 9 of 1896, E.I., IV, p. 221.

The Udayendiram Plates: SII, II, no. 76.


Some later inscriptions: An inscription of the 12th year of Rajaraja I mentions that the Assembly of Pullamangalam met in the temple to the beat of drums and made a gift of land to certain brahmans well-versed in the Rig and Sama-vedas.

The trial of a criminal case is mentioned in a record of the 9th year of Vikrama Chola. Two watchmen of the temple had a quarrel, and a son of one of them fell in the affray; the other was punished by being asked to bum a perpetual lamp (contributing three-fourths of the expenditure) in the name of the deceased.

A record of Kulottunga III mentions the exemption from taxes of certain lands belonging to the temple.

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