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....

Tiruvamattur is in South Arcot district, about 4 miles (6.44 km.) from Villupuram, on a village-road branching off at the first milestone on the road from Villupuram to Gingee. The temple of Abhiramesvara here is an Early Chola temple of the days of Parantaka I.

Abhiramesvara temple (Tiruvamattur Perumanadigal)

There are a number of Parakesari inscriptions ranging from the 3rd to the 16th year, without any distinguishing epithets. Some of them at least could be assigned to Parantaka I. One of the 3rd year (425 of 1903), records a gift of ten pon for a perpetual lamp to Tiruvamattur Perumanadigal by Parabhumikan Malian alias Gandaraditta Pallavaraiyan, an officer of Gandara-ditya, son of Parantaka I. This may therefore be taken to be an inscription of the days of Parantaka I.

On the west base of the central shrine, there is an inscription of the 6th year of a Parakesari (413 of 1903); this mentions the architect-cum-sculptor (sthapati) who constructed the temple: “it tali Arukur tachchan Naranan Vekandan ahiya Tiruvamattur Acharyan”, i.e., Naranan Vekandan alias Tiruvamattur Acharyan of Arukur. The end of the inscription is built in. Though incomplete, it is nevertheless interesting, since only rarely do we get the names of the artisans connected with building of temples in South Indian Epigraphy. Two more inscriptions, of the 15th and 16th years (408 and 417 of 1903) should also be attributed to Parantaka I.

There are also a number of inscriptions of Parantaka I, with his usual title of ‘Madirai-konda Parakesari’, ranging from his 15th to his 41st year. One possibly of his 11th year (the date is uncertain as the relevant line stops with pati...., and the gap can be filled up to give us any one of the years 11 and 13 to 18; in any event, the year is later than the 10th and earlier than the 20th) records that the mahout of the temple-elephant which carried the sri-bali of the Perumanadigal of Tiruvamattur lost the share of land allotted to him with the effect that the ceremony itself came to a standstill. Then the Pan-Mahesvaras of the temple went in appeal to the king. The king, ‘Parakesari Sri Paranta-kadeva’, thereupon ordered the restoration of this gift; the royal order(Sri-mukham) was duly communicated to the king’s officer in charge of the administration of the district, one Chola-sikhamanippallavaraiyan, who regularised the gift (423 of 1903). Any irregularity in the management of temple-charities thus received the prompt attention of the king and his officers, and speedy justice was meted out. This is a laudable feature of Chola administration. The rest of the inscriptions of Parantaka I concern gifts for lamps.

The donor who figures in the inscription of the 3rd year of Parakesari already referred to (425 of 1903), Parabhumikan Malian alias Gandaraditya Pallavarai-yan, makes a gift of 20 kalanju of gold for two lamps to this temple, not in any regnal year but in the saka year 879 (equivalent to a.d. 957; no. 426 of 1903). In this inscription, he is called the ‘Lord of the nadu of Karppundi’ (‘Karppundi-naduUdaiyar’). This clearly indicates the political unrest in, and the overthrow of Chola rule over, this region on account of the Rashtra-kuta invasion. This record also strengthens our ascribing the earlier record of the 3rd year of Parakesari (425 of 1903) to Parantaka I.

Two inscriptions of a Rajakesarivarman (3rd year: 405 of 1903, and 5th year: 27 of 1922) may be assigned to Sundara Chola, and both concern gifts for lamps.

The garbhagriha is a square 20 ft. (6.10 m.) side. The basement is 6 ft. 8 in. (2.03 m.) high. There is an antarala between the garbhagriha and the ardhamandapa and another between the ardhamandapa and the mukhamandapa. In front of the mukhamandapa, there is a later mahamandapa. The whole complex measures 75 ft. (22.86 m.) from east to west.

The devakoshtas are projections from the main wall of the garbhagriha. The images found in these koshtas are Bhikshatanar Dakshinamurti, Lingodbhavar, Brahma and Durga (Pis. 81 - 83).

The four central pillars of the ardhamandapa are missing, but their corbels, with their roll-ornament and central band, are intact.

It is an ekatala Structure. The Sikhara is new.

Later inscriptions:

A record of Rajaraja I (year built in) mentions that one Gunasekharan of Vesalippadi made a gift of a jewelled gold vessel for the sacred Adavallan (Nataraja) of Tiruvamattur and a pair of bracelets set with precious stones to the deity.

An enquiry into the affairs of the temple is recorded in three inscriptions of Rajaraja I of the 23rd to the 26th years, A certain Tamulan Korran Angi of Sirudhamanallur, the king's agent and trustee of this temple, enquired into them in the 23rd year of the king. He ordered the distribution of certain offerings among the 21 temple-servants. In addition to the existing staff, two more were appointed for ringing the bells for the sri~bali ceremony. Four years later this arrangement was objected to by a member of the king’s perundaram as being opposed to the sastras. In the 25th year of Rajaraja I, the same royal officer arranged that the drummers engaged in the temple should, in return for some paddy, take out the image of Chandrasekhara Perumal in procession thrice daily for the sri-bali ceremony; and, in the 26th year, he called together the Assembly and the residents of the village to enquire again into the temple affairs. On finding certain surplus paddy owing to the use of the standard measure Vithi-vitankan marakkal instead of the Rajakesari kal, he ordered the surplus to be utilised for the daily supply of akkaradisil (sweet-rice pudding) offerings to the Lord.

There is a very interesting inscription of the 2nd year of Kulottunga II alias Anapaya (a.d. 1135) of the Periyapuranam fame, which mentions that there were ten blind men (and two guides) in charge of the singing of Tirup-padiyam (Devaram hymns) and the king made a gift of 12 veli of land to the Devaram troupe led by Rajaraja Pichchan, to augment the strength of the troupe. Anapaya was a zealous and fanatical Saivite, and he is said to have thrown the image of Govindaraja (Vishnu) at Chidambaram into the ocean, calling it (the ocean) His original Home!

The Muslim invasion and the resulting devastation of the country in the 14th century find mention in an inscription of Venruman Konda Sambhu-varaiyan.

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