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 Kilur (near Tirukkoyilur)

Tirukkoyilur is in South Arcot district, on the southern bank of the Pennai and about 25 miles (40.23 km.) from Villupuram. This place is held sacred by both the Yaishnavites and the Saivites. It was formerly known as Tirukkovalur, the home of the Malaya-man chiefs, famous from the days of the Tamil Sangam, who held sway in the region round it—then called Maladu of 2,000 villages. Their capital, also called Koval (short for Kovalur), is closely associated with the Early Yaishnavite Alvars—Poygai, Bhutam and Pey. The local Vishnu temple is on the western side of the town, and the presiding deity is called Trivikrama. Tirumangai Alvar calls Him ‘Tiru Idaikkali Alvar at Kovalur’. Though this is an ancient temple, its vimana seems to have been converted from a brick into a stone structure by one Narasingavarman of Miladu (Maladu), a local chief of the days of RajendraChola II, (A.R. no. 123 of 1900, a.d. 1057-58).

Virattanesvara temple

In the eastern part of Tirukkoyilur lies the Siva temple with which we are here more concerned. The presiding deity is called Koval Virattanesvara of Kilur. Appar and Sambandar (7th century a.d.) have sung hymns on the Lord of this place.

Siva, as a destroyer of evil-doers, is said to have fought eight of them in eight different places, and on each such occasion, He assumed a different form. The places traditionally associated with these heroic feats of Siva are called Ashta Virattanam (or Virastha-nam). The Virattanesvaram at Kilur is regarded as the place where Siva overthrew Andhakasura[1].

The Siva temple of Kilur seems to have been in existence even during the time of the Later Pallavas, Nandivarman III and Nrpatunga. An inscription of the 17th year of Ko Vijaya Nandivikraman (Nandivarman III—a.d. 835-860) mentions that the temple of Tiru-virattanattup-Perumal was located in Tirukkovalur in Kurukkai Kurram, a part of Maladu; it registers a gift of 15 kalanju of gold for a lamp to this temple by a mistress (bhogiyar) of Vanakovaraiyar, called Konnakkannar, daughter of Manikkattar. And the endowment was entrusted with the merchant-guild (nagaram) of the village (SII, VII no. 907; A.R. no. 278 of 1902). This nagaram of Tirukkovalur is mentioned in inscriptions of Nrpatunga as well (18th and 21st years: 297 and 303 of 1902).

The earliest Chola inscription here seems to be one of the 5th year of Parakesarivarman, which, on grounds of paleography, can be ascribed to Parakesari Vijaya-laya. It refers to a gift of 15 kalanju of gold for a perpetual lamp to Tiru Virattanattup-perumanadigal by Nangai Kulamanikkattar, the daughter of Iladadigal and the queen of Vanakovaraiyar. And the of this place agreed to maintain the lamp, and the charity was placed under the protection of the Mahe-svaras (A.R. 299 of 1902).[2]

An inscription of the 13th year of Parantaka 1 concerns an endowment of seven kalanju of pon (gold) for various temple-services during the Chaitra festival (A.R. no. 298 of 1902). A dual inscription (28th year and 33rd year: the figure 23 in the text of the latter should be a mistake for 33) refers to two gifts for lamps to Tiru Virattanattup-Perumal, one by Rajadeviyar Desatakki Perumanar, daughter of Kayirur Perumanar of Miladu, and the other by Malaiyala Orraich-Chevakar, who belonged to the regiment of Pillaiyar Arikulakesariyar, one of the sons of Parantaka I (279 and 280 of 1902). There are a number of inscriptions of the Rashtrakuta ruler Kannaradeva (Krishna III) also.

King Rajaraja I seems to have endowed a lamp to this temple for the merit of Kundavai Amirta Valli Alvar, the mother of his queen Uloka Mahadeviyar (9th year, 239 of 1902).

Gifts continued to be made to this temple almost to the end of the Chola period.

Despite the existence of an inscription of Vijayalaya, the present structure of the temple of Tiru Virattanes-varar at Kilur can be assigned to the period of Parantaka I. Even this has undergone modifications due to later repairs.

The temple faces the west. The basement is 5 ft. (1.52 m.) high. It has a yali frieze and padma mouldings. The main temple measures 48 ft. (14.63 m.) from west to east and 21 ft. 8 in. (6.60 m.) from north to south. The ardhamandapa measures 21 ft. 6 in. (6.55 m.) from north to south and 17 ft. 6 in. (5.33 m.) from east to west. There are two dvarapalas at its entrance.

There are 48 panels of miniature-sculptures placed above the yali frieze and below the pilaster. There is a bhutagana frieze below the cornice which is adorned with kudus containing human and yali heads. Circles decorate the edges of the cornice.

Of the devakoshta figures, Brahma and Lingodbhavar seem to belong to the original temple. There is an old Durga sculpture placed loosely in the northern prakara. There are sub-shrines for Ganesa, Subrahmanyar, Chandra, Surya and the Saptamatrikas (Pis. 88 to 91).

Footnotes and references:


The other seven places associated with the heroic exploits of Siva and the corresponding exploits are as follows:

1. Tiruvadigai—Tripura-samharam.
2. Tiruk-Kandiyur—The cutting off of the fifth head of Brahma.
3. Tirup-Pariyalur—The cutting off of the head of Daksha Prajapati.
4. TiruVirkkudi—The overthrow of Jalandharasura.
5. Valuvur—The overthrow of Gajasura.
6. Tiruk-kurukkai—The burning of Kama, the God of Love.
7. Tiruk-Kadavur (or Kadaiyur)—subjugation of the Lord of Death, Yama.


The text of the inscription (299 of 1902: Epi. Indica, VII; No. 20): “Svasti sri Kop Parakesari Panmarkku yandu ainjavadu Tiru Virattanattup Perumanadi-galukku Nanda-vilakkinukku Vanakovaraiyar devigal Iladadigal mahalar nangai Kulamanikkattar vaitta pon padinainkalanju; ip ponnukku kalanjivait tingal-uri padiyal iravum pahalum nandavilakkerippom anom nagarattom: idu Pan Mahesvara rakshai.” This inscription is on a nock in the prakara of the temple.

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