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....

The Larger Leyden grant says of Sundara Chola:

“From Arinjaya was born Parantaka (II) who was equal in prowess to the destroyer of the three cities, i.e. Siva, who was the crusher of the circle of many kings and who (causing his) subjects to be pleased by his good qualities, peacefully ruled the earth girdled by the ocean.

At the city named Chevura, he (Parantaka) had the quarters filled with heaps of sharp and pointed arrows sent forth from his beautiful bow and caused to flow manifold rivers of blood springing from the high mountains, i.e. the enemies’ elephants cut asunder by (his) sharp sword”.

The Karandai Tamil Sangam Plates (Nos. 57 and 58-A - copper plates - RIE 1949-50) confirm the battle of Sevur (or Chevura) and add that it was fought against Vira Pandya, who was forced to flee and climb the peaks of the Sahyadri Mountains (the Western Ghats) for refuge. Sundara Chola claims the title of Maduraikonda Rajakesari or Madhurantaka in his own right. In this war against the Pandyas, Sundara Chola was helped by Bhuti Vikrama Kesari and Parantaka Siriya velar of Kodumbalur. We know that both of them distinguished themselves in the Pandyan wars, but we wonder if they belonged to the same family and if so in what relation they stood to each other.

Sundara Chola seems to have quite surpassed Cupid in beauty and therefore received the name of Sundara.

The Tiruvalangadu Plates add that his subjects believed him to be an avatar of Manu, and that he came again to the earth to re-establish the laws of Manu which had become lax under the influence of the Kali age.

He is said to have died in the Golden Palace (Pon Maligai) at Kanchi. Hence, he is described in later times as “Pon Maligai Tunjina devar”.

His chief queen was Vanavan who is described as a very Arundhati, the very embodiment of chastity; and she is said to have followed her lord as night the day to Heaven afraid, as it were, of the allurements of her husband by the celestial nymphs and consequently desirous of being near him even there. This seems to be an euphemistic way of saying that she committed sati (self-immolation).

In the days of Rajaraja I, her devoted daughter Kundavaiyar set up a metal image of her mother in the Rajarajesvaram temple at Tanjavur.

The Anbil plates of Sundara Chola (4th year) are the earliest so far known of the Chola copper plate grants. They record the gift, as an ekabhoga-brahma-deya of ten veli of land by the king to Aniruddha Brahmadhirajan.

Another fragmentary copper plate grant of the reign of Sundara Chola is published by T.N. Subrahmanyan in the Transactions of the Archaeological Society of South India (1958-59, pp. 84-101). Only six out of 23 (and more) plates are forthcoming. This grant registers a gift of land (30 veli and odd) as pallichchandam in favour of the Sundara Solap-Perumpalli a Jaina temple named after the king by a merchant Selethi Kudiyan for the use of the male and female ascetics of the institution.

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