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....

Kamarasavalli is in the Udaiyarpalayam taluk of Tiruchy district on the north bank of the (Kollidam) Coleroon about 14 miles (22.5 km.) from Kilappaluvur. The temple of Karkotakesvaram is an important early Chola temple.

Karkotakesvara temple (Tirunallur Paramesvara Mcihadevar temple)

The temple seems to have been in existence as a brick structure even in the days of Aditya I, as two of its inscriptions refer to an irrigation channel called Kodandarama vaikkal or Kodandarama - peruvaikkal. One of the earliest extant inscriptions found on the south wall of the central shrine belongs to the 9th regnal year of a certain Parakesarivarman (No. 78 of 1914). It has been said that portions of an inscription of Raja-raja I were engraved over an erasure of an earlier inscription. Perhaps this palimpsest inscription might have been a foundation-inscription; even otherwise it might have thrown some more light on the origin or the establishment of this temple at an earlier time. Whatever be that, this inscription of the 9th regnal year of Parakesarivarman mentioned above is assigned by the Government Epigraphist to Aditya II Karikala; but as he is not credited with such a high regnal year, it has to be assigned to Parantaka I or to Uttama Chola. But the evidence is not sufficient or conclusive for assigning the inscription definitely to either of them. Anyhow it contains the earliest mention of the Kodandarama vaikkal named after Aditya I; and the Perunguri Perumakkal of the brahmadesam of Kamarasavalli Chaturvedimangalam on the northern bank (of the kollidam) made a gift of land as for the conduct of Sribali and Tiruppalli-eluchchi services to the Lord Tirunallur Paramesvara as the Lord of Karkotakesvara temple was then called. Gifts for lamps and Sribali ceremonies are generally among the earliest of temple endowments.

The next important inscription is one of the 5th year of a certain Rajakesarivarman. A gift of land for Sidari to the deity of this temple, called here‘Tirunallur Mahadevar’ismadebyBalasriyaBhattan Sivan Kuttan of Adanur. This inscription (no. 74 of 1914, SII, XIII, no. 109) has been assigned to the reign of Rajakesarivarman Sundara Chola alias Parantaka II. The same donor makes an endowment in the same regnal year of Ko-Rajakesarivarman to the temple of Tirup-palturai Mahadevar (Adimulesvara temple) atUttama-Sili-Chaturvedimangalam (no. 171 of 1907 - SII, XIII, no. 106). The present temple structure of Kamarasa-valli seems to have come into existence, if not earlier, at the latest, some time before the 5th regnal year of Sundara Chola (a.d. 961).

There are eight inscriptions which relate to the reign of Rajaraja I. One of his 13th year mentions a gift of 15 kalanju of gold the interest on which was to be given to those who recited the Talavakara Sama Veda on the day of Tiruxadirai in the month of Margali. As already stated, a portion of this inscription is engraved over an erasure of an earlier inscription (no. 76 of 1914). One of his 15th regnal year mentions a gift of land for the offering of adalai (sweet rice pudding) on the festival day of Margali Tiruxadirai. A gift of gold for midday offerings on new moon days was made in the 17th year of Rajaraja I.

We get the interesting information that the strength of the local assembly was eighty from an inscription of the 20th year of Rajaraja I. A gift of tanks and ponds for supplying red-lotuses daily during the month of Dhanus to the Mahadeva is recorded in an inscription of the 22nd year of Rajaraja I. A gift of land for sandal paste (70 of 1914) and another of gold for lamps (64 and 63 of 1914) are recorded in three other inscriptions of Rajaraja I.

There are three inscriptions of Rajendra I; one of his 8th regnal year (a.d. 1020, no. 72 of 1914) mentions a gift of land to this temple; but the assembly is said to have met at another temple in the locality called Sri Kailasam Udaiyar temple. The next is one of the 17th regnal year of Vira Rajendra Chola Deva—Rajendra I. Portions of this are lost and it mentions a gift of land to the temple of ‘Tirunallur Mahadeva’ (Karkotakesvaram). Sakkai-kuthu was a form of dancing popular in the Tamil land from the Sangam age onwards. A grant of land by the Perunguri sabhai of Kamarasavalli Chaturvedimangalam was made to Sak-kai Marayan Vikrama Cholan for performing Sakkai-kuthu thrice on each of the festivals of Margali vadirai and Vaigasi Tiruvadirai.

We pass on to the reign of Kulottunga I. We have mentioned the existence of a temple called Kailasam-Udaiyar at Kamarasavalli referred to in an inscription of Rajendra I (72 of 1914). In another inscription of the 26th year of Kulottunga Chola Deva I (a.d. 1096), it is stated that this Siva temple called Srikailasam alias Rajendra Chola Isvaram was found in a state of neglect; neither the Sribali services not the procession were being conducted. So the assembly of Kamarasvalli Chaturvedimangalam decided to revive these items of services in this temple by collecting one Kuruni of paddy from each harvested field of one ma in extent growing paddy, millet or gingily, one nut from every areca tree, and one ulakku of oil from each vellan’s house (homestead) in the village and its hamlets. It was also decided that these collections were to be made by the revenue officials (No. 73 of 1914 and page 98 of Madras Epi. Report, 1915).

In the 27th year of Kulottunga I, a gift of land for a flower garden to the Karkotakesvaram temple is made by the assembly of Kamarasavalli Chaturvedi-mangalam a brahmadeya in Kurram, included in the sub-division of Geya-Vinoda-valanadu.

A gift of money for three lamps was made in the 50th year of Kulottunga I. Here the sub-division is called Vadagarai Ulaguyyavanda Sola Valanadu, evidently based on another title of Kulottunga I.

Another temple in this locality called Tiruvagat-tisvaram (Agastisvaram) Udaiya Mahadevar at Valavan Puliyangudi in Vadagarai Ulaguyyavanda Sola valanadu is mentioned in another inscription of the 50th year of Kulottunga I and it makes a gift of land for worship in this temple.

There are three inscriptions of Vikrama Chola. The first of the 4th regnal year concerns a gift of money for a lamp to the temple of Tiru-karkotaka-Isvaram Udaiyar; the second of the 14th year mentions a gift of land; and the third also of the 14th year mentions a gift of ten kalanju of gold for a lamp to this temple. The sub-division in which Kamarasavalli Chaturvedi-mangalam was situated is renamed Vikrama Chola Valanadu.

A gift of land for two lamps was made in the 3rd year (a.d. 1135) of Rajakesarivarman Tribhuvana Chakravarti Kulottunga Chola Deva (II) (87 of 1914).

A native of Alangudi makes a gift of money for a lamp and midnight offerings and for betel leaves, areca nuts, a knife (Kilikattu) and a pair of scissors to the God and Goddess in the 10th year of Tribhuvana Chakaravarti Kulottunga Chola Deva who took Madurai (83 of 1914). Perhaps this inscription has to be assigned to the reign of Kulottunga III (acc. a.d. 1178).

There are three inscriptions which might be assigned to the reign of Rajaraja III. The growing weakness of the Chola empire, the rise of over-mighty chiefs and the disturbed condition of the Chola country are reflected in a number of inscriptions of his reign. A local inscription of the 11th year of Tribhuvana Cha-kravarti Rajarajadeva records that the Assembly of Kamarasavalli Chaturvedimangalam decided to have the grama Karyam (affairs of village administration) attended to only by those who consented to vacate their seats by the year according to the old custom. This rule should have meant to prevent unruly elements grasping power and increasing it for selfish ends over a prolonged period. In the 16th year of Rajaraja III, a gift of a silver forehead plate to the deity is recorded.

A sale of land in Vannam alias Madurantakanallur, a devadana village belonging to the temple of Karko-takesvaram in his 17th year is recorded (67 of 1914). There seems to have been some dispute later on (during the time of the Hoysala king, Pratapa Chakravarti Vira Somesvara), between the temple managers and a private individual about the ownership of this land. An inscription of the 5th year of Hoysala Somesvara records the royal decision, that the land was to be considered as belonging to the temple (No. 94 of 1914).

There are three more inscriptions of the time of Rajaraja III and they record a sale of land (17th year, 71 of 1914), a gift of oil for lamps (19th year, 91 of 1914) and a gift of oil (by the local oil merchants) for bathing the God on Saturdays (22nd year, 89 of 1914).

An inscription of the 12th year of Tribhuvana Chakravarti Rajendra Chola Deva on the walls of the Chandesvara shrine of this temple records a gift of land to the Tiru Jnanasambandar Tirumadam by one Kunrankilan Tirunavukkarasu deva, a devotee of the temple and a native of Urrukattu kottam in Jayangonda solamandalam (95 of 1914). Another of the 14th year of the same ruler makes a gift of land for a flower garden (93 of 1914).

The grand Chola empire had eclipsed and the Pandyas now made themselves masters of the chola country. It is stated in an inscription of the 10th year of Jatavar-man Tribhuvana Chakravarti Vira Pandya Deva that the people of 18 countries and 79 valanaus assigned certain customs-duties on articles of merchandise towards repairs to the temple of Tirukkarkotakesvaram Udaiya Nayanar in Kamarasavalli Chaturvedimang-alam.

We have already mentioned that this region passed into the hands of the Hoysalas at the end of the 13th and early 14th century.

There is an undated inscription of a later date which records the construction of a mandapa in front of the central shrine by one Avvaiyar Tiruvarangamudiyan Appaninum-nalla Sembiyadaraiyan of Pudukkudi (79 of 1914; also 75 and 86 of 1914). There is also another inscription which records that the same person covered the mandapa with flat tiles.

The temple faces the east. The vimana is tri-tala. Its sikhara is round. The upa-pitha is of brick. Its adishthana (4 feet—1.2 m.—high) and its garbhagriha are of stone. The superstructure is of brick and mortar.

The garbhagriha is 16 feet (4.9m.) square. There are two central projections (5 feet—1.5.m.—long) on each side of the outer wall of the garbhagriha. The central devakoshta is enclosed by two pilasters adorned with koshta-pancharas on either side. The kumudam is octagonal. There is a bhutagana frieze below the cornice and a yali frieze above it. The ardhamandapa projects 24 feet (7.3 m.) forward. There is a later mukha-mandapa. On the walls of the garbhagriha there are panels of miniature-sculptures of fine workmanship.

The figures of the devakoshtas are Nataraja, Ganapati, Dakshinamurti and Agastya (in the southern side); Ardhanarisvara, Lingodbhavar and Kankalamurti (on the western side); Kalasamhara, Brahma, Bhiksha-tanar and Durga (on the northern side).

There are sub-shrines for Ganapati, Subrahmanyar and Chandesvara. (Pis. 104-128)

This temple may be assigned to the period of Sundara Chola with later additions. It is bigger and more evolved than the temples of Tiruvaduturai and Punjai.

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