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....

Tirumiyachchur is situated 11 miles (17.7 km.) from Mayuram on the road to Tiruvarur and a mile and a half (2.4 km.) from Peralam in the Tanjavur district.

Muyarchchinadesvara (apsidal, main shrine) temple

There are two temples here, side by side, both facing the east. The main temple of Muyarchchinadesvara is apsidal (‘tungana-madam’ variety), one of the few of this kind in the Chola country: another, which was perhaps rebuilt of stone in the middle Chola period, is in Pennagadam (see Pennagadam) in the nadu-nadu (the central region) on the road from Toludur to Vriddha-chalam: a large number of apsidal temples are however found in Tondai-nadu. To the north of the main temple is another, of the llangoyil type (‘balalayam’), housing the image preliminarily consecrated before the main temple came to function. It is generally the practice to demolish the llangoyil and throw the image into a holy river or tank, after the main temple starts functioning. In some cases, the ilangoyil is preserved, a suitable structure is built, and worship continued therein. At Tirumiyachchur, we have one of the rare instances where both the shrines are preserved and worship offered in both. (Tradition has it that Surya worshipped the Lord and the Goddess of this temple mounted on an elephant.)

Sakala-Bhuvanesvara temple (Ilangoyil)

The deity of the main shrine is sung by Sambandar and that of the Ilangoyil by Appar. Appar, in the first stanza of his hymn, specifically mentions the ‘torrum koyil’ (the temple-to-be, or the main temple) and the ‘tonriya-koyil’ (the temple already in existence or the Ilangoyil). Both the garbhagriha and the sikhara of the main temple are apsidal. The garbhagriha is 16 feet (4.9 m.) long from east to west, and the adhishthana is 4 feet (1.2 m.) high. It has padma and round kumudam mouldings. The devakoshta figures are Ganapati, Ganga-visarjanamurti and Dakshinamurti in the south, Lingodbhavar in the west, and Brahma, Siva-Uma Alinginamurti, Durga and Rishabantikar in the north.

There is a koshta-panjara between the garbhagriha and the ardhamandapa, the latter projects forward 12 feet and a half (3.8 m.). There are fine toranas over the devakoshtas, and a bhutagana frieze below and a yali frieze above the cornice. On the outer walls of the garbhagriha, there are panels of miniature-sculptures (Pis. 250-260).

The Ilangoyil has a square garbhagriha, and an ardhamandapa. It is an eka-tala structure, with an octagonal sikhara.

The building of the apsidal temple of stone seems to belong to the days of Uttama Chola.


(1) Penna(ga)dam is in the South Arcot district, lying about 9 miles (14.5 km.) west of Vriddhachalam. It figures in inscriptions as Pennagadam and as Mudi-konda Chola Chaturvedimangalam. There is a local tradition that the Lord of this place was worshipped by a gandharva lady (pen), a cow (‘a’) and an elephant (\kadam’-'karam*) for attaining their salvation; whence its name. The main deity of the place, now called Pralayakalesvara, is known in inscriptions as Vada-kailasam IJdaiya Mahadevar (234 of 1928-29) and as Tirut-tunga-nai madam Udaiya Mahadevar (235 of 1928-29).

The Devaram hymnist, Appar, has sung a hymn on this Lord, calling Him the ‘Light of Tunganai-madam at Kadandai’ (kadam or Pennagadam). Perhaps in his days (7th century a.d.), the temple was of brick. The present stone structure seems to date from the Middle Chola period, as there are on its walls inscriptions of Rajadhiraja I and Rajendra II.

Both the garbhagriha and the sikhara of the temple are apsidal in shape—a feature very much in evidence in the Tondaimandalam and rare in other areas. This temple has also another feature not found elsewhere: there are projecting windows at the top or head and the two ends of the apse. In a niche in the southern wall, close to the apse, there is a sculpture of Dakshinamurti (PI. 261).

In an inscription of the 30th year of Kulottunga (I), it is recorded that at the request of the local village committee, particulars of the lands, acquired by purchase in the 14th, 15th, 21st, 23rd and 24th regnal years of the king and presented for offerings and worship and for the celebration of monthly festivals on the day of Pusam for the merit of the king, were to be engraved on the temple walls.

(2) The sikhara of the temple of Eluttari-nathesvara at Innambar in the Tanjavur district is also apsidal.

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