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....

(Tiru-Mudukunram Udaiyar or Palamalai Nathar) Vriddhachalam lies 28 miles (45 km.) from Chidambaram and is one of the 22 sacred Siva temples of the nadu-nadu (the central region) of the Tamil land. This place is on the banks of the Manimukta river, a tributary of the northern Vellar which formed the traditional northern boundary of the Chola kingdom. It is believed that the Lord is in the shape of the hill itself. is a sage who is credited to be the earliest builder of this temple, and after many years of penance, he is said to have gained salvation. His image is kept under the foot of the sacred Vanni tree of the temple. Samban-dar, Appar (7th century) and Sundarar (9th century a.d.) have paid their adoration to this Lord and sung His glory. Sundarar prayed to the Lord for gold and he got it. Then Sundarar had to go to Tiruvarur. He dropped the gold into the Manimukta river here and recovered it from the sacred tank at Tiruvarur. This is one of Sundarar’s miracles. In inscriptions, Vriddhachalam is called Nerkuppai, and the Lord Tirumudukunramudaiyar.

Vriddhagirisvara temple

This early Chola temple was built of stone about the 12th year of Uttama Chola by his mother Sembiyan Mahadevi (47 of 1918). She is said to have built the central shrine (Sri Koyil), the covered verandah (surralai) and the shrines for the minor deities. She is also said to have made costly presents to the temple, viz. five copper lamps, one gold diadem weighing about five kalanju, one silver salver weighing 389 kalanju, one silver kettle weighing 199! kalanju, two gold flowers weighing 1§ kalanju, one gold diadem for the Kuttaperumal (Nataraja, PI. 279) weighing one kalanju, one wedding-badge {tali) for the Goddess Umaibhattaraki weighing 1/2 kalanju with three middle pieces, two talimbam, one sari made of pure gold, one gold plank, the panchasari (?) and one gold flower.

An inscription of the 3rd year of Rajaraja I mentions that the residents of Nerkuppai (Vriddhachalam) assigned to a private individual the land which they had received from king Uttama Chola himself, as a devadana on perpetual tenure, for the supply of sandal paste, dammar and the requirements for the sacred bath of the Lord on the Uttar ay ana, the Dakshinayana, and the monthly sankramana days (no. 57 of 1918).

Again, Sembiyan Mahadevi gave this Lord in the 15th year of Rajaraja I (no. 48 of 1918) a costly crown weighing 9 kalanju and odd. The total weight of silver in its lower cover was 206½ kalanju; it was set with three rubies (manikkam) and 36 diamonds (vayiram). To the crown were fastened 1998 round pearls.

In later times various structural additions to the main shrine have been made. There are three big courts (prakaras) with walls of enclosure and tall towers with seven storeys, one at the entrance to the second prakara which is the oldest, and four towers at the four middle points of the outer walls of enclosure.

The central shrine with the ardha and snapana mandapas belong to the age of Sembiyan Mahadevi.

The garbhagriha is a square 19 ft. (5.8 m.) wide. There is an antarala two and a half feet (0.8 m.) wide, and beyond it there is the ardhamandapa extending 10 ft. (3.0 m.) eastwards. Further up, there are gateways on both sides leading to the mukhamandapa and the mahamandapa. One of these should be the snapana mandapa said to have been built by SembiyanMahadevi.

The plinth is five ft. (1.5 m.) high. It has kandam and kiunudam mouldings. There are three projecting devakoshtas, with makara-toranas above them on the three free sides of the garbhagriha and they are occupied by Dakshinamurti, Lingodbhavar and Brahma.

The pilasters are 16-sided and have bulbous capitals and brackets having roll-ornament with a central band.

On the outer walls of the ardhamandapa there are sculptures of Ganapati and an empty niche on the south and an empty niche, Gangadhara and Ardhanaris-varar on the north. The pilasters here are eight-sided.

There are panels of miniature-sculptures as in Tiruk-kandiyur, Pullamangai and Punjai.

Above a bhutagana frieze, there is the cornice adorned with kudus with Gandharvas in the centre and with circles at the edges.

The ardhamandapa is supported by four pillars with cushion capitals. There are two dvarapalas at its entrance.

Above the second tala we have the griva surmounted with a bulbous sikhara and stupi (modern). Natarajar and Bhogesvari-bronzes found in this temple are of the Sembiyan age (Pis. 279-280).

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