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 Vada-Tirumullaivayil

Vada-Tirumullaivayil is situated about 13 miles (20.92 km.) from Madras city and a mile and a half (2.41km.) from the railway station of Ambattur. The railway station of Avadi is also close by.

Masilamanisvara temple

This place is called the northern Tirumullaivayil to distinguish it from the place of the same name in the South on the east coast of the Bay of Bengal, which lies about nine miles east of Sirkali in the Tanjavur district.

Among the Devaram hymnists, only Sundarar has sung a hymn of 11 stanzas on the Lord of this temple. It is described as a place surrounded by groves of champak, rice fields and splendid mansions and situated on the northern bank of the rivulet Pali flowing close by.

The sacred creeper of the Lord is the mullai. The origin of the temple and its association with the mullai creeper are described in the 10th stanza. It is mentioned that the famous Pallava ruler Tondaiman (perhaps identical with Tondaiman Ilan Tiraiyan, a contemporary of Karikala Chola mentioned in the arruppadai, a Sangam poem attributed to the second century a.d.) once rode along this region, and the feet of his elephant got entangled with the mullai creeper of this place; and when the obstacle was removed, the hidden Linga was revealed; the Lord came to be worshipped since then.

Sundarar’s hymn alludes to the many miracles of Siva-His divine dance, the overthrow of Gajasura, the destruction of the Tripura asuras, his crushing of Yama (Kalan) and his assuming the form of a pillar of fire defying the search of Brahma and Vishnu who disputed His supremacy.

A few autobiographical details of saint Sundarar’s life find mention in this hymn. He describes that the Lord won him over to His grace at Tiruvennainallur, that he was punished with the loss of his eye-sight for breaking the vow made to his wife Sangiliyar at Tiru-vorriyur. This was the first place of his pilgrimage after the loss of his eye-sight.

Sundarar was the contemporary of Cheraman Peru-mal Nayanar and both of them are said to have attained divine grace about a.d. 825.

Among the inscriptions found on the walls of the Srivimana of this temple, the earliest is one of the 14th regnal year of Parakesarivarman alias Uttama Chola (A.R. no. 669 of 1904; SII, III, no. 141). It mentions that Sembiyan Mahadevi, the daughter of Malavarayar, the queen of Gandaraditya Peruman and the mother of Uttama Chola bought 9300 kuli of land for 80 kalanju of gold from the Mahasabhai of Ambattur, in Ambattur nadu, a part of Pulal Kottam and made a gift of it to the temple. The donee agreed to supply daily one nali of oil for a lamp to the Maha-devar of Tirumullaivayil. The characters of this inscription are said to be of a later age. But it has to be remembered that it is a foundation inscription perhaps inscribed after the completion of the temple.

There are also two inscriptions of the 5th and the 13th year of Parthivendravarman, a local chief of the Pre-Rajaraja I age, who is credited with the gradual reconquest of the northern parts of the Chola empire lost to the Rashtrakutas after the battle of Takkolam.

The first (SII, III, no. 174) is a fragmentary inscription in archaic Tamil language dated in the 5th regnal year of Parthivendravarman. It mentions the Sabhaiyom of the devadana village of Kalikesari-chaturvedimangalam which is very probably an alternate name of this village. The Government Epigraphist suggests that Kalikesari may have been an epithet of Parthivendravarman (A.R-E. 1910, p. 117) The Government Epigraphist holds that this prince might be different from, and earlier than, the ruler of this time whose records are found in the northern parts of the Chola empire in the latter half of the 10th century. I am disposed to assign even this to one and the same chief of this group (see discussion in the section on Tiruvidandai). This inscription is found on a slab built into the floor of the mandapa in front of the central shrine.

The other record (SII, III, no. 196) refers to a gift of 90 sheep for a perpetual lamp in the temple of Mahadevar at Tirumullaivayil by a native of Chola desa in the 13th regnal year of Parthivendradhipanmar. This inscribed slab is built into the floor of the mandapa in front of the Amman (Latamadhyama) shrine.

Perhaps the two gifts mentioned above were made before the rebuilding of this temple of stone, and the inscribed slabs were discarded after the renovation and used in the pavement of the floor of the mandapa. They do not seem to have been re-engraved on the stone walls of the newly built temple, as was the usual practice in that age. These two inscriptions may be said to indicate that the gifts mentioned therein were made when the temple was still a brick structure.

Further, the endowment of Sembiyan Mahadevi will indicate that the rebuilding of this temple of stone should be ascribed to the latter part of the reign of Uttama Chola. It might have been completed in the early part of the reign of Rajaraja I.

A pillar in the mandapa in front of the main shrine contains two inscriptions of Rajendra Chola I (nos. 677 and 678 of 1904). There are on the walls of this temple inscriptions of the later Cholas also i.e.of Kulot-tunga III and Rajaraja III.

An inscription of the Pandya King Jatavarman Sundara Pandya (I), and a few inscriptions of Vijayanagar rulers—Harihara II, Devaraja II, Pratapa Devaraya brother of Devaraya II and Pratapa Mallikarjuna Devaraya—are also found in this temple.

The temple faces the east and is apsidal in shape, commonly found in Tondaimandalam. The griha measures 19 feet from east to west. The apse is on the west. The adhishthana is five feet high and has round kumudam mouldings. The ardhamandapa projects forward 161 feet. The pilasters of the garbhagriha are octagonal; there are koshta-pancharas on both sides of the devakoshtas. The vimana is tri-tala and its sikhara is apsidal. The devakoshta figures (clockwise) are: Ganapati, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu (a standing figure), Brahma and Durga.

In the centre of the torana of Ganapati, there are figures of Rishis worshipping a linga; and in the Durga torana, there is a figure of Rama with bow and arrow. The Nandi shows his back to the linga, an unusual feature. The temple has a single prakara enclosed by the madil (wall of enclosure); there is only one gopuram in the temple and that in the southern wall of the madil.

North of the mandapa there are shrines to house Rishabantikadevar, Natarajar and Bhikshatanar (Pis. 291-296). In the south-west of the prakara there is the shrine of Subrahmanyar, one of the ashta-parivara devatas.

This is the northernmost of the temples of Sembiyan Mahadevi built some time after the 14th regnal year of Uttama Chola.

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