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....

Melpadi Melpadi is situated 16 miles (25.60 km.) southwest of Chittoor and 6 miles (9.60 km.) north of Tiru-vallam on the western bank of the Niva (or Ponni) river. It occupies an important strategic position in respect of the northern border of the Chola dominions. Round about ruled the Banas, the Gangas and the Vaidumbas; and on their attitude and loyalty depended the security of the northern frontier of the Cholas. This place lay on the main road from the Chola to the Rashtrakuta kingdom. And the main road leading from Melpadi to Mysore is mentioned as a boundary of a village that was being gifted according to a copper plate grant of Narasimha II, the Western Ganga ruler.

The Karhad plates of Krishna III furnish the following particulars:—

“While my glorious and victorious army is encamped at Melpadi for the purpose of creating livings out of the provinces in the southern region for my dependants, of taking possession of the whole property of the Lords of the provinces, and of erecting temples of Kalapriya, Gandamartanda, Krishnesvara etc. 880 years of the era of the Saka king having elapsed—I have granted the village named Kankam... to Ganganasiva, a great ascetic versed in all Sivasiddhantas” (E.I. IV, p. 290).

Here was an old Chola temple called the Cholendra Singa Isvaram Udaiya Mahadevar temple. It is now called the Somanathesvara temple. This temple received a gift of 15 kalanju of gold for a perpetual lamp from a royal officer of Rajaraja I in his 14th year. But in the same year (14th year 258th day), there is an inscription with the title of Konerinmaikondan which should be attributed to Rajaraja I (no. 101 of 1921) from which we learn that the name of the city Merpadi alias Viranarayanapuram was changed into Rajasrayapuram named after a surname of Rajaraja I and gifts of lands in several villages were made to the Mahadeva of the Cholendra-simhesvara temple constructed by the king. Thus it is clear that Merpadi had passed into the hands of the Cholas in the days of Parantaka I, that the city had the name of Viranarayanapuram after a surname of Parantaka I and that later Rajaraja I constructed it of stone.

Further, this temple is mentioned as the northern boundary of the new temple of Arinjigai Isvarattu Mahadevar established by Rajaraja I sometime before his 29th year (a.d.1014) as a pallippadai (memorial sepulchral temple) built at the place where the mortal remains of Arinjigai devar were buried (86 of 1889 and SII, III, no. 17).

Here is the relevant extract:—

“Sri Ko Raja-raja-Rajakesari varmarana Sri Rajaraja devarkku yandu (20) 9 - avadu Jayangonda Sola mandalattup-Perumbanappadi-Tu-nattu Merpadiyana Rajasraya purattu Arrurttunjina devarkkup-pallippadaiyaha Udaiyar Sri Rajarajadevar eduppittarulina Tiruvarinjisvarattu Mahadevarkku..........”(P1. 300).[1]

Arinjigai or Arinjaya was the grandfather of Rajaraja I and a contemporary record pays him a great tribute as one

“who possessed keen intelligence, who was the beloved (of the Goddess) of Wealth, who was the God of Death to his enemies and whose greatness was accompanied by virtuous character and good qualities”.

Perhaps he fell fighting in or near this place. No wonder that Rajaraja I wanted to perpetuate his memory by building this memorial to his illustrious ancestor.

1. Somanatha temple (Cholendra-simha Isvaram Udaiyar)

This is a karrali (stone temple) of two talas. The garbhagriha is a square 19 ft. 4 inches (5.9 m.) side, with an ardhamandapa 13 ft. (3.97 m.) long in front. There are three niches each flanked by two pilasters. The basement has plain mouldings. There is no bhutagana frieze. In the 2nd tala, there are a rectangular wagon-roofed panchara in the centre {said) and two square panjaras having curvilinear sikharas at the ends (kutas). The griva, the sikhara and the stupi are bulbous in shape. In the niches of the griva, surmounted by Simha heads, we have Vinadhara Dakshinamurti in the south, Vishnu in the west and Brahma in the north.

2. Arinjigai Isvaram (Cholisvaram)

The garbhagriha is a square 13 ft. 8 inches (4.17 m.) side. The ardhamandapa projects 6 ft. 2 inches (1.88 m.) in front. The plinth has plain mouldings. Below the pilasters, there are figure-panels.

There are three devakoshtas on the outer walls of the garbhagriha and two more on those of the ardhamandapa. The southern niche of the ardhamandapa is now empty. Ganesa should have adorned it. The other niches have Dakshinamurti in the south, Vishnu in the west and Brahma and Durga in the north. Each niche has a double makara-torana, and in their centre we have fine bas-reliefs. Linga with worshippers and Bhikshatanar in the southern torana deserve mention.

The grim and the sikhara are of stone and circular in shape. In the niches of the griva are Balasubrahmanya in the east, Vinadhara Dakshinamurti in the south, and Brahma in the north. The western niche is now empty.

The sikharas of these two temples resemble those of Viralur, of Sokkesvara at Kanchi (of Vijayalaya’s age) and of the Kadambur temple on the Melamalai of Narttamalai (of the age of Rajaraja I).

Melpadi is situated on the bank of the river Nuha (Niva or Ponni) and the Arrur mentioned here should be Melpadi itself on the banks of this river. And Tunjinademr is to be identified with Arinjigai, the grand-father of Rajaraja I. This Arrur is different from Tondaiman-arrur where Aditya I or Kodandarama is said to have died and where his devoted son Parantaka I built a similar memorial sepulchral temple over the bones of Aditya I.

The Arinjigai Isvaram (modern Cholisvaram) has three inscriptions of the 29th year of Rajaraja I. One of them mentions that the nagaram (the Mercantile Corporation) gave 5,136 \kuli of land, as measured by the standard measure of the village of 18 spans as devadana iraiyili (tax-free gift of land to the temple) in order to meet the requirements of the sacred temple, the walls of enclosure, the temple court, the flower garden and the temple environs consisting of streets with houses for the use of the temple-servants (Koyilukkum - Tiruchchurralikkum- Tirumurrattukkum - Tirunandavanattukkum- madavilagattukkum).

The nagaram of Melpadi further donated a hamlet (pidagai) of their village called P (an area not so far assigned as house-sites to individuals, but remained as village-common) for various services to the temple.

It may be of interest to mention that in the days of Rajendra I, its management was in the hands of Lakulisa Pandita, the head of the Mutt of the Saivas of the Pasupata sect.

The Cholendra Simha Isvaram was an earlier temple going back at least to the days of Parantaka I. This was re-built of stone by Rajaraja I and the same ruler built about his 29th regnal year also the Arinjigai Isvaram as a pallippadai (Samadi Koyil) temple in honour of his grandfather - Arrur-Tunjina devar alias Arinjigai (Pis. 299-302).

Footnotes and references:


(a) Pudi Aditta Pidari is mentioned as the queen of Arinjigai (SII, III, pt. Ill, p. 257).

(b) At Udaiyargudi, there is an inscription of the 12th year of a Rajakesari-varman, perhaps assignable to Sundara Chola, which mentions a gift of land by Adittan Kodai Pirattiyar who is described as the queen of Arinjigaivarman who died at Arrur (Arrur Tunjinadevar, A.R. no. 557 of \920). This seems to be the earliest reference to the death of Arinjigaivarman at Amur which is identified with Melpadi.

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