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 Uraiyur

Uraiyur (Urandai or Kozhi) about a mile west of Tiruchy town was the capital of the Chola kings of the Sangam age, the most famous of them being Tittan. Nedunkilli, Karikalan and Kopperuncholan. In Sanskrit literature this place was known as Uragapura; the Greek Geographer called it Orthura, and the Periplus Argaru. Even after the transfer of the Chola capital to Kaverippattinam, it was still a hallowed place and exercised a spell on the Cholas. It was the home of Pugalchola Nayanar, one of the 63 Tamil Saivite saints. The ancient capital is believed to have been destroyed during one of the periodic floods of the Kaveri. This site was recently excavated by the Department of Archaeology, University of Madras. The discovery of some Roman rouletted pottery established maritime and commercial contacts of the Cholas with Rome. A number of potsherds with inscriptions in the Tamil language and ‘Dravidi’ script were unearthed here. Another find is a dyeing vat of burnt brick which indicates the existence here of a flourishing textile industry.

(i) Mookesvaram

Here is an ancient temple called Mookesvaram whose main deity is called Panchavarnesvara. This deity is believed to appear before his devotees in different colours at different times (especially to Brahma when he came here for worship). It is believed that all the three kings of the Tamil land—Chera, Chola and Pandya—used to assemble here together and worship the Lord.

On the south wall of the central shrine there is a damaged inscription of the 16th regnal year of a Parake-sarivarman, who could be identified with Uttama Chola. It records an endowment of two ma of land for the supply of Kaveri water for the sacred bath of the deity Tiruvudaittalai Perumal (as he is called) and for some specific food offerings on the occasion of the Uttarayana and Dakshinayana Sankranti every year. Owing to frequent renovations, we can hardly recognise the original architectural features of this temple.

(ii) Tantonrisvaram

About two furlongs to the east of the temple of Mookesvaram, on the road to Tiruchy town is another early Chola temple, Tantonrisvaram by name.

The temple faces the east; it consists of the garbha-griha and the ardhamandapa. The Ardhanarisvara on the western (rear) devakoshta, Brahma in the northern devakoshta, Chandesvara of the parivara shrine and the two dvarapalas at the entrance are all original sculptures and of good workmanship.

The installation of Ardhanarisvara in the rear devakoshta seems to indicate that this temple could be assigned to the period of Aditya I (Suppt. to E.C.A.I. Pls. 16-20).

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