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 Tiruvaduturai (3rd to 25th year)

It is contended that the temple at Tiruvaduturai ushers in the second phase of Early Chola style (of Barrett’s) and it covers the period a.d. 940 to 970. Let us study the facts. There are two inscriptions of the 2nd year of a Parakesarivarman (nos. 135 and 136 of 1925). One Karrali Pichchan makes grants to this temple in the 3rd, 35th, 38th and 39th year of Parantaka I (a.d. 910, 942, 945 and 946). In the 25 thregnal yearot Parantaka I (a.d. 932), he claims to be its builder. (The term used is edutta—already erected—in the past tense). This is a contemporary foundation inscription on the south wall of the garbhagriha. His portrait is installed on the southern wall of the sanctum (no. 132 of 1925) east of the devakoshta housing Dakshinamurti. In his 38th regnal year (a.d.945), the king Parantaka I himself makes a gift of 500 kalanju of gold for constructing the temple from the kudappadai upwards (the inscription is on the wall of the ardhamandapa, 143 of 1925). The ground plan is big, the adhishthana is high and ornate, the garbhagriha and the ardhamandapa are integral. The architectural forms are composed of typical ‘phase T (of Barrett’s) elements. There is a false antarala and an additional devakoshta figure of Agastya. In spite of these new features, it is beyond our comprehension how in a.d. 940 a new stylistic phase set in and the temple was built up from the kumudappadai upwards about the year a.d. 945, especially in the face of the claim of Karrali Pichchan that the temple had already been erected as early as a.d. 932. Unless the temple was nearing completion, no one will be permitted to claim to be its builder. The settingup of the golden stupi, the ritual of pradishtha and the Kumbhabhisheka—these rituals alone should have been left over, and the king’s grant should have been used for these final acts of consecration. The recording of the inscription and the installation of donor-portraits could be done only with the sanction of the local authority.

For instance, Rajaraja I began the construction of the Rajarajesvaram the grand temple of Tanjavur sometime before the 19th regnal year. Once a temple gets started, it will attract gifts and endowments. Many such are recorded in the Rajarajesvaram from the 19th to the 29th regnal years of Rajaraja I. And it is recorded that on the 26th regnal year 20 day, by which time the temple should have passed from the Adhivasa (preliminary consecration) stage to that of ritual installation (pradishtha) the king ordered that all the gifts from himself, his elder sister and his queens be engraved on the Sri Vimana.

Varahamihira’s Brihat Samhita (of about the sixth century a.d.) lays down (chapter 59: J.N. Banerjea, The Development of Hindu Iconography, pp. 565-578) elaborate rules and regulations for the pradishtha of the main deity after the adhivasa stage. A pavilion should be erected for the preliminary consecration of the image in the southern or eastern quarter of the temple premises; it should be furnished with toranas and its top covered with leaves of trees. An altar should be raised and the image placed in it on a bhadrasana. After worshipping the image with flowers, garments, sandal paste, and to the accompaniment of the sounds of the conch and the trumpet, the image should be taken from the pavilion to the sanctum. It is likely that the mula vigraha, like the huge ling a of Rajarajes-varam might have been installed along with the construction of the garbhagriha and its superstructure, and the deity would have been sanctified only after the pradishtha, punyaha and kumbhabhisheka ceremonies. It is laid down that the image of the preliminary consecration may be destroyed or a temple erected over it. Even now in New Delhi, two temples, the Uttara-Swaminatha temple and the Yenkatesa Perumal temple, are under construction. These stages could be studied here with advantage.

There are instances of the erection of a permanent temple for the Adhivasa image also. In the Tamil land, such a temple for the Adhiasa deity is called Ilangoyil. In the Tanjavur district there is a village near Peralam called Tirumiyachchur with two shrines side by side, sung by the Nayanmars (7th century a.d.). The one of the permanent consecration is apsidal—one of the few apsidal temples in the Chola desa proper—and its presiding deity is called Muyarchi-nadesvara, and is sung by Sambandar. The other shrine on the northern side is smaller, and has a square garbhagriha. It is called the Ilangoyil of Tirumiyachchur. This deity is called Sakalabhuvanesvara and is sung by Appar. Evidently this is the shrine where the preliminary-consecrated deity had been installed. Appar in the first stanza of the decad on this shrine mentions the ‘Torrtum Koyil’, i-e., temple-to-be or the main temple and the tonriya-koyil, i.e., the shrine of the deity of preliminary consecration or the Ilangoyil (see section on temples of Uttama Chola’s time).

Reference has already been made to the inscription of the 38th year of Parantaka I which mentions the gift of 500 kalanju of gold by king Parantaka I himself for the completion of the temple from the kudappadai upwards. This term kudappadai is very clear in the inscription and is free from doubt or ambiguity. It seems to me that the term kudappadai might mean the layer or moulding of the superstructure of the vimana below the stupi (stupika) or stupikkudam. There are two inscriptions in the Rajarajesvaram temple, Tanjavur which seem to elucidate this term. In the 25th year 275th day of Rajaraja I, the king is said to have handed over the copper-pot for the finial at the top of the vimana. It is said to have weighed about 235 lbs. and it was overlaid with gold whose weight is said to have been 2926 £ kalanju. This gift is singled out for special mention and is to be considered significant.

Another inscription in the same temple gives a list of metal pinnacles stupik-kudam for the different shrines in the temple (no. 24 of 1897; SII, III, 90). So, we may infer that the gift of Parantaka I was meant for the installation of the stupik-kudam—the most costly, spectacular and meritorious of gifts, meant for the completion and final ritual-consecration of the deity installed in the temple. So till we get more light on this subject by new discoveries and future research, I am disinclined to accept the emendation of the term kumudappadai for kudappadai suggested by Gai and accepted by Barrett.

Let me mention another epigraphical reference to the rebuilding of an old dilapidated misra temple. At Nattamangai (Lalgudy taluk, Tiruchy dist.) there is an inscription of Tribhuvanachakravartin Tribhu-vanaviradeva (Kulottunga III =a.d. 1216) on the base of the central shrine of Adimula Perumal (A.R.no. 145 of 1928-29). From it we learn that the brick portion of the vimana above the adhishthana became dilapidated; and when the temple was rebuilt, it was noticed that there was an inscription of the second year of Rajarajakesari-varman (a.d. 987) on the and the old inscription was ordered to be re-engraved “as far as decipherable” on the walls of the newly-built temple.

I may add that the term padai (or anga in Sanskrit) is used in inscriptions not only for a moulding but also for a layer of a part of the temple structure. This will be evident from a number of South Indian inscriptions. I shall cite one instance. An inscription (on the south wall of the Mulesvara temple at Bahur) of the 26th year of Kannaradeva (= a.d. 946) mentions a gift of four stones for “this” by Nandi Nakkan Sankaran (ippadaikku vachcha kallu nalu; SII, VII, no. 799; A.R. no. 172 of 1902).

In that case, the kuddappadai may also mean the layer below the stupikkudam.

Recently, we have come across another architectural term kapotappadai used in a Pandyan inscription of the 13th century. It mentions a gift for worship and offerings and for the building of a Vishnu (Perumal) temple in stone up to the Kapotappadai, the topmost member or layer of the first A.R. no. 591 of 1962-63). Similar future discoveries may throw more light on this subject.

Further, Barrett holds the view that the Tiruvadu-turai temple had a simple (Phase I) plan till a.d.940 and that a more ambitious plan came to be evolved and adopted about a.d.940. If so, inscriptions of Paran-taka I’s from his second to the 39th regnal years become meaningless. There cannot be two plans for the same sanctum. If the original plan of the sanctum is interfered with, it will olfend orthodoxy. Hence it is that later benefactors and philanthropists either added new shrines to, or enlarged, the original temples in the centres of great antiquity and celebrity and made them temple-cities as we find in Srirangam, Tiruvarur and Chidambaram.

Further even in case of misra temples, the upa - pitha, the adhishthana and pillars are of stone and the superstructure of brick and chunam. The Vidya Vinita Pallavanesvaragriham built at Kuram in the days of Pallava Paramesvaravarman I (see Kuram Plates) and the Sundaravarada Perumal temple built at Uttara-merur in the days of Pallava Dantivarman belong to this class. But no where do we find a temple built of stone only upto the kumudap-padai—one of the lowest mouldings of the adhishthana—rebuilt later on of stone on the earlier foundation. A structure only up to the kumudappadai would hardly be considered a temple.

There is one more feature of the Tiruvaduturai temple that deserves mention. The central person engaged in the construction of this temple is no doubt Karrali Pichchan, whose recorded gifts are found spread over a long period from the 3rd to the 39th regnal year of Parantaka I (a.d. 910 to 946). He must have been either an influential courtier or a saintly character interested in religious works. In addition to Karrali Pichchan’s own gifts and the magnificent contribution made by the king himself, there are gifts from at least five more donors who claim the credit of having built parts of the central shrine and their portraits with labels are found on the walls of the garbhagriha and the ardhamandapa. The temple should have been built about a.d. 932 (25th year of Parantaka I) eight years before the ushering in of Barrett’s Phase II of

Early Chola Art (a.d. 940) to which phase he assigns the date of the beginning of the construction of this temple. The moving spirit behind the building of this temple should have been Karrali Pichchan inspired by religious fervour and unparalleled devotion.

I have already stated in Early Chola Art Part I (pp. 253-256) that temple building was always in a state of dynamic development throughout the Chola period, new experiments were tried almost in every reign, especially in the Early Chola period. The existence of a high plinth, the erection of a ‘false antarala’ and the installation of Agastyar as an additional devakoshta figure are no doubt new features found here, but they cannot be considered basic factors for the enunciation of a new phase of style. In that case every reign of the Early Chola period should be considered a new phase.

Further, I do not find any justification for postulating three Phases of artistic style in the Early Chola period. It may be added that Barrett himself is in two minds about his theory as will be evident from his own sound conclusion stated earlier in his book(p.4) that he would call “the art of the first three reigns Phase I or in compliment of the king responsible for the great period of Temple building activity, the Aditya I phase”.

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