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....

Bronze, group 3: Age of Parantaka I (a.d. 907 - 950)

We have epigraphical evidence for the setting up of bronzes in temples in the period of Parantaka I onwards, but every case of installation is not authenticated:

  1. Tiruverumbur—consecration of Uma-Bhattaraki (A.R. No. 108 of 1914).
  2. Tiruchchorrutturai—consort of Vitankar, 11th year, Parantaka I (A.R. No. 173 of 1930-31).
  3. Tiruppunturutti—
    1. Sanivila festival of the goddess, 4th year, Parantaka I (No. 76 of 1930-31).
    2. Gift to the image of Trailokya Sundarar, 20th year, Parantaka I (No. 92 of 1930-31).
    3. Silver image of Amaraganayarchita, 33rd year, Parantaka I (No. 75 of 1930-31).
  4. Tiruvilakkudi—lamp to Kutta-Perumal, 6th year, Parakesari (No. 121 of 1926).
  5. Koyil-Tevarayanpettai—Rishabhavahana Pemmal, 37th and 38th year, Parantaka I (No. 265 of 1923).
  6. Tiruvengadu—
    1. Ganapati, 5th year, Aditya II.
    2. Gold image of Chandrasekharar, 6th year, Rajaraja I (444 of 1918—SR. XIH, 144).
    3. Other dated bronzes—in the reigns of Rajaraja I (114 of 1896, SIL V, 978) & Rajadhiraja I.
  7. Tiruvaduturai—List of vessels and images presented to the temple (104 and 117 of 1925).
  8. Govindaputtur—Kutta Perumal and Uma Bhattaraki, 7th year, Rajaraja I (163 of 1929).
  9. Nangavaram—Uma-Bhattaraki, 12th year, Parantaka I (332 of 1903; SII. VIII, 641).
  10. Tirunavalur—Kutta-Perumal, 21st year of Rajaraja I (368 of 1902; SIL Vn, 998).

1. Rishabhavahanar

In spite of the doubts entertained by Barrett (Early Cola Bronzes p. 11), I hold that the main parts of the temple - the garbhagriha and the ardhamandapa - of Tiru-Alandurai Mahadevar at Kilappaluvur were earlier brick foundations, re-built of stone in the days of Parantaka I.

The bronze of Rishabhavahana devar (ECB. PI. 64) is one of the earliest and grandest of metal images in this temple; and it can be ascribed to the early period of Parantaka I’s reign if not earlier still. The Rishabha is missing. It has two hands, the left hand is shown as if meant for being placed on the Rishabha. The latticed jathamakuta, long ear-lobes, broad kanthis, the flower decoration over the shoulders, naga keyuras, vaji-bandha, single kankana, broad and thick udarabandha, sinuous single-stranded yajnopavita (three threads), kati-sutra with three bands, the simha clasp and the central triangular projection, the decorated ardhouraka and the padasara—these are important features of this bronze. The figure radiates simple dignity and majesty.

We have at Pallavanesvaram an excellent set of Rishabhavahanar and his consort (ECB. Pis. 23, 24). It may be the predecessor of the bronze in this theme at Konerirajapuram (ECB. PI. 1 & 2). Here Siva has four hands. The skanda-mala is in two strands. The yajnopavita is in three strands. There are a lion clasp at kati with a central triangular projection, three valayas, pada-sara, siras-chakra with a circular rim, and three jathas over the nape on each side with a chain and pendant in the centre.

Uma has a sinuous yajnopavita, vaji-bandha, five valayas, beautiful diaphanous drapery, and five jathas on either side of the central pendant and a siras-chakra similar to that of Siva.

2. Tripurantakar

Let us take up a few bronzes of Tripurantakar. Incidentally it may be mentioned that it is difficult to distinguish Tripurantakar, Vinadharar and Kiratamurti. We have to depend on the position and posture of the left arm in making the identification. In stone images the vina is carved along with the original deity. In case of metals, the identification becomes difficult as the vina is a detachable attachment.

(i) Vinadharar (of Vellanur) (ECB. Pis. 67-68) is a metal of great artistic merit. It has the jewelled skull and the crescent on the jathamakuta. The right ear has kundala and the left makara-kundala. There is a thick skandamala on the right shoulder and a hooded cobra on the left. It has four hands. The parasu and the mrga are held in the rear hands between the first and middle finger. Kanthis adorn the neck. Theyajnopavita has three strands. The first strand passes over the right chest above the udarabandha. There are vaji-bandha in the arms and three valayas in the wrist. The transparent ardhouraka is fastened by a kati-sutra of many bands (pearls?) with a lion clasp and a central semi-circular projection. The legs have padasaras, the left foot is planted firmly over the head of the front-facing, conch-blowing gana. We have 13 curly jathas over the nape with a central pendant; the ends of the hair are tied in a fine knot and so there is no siras-chakra.

(ii) We shall take up the Tripurantakar bronze formerly housed in the Rajagopalaswamy temple and now in the Tanjavur Art gallery (ECB. Pis. 17 - 20). It has Gangai in the right top of the jathamakuta, patra-kundala in the left ear, skandamala with a central pendant on the right shoulder, keyura, three valayas, yajnopavita with three strands, a broad udarabandha, striped ardhouraka, simha-mukha clasp at kati, a fine tassel with a pendant over the right thigh, padasara, and four curly jathas on each side of the central chain with a pendant; it has no siras-chakra. These are the main features of this bronze.

(iii) At Tiruppurambiyam, we have another bronze. It has been styled Vinadharar by Sivaramamurti (SIB. Pl. 31 a,b). The durdhara flower on the left side of the jaihamakuta, the skandamala on the right shoulder, sarpa on the left arm, yajnopavita in two strands, mrga on the rear right hand and parasu in the rear left hand held between the first and middle fingers, naga-keyura, vaji-bandha, uda in three bands with a central triangular projection, padasara, siras-chakra with spokes encircled by a rim, curly jathas over the nape, an oval padma-pitha over a bhadra-pitha—these are the chief features of this bronze.

(iv) There is another Tripurantakar in the Tanjavur Art Gallery hailing from Mayuram (ECB. Pis. 13, 14), similar to the one from Tiruppurambiyam. The parasu is held in the rear right hand. The ardhouraka is well-treated. The triangular projection from the kati ends in folds, and two tassels branch off from the central kati clasp and project over the thighs as in the case of the Tiruvarangulam Nataraja (National Museum, Delhi).

(v) Another of this group is the Tripurantakar (or Vinadharar) in the temple at Kilappaluvur (ECB. Pis. 65, 66, 69; SRB, Four Chola temples, PI. 26).

Other bronzes

(i) The bronzes of Chandrasekharar and Parvati from Semangalam (now in the Madras Government Museum) are a good pair, slender in form, simple and elegant. The drapery whose tassels have flower design ends and the pithas—a circular double-lotus pitha over a bhadrapitha—are similar. Siva has patrakundala in his left ear, keyura, two val in the waist, yajnopavita of three strands, udarabhandha also of three bands and katisutra of many bands with a central knot; the karandamakuta, svarnavaikak makara-kun-dalam in the ear and six valayas in the waist are prominent in Parvati (SIB., Pis. 60 a & b).

(ii) Another bronze of good workmanship is the Siva from Sayavanam (ECB. Pis. 71, 72). The patrakundala in the left ear, makarakundala in the right ear, skanda-mala on the right shoulder, pearl yajnopavita, a single strand (four threads), ardhouraka of the wavy pattern, simhamukha clasp with side bows and tassels, two valayas on the wrist, circular siraschakra with spokes and rim, seven spiral jathas over the nape with a border—these make this bronze a high-class work of art.

(iii) The Bhogesvari of Pallavanesvaram (ECB, Pis. 32-34) is another fine bronze of this age. She has patra-kundalas in both the ears. She wears the wedding-badge and two thick kanthis. Two curly jathas adorn both the shoulders. She has a latticed makuta at the back, four curly jathas on the nape on each side of a central chain suspending a pipal pendant, heavy keyuras, three valayas on the wrist and the yajnopavita in a single strand, all adorning a graceful body with full breasts, narrow waist and heavy hips. The wavy transparent drapery is delicately worn; its ends fall on the left thigh. The katisutra ends in a tassel in three strands with a central pipal-shaped pendant. Rings adorn the fingers. This bronze has all the grace and charm of the female figure.

(iv) So also is another exquisite bronze, Nataraja’s consort in the temple at Tirumeyjnanam built in the days of Aditya I (ECB. Pls.25-26). She wears makarakundalas in both the ears; she has flower decoration andskandamala on both the shoulders. She wears kanthis, svarna-vaikakshaka, keyuras, vaji-bandha and five valayas in the wrist; the diaphanous drapery is splendid. Pearl festoons, the end of antariya in zigzag folds on the right thigh and the fan-like projection between the legs are done with great skill. This is one of the noblest creations of the stapathis of this age, and it can stand comparison with the finest products of Mathura or Saranath.

(v) The Tiruppalanam Nataraja (ECB. Pis. 57,58; E.C.A. I, 80-b) is the successor of Okkur, Sivapuram and Tandantottam. The arch-like prabhavali has a central flame of five tongues and eight flames of three tongues on the sides. Gangai perches on th on the right side. The jathamakuta has peacock feathers on the top, the decorated skull in the centre, the cobra and the crescent on the right and durdhura flower on the left. He has patra-kundala in the left ear, keyuras, vajibandha, and three valayas. A cobra winds round the front right arm in abhayahasta. Agni is held in a vessel. He has flower decoration on the shoulders and skandamala on the right shoulder. Seven jathas with curly ends spread from the head to the prabhavali. The jathas are connected with rosettes. The jathas on the right side are missing. He wears a thick yajnopavita. The offshoot of the udarabandha is attached to the prabhavali. Apasmara is bejewelled. He holds his head high looking at the dancer who crushes him under his right foot. Apasmara has a cobra and a cutlery in his hands. The whole figure rests on a double-lotus oval pitha. This is a great piece of art of Nataraja in the ananda tandava pose of the pre-Rajaraja I period.

(vi) What Barrett has featured as Vinadharar of Tirunavalur (ECB. Pis. 49-50) may be identified as Rama. He has only two hands just to hold the bow and arrow. He wears a kiritamakuta which will not fit in with the Saiva icon of Vinadharar; on the face there is a later namam partly erased.

(vii) We have an exquisite group of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman at Kappalur (PI. 144) which seems to be the precursor of a similar set at Paruttiyur (SIB, Fig. 43) and another of Vadakkup-panaiyur. These seem to belong to one workshop and the last group is the latest and the finest of them all marking the transition from the age of Sembiyan Mahadevi to Rajaraja I’s.

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