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....

According to Mayamatam, in the mula-tala of the vimana, the deities to be installed are: in the east dvarapalas or Nandikesa and Kalan; in the south, Dakshinamurti; in the west Mahavishnu or Lingod-bhavar and in the north Brahmadevar. In the mandapa (ardhamandapa): Vinayaka in the south and Nataraja to the east of it and Katyayani and Kshetrapala in the north.

According to another silpa text, Isana Sivagurudeva-Paddhati, the sculptures prescribed are:—

“In the walls of the vimana, images should be installed in the different quarters: Dakshinamurti in the south, Lingodbhavar or Vishnu or any other of His manifestations in the west; and Durga or Brahma in the north. An image of Vinayaka may be set up in the wall of the ardhamandapa, while a Kshetrapala may be sculptured in the north-east corner.”

Though there are some variations, this general scheme is in conformity with the practice obtaining in early Chola temples. The chief variations may be stated. At Viralur, Tiruvamattur and Lalgudy, there is Bhikshatanar in the northern niche; Tirukkattalai has Tripurantaka, Vishnu and Brahma. In Tiruverum-bur there is Harihara in the western niche. The Nagesvara temple at Kumbakonam and the Saptarishisvara temple at Lalgudy have Ardhanarisvara, the twin shrines of Avani Kandarpa Isvaram have a standing and seated Subrahmanyar in the eastern niches. In the southern devakoshta at Tiruchchendurai we have Rishabhavahana devar.

The Saptarishisvara temple at Lalgudy (faces west) has Bhikshatanar in the north, Ardhanarisvara in the east and Vinadhara Dakshinamurti in the south devakoshta.

Close to this temple is the Sri Vishamangalesvara temple at Tudaiyur (Tirukadambatturai Mahadevar temple at Tudaiyur) which could be ascribed to the days of Aditya I. It faces the east and has Sarasvati and Vinadhara-Dakshinamurti in the south, Siva-Uma-Alinginamurti in the west, and Brahma and Durgain the north. It is a unique feature to have Sarasvati and Siva-Uma (Alinginamurti) in so early an age—Pre-Rajaraja I’s (E.C.A. Suppt. to Part I, Pis. 7-15).

Pullamangai and Kilappaluvur typify the general pattern of devakoshta images of the reign of Parantaka I. Erumbur has only three devakoshtas—with Dakshinamurti (south), Arunachalesvara (Siva as a yogi—the destroyer of Manmata?) and Brahma.

Tiruvaduturai introduces Agastya which is repeated in the Naltunai Isvaram atPunjai andintheKarkotaka-Isvaram at Kamarasavalli.

In the Muvarkoyil at Kodumbalur we have in the devakoshtas of the mula-tala Ardhanarisvara and Siva (standing) in one shrine, and Gangadharar, Siva and Dakshinamurti in the second shrine.

There is a great change in the days of Uttama Chola. The Umamahesvara temple at Konerirajapuram is typical of those built by the queen dowager Sembiyan Mahadevi. This temple has in its devakoshtas Agastya, Ganesa, Nataraja, Dakshinamurti, Lingodbhavar, Brahma, Bhikshatanar, Durga and Ardhanarisvara (Pis. 162-173).

Even earlier temples felt the impact of the Sembiyan spirit. Tiruppurambiyam and Karandai are two examples where even the inscribed walls of the earlier age were chiselled off to insert the additional sculptures. At Tiruppurambiyam, we have Vinadhara Dakshinamurti, Kankalamurti, Nataraja, Ganapati, Agastya, Lingodbhavar, Brahma, Kalasamharamurti, Ardhanarisvara, Durga, Ganga-visarjanamurti and Bhikshatanar.

At Karandai, we have about sixteen sculptures and we see the introduction of the NayanmarsAppar and Sambandar also (Pis. 194-202).

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