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....

Vimana and Vimana-devatas

The term vimana has been variously defined. One of the inscriptions of Rajaraja I makes the meaning clear. He ordered that his gifts, those of his elder sister and those of his queens, were to be engraved on the vimana of the temple ofRajarajesvaram. This inscription is found on the outer walls of the garbhagriha, including the adhishthana. So the term vimana must refer to the whole structure of a temple from the upana to the

Vimana devatas are installed not only in the deva-koshtas round the garbhagriha, but also in the upper talas, one or more as the case may be and in the koshtas of the griva.

The second tala of the Sundaresvara temple at Tiruk-kattalai has Bhikshatanar (s), Vishnu (w) and Brahma (n). The figures of the griva are Dakshinamurti (s), Varahamurti (w), Brahma (n) and Indra (or Bala-Subrahmanya) (e).

So also vimana devatas are found in the twin shrines of Avani Kandarpa Isvaram at Kilaiyur, and the shrines of Muvarkoyil at Kodumbalur.

The Pancharatra Agama of the Vaishnavites contemplates seven talas and assigns the following vimana-devatas. We shall merely mention those pertaining to the first three talas, as I could not find any with seven talas.

“In the first tala are to be installed the gam deities, like Kumuda and Upendra, dancing demi-gods. In the second tala, Nara form of Vishnu, Narayana, Hari and Krishna and the twelve manifestations of Vishnu (Kesava etc.) and in the third tala Purusha, Satya, Achyuta, Ananta, the eight guardian deities, twelve Adityas, Gandharvas, Apsaras and Kinnaras”.

But nowhere do we find a temple with these devatas.

Most of the Vishnu temples have been so completely renovated that they no longer retain their original features. The most well-preserved of Vishnu temples are the Vaikuntha Perumal temple at Kanchi, the Sundaravarada Perumal temple at Uttaramerur and the Varaha temple at Tiruvidandai.

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