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....

Note on the Three Oldest Rajakesari Inscriptions of Agastyesvaram

There are ten Rajakesari inscriptions on the walls of the sanctum of the two shrines, eight of them on the southern shrine and two on the northern. In my opinion, three of them have to be assigned to Aditya I, two to Gandaraditya, four to Sundara Chola and one to Rajaraja I. One of Rajakesari (alias Gandaraditya) and one of Rajakesari (alias Rajaraja I) are found on the walls of the northern shrine.

Of these, the three oldest are: one of the 13th year (357/1924) and two of the 22nd year (335 and 360/1924) of Rajakesarivarman. The text of 355 is incomplete, and it has not been published along with the other two in the “Text of South Indian Inscriptions”, XIII.

The inscription of the 13th year of Rajakesarivarman refers to a gift of 8 ma of land. It states that this land was situated in the village of Uragangudi, a devadana of this temple, and that the land, which was lying fallow, was reclaimed and brought under cultivation, so as to be fit for double cropping. It was stipulated that the seven priests of the temple (it-tali pattudaiyom eluvom) were to enjoy the produce of the land and to maintain a perpetual lamp in each of the twin-shrines of Avani Kandarpa Isvara Griham situated in the geographical division of Kunrakkurram. The gift is made under orders from, and with the permission (prasadam) of, one Nakkan Pudi Paluvettaraiyan Kumaran Kandan, son of Pagaividai Isvarattu Devanar of Paluvur (who was, perhaps, so named after the Lord of the Sundaresvara temple in Melappaluvur proper). It may be mentioned that there is an inscription of the tenth year of Kovirasa-kesari-panmar at Tiruvaiyaru, which mentions, among the boundaries of the land given away as (a gift, a field called Paluvettaraiyan Kumaran Kandan Masakkal; this field should have been named after this Chief (Ep. Coll. 224 of 1894 and SII., Vol. V, No. 523). Hence I am inclined to identify this Rajakesarivarman (of 357/1924) with Aditya I.

The characters of this inscription are sufficiently archaic to be assigned to the age of Aditya I, but unlike the other two inscriptions cited above, this inscription does not seem to bear pullis on consonants. This is very intriguing. While it has to be conceded that inscriptions with pullis should be considered as belonging to an early period, it seems possible that inscriptions with pullis existed side by side with those without them. Otherwise, these inscriptions are a puzzle from the point of view of paleography, and we have to admit that reliance on any one factor, like paleography, alone is not sufficiently reliable for fixing the age of an inscription or for ascribing it to a particular king. Anyhow, it seems very probable that this record belongs to the period of Aditya I.

If this identification is accepted, this will be the earliest inscription of this temple with the two shrines, and it must have come into existence some time closely before, or in, the 13th year of Aditya I (See E C A, I Pis.61 and 62).

Let us next take up for consideration Inscription No. 360 of 1924 (SII. XIII, No. 298). It is a record of the 22nd year of Rajakesarivarman. It is inscribed on the southern wall of the southern shrine and records a gift, after reclamation, of 8 ma of land situated in the same devadam village of Uragangudi for the maintenance of a perpetual lamp in each of the twin shrines (“irandu taliyilum oro-nandavilakku”) of the temple of Mahadeva of A vani-kandarva-isvara-griham. The donor is one Vettakudan Vadugan Madavan of Poygaikkuruvidam, the gift being under orders from, and with the permission (prasadam) of, Paluvettaraiyan Kumaran Maravan. The seven priests of the temple (ittali-pattudaiyom-eluvom) were given the right of enjoyment of the said land on condition that they agreed to burn a perpetual lamp in each of the twin shrines of the temple.

The Editor (G. V. Srinivasa Rao) of the South Indian Inscriptions XIII says:“This inscription seems to be assignable to Rajaraja I.” But the characters of this inscription are sufficiently archaic to be assigned to Aditya I. The consonants have pullis in the shape of dots. Further, if it were to relate to Rajaraja I, it would have borne the historical introduction of “Tirumagal pola” or “Kandalurch-chalai kalam-aruttaruliya” in a record of such a late date of the reign. There is also mention of the twin-shrines of this temple (“irandu taliyilum oro-nanda vilakku”), and this feature is found only in the earliest records. There is an inscription of Parantaka I (Madirai-konda kop-parakesari), of his 25th year (359/1924), below this inscription. The script of the Rajakesari inscription is earlier than that of Parantaka’s. Hence, I am inclined to assign this Rajakesari inscription to Aditya I—not to Rajaraja I.

Let us now take the incomplete, unpublished inscription: No. 355 of 1924. This is also inscribed on the southern wall of the southern shrine. It also records the reclamation (“kalli”) of 8 ma of uncultivated land {abhogam kidanda bhumi), and its gift to the priests of this temple on condition that they agreed to maintain a perpetual lamp in each of the two shrines of this temple. It is a record of the 22nd year of "....... ri-parmar.....” The expression “.....ri-parmar.....” may apply to Rajakesari or Parakesari. The script is archaic and could be assigned to the 9th century a.d. The consonants bear pullis like inverted commas, which are also met with in an inscription of Aditya I at Tiruppalanam (see facsimile of inscription, No. 124 of 1895, SII. Text, IV, No. 686). Below it there is an inscription of Parantaka I (Madirai-konda kop-parakesari-parmar) of the 37th year (358 of 1924), whose script is decidedly later than that of “Rajakesari” inscribed above it. The only Rajakesari before Parantaka I is Aditya I and so this incomplete inscription should be assigned to Aditya I. This Rajakesari inscription records that the gift was made with the permission of Paluvettaraiyan Kumaran Maravan, the Chief who figures in the other Rajakesari inscription of the 22nd year. The provision for burning a lamp in each of the twin shrines of this temple is a special feature of these earliest inscriptions of this temple. It may be further stated that at Lalgudy there is an inscription of the fifth year of Parakesarivarman, who should be identified with Parantaka I (M.E.R. No. 117 of 1928-29). It records a gift by the same chief Paluvettaraiyan Kumaran Maravan who figures in the two Rajakesari inscriptions discussed above. It is likely that this Chief flourished in the latter part of the reign of Aditya I and in the early part of the reign of his successor, Parantaka I.

Therefore, I feel emboldened to ascribe all the three Rajakesari inscriptions cited above (Nos. 357, 360 and 355 of 1924) to Aditya 1.1 may hazard the opinion that the two Chiefs Kumaran Kandan and Kumaran Maravan might have been brothers, sons of Kumaran.

In contrast to what we have seen above, the shrines are mentioned individually (“ittali”) even in the inscriptions of Parantaka I.

The next set of Rajakesari inscriptions, from the chronological point of view, seems to be: No. 364 of 1924, of the sixth year of Rajakesarivarman, inscribed on the walls of the southern shrine (ten vayil Sri koyil) and No. 383 of 1924, by the same donor, inscribed on the walls of the northern shrine (vada vayil Sri koyil). I am disposed to assign both of them to Gandaraditya for the following reasons:

The gifts are made in both cases by one Nakkan Akkara-Mangaiyar, said to be the daughter of Devanar of this shrine (tali) and to be the wife of Pillai Sera-manar. One is a gift of a lamp-stand weighing 215 palams and a capital endowment of 12 kalanjus of gold to the Mahadeva of the southern shrine of Avanti-kandarpa Isvaram (364 of 1924). The other relates to the gift of a lamp-stand weighing 190 palams and an endowment of 12 kalanjus of gold for a lamp to be burnt before the Mahadeva of the northern shrine of Avani Kandarpa Isvara Griham (383 of 1924). Both the endowments were placed under the protection of the Panmahesvaras.

While the earlier three gifts to the two shrines of this temple, of the period of Aditya I, refer to a gift of a perpetual lamp to be burnt in each of the twin shrines of Avani Kandarpa Isvaram, the two inscriptions now considered record separately gifts made individually to each of the two shrines. Hence it may be inferred that these two belong to a period just subsequent to that of Aditya I.

Further, there is mention of Pillaiyar Seramanar, said to be the husband of the donor of the above two endowments. The Cheramans played a considerable part in the Chola country during the reigns of Aditya I and of Parantaka I.[1]

Hence, the Rajakesarivarman referred to in these two inscriptions should relate to a successor of Parantaka I. In Rajakesari Gandaraditya’s inscriptions, his highest regnal year so far known is his ninth year (Inscription No. 215 of 1911). Hence these two Rajakesari inscriptions of the sixth year may be assigned to Gandaraditya. Paleographically also, these inscriptions can be assigned to this period.

The other Rajakesari records assignable to Sundara Chola (Nos. 365, 374 367 and 307 of 1924) and to Rajaraja I (No. 382 of 1924) need not be discussed here for the purpose of fixing the date of this temple.

Our conclusion is, therefore, that the Kilaiyur temple must have been built just a little before, or in, the 13th year of Aditya I. If, for any reason to be revealed by further research or future discovery, the inscription of the 13th year of Rajakesari is not assignable to Aditya I then it is certain that the temple came into existence in or before the 22nd year of Aditya I. (See also ‘Four Chola Temples’: pi. 6).

Footnotes and references:


See Tillaisthanam inscription of Rajakesarivarman Aditya I: Inscription No. 286 of 1911, also Gramam inscription (No. 739 of 1905) for mention of a Kerala general called Vellan Kumaran.

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