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....

The fine tradition in temple-building established by the Pallavas was carried to greater heights by the Cholas. A Western scholar in a recent book on the subject remarks:

“There are contemporary inscriptions which refer to the building of gopuram, but I have been unable to find a photograph or description of any extant early Chola Gopura.”

This conclusion is due to the lack of a systematic scientific survey of South Indian monuments, chiefly Chola and Pandya, in spite of the valuable work of the Archaeological Survey in India in other fields of work and elsewhere. Neglect, deterioration due to time and weather and unscientific renovation have led to the loss of many of these architectural treasures of the past.

The Avani Kandarpa-Isvara-griham at Kilaiyur (Tiruchy district) has the original early Chola gopuram. There are two original dvarapalas in front on both sides of the gateway of the gopuram which faces the west. The main gateway portion is built of stone and the superstructure of three storeys (nilai) of brick, chunam and stucco. It is crowned by a wagon-shaped pavilion {said) and is adorned at the top with five stupies. This is illustrated in my books Four Chola Temples and Early Chola Art I, Pis. 50-51. There is another equally ancient and interesting gopuram in front of the Sundaresvara temple in the neighbouring village of Melappaluvur, a mile away from Kilaiyur. Both the temples belong to the period of Aditya I (accession a.d. 871). The latter perhaps a little later (Early Chola Art, Part I, PI. 53).

The gopuram is only an architectural projection of the vimana with suitable modifications to serve its role in a temple-complex. In the place of the sanctum of the vimana, there is provision for a gateway in a gopuram called dvara or tiruvasal.

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