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 next forward step is found in the great temple built at Tanjavur by Rajaraja I (between a.d. 1004 and 1014). It is not only the biggest and grandest of Dravidian temples, but is one of the finest products of Indian achievement in Architecture. There are two gopurams in front in the middle of the two concentric walls of enclosure; both these gopurams are shorter than the vimana.

The inner gopuram has three storeys topped by the sala type of pavilion crowned with five stupis. There are two giant dvarapalas, four armed, in the centre of the two sides of the facade adjoining the gateway on the east. This position is peculiar as later gopurams have dvarapalas in koshtas at the base close to the gateway. There are also bas-relief sculptures on the facade of the lower tier and they depict Puranic stories like the episodes of the Kiratarjuniya. I wonder if these bas-relief sculptures could be considered Pallava as held by some scholars.

The outer gopuram has five storeys and is taller than the inner. The outer niches of the gopuram are empty. In the first storey in the interior on the inner face, there are sculptures of Brahma (as Pitamaha) and Dakshinamurti—the first instance so far known of the installation of deities in the interior of gopurams.

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