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....

Seven-storeyed Gopuram: Chidambaram

The next important development in this sphere of South Indian Art and Architecture is the evolution of the seven-storeyed gopuram under the patronage of the later Cholas, from Kulottunga I to Kulottunga III (a.d. 1070 to 1216) (see The Irungolisvaram at Koyattur ). And now, the centre of gravity in this field of art shifts to Chidambaram. In this period, the gopuram dwarfs the vimana and dominates the temple-complex and the ever-enlarging temple-city. In spite of this new development, the essential features of the Tanjavur example were still followed at Darasu-ram and Tribhuvanam.

The Irungolisvaram at Koyattur

The Irungolisvaram at Koyattur - modern Nilakantesvaram at Laddigam -which has to be assigned to the time of Kulottunga I (of the later Chola period, not of Rajaraja I, See Four Chola Temples p. 38) has an elementary form of gopuram similar to that in the Kailasanathar temple at Kanchi (8th century A.D.).

The Laddigam gopuram is of stone, and consists of a dvara, a stone layer over the comice, the griva, the sala type of sikhara with gable ends on either side, crowned with kudus and a stone stupi (once there were three stupies).

In the griva, there are deva-koshtas crowned with kudus. The niche figures of the griva - a unique feature of this gopura - are Balasubrahmanya on the elephant in the east, Dakshinamurti in the south, seated Vishnu in the west and seated Brahma in the north.

While in the Choladesa proper we see the evolution of the seven-storeyed gopuram in the period of Kulottunga Chola I and his successors (later Chola period) here in the Kongunadu, we have in the same period, the simplest type of gopuram as in the Pallava age.

This will dispel the theory that there was a uniform, consistent and continuous form of artistic development from precedent to precedent. There was a variety of stylistic features in the same age in different parts of the Chola empire (see Fig 14, plate VII, The Colas, 2nd edition, K.A.N Sastri; Also plate 18 of J.C. Harleā€™s Temple Gateways in South India).

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