by S. R. Balasubrahmanyam | 1979 | 143,852 words
This volume of Chola Temples covers Kulottunga I to Rajendra III in the timeframe A.D. 1070-1280. 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 ever-new weaveth the ever-old,
Ever telling the never-told.”
Just as Egypt is called the Gift of the Nile, so also Chola culture and art may be called the Gift of the Kaveri—a glorious heritage we should be proud of.
In 1910, some thirteen distinguished British art critics declared that they “find in the best art of India a lofty and adequate expression of the religious emotions of the people and of the deepest thoughts on the subject of the divine.” A.K. Coomaraswamy has said, “Everything manmade must have a deeply religious meaning, it must be made with the gods in mind and in their image, it must face towards the gods, reach towards the gods and symbolize the gods.” And it is this aspect of art that fascinated the Cholas—and it is their survivals we are dealing with here.
Chola—and Pandyan—temples have had no systematic and scientific survey of them made so far. Neither the Central nor the State government, nor any South Indian university, nor any endowed research body has carried out such a survey thus far. For any such comprehensive survey, it will take at least about twenty-five years and cost about twenty-five lakhs of rupees. There will also be a race against time since the temples are not all in a good state of repair and are also in danger of irreparable damage at the hands of zealous renovators. The area to be covered is vast and the task is enormous and utterly beyond the scope of an individual working without resources or facilities. I, therefore, seek the indulgence of the reader for any shortcomings.
The Cholas were the greatest temple-builders of South India—one might say, even of India as a whole. Hundreds of temples of their age have been visited by us, but our attention has been confined here to dated and dateable ones which have inscriptions or other source material to help in their documentation. Nearly four hundred temples have been covered by us in this manner in our series, of which this is the fourth and the last. In a scientific survey, we must select the proper source material, interpret it properly and make correct deductions. Local legends have their value and they should be carefully studied and judiciously used. Literature is also an important source, though, again, it should be used with caution. Every attempt has been made to live up to these guidelines, and it is for the reader to judge how far we have succeeded in this endeavour.
Standard works on Indian Art and Architecture cover only about half a dozen South Indian temples, and these too are treated scrappily and in isolation, without sufficient historical background. What we have attempted in these four volumes has been described by critics as a “major project requiring a whole battery of resources” and as a “monumental documentation” of Chola temples; accounts of about four hundred such temples have been presented in a chronological setting, incidentally providing fairly scientific data for the formulation of canons and the evolution of style in Architecture and Sculpture!
In this volume, we cover the last phase of Chola Art and Architecture, spanning the reigns of Kulottunga I and his successors, ending with the last of therti, Rajendra III. With that, the curtain is rung down on a grand period, classic in its stature, magnitude and innovativeness.
We have divided the period of Chola rule into three major phases in relation to temple-building activity, Art and Architecture. Over these three phases, a tiny structure like the temples at Kaliyapatti and Panangudi grows forth into a temple-city of gigantic porportions as we see at Tanjavur, Tiruvarur, Chidambaram, Srirangam, Tiruvanaikka and many others. It was a period of galloping growth in Indian Art.
Hasty generalizations and erroneous views on style have been formulated by some early scholars and blindly repeated and accepted by succeeding generations. We have attempted in these volumes to indicate such of them as need reconsideration. These volumes may be considered a complement (devoted to assessing the Chola achievement in art) to K.A. Nilakanta Sastri’s classic, The Colas, which deals primarily with their history.
There are only a few books on the history of Temple Art and Architecture in South India, and even these deal with only a few temples and perfunctorily at that. On questions of Chola style, wild guesses and vague speculations have been very much in vogue. Even G.J. Dubreuil defined Chola style as covering the period A.D. 850-1100 and as characterised by ‘grand vimanas\ This is too much of a simplification of the Chola achievement during this period. And, whereas Chola rule itself extended upto A.D. 1280, he defined the period A.D. 1100-1350 as the Pandyan period, characterized by ‘grand gopuram’. There are only three Pandyan temples built in the traditional Chola country during the period of the Pandyan hegemony—Viranarayana vinnagar at Kattumannargudi (a temple of the days of Parantaka I, rebuilt), Bhaktavatsala temple at Tirukkalukkunram, and the Amman temple at the Rajarajesvaram at Tanjavur. A few trophies from conquered lands such as the Nolamba pillars at the Ten Kailasam in Tiruvaiyaru, the Later Chalukyan dvarapalaka from Kalyani (till recently installed at Darasuram but now housed in the Tanjavur Art Gallery) and the Pala metallic image of Nataraja dancing on Nandi at Melakkadambur (near Kattumannargudi) fall outside the purview of any discussion of Chola Art styles. H. Goetz, a foreign Indologist who had a long and distinguished career in Northern India, writes in his book India that the Darasuram temple (erected by Rajaraja II, A.D. 1146-72) was built entirely with the icons and other material looted during the Kalyani raids of Rajadhiraja I (A.D. 1018-54); this ascription is an atrocious anachronism.
I welcome the publication of Early Cola Architecture and Sculpture by Douglas Barrett. He has, however, done scant justice to the brilliant work and achievement of the founder of the Chola empire, Vijayalaya, for a brief account of which see my Early Chola Temples, pp. 344-7. As regards the period of Adiyta I, Barrett discusses the two temples of Tiruchchendurai and Kilaiyur. The former of these was built by a member of the royal family. There is an inscription of the 23rd year of a Rajakesarivarman (to be identified with Aditya I), mentioning a grant to that temple. It is described as a karrali (stone temple) in inscriptions of the second and third years of Parantaka I. Barrett concludes from this description that the temple was built of brick in the 23rd year of Aditya I and rebuilt of stone in the second year of Parantaka I. The Anbil plates of Sundara Chola proclaim that the process of converting brick temples into stone was in full swing in the period of Aditya I, and it is highly improbable that a new temple would be built of brick as late as in the 23rd year of Aditya I only to be rebuilt of stone within fifteen years. As for the temple at Kilaiyur, called Avani kandarpa Isvara griham, my Four Chola Temples contains the first comprehensive account of the twin-shrine complex and my Early Chola Art—Part I also a detailed account of the same; both the shrines belong to the same age, and the earliest of the inscriptions here are three in number, one of the thirteenth and two of the twenty-second year of a Rajakesarivarman to be identified with Aditya I; all three refer to gifts of lamps made to each of the twin-shrines, using the words: “iru tali oro(r) nanda vilakku” Next, in an inscription of the age of Gandaraditya, the twin shrines are referred to as Ten tali and Vada tali (the southern and the northern shrines)—incidentally phrases wrongly interpreted by the Government Epigraphist as ‘gateways’, there being in fact only one gateway and that too in the west: only the word ‘tali* is used, though each shrine was of stone then itself and thus a karrali: thus, Barrett’s conclusion on the Tiruchchendurai temple based merely on a narrow interpretation of the word "tali' has to be discarded.
The Koranganatha temple at Srinivasanallur has been hitherto considered a typical Parantaka I structure by students of Chola art. I discovered a 26th year Rajakesarivarman inscription on the southern wall of the central shrine; so it really belongs to the period of Aditya I. It was in ruins and has been renovated in the 19th century, and cannot be taken as the prototype of any particular style.
I have to agree with Barrett when he writes that his and my “interpretations of chronology and development of Chola religious art diverge so widely”. After a careful study of his views and conclusions, I see no alternative to our continuing to differ. To cover all the points of difference between our viewpoints will take up much more space and time than an Introduction would allow. I shall therefore confine myself to a few main points among them. I apply the term “Early Chola” to the period A.D. 850-985, while Barrett and a few others would extend this period upto A.D. 1014, the end of the reign of Rajaraja I. All such divisions of course are only tentative and merely convenient break-ups of time. The Sembiyan Mahadevi style is in evidence throughout the reign of Uttama Chola (A.D. 969-985) and the first sixteen years of the reign of Rajaraja I, i.e., till A.D. 1,000, and during the latter period, we already discover the deterioration from the true Sembiyan spirit. The temples at Tiruppurambdyam and Karandai have suffered much at the hands of unbalanced enthusiast^ for the Sembiyan spirit, who installed a large number of additional sculptures in newly made niches, even destroying valuable inscriptions in the process. This thoughtless vandalism must surely have offended the soul of Sembiyan Mahadevi herself, who took elaborate care to preserve all old inscriptions, such as at Tiruvidaimarudur (4th year, 325th day of the reign of Uttama Chola: p. 256 of my Early Choia Temples) and at Tirukkodikkaval (p. 257, ibid). At Tirup-purambiyam, the original niche sculptures are of Dakshinamurti, Lingodbhavar and Brahma; as many as nine others have been inserted into improvised niches. These are wrongly described by Barrett as inclusive of the Ashta Parivara devatas installed in the tenth year of Rajaraja I. These Parivara devatas are properly those installed in eight sub-shrines rather than in the niches of a temple (see Early Chola Art, Part I, pp. 185-6 and Barrett’s Early Cola Art and Sculpture, p. 105). Again at Karandai (Early Chola Temples, pp. 183- 5 and p. 269), sixteen sculptures are found installed, of which only five are original and the rest, including sculptures of the Tamil Saivitc saints, Appar and Sambandar, are later insertions by the exuberant followers of the Sembiyan spirit.
Further, much as Rajaraja I was a faithful and admiring follower of Sembiyan Mahadevi, his reign saw the introduction of ‘cathedral temples’ as a grand new experiment in temple architecture: the Rajarajesvaram of his at Tanjavur (A.D. 1004-10) was immediately followed by his son’s Gangaikondasolisvaram, and in the Later Chola period by temples at Darasuram and Tribhuvanam. It must have taken easily a decade to conceive the plan and choose proper men and material for the execution of the grand design. The Sembiyan phase may thus be stretched even as far as A.D. 1000; but the year A.D. 1014, while marking the demise of Rajaraja I, does not mark off an epoch in Chola art history, since the structures of his son’s period are modelled on those of his. Hence I would place the beginning of the Early Chola period at A.D. 850 and its end at A.D. 985, covering among others the reigns of Vijayalaya, Aditya I and Parantaka I.
Owing to the absence of a scientific survey of Chola temples, erroneous views have been expressed even by eminent modern historians. J.N. Banerjea opines that Nataraja icons appear only after the 14th or 15th century or even later. Vincent A. Smith held the view that “after A.D. 300, Indian sculpture properly so called hardly deserves to be recognized as art”. A reviewer of my Middle Chola Temples observes: “The Chola empire declined rapidly after Kulottunga I’s time” (italics mine). Such a statement ignores Chola history and achievement over as long a span as 210 years (A.D. 1070-1280), which is in fact the subject-matter of the present volume. I have covered in this volume about a hundred and sixty temples built, rebuilt of stone or enlarged during this period; the various stylistic developments in architecture and sculpture taking place in this period are quite significant. An elementary account of this period has already been published as the last chapter of my Four Chola Temples.
Just as, in the Early Chola period (especially in the age of Parantaka I), the Lingodbhavar cult was frequently invoked by way of expressing Siva’s supremacy over Vishnu and Brahma, so in the present period the Sarabkamurti cult, with the same objective, is found introduced at Tukkachchi, Darasuram and Tribhuvanam.
Incidentally, I would hesitate to accept—nay, I even reject—the postulation of a ‘second phase’ in the Early Chola period, beginning right in the middle of the reign of Parantaka I, namely during A.D. 940 to 970, as made out by Barrett: for my views and related arguments on this subject, see my Early Chola Art-Part I, pp. 254-5, and my Early Chola Temples, pp. 254-264.
There are many erroneous views on the dates of mandapas and gopurams. The Nritta sabha at Chidambaram belonging to the days of Kulottunga I, like the temple at Melakkadambur, has been attributed by some authors to the 17th century. The independent Amman temple, the hundred-pillared hall, the thousand-pillared hall, and the three walls of enclosure of the Nataraja temple at Chidambaram, with seven-tiered gopurams in the third wall (called the Rajak-kal Tambiran tirumaligai) all belong to the Later Chola period—and not to the Pandyan or Vijayanagara age. There is no Pandyan gopuram at all in the Chidambaram temple (see The City of the Cosmic Dance by B. Natarajan, pp. 65-83). The srivimana and gopuram at the Tribhuvanam temple belong to the same period. But, because of the ribbed kumudam on the gopuram- basement, some scholars have come to the conclusion that the gopuram belongs to the 16th century A.D. and the main temple to the 13th. Ribbed kumudams are to be found in temples of the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries (as at Takkolam, Tondaimanadu alias Tondaiman Arrur, and Melakkadambur respectively). Thus, on questions of style, one has to draw conclusions or make generalizations with great care.
The expansion of temple campuses (in particular by the addition of independent Amman shrines) and the creation of temple-cities, ratha-vimanas and ratka-mandapas are some of the characteristic features of the Later Chola period.
At Tirukkalukkunram, there is a hill called Vedagiri considered to be itself an embodiment of the Vedas and thus of God Himself, There are two temples at the foot of the hill, a rock-cut cave temple midway up the hill, and a structural stone temple at the top of the hill. There has been a lot of confusion in the matter of identification and dating of these temples. Of these four, the oldest (according to me) is the ruined apsidal temple without sikhara, now used as a strong room, in the northern prakara of the present Bhaktavatsala temple. This structure has its walls covered with two hundred years of inscriptions from the ninth century A.D. and has fine devakoshta images assignable to that century. This temple is referred to in inscriptions as that of Tim Mulasthanam Udaiyar at Timkkalukkunram. The earliest inscription, of the 27th year of Aditya I, mentions that the temple was originally built by Skanda Sishya (Pallava) and a grant of land was made to it and that this grant was reaffirmed by Vatapi-konda Narasimha and again by Aditya I after his conquest of Tondaimandalam. So this is obviously the oldest temple structure here. The Bhaktavatsala teinple, of which the above now forms part, is of the 13th century and was built by Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I.
We next take up the rock-cut cave temple midway up the hill. It was excavated during the days of Vatapi-konda Narasimha and contains an inscription of his, making a grant for worship in this temple—called that of Malai-mel Sri Mulasthanam Udaiyar (the ‘mulasthana temple on the hill'). It is thus to be distinguished from the ‘Tiru Mulasthanam Udaiyar temple’ at the bottom of the hill associated with Skanda Sishya, Pallava Narasimha and Aditya I,
The temple at the top of the hill is a structural stone-temple of the days of Rajasimha II of the eighth century A.D. Thus the oldest temple here is the apsidal temple at the foot of the hill mentioned above and now in the northern prakara oi the (later) Bhaktavatsala temple.
The Muvarkoyil at Kodumbalur has been yet another controversial temple. Some authors speak of a southern or Pandyan influence in the structure of the temple. In my Early Chola Temples, I have adduced evidence to show that the temple was built in the days of Sundara Chola by a feudatory called Bhuti Vikramakesari, in his own name and in those of his two queens. This conclusion has also been accepted by Barrett and appears to have generally set at rest earlier controversies. (See the footnote on p. xx).
K.V. Soundararajan has suggested that the Muvarkoyil has been the inspiration behind the temple at Kilaiyur. In view of what has been stated above, it is clear that this suggestion is a chronological impossibility.
I am glad that Barrett’s views are in consonance with mine on the dating of some of the Early Chola temples.
He has been generous in calling me
“the first scholar to take (the claim of the Anbil plates regarding the building of stone temples by Aditya I) seriously”
and notes that I have
“listed no less than thirty-eight temple-sites in Tiruchchirapalli and Tanjavur districts alone as of the age of Aditya I”.
“At a few sites......., no fabric of the period remains; at many others, the fabric, I shall argue, is later than he claims, nevertheless the great value of his original work remains” (p, 49, op. cit.).
On Lalgudy, accepting my conclusions, he states:
“It seems there is nothing in the style of architecture or sculpture to prevent us from accepting the date of the reconstruction of Lalgudy in or about year 27 of Aditya I (A.D. 897).”
On page 59, op . cit., he says:
“......the evidence of the inscriptions on the Odavanesvara temple... has been admirably presented by Balasubrahmanyam and G.V. Srinivasa Rao.”
At another point, he writes: “Rajakesari inscriptions 13, 14, 17, 23 and 25 may be confidently ascribed to Aditya I”, contradicting his own view (as also of K.V. Soundararajan) that no Rajakesari inscriptions earlier than of the 15th year should be ascribed to Aditya I.
On the Tiruverumbur temple, he observes:
It poses a nice problem of date and style; the evidence of the no less than twenty-one Rajakesari inscriptions is most confusing. Balasubrahmanyan has untangled these inscriptions brilliantly. He has shown that the inscription of the year 19 may be given to Aditya I. He further believes—here I follow more reluctantly—that inscriptions (of years) 4, 5, 6 and 18—with low regnal years—and another (of year) 19 may be referred to the same king”.
But his conclusion that
“Tattan Sandi built a temple of brick in or about year 18 of Aditya I (A.D. 889). All that remains are the surviving Parivara devatas. In or about year 3 of Gandaraditya (about A.D. 952), Velan Viranarayanan rebuilt the temple of stone, and his temple is the surviving fabric”
appears untenable. I assert that the surviving fabric is of the age of Aditya I. All the Rajakesari inscriptions accepted by Barrett as of the age of Aditya I are original ones and intact, as confirmed by the Government Epigraphist. It is fantastic to suggest that an earlier structure was built of brick on top of a hill where stone is available aplenty. Apart from the physical incongruity involved, this also goes against the spirit of the Anbil plates according to which even existing brick structures were converted into stone by Aditya I’s time. The garbhagriha is original and of his age.
I take this occasion to quote the verdict of Karl Khandalavala on my dating of temples. In his preface to the third volume in this series, he writes:
“Reconstructions, renovations and additions further complicate the problem of dating many a shrine, but by far and large it may be said that the material on which the author has based his conclusions is adequate and correctly interpreted with the full consciousness that there are bound to be shrines in each classification on which the last word has yet to be spoken. This nondogmatic approach, so essential in a subject such as Chola temple chronology, is a most admirable feature of the text. The author leads the reader to an understanding of his viewpoint without any jarring notes or arbitrary pronouncements. Epigraphy is necessarily the basis of all studies in relation to South Indian temples and Sri Balasubrahmanyam who is one of the greatest Tamil epigraphists of our time has collected and interpreted a vast amount of material which will ever remain the basis on which further studies can be founded.”
I shall rest content with this judgement of a great art critic.
Some new light has been thrown recently on the twilight period marking the transition from Pallava to Chola rule. On top of a hill about two kilometres from Tiruttani, there is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Subrahmanya, but its exact antiquity was shrouded in darkness till recendy. The present temple on the hill bears an inscription of the Vijayanagara ruler Krishnadeva raya dated in about A.D. 1525. Therefore, the present structure could be a renovation of a more ancient structure that was of brick and stone. But a recent set of finds of copper plates and icons at the village of Velanjeri, about two kilometres from Tiruttani, has not only thrown light on the ancient history of this temple but also given much valuable historical data about the Pallava rulers during the closing days of the dynasty. The finds made in the last months of 1977 were (a) a set of copper plates dated in the reign of the Pallava king Aparajita (circa A.D. 900), (b) a set of copper plates dated in A.D. 927, corresponding to the 20th regnal year of the Chola king Parantaka 1, and (c) a bronze image of Siva with Parvati on His mount Nandi with a prabha over the entire set.
The Aparajita copper plates, five in number, are bilingual (in Tamil and Sanskrit) and are fastened together by a ring and sealed by the Pallava royal insignia; they bear a seated bull, the emblem of the Pallavas, topped by the ashta mangalas, a parasol and two chowris. Along the circumference of the seal is an inscription mentioning that the plates record a royal order of Aparajita (Aparajita varmanaha). Dated in his ninth regnal year, the grant mentions that two villages, Pudur and Melirunjeru, were combined into one revenue unit and the combined village was directed to measure out 1,000 kadis of paddy annually for offerings to Lord Subrahmanya on the Tiruttani hilL The village is now known as Velanjeri, a corruption of Melirunjeru.
The record commences with a recital of the mythical ancestry of the Pallavas and comes down to the days of Kampavarman. It mentions that Kampavarman defeated Nripatunga in battle and captured the powerful Pallava throne; his queen was the Ganga princess Vijaya and Aparajita was their first-born; we are aware that Nripatunga and Kampavarman were the twosonsofNandivarmanlll but they fought among themselves and finally Kampavarman usurped the throne of the Pallavas from Nripatunga; after Kampavarman, Aparajita ascended the Pallava throne keeping Nripatunga out; Aparajita claims victories over the Bana ruler and the Cholas at the battle of Chirrarrur, and to have reduced the Pandya city of Kaaranai. Aparajita on the mother’s side came of Ganga lineage and this explains the fact that at the battle of Sripurambiyam, the Ganga ruler Prithivipati I fought as an ally of Aparajita and won for him a great victory losing his own life in it.
From our angle, the Chola copper plates are more important for the information they yield in our study of Chola art history; it is the earliest copper plate charter relating to this dynasty so far discovered. It bears the Chola dynastic crest—-a seated tiger, two fish on a bow, topped by an umbrella and a chamara (i chowri). The circumferential inscription mentions that the grant was the order of ‘Parakesarivarmanah’ Parantaka I. This charter which is bilingual (in Sanskrit and Tamil), records the gift of three villages near Tiruttani as a brahmadeya gift to the brahmana residents of Melirunjeru (Velanjeri). A piece of historical information of much value is the mention of a Kochchenganan, a Chola king of whom was born Orriyuran; of the latter was born in turn the warrior Vijayalaya, whose son was the king Aditya. It thus pushes back the genealogy of the Vijayalaya house of Cholas by two generations and mentions a Kochchenganan who could have lived in the late eighth century. We are yet to know what relationship he bore to the more famous Kochchenganan of the Sangam age.
Another interesting piece of information this grant yields on the activities of Parantaka I is that he performed a tulabhara ceremony at Srirangam and gilded the temple of Sri Ranganathar there, just as he gilded the Nataraja temple at Chidambaram. Thus he was a devotee of Sriranganatha as well as of Nataraja.
The bronzes are coeval with the grants and can be attributed to the transition period from Pallava rule to Chola rule in the Tondaimandalam region (A.D. 900 to 925). Their publication is awaited with interest.
In the 11th and 12th centuries, the Cholas conquered and ruled the Pandya country, and during their rule, they built a number of temples there which may be classified as of the Chola-Pandya idiom of the Dravidian style. So also, in the 13th century, the Hoysalas and the Later Pallavas built temples in the Chola-desa, the former at Kannanur koppam, Srirangam and Tiru Anaikka, and the latter at Sendamangalam and Tiruvennainallur (a Vishnu temple called Alagiya Pallava Vinnagaram). These may be classified as Chola-Hoysala and Chola-Later Pallava idioms.
The entire edifice of this series of four volumes is based on epigraphy—a sheet-anchor without which any attempt at surveying South Indian art would end up as a rudderless drift in unchartered oceans. Aid is certainly taken of many other corroborative factors and evidence—very often vital; but let us emphasise that where epigraphy fails we hesitate to speculate, and where we do so speculate, we do so with great caution.
In this volume, as in the earlier ones, we have followed the same technique of handling our theme; we have found no reasons to alter it; we date a monument on epigraphical grounds and delineate its features; the fund of inscrip-tional material is analysed briefly and chronologically for the light it throws on the growth of art. Traditions and legends are given their legitimate share and noteworthy art and architectural characteristics are highlighted.
Time and place determine style, and bereft of a survey in a chronological sequence, an art work will tend to be a picture album. We do not boast of a host of outstanding plates; our illustrations serve a purpose—to trace evolution. Ours is not an art book, but it deals with a more fundamental theme—the growth of art and architecture, and style. Such growth happens in a time-trellis. We are concerned with that. Our plates, plans and sketches illustrate a point in this time-frame.
We have given massive inscriptional references for future scholars to go deep into individual monuments. South India presents a vast ocean of scope for such delineation.
We have added notes and appendices wherever necessary to amplify points that find only brief mention in the text. We hope they would widen the knowledge of the lover of our art, culture and traditions, hagiology and religion, and our pantheon and their relevance to art and architecture.
Recently, some healthy developments have taken place in Tamil Nadu, thanks to the activities of the State Department of Archaeology under its dynamic Director, Dr. R. Nagaswamy. A drive is on to keep temples clean, and to preserve inscriptions, sculptures and paintings. Whitewashing or coating witjh drab and vulgar colours has been prohibited. Renovation of temples involving destruction of inscriptions and ancient sculptures and structures has beei^ prohibited by a Government order. These Government orders have to be strictly enforced. Students from neighbourhood colleges and schools have been rightly involved in the preservation and conservation of ancient and venerable monuments and made to take interest and pride in the local history of the homeland. Training is imparted in evening courses of a year’s duration and the trainees undertake annual tours for on-the-spot studies of the Pallava, Chola, Pandya, Vijayanagara and Nayak monuments. Annual conferences and exhibitions are special features of interest in making Archaeology attractive and interesting and almost a mass movement, instead of being the close preserve of the scholars alone. Some valuable labelled bronzes have been recently discovered and preserved. A new age is dawning in South Indian Archaeology.
The efflorescence of interest in South Indian studies and in our ancient monuments is amply illustrated by the recent formation, and, what is more, the enthusiastic activity, of the Society for Archaeological, Historical and Epi-graphical Research. Their publications are scholarly and valuable in the understanding of South India and its ancient culture.
A recent phenomenon of interest is the entry of a businessman into the field of Archaeology. Sri N. Sethuraman of Raman & Raman, Kumbakonam, started with a study of the Pallavarayanpettai inscription and has made valuable contributions to South Indian history, packing into a brief span of six months what most professionals usually do not achieve in a lifetime.
My association with Pondicherry has been long and intimate. In the twenties, G.-J. Dubreuil, Professor at the College of Pondicherry, was at the height of his powers as a Dravidian archaeologist—he was the first to scientifically survey the Pallava temples of South India and laid the foundations of Dravidian Archaeology. I was fortunate in being close to him and in receiving an autographed set of his publications, which I value highly and which form a precious part of my small library. I sent him one of my reprints on the two stone inscriptions of the days of Vijayalaya and Parantaka I, found by me on the bund of a tank at Munisandai in Tirumayam taluk of Pudukkottai district. They revealed the existence of a sea-faring Tamil mercantile corporation called the Nanadesis and an article on them was published by me in the Journal of the Dutch Society in Batavia, in modern Indonesia. At my request, the inscribed stones under reference have since been moved to the Pudukkottai Museum. (Incidentally, the dates of these records as given in the Annual Report of the Pudukkottah Museum are erroneous). Dr. Dubreuil congratulated me and called the above Guild the Tamil (forerunner of the) East India Company (of the Westerners). Mr. P.Z. Pattabiramin was his chela and in turn he too became a cordial friend of mine. After some time, the French Institute of Indology was founded with Dr. J. Filliozat as its Director, and is doing valuable work in Indological and Tamil studies. The offices of the Ecole Francaise d* extreme-Orient were shifted from Hanoi to, and housed in, the premises of the above Institute at Pondicherry. At Dr. Filliozat’s instance, all the publications of the Institute (and, recently, of the Ecole as well) have been regularly made available to me, and the privilege of joining the Institute staff On some of their tours to South Indian temples has been warmly extended to me. The Institute has also provided me (unlike the Bhulabhai Memorial Institute, Bombay) with the bulk of the photographs used as illustrations in all the four volumes of this series, on easy terms. I am indebted to Dr. Filliozat, Dr. F. Gros, Mile. F, L’Hernault, Mr. V. Srinivasan, in particular the late Mr. P.Z. Pattabiramin, and the other members of the staff of the Institute for their various acts of co-operation in the matter of publication of these volumes.
Dr. Pramod Chandra, Professor of Indology at the University of Chicago and Director of the American Institute of Indian Studies at Varanasi, has been a source of encouragement in the publication of these volumes, along with his late father, Dr. Moti Chandra, formerly Director of the Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay. He was good enough to suggest my participation as a delegate in the Conference on Indian Architecture held at the Varanasi Institute.
The Ford Foundation and its successive representatives in India—Dr. Douglas Ensminger, Dr. Henry E. Wilhelm and Mr. Staples—have extended to me valuable help, which is gratefully acknowledged here.
Shri Karl Khandalavala, Editor of Lalit Kala, has been a constant friend and well-wisher in all my publication endeavours. I owe him a deep debt of gratitude.
I am beholden for their ready help to Dr. R. Nagaswamy, Director of Archaeology, Government of Tamilnadu; Sri N. Sethuraman of Raman &; Raman of Kumbakonam; the Secretary of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Board of the Tamil Nadu Government; Dr. M.N. Deshpande, Director-General of Archaeology of the Government of India, Mr. H. Sarkar, Temple Survey Officer, and the Superintending Assistant, Southern Circle, also of the Archaeological Survey of India; Dr. B.G.L. Swami of the Presidency College, Madras; Mr. Sadasiva Gorakshar of the Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay; and Messrs. P.R. Srinivasan and K.G. Krishnan of the Department of Epigraphy, Mysore. There are others, like Mr. N.S. Ramaswamy of the Indian Express and Messrs. Natana Kasinathan and Gandhi of the Tamil Nadu State Archaeology Department to whom I am indebted. I am thankful to all those who have helped me to complete this great project.
In 1920, I had the good luck to get a footing in the Educational Trust of the Late Dr. Rajah Sir Annamalai Chettiar of Chettinad. He was a great and distinguished personality, a sound financier and an industrialist, an able administrator and an educational benefactor, and above all a gentleman. I served his Trust both as a teacher and as an educational administrator, especially during the crucial period of the conversion of the Sri Meenakshi College and the allied institutions of his Trust as the nucleus of the Annamalai University. The College and the University situated so close to the ancient religious;and cultural centre of Chidambaram, the home of Nataraja, gave me the necessary background for my academic development. The Nataraja temple is the key to the treasures of Chola art and architecture. 1 utilised the temple and the facilities of the college and university to the fullest in my self-growth in archaeology. The Rajah Sahib has by his charities, educational and cultural, become immortal. I pay my tribute to his great memory. I am glad that his worthy son, Dr. Rajah Sir M.A. Muthiah Chettiar, closely follows his illustrious father’s footsteps. He has a warm corner for me and my family.
It was also my good fortune to enjoy the love and friendship of the late Rt. Hon’ble V.S. Srinivasa Sastri who was the Vice-Chancellor of the Annamalai University for five years from 1935 to 1940. He called me his ‘dearest friend and well-wisher’. I delivered a lecture in the University under his presidentship on the Oldest Chidambaram Inscriptions discovered by me. Often he entrusted to me the guidance of distinguished visitors to the University interested in the study of Chola art and architecture in the Nataraja temple. He was greatly interested in my archaeological studies and exhorted me to devote myself exclusively to it. Had he been alive he would have rejoiced at the completion of my project on the Chola temples. He was my hero and exemplar. I pay my homage to his sweet and sacred memory.
Another great friend of the family and a deep devotee of Tyagesa of Tiruvarur, Mr. V.S. Tyagaraja Mudaliar, the industrialist and philanthropist of that place, has helped me and my project in many ways. I am beholden to him.
As this volume goes to the Press, the happy tidings have come of the “Federation of Indian Publishers” in association with the “Authors’ Guild of India” giving me the “AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN WRITING” in the category of Art and Travel for my earlier volume Middle Chola Temples for the year 1977. I am grateful to them for this recognition.
Mr. Aroon Purie of the Thomson Press (India) Ltd. has gone out of his way to help me with the publication of this book. Without his generous accommodation in many ways, this book will have remained unpublished. No less has been the help and encouragement received from Mr. R.S. Rawal, Senior Sales Manager of the Thomson Press and Messrs. Mehta and Ganju of their Publication Department in taking on themselves more than their due share of strain and responsibility in bringing out this publication. I am deeply indebted to them.
The successive enlightened Tamil Nadu Governments have taken a keen and continuing interest in my project over these two decades and have been a source of great help and inspiration to me.
My thanks are also due to Messrs. D. Kannan, V. Balasubrahmanyan, K.V. Sankaranarayanan, Sankaran, N. Ghellappan, P.G.K. Kutty, M.K. Gandhi and other close associates for their help in various ways in getting the text ready for the Press.
Above all I am deeply beholden to the Acharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Pitham whose deep knowledge of the culture and art of the Cholas and keen interest in my project of compiling and tracing the growth of art and architecture under their inspiration has sustained me through my moments of doubt in my ability to stand up to the staggering strain of the task I had undertaken.
I pay my deep homage not only to him but to Adisankara and all his successor Pontiffs who have adorned that Pitham at Kanchi and other centres. A few weeks back, when I had gone to Kanchi to seek the blessings of the great Acharya, he comforted me and assured me of success in the fulfilment of this endeavour.
When I started on this multi-volume series on Chola art history and temple survey, I was a lone man; as the work progressed, my sons and daughters-in-law and later on my grand-children gathered round me and lightened my burden considerably; my eldest son, Sri B. Natarajan, has been a tower of strength to me in this great project; the brunt of the load, however, fell on my second son, Dr. Venkataraman and his wife Leela, who both put up with a great deal of strain and odd hours of work to help me complete this series. The efforts of my third son, Dr. Ramachandran, in meticulously editing the texts with a microscopic eye combined with an incisive mind and typing out many complicated portions must also find mention here.
This sort of a gigantic venture is not for an individual or even a dedicated family but for well-established, well-cushioned Institutions or Government Departments to take up. I would not have embarked on this stupendous task had some effort been made by any such agency. In their absence, I stepped in to fill a vacuum. It has been a great struggle spread over six decades.
I am nearing the end of my life’s journey and I have a sense of fulfilment with the satisfaction of my life’s ambition—a chronological survey, however far from comprehensive it be, of Chola Temple Art and Architecture, to the studying of which I have devoted most of my life and the limited resources I could call my own.
The Chola kings are no more but they will live in the minds and hearts of discerning men as long as (in the picturesque language of their inscriptions) ‘"the sun and the moon endure.”
Let me conclude by saying, as did the mighty Chola kings of old, that all I desire is to be “a bee, partaking of the honey of Divine Grace, at the Lotus Feet of the Lord of the Cosmic Dance” and to ultimately merge in Him.
12, Fourth Cross Street,
Madras 23rd April, 19 1960
Note on the Muvarkoyil:
Douglas Barrett has suggested a ‘southern source’ for the evolution of the style of the Muvarkoyil shrines. This ‘southern source’ can only be Pandyan. But the feet that there are fine devakoshta sculptures in these shrines while the devakoshtas of Pandyan temples are nominal and devoid of sculptures will disprove his contention, and we must rule out any Pandyan influence at Muvarkoyil. Even R. Nagaswamy seems to reconsider his original agreement with the assignment of the Muvarkoyil shrines to the tenth century A.D.: vide his article, “New light on Pallava-Pandya art links” in South Indian Studies (No. 1, Soc. Arch. Hist. & Epig. Res., Madras). Two inscriptions: one of the fifth year of Sadaiyan Maran (Tiruppattur) and the other of the fifth year of Maranjadaiyan (Kuttalam: Maranjadaiyan is identified as Varaguna II) are cited as evidence for a Vira Pandya in the ninth century A.D. These are not applicable to the builder of the temples at Kilmathur. There was no Chola King to kill in about A.D. 869 and no Vira Pandya then to earn the title of ‘Cholantaka’. The only Vira Pandya who could claim to be a Cholantaka would be a contemporary of that name of Bhuti Vikrama Kesari and thus of the period of Sundara Chola and Aditya II (tenth century A.D.)