Later Chola Temples

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....

Appendix: Naralokavira’s Chidambaram Inscription

Naralokavira’s Chidambaram inscription listing his contributions to the Nataraja temple.

The several benefactions of the Chola General Naralokaviran are listed in a long inscription found on the third prakara wall in the Nataraja temple at Chidambaram; it is in verse form and contains thirty-one verses in Sanskrit and thirty-six venbas in Tamil (SII, Texts, Vol. IV). The Tamil portions, at many places, repeat and confirm the statements contained in the Sanskrit portion.

1. The first verse forms a preamble and states that, to describe the benefactions of Manavatara (another name of Naralokavira), to Sabhapati (Nataraja) performing the Cosmic Dance for the welfare of the three worlds and Whose form emcompasses both heaven and earth, even a hundred mouths would be inadequate, and beseeches the reader to ‘hear’ them in leisure.

2. The second verse states that he set up innumerable street lights (vithi-dipa) to dispel darkness and make the place resplendent as if with eternal sunshine.

3. The third verse says that he provided for watering the streets of the city on festival days (with waters of the holy tirthas), when Siva, the destroyer of Manmatha, the Lord of Love, was taken out in procession.

4. According to the fourth verse, he, in his infinite devotion to the Lord, planted fifty thousand areca palms, and watered them as it were with the waters of the Ganga flowing from the matted locks of Siva, as they tossed about when He danced. The Tamil portion gives their number as a hundred thousand.

5. The next verse which is a continuation of the previous one mentions that he raised a sacred flower garden (nandavana )t extending upto the limits of the sea, with trees tall as the sky and full of fragrant flowers; it was filled with the bustle of the gods who came to witness the dance of Siva.

6. The sixth verse says that he erected a mandapa near the sea whose massive waves rolling towards the shore seemed to invite the devotees as it were with its hands; further he opened a broad road from the city to the sea coast for the tirthayatra of Nataraja. From the Tamil portion, we see that the tirthayatra took place in the month of Masi.

7. The seventh verse mentions that near that mandapa, he excavated a big tank of sweet water, which appeared like the heart of the sea, with a large banyan tree that stood near it like a mandapa, spreading its branches on the bank to provide shade and shelter to the pilgrims flocking thither for the tirthayatra.

8. The eighth verse mentions that he constructed, round the temple of Lord Sabhapati Who took a vow to burn the three cities of the Asuras, a great wall called after his name Naralokavira, with tall towers, on which resplendent flags were flying; the flags flew so high that, when they became hot with the scorching sun so close, they cooled themselves lapping up the waters of the clouds.

9. The ninth verse refers to the same theme as the previous one; and adds that he also built two tall towers reaching on to the sky from which flags flew majestically as if inviting people from different parts to take shelter under their shade from the scorching heat of the sun.

10. The tenth verse says that Naralokavira, whom the poets call Arutakara (the embodiment of piety and grace), justified the name by constructing a hall with a hundred pillars, dabrasabha, i.e., the ‘little hall* or Chirrambalam, where Pasupati (Nataraja), seeing that it was a place meet for His dance, disported Himself with His beloved.

11. The eleventh verse refers to the sacred tank in the temple and the flight of stone steps that he built round it which looked like the path by which his fame was to descend to the nether world. On either side of the golden gateway on the southern side (of the temple), he set up auspicious lamps (mangala dipas) which dispelled from the subjects the darkness of earthly life.

12. In the twelfth verse, it is said that the priests of the temple who performed the worship of the Lord having the Nandi banner were the recipients of rich endowments from him. Further he erected a fine hall of gold for the constant recitation of Kumara stotra, a reference to the Devaram hymns of Jnanasambandhar, known also as Aludaiya Fillaiyar (see also verse 26 below). From the Tamil verse, it is learnt that he made the lands in the village of Tyagavalli and others tax-free, and constructed an agrahara for the brahmanas to live in.

13. The next verse states that he constructed a sluice for the big tank for irrigating the lands of the brahmanas known as the Three thousand of Tillai’ (Tillaimuvayiravar).

14. From the next verse, it is understood that he covered “the Great Hair” (mahatim sabham, which refers to the Perambalam) with copper. The import of the latter half of the sloka is not clear.

15. The next verse says that he constructed a golden vehicle with the Nandi mounted on it, and on this vehicle the deity was taken in procession during the bhikshatana yatra (the journey of Siva as a mendicant).

16. The sixteenth verse says that a bugle inlaid with gold intended to announce the arrival of Devadeva (the Lord of Lords, Siva) was presented by him to the temple. The verse adds that, on hearing the bugle note announcing the arrival of Siva, even the hands of Indra automatically folded in adoration over his head, touching his crown.

17. The seventeenth verse says that, for the worship of the ‘Dancer in the Hall’, he made arrangements for the supply of fresh flowers which bestowed grace both on humanity and on the celestial beings; he also offered gold vessels to keep offerings vying with nectar in quality.

18. The eighteenth verse says that Naralokavira, who knew the essence of Siva worship, gave precious jewels, which were pure and blemishless like the hearts of sages, to adorn the sacred body of the Lord of Dancers of the Hall.

19. The nineteenth verse states that he made provision for the offering of the nectar of milk with sugar-candy to the Lord of Gauri to Whom the celestial beings had given poison to drink. In the Tamil part, Naralokavira is referred to as Tondaiyar-kon, the Lord of the people of Tondai.

20. The next verse mentions that he endowed the temple of Dhurjati (Siva) with ten perpetual lamps (nitya dipa), lit with camphor, whose fragrance pervaded the whole earth.

21. The next verse says that Naralokavira presented to the Lord a water-pot (kalasa) and many other vessels made of gold, the brilliance of which proclaimed to the world that unfailing service and devotion to the feet of Hara brought merit.

22. The next verse states that he presented one thousand milch cows to the God in the temple for conducting His abhisheka with milk that resembled nectar.

23. The next verse states that he set up an image of Nandi (the sacred bull) who by his constant and unceasing devotion to Sambhu had obtained His grace (priti) and from whom permission to enter the sacred presence of Nataraja is sought by the Lord of Vaikmtha (Vishnu) and the other gods coming there for worship every morning; he also presented to the temple an image of the Goddess.

24. The next verse says that Naralokavira presented to the temple many beautiful jewels set with precious stones and also gave away a village, after making it tax-free, to meet the expenses of archana (worship).

25. The next verse says that he made provision of one thousand measures of ghee for performing abhisheka every year to the God enshrined in the sanctum sanctorum (mulasthana) (Tiru-Mulanathar). From the Tamil part it is learnt that the abhisheka was to be performed with one thousand nalis oighec,

26. The next verse states that he set up a golden image of Kumara Tiru Jnanasam-bandhar who drank milk from the sacred breast of Girija (Parvati) and obtained the grace of Sarasvati and danced and sang the praise of Srikantha (Siva), and that he also made provision for the oflfering of payasam (sweetened milk-drink) to the deity.

27. The twentyseventh verse states that he set up an image of Bhattacharya who was the chief among the Brahmanakula and who had defeated in debate the adherents of religions outside the Vedic lore and established the Saiva religion on the earth. (The word ‘Bhattacharya’ refers to a temple priest of that day. Could it refer to Adi Sankara?).

28. In the next verse, it is said that he erected a prakara and a mandapa to the shrine (Tirukkamakkottam) of the goddess Parvati, Whose image was adorned from head to foot with fine jewels befitting the dancing hall of Her Lord (svapati natanastkanayogyam).

29. The next verse says: he presented to the goddess enshrined in the Kamakoshta (or Tirukkamakkottam, i.e., to Sivakami Amman) of the temple, a pitambara (yellow robe) made of gold, the brilliance of which pervaded everywhere like the smoke emanating from the forest-fire (immolating) the wives of the enemies conquered by him, Naralokavira.

30. The next verse states that Naralokavira erected for the shrine of the devi (Tirukkamakkottam) a high outer-wall of stone, the tower of which touched the clouds.

31. The last verse states that Naralokavira gave a perpetual endowment for the daily supply of oil and milk for children, to signify the universal motherhood of the goddess. The poet further adds that this item should receive the first preference of the person who intends to make charity.

The Tamil portion of the inscription gives some further information about Naralokavira; (1) that he covered with gold several parts of the sabha, (2) that he presented an elephant to the temple, and (3) that he built of stone the temple of sudalaiyamarndan (i.e., He Who took His abode at the crematorium), namely Siva, at Tillai.

Note: Nos. 1303 to 1324 of S.I. Temple InscriPtions-Vol. III, Part II of Madras Government Oriental Series CLVII.

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