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....

Temples in Nandalur (Nandaluru)

Nandalur(u) is in the Pullampet taluk of the Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh. It is about 2 km. from the Renigunta-Cuddapah section of the Southern Railway, and about 82 km. from Renigunta Station. It is located on the northern bank of the Cheyyaru (also called Bahuda nadi) which is a tributary of the Pennar. It is also on the Pullampet-Cuddapah road, about 20 km. north-west of Pullampet. The ancient town of Tangattur, also on the Cheyyaru, is about 12 km. north-east of Nandalur. It is about 100 km. west of Nellore, one of the later headquarters of the Telugu Chodas.

This region passed under Chola rule during the Middle Chola period, in the reign of Rajaraja I; and his son Rajendra I should have been largely responsible for the conquest of this region during the course of his expeditions to contain the Western Chalukyan expansion and to bring the Eastern Chalukyas under Chola supremacy.

It is stated that one Jata Choda Bhima defeated the kings of Anga, Kalinga, Vaidumba and Dravida, and in the heyday of his glory exercised authority over the entire coastal region from Mahendragiri to Kanchi. He invaded Tondaimandalam in a.d. 1001. Rajaraja I, who had given his daughter in marriage to Vimaladitya of Vengi, finally defeated Jata Choda Bhima in a.d. 1002-3 and established Saktivarman 1, Vimaladitya’s elder brother, on the Vengi throne. It is likely that some friendly subordinate Telugu Choda Chiefs were set up in the Cuddapah region. Later on, Rajendra I made war with the Western Chalukya Satyasraya and this region should have remained under Chola rule. The existence of Rajendra I’s inscriptions in this area (ARE 145, 188, 226 and 486 of 1907) confirms Chola control over this region. Further, in Later Chola inscriptions, this division is designated as Adhirajendra mandalam. Some of these inscriptions are in Grantha and Tamil scripts. All these facts go to establish Chola overlordship in this region.

By the time of the Later Cholas, we find the area failing within the present-day districts of Nellore, Chittoor, Cuddapah (all in the Andhra Pradesh State) and portions of North Arcot and Chingleput districts (of Tamil Nadu) being ruled by a family of feudatories of the Cholas known as the Telugu Chodas. To begin with, the region around Nandalur was the home of a branch of local Telugu Chodas called the Pottappi Cholas. They claimed descent from Karikala Chola and were generally loyal to the Cholas even as late as the end of Kulottunga Ill’s reign. The founder of the line was one Madhurantaka Pottappi Chola Siddharasa, a contemporary of Kulottunga I. Participation in some operations against Madurai, aiding the Cholas, evidently gave this Chief the title of Madhurantaka; and Pottappi was the capital that this Telugu Choda feudatory Chief founded, at a place not far from Nandalur, in the crook of the Cheyyaru before it joins the Pennar. Pottappi has been identified with the modern village of Potapi near Tangattur, also in the Pullampet taluk of Cuddapah district. These local Chiefs became closely connected with the Later Cholas as were the Muttaraiyars of Niyamam, the Paluvettaraiyars of Paluvur and the Irukkuvels of Kodumbalur and the many Nadu-nadu Chiefs during the Early and the Middle Chola periods.

In the closing years of Kulottunga I, another Pottappi Chief called Pottappi Kama Choda Maharaja is heard of (Tripuran-takam, ARE 262, 263 of 1905). By the time of Vikrama Chola’s accession to the Chola throne, we hear of Mahamandalesvara Bettarasa ruling in Pottappi nadu (a.d. 1121; ARE 583 of 1907). He was succeeded by Erasiddhi, who had three sons, Nalla Siddha alias Manma Siddha, Beta and Tammusiddha. The first and the third would appear to have crowned themselves at Nellore in or around Saka 1127 (= a.d. 1205). Even from an earlier date, a.d. 1187, Nallasiddharasa is seen ruling from Nellore, but acknowledging the overlordship of Kulottunga III. We hear of his queen Nungama in the context of the generous gifts she makes to the temples at Tiruppalaivanam, Nandalur and Kalahasti. Even as late as a.d. 1213, Nallasiddha acknowledges the overlordship of Kulottunga III. These Chiefs were to play a more independent role in later years.

Nandalur, a brahmapuri, is called in inscriptions by various names such as Nirantanur, Nelandaluru and Nirantarapura. In Chola records, it was known as Kulottungasola chaturvedi-mangalam, the agra-brahmadeya of Nirandanur in Merpakkai nadu in Adhirajendra mandalam. Nandalur is called Nelandaluru alias Nirantarapura is an inscription of the 17th century (ARE 589 of 1907, Saka 1541 = a.d. 1619). Later Chola inscriptions mention that it was located in Merpakkai nadu, part of Adhirajendra mandalam. Pakkai nadu embraced the region of the modern Chittoor (Madanapalli) and Nellorc districts.

Chokkanatha Perumal (Soumyanathasvamin) temple

The ancient temple of this place is now known as Chokkanatha Perumal temple and is on the left bank of the Bahuda river, on a plot of about twenty acres. The deity is referred to as Soumya-natha (Sanskrit form) in the old records of the temple. The earliest of the Chola inscriptions on the walls of the Soumyanatha temple, inscribed on the second, third and fourth tiers of the south base of the mandapa in front of the central shrine, is one in Grantha and Tamil belonging to the 8th regnal year of Vira-Rajakesarivarman alias Chakravartin Sri Kulottungasola deva. The present temple of Soumyanathasvamin is called in the inscription that of Sri Kulottunga-sola-vinnagara alvar in Kulottungasola chaturvedi-mangalam, the agra-brahmadeya of Nirandanur in Merpakkai nadu, a subdivision of Adhirajendra mandalam. It adds that Madhuran-taka Pottappi Chola Siddharasa got the boundaries of the temple engraved on stone.

The prefix ‘Vira’ is peculiar and is a feature in vogue in this area. The astronomical details given in the inscription are irregular and correspond to none of the three Kulottungas. Still, I am disposed to assign it to Kulottunga 1 (ARE 572 of 1907; V. Ranga-chari, Topographical List I—No. 786, p. 643). There is another inscription on the eastern inner gopuram, dated in the 27th regnal year of Kulottunga I, wherein also the village is called Nirandalur alias Sri Kulottungasola chaturvedimangalam, situated in Merpakkai nadu, in Adhirajendra mandalam (ARE 600 of 1907). Thus it is clear that the temple, together with the inner eastern gopuram, was a foundation of the age of Kulottunga I.

There are two inscriptions of the days of Vikrama Chola, which record gifts for the success of the king’s arms (ARE 583 and 579 of 1907). Perhaps this indicates trouble from the Western Chalukyas or from the Kalinga kings, in confronting which the local Chola feudatories should have played a prominent part. An inscription of an unspecified Rajadhiraja (ARE 571 of 1907), which is incomplete, records a gift of land; this has to be assigned to Rajadhiraja II. There are six inscriptions of the days of Kulot-tunga III, of which one dated in the 26th year (ARE 576 of 1907) refers to the order of exemption from certain taxes in respect of Kulottungasola chaturvedimangalam by Nallan Siddharajan, son of Madhurantaka Pottappich-chola alias Irama Irama Siddhara-san (ARE 576 of 1907). The next, which belongs to his 31st year, provides for a gift of land for two lamps to the deity of this temple called Kulottungasola vinnagara emperuman (ARE 581 of 1907). Another inscription of the same year records a gift of a lamp by Madhurantaka Pottappi-chola Tirukkalatti-deva for the merit of his father. There is an inscription of the 36th regnal year of Kulottunga III (ARE 602 of 1907). Herein provision is made for offerings to Vedanayaka Perumal. Another Chola inscription is one dated in the 23rd regnal year of an unspecified Rajarajadeva, recording a gift by a native of Malai nadu (ARE 596 of 1907). This seems assignable to Rajaraja III who came to the throne in a.d. 1216. The last Chola inscription seems to be that of the 13th regnal year of Vira Rajendradeva, who may be Rajendra III, the iast of the Chola kings (a.d. 1246-79). It refers to the restoration of the ownership rights in respect of lands in a village to the brahmanas who had been dislodged by certain vellalas. This was done by the Telugu Choda Chief Manmasiddhi (the son of Tikka I) and the patron of the poet Tikkana Somayaji “to secure the religious merit for his father called here Tirukkalatti deva Maharaja”.

As mentioned earlier, the genealogy and chronology of the Telugu-Chodas is not yet well established. One synchronism may be mentioned. One Mamma Siddha, the patron of the Telugu poet Tikkana Somayaji who translated the Mahabharata into Telugu, is said to have been ousted from his throne; and at the intervention of the poet with the Kakatiya king Ganapati, Mamma Siddha was restored to the throne. He was also the contemporary of the Chola.king Rajaraja III and the Hoysala Vira Somesvara (mid-thirteenth century a.d.; vide also Ranchi Arulala Perumal temple inscription ARE 37 of 1893 and ARE (Report) for 1900, pp. 19-20).

The temple has a tritala vimana; upto the kapota of the second tala, it is made of stone; the rest (the superstructure) is of brick with stucco decorations. It has a square and sikhara.

The upapitham is high and is of the mancha type. Its mouldings consist of the upana, padma, kantha with kampas, urdhva-padma and pattika. Above the mouldings of the upapitham is the which has the following mouldings: upana, jagati, tripatta kumuda, kanthi with kampas, pattika and prati (the last three mouldings forming vedi). The pranala (or gargoyle) is in the form of a curved water-chute emanating from a makara' s mouth, resting on the vritta kumuda.

The outer walls of the garbhagriha are divided into five bays corresponding to the kuta, sala and panchara of the hara above the prastara of the first or adi tala. The pilasters have bevelled crosscorbels with tenon-like projections in the centre. Those at the corners are rectangular in section; the northern devakoshta houses a sculpture of Vaikunthanatha. In the haras of the upper tala we have sculptures of a four-armed Varaha in the south, and a seated Vishnu in the north and west sides. The has Narasimha on the west and Vaikunthanatha on the north.

A standing four-armed figure of Vishnu is installed in the sanctum (mulasthana). It has sankha and chakra in its upper hands, and the lower are in varada and abhaya poses.

There is a late 13th century inscription of the Pandya king Sundara Pandya which mentions that provision was made for the ceremonial bathing of the God and the Goddess in this temple (ARE 586 of 1907). But there is now neither an idol of the Goddess nor a separate Nachchiyar shrine.


A local correspondent of “The Hindu” (of Madras) reported on this temple on 13-12-1971 as follows:

“The ancient temple of Chokkanatha Perumal (otherwise called Soumyanathasvami) at Nandalur (Cuddapah district) built by Kulottunga I in the 11th century a.d. on a plot of 20 acres is in a dilapidated condition. It is on the left bank of the Bahuda river. Its existence and antiquity are hardly known to the outside world. There are as many as fifty-four inscriptions (most of them in old Tamil script) in the temple to tell its tale.

“When I recently visited this shrine and saw the huge structure and the spacious compound, sadness overtook me. It is in ruins. It has three gopurams of which one on the left side is completely gone, and the other two are also damaged by weather. The compound wall built of stone is damaged in many places.

“It is a pity that this ancient shrine is in obscurity and in utter neglect. There are Hindu temple protection committees in Tamil Nadu to look after ancient temples. But there is no such organisation in Andhra Pradesh. The Tirumalai Tirupati Devas-thanams Board and the Visva Hindu Parishad will do well to bestow attention on this beautiful temple and take up the renovation in earnest.”

I join the correspondent in this appeal but with a warning that renpvation should be done by modem scientific methods without violence to its old features and damage to its sculptures and inscriptions.

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: