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....

Close to both the Peralam and Peruntottam stations on the Southern Railway, in Tanjavur district, there are two celebrated Siva temples—those at Ambar and Ambar-makalam. Ambar is 3 km. southeast of Peruntottam, and Ambar-makalam is only one km. east of Ambar.

We shall be concerned here only with Ambar-makalam, but it may be mentioned in passing that the Brahmapurisvara temple at Ambar is a madakkoyil (for a discussion of such temples, see my Early Chola Art, Part I, p. 22). The temple is constructed on an artificial mound, the mythological reason being to make it inaccessible to elephants: similar temples or shrines are to be found at Nallur, Kilvelur and Sirkali. Koch-chenganan (the ‘red-eyed king’), of the Chola dynasty of the Late Sangam age, is believed to have originally built this temple, along with a number of other madak-koyils. Appar calls it Perunkoyil (‘Ambar nagar perunkoyil’), and Sambandar has sung in praise of the Lord here.

Makalanathar temple

In inscriptions of the days of Kulottunga I, the presiding deity is called Mangalesvara and Ambar Tirumangalam Udaiyar, and the place is called (Ambar) Tirumangalam. The present-day name of the deity is Makalanathar, and the Amman is called Bhaya-kshaya-nayaki (meaning ‘the Goddess who dissipates fear’). Kali is believed to have done penance here to absolve herself of the sin of having killed two rakshasas called Amban and Ambasuran. There is a shrine for Kali on the southern side of the outer prakara.

According to an inscription of the 10th year of Vikrama Chola (on the south wall of the first prakara), the (separate) shrine for the goddess (called Uma Paramesvari) came into existence in the 15th year of‘Rajendra Chola deva’ and a gift of land was made to it by the Assembly of Madhurantaka chaturvedimangalam. In continuation of this inscription is another, also recording a gift of land for the same shrine and calling the place Ambar-nagara (ARE 100 and 101 of 1910). As we have seen, Rajendra (II) was the name which Kulottunga I went by when he was a Vengi prince and which he kept on for some years after ascending the Chola throne. Coupling this with the fact that separate Amman shrines elsewhere date only from his reign onwards, the ‘Rajendra Chola’ under reference must be identified with Kulottunga I. Vikrama Chola made his own contribution to the expansion of the temple by building the first prakara wall (tiru-maligai) of the main temple, according

to an inscription on the south wall of that prakara (ARE 99 of 1910). A number of inscriptions of the days of Kulottunga I, all of his 42nd year, are found on the walls of the central shrine of ‘Mangalesvara’. One of them records an order of the king, issued from his throne called Vanadhirajan, located in the ‘Rajendrasolan hall’, at his palace in Mudikondasolapuram (Palayarai), and gives the location of Ambar as being in Ambar nadu, a sub-division of Uyyakkondan valanadu; the deity is called Ambar Tiruman-galam Udaiyar (ARE 93 of 1910). Three other records relate to the bestowal of devadana villages of the temple on individuals, all done at the request of a Chief called Nulambarajan: (i) of Puravu-vari-vilagam to one Tiruchchirrambala Nandarajan of Mattur; (ii) of Vandalur to one Udaya Marttandan of Ambar; (iii) of Eyinikudi to one Serkalan Velan Tiruvayk-kuiam-udaiyan (ARE 94, 95 and 96 of 1910). There are three more records of the same reign, which relate to gifts of money or land for lamps: money by Vira Vichchadira Pallavaraiyan, a native of Anniyur in Kurukkai nadu, a subdivision of Virudarajabhayankara valanadu (44th year: ARE 103 of 1910); money for a lamp by a native of Kundavai chaturvedimangalam in Mulaiyur nadu, a subdivision of Geyamanikka valanadu (43rd year: ARE 106of 1910); and another gift, the details of which are lost (44th year: ARE 105 of 1910). In a 50th year record of this ruler, we find the name of the valanadu in which Ambar was situated changed to Bhupalakulavalli (ARE 107 of 1910).

In the 12th year of Kulottunga I, a certain gift is made of land for offerings to the images of Atkonda Nayakar and Consort, both of which had been presented to the temple at Tirumangalam (i.e., this temple) by the ancestors of one Amudan Tiruchchirrambala-mudaiyan alias Udayamarttanda Muvendavelan, a native of Siruvelur in Panaiyur nadu which was a subdivision of Kshatriya-sikhamani valanadu (ARE 102 of 1910). We get to know the name of the father of this Chief, from a 15th year Parakesarivarman inscription found on a stone lying in the courtyard of the temple, as Mannamudan of Siruvelur; the son makes a gift of 90 sheep for a lamp; this record relates to the reign of Vikrama Chola. In a third year record relating to this ruler, a gift of land to the shrine of the goddess is made by certain residents of Siruvelur in Panaiyur nadu, a subdivision of Kulottungasola valanadu.: Another record dated in the tenth year of the same ruler refers to a gift of paddy for offerings, also to the image of Atkonda Nayakar. Thus Kshatriyasikhamani valanadu becomes Kulottungasola valanadu in the days of Vikrama Chola (ARE 104 of 1910).

In view of' the antiquity of this Saivite centre, it is likely that the Makalanathar temple existed in some form till the early years of Kulottunga I, and, in his 15th regnal year, a shrine for the Amman was built. As the only inscriptions found on the walls of the main shrine of Makalanathar are all either of the 42nd year of Kulottunga I or of Vikrama Chola, we may reasonably conclude that, by his 42nd year, Kulottunga I had got the main shrine also rebuilt of stone; this inference gets support from the presence of slabs in the courtyard of the temple, containing Rajakesari and Parakesari inscriptions including one of ‘the Parakesarivarman who took the head of the Pandya’ (pandiyanin-talai-konda). Thus both the main and the Amman shrines were foundations of the days of Kulottunga I, while the prakara with the madil was a contribution of the days of his son, Vikrama Chola.

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