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....

Laddigam which is in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh lies about 5 km. to the northwest of Punganur, between Madana-palli and Chittoor, and is about 150 km. northwest of Vellore. It was formerly called Kunganur alias Valavanarayana chaturvedi-mangalam, situated in Perumbanappadi, as gathered from local inscriptions; after a spell of direct rule by the Cholas, this region passed into the hands of the Chola-Gangas of the Irungola dynasty about the tenth century a.d.

Ancient Kongu nadu comprised a portion of the present-day Salem district and the whole of the Coimbatore district of Tamil-nadu. There were two distinct divisions of Kongu nadu, the northern and the southern. Northern Kongu was probably the region north and east of the Kaveri river while Southern Kongu comprised the whole of the Coimbatore district. Kongu is called Sola-Kerala mandalam in an inscription of Kulottunga III at Karur. In the past, the Cheras seem to have lived south of the Kongu country and they seem to have conquered Southern Kongu.

North of the Kongu country and around it, there were the petty kingdoms of the Banas, the Gangas, the Nolambas and the Vaidumbas. The Kongu country was temporarily conquered by the Chola kings Aditya I and Parantaka I. The final Chola conquest of the Kongu country, however, took place in the days of Rajaraja I and his son Rajendra I. Then this region became a subdivision of Jayangondasola mandalam, later renamed Rattapadi-konda-sola mandalam after Rajadhiraja 1 and Rajendradeva II.

Namakkal in the northern Kongu country has a cave temple of Vishnu; there are sculptures of Ranganatha, Narasimha and Adivaraha in the rock-cut cellas of this cave temple. In this cave there is an archaic Pallavagrantha inscription which may be assigned to the eighth century a.d., and from this we learn that the name of this cave was Atiyendra-Vishnu-griham, i.e., the Vishnu cave temple excavated by, or in the name of, Atiya, Adiyan or Adiyaman. A Chera king is said to have conquered the Adiyamans and taken their capital Tagadur, which has been identified with modern Dharmapuri (ARE 1906, paras 36 to 38, pp. 76 to 79).

The region, formerly known as the Punganur Zamindari, in which Laddigam is situated, was ruled by the Banas in the eighth and the ninth centuries a.d. Their country was known as Perumbanappadi. Eight of their inscriptions in the Kannada language are found at Punganur, Madanapalli (Chittoor district) and Bangapadi (Mysore region). The Bana king Mahavali Banarasa is said to have ruled over “Vadugavali 12000 and Manne 200” and his territory is said to have extended from Punganur in the west to Kalahasti in the east. There is reference, in a slab inscription close to the Punganur-Chadum road, to the battle of Soremati where the Bana opposed the Nolamba Rachmalla and Mayindadi on behalf of Perumanadi (Western Ganga?) (ARE 543 of 1906). The same battle of Soremati is mentioned in a Telugu hero-stone inscription of the Vaidumba king, Kanda-trinetra-Vaidumba-Maharaja at Pedda-tippa-samundram. It states that one Prabhu-Chalavundu of the Vaidumba Chiefs distinguished himself in this battle between • his Lord and the, Nolambi and fell. This is to be assigned to the latter half of the ninth' century a.d.

Mahendradhiraja Nolamba claims to have destroyed the Banas (ARE 1900-01, para 11). The Chola king Parantaka I is said to have destroyed two Bana kings and bestowed the Bana kingdom on the Ganga king Prithivipati II (about a.d. 912). Perhaps the distant descendants of the Ganga ruled over the Kongu region on the eve of the accession of Kulottunga I.

Nilakanthesvara (Irungolisvaram) temple

The earliest inscriptions on the walls of the Nilakanthesvara temple at Laddigam are those of the Chola-Gangas. On the south wall of the temple, there is an inscription belonging to the 14th regnal year of a certain Uttama Chola-Ganga alias Sembakach-chipati Nayanar which registers a gift to the temple of Irungolisvaram Udaiya Nayanar at Koyarrur. This is the modern temple of Nilakanthesvaram at Laddigam and it is thus a foundation of the Irungolars of Koyarrur. (See ‘Map of South India during Kulottunga Ts time’). The Chola-Ganga Chief should have been in the enjoyment of a fair degree of political independence as we find him issuing grants reckoned in his own regnal years (ARE 549 of 1906). This place apparently derives the name of Uttama-sola-puram from that ruler. So, though it is not definitely stated that he was the builder of this stone temple, it is highly probable that he was.

In the (chronologically) next inscription figures a donor called Adavallan Gangaikonda Chola Irungolan (ARE 553 of 1906). Perhaps he was the son and successor of Uttama Chola alias Sembakachchipati Nayanar. This Adavallan Gangaikondan makes a gift of the village of Madamangalam in Puli nadu, a district of Rattapadikonda-sola mandalam, to the temple of Irungolisvaram Udaiya Mahadevar built at Koyarrur alias Uttamasola-puram in the same nadu. The village of Mada-mangalam was re-named Gangai-konda-chola-nallur after the donor. The present donor does not date the grant in his own regnal years but in the 16thregnal year oftheCholakingRajakesarivarman alias Chakravartin Kulottunga Chola deva I. As the wording of the inscription ‘built at Koyarrur’ indicates, the construction of this temple of stone begun under Uttama Chola-Ganga was completed about the 16th regnal year of Kulottunga 1 (a.d. 1085). A gift of 96 sheep for maintaining a lamp is recorded in an inscription of the 20th regnal year of Kulottunga I (ARE 550 of 1906).

After the conquest of Gangavadi by Rajaraja I, the region was being administered as a part of the Chola empire, later under the provincial name of Rattapadikonda-sola mandalam; the ancient line of Adigaimans of Tagadur acted as the representative of Chola power in this region. Under Bittiga Vishnuvardhana (a.d. 1100-52), the Hoysalas became prominent in this area. Gangaraja, who was a Dandanayaka under the Hoysala, helped Vishnuvardhana to build up a big kingdom for himself within a few years of his inheriting a small principality which at best covered a limited territory around Belur; by a.d. 1116, the latter had already assumed the title of Talakkadu-konda, and in the same year he is said to be ruling in Talakkadu and Kolala (Kolar) over the entire Gangavadi as far south as Kongu. The Hoysala inscriptions mention that the Chola Sanianta Adiyaman was stationed at the strategic ghats near Talakkadu on the borders of Gangavadi, and that on persuasion failing and the Adiyaman Chief refusing to surrender, a battle ensued in which besides Adiyaman, two other Chiefs, Damodara and Narasimha Varma, and other Samantas fought on the side of the Cholas and lost. With this defeat, Chola rule over Gangavadi came to an end and in fact for some time till the beginning of the reign of Vikrama Chola, the traditional territory of the Adiyamans too, including the Laddigam area,[1] came under Hoysala rule. However, by the ninth year of Vikrama Chola, we find Chola inscriptions again in the temple of Laddigam, indicative of restoration of Chola rule in this region.

On the south wall of the prakara of this temple, there is an inscription belonging to the ninth year of Vikrama Chola (a.d. 1127) which, however, is incomplete. But the name of the deity of this temple finds mention, viz., Irungolisvaram Udaiya Mahadevar at Koyarrur alias Uttamasola-puram.

In the middle of the 12th century a.d., this region seems to have come under the effective control of the Adigaimans of Tagadur. We get to hear of the extensive benefactions of the ruling Chiefs of this family. A Chief called Rajarajadevan alias Adigaiman of Tagadur made a gift to the temple of Tiruvannam, of the entire village of Malaiyanur on the banks of the Pennar in Tegadur nadu, in the tenth regnal year of Kulottunga III (ARE 536 of 1902). This Tagadur Chief Rajaraja perhaps began his chieftaincy as a vassal of Rajaraja II (a.d. 1146-73). It is likely that Vidugadala-giya Perumal who figures in a large number of inscriptions at Laddigam and in other places in Salem and North and South Arcot districts (and who calls himself the ‘son of Rajaraja’) was his son and successor and a powerful feudatory of the days of Kulottunga III (a.d. 1178-1216).

Tagadur Adigaiman alias Vidugadalagiya Perumal claims to be the Lord of Ten Tagadai (which is the same as Tagadur, identified with the present day Dharmapuri, formerly in the Salem district, now the headquarters of a separate district of the same name) and the conqueror of the lands of the Kadava, the Magada and the Ganga. His bow emblem is inscribed along with the royal insignia. Near Polur which is close to Tiruvannamalai (between Villupuram and Arakkonam on the Southern Railway in Tamil nadu), there is a hill known as Tirumalai; at the foot of the hill is a village known as Vaigai or Vaigavur; the hill is also referred to as Vaigai- (or Vaigavur-) Tirumalai; there is a tank (also at the foot of the hill) known as Kadapperi, with a number of sluices and canals; there is also a rock-cut cave-temple here with paintings. On this, we learn, were certain ancient sculptures including Yaksha and Yakshini figures, attributed to Elini, the Chera king of the Sangam age; these sculptures had in course of time become worn out and possibly damaged. We learn these facts from an inscription on the outer wall of the doorway, leading to the painted cave; this is much obliterated; it consists of three parts; a passage in Tamil prose, a Sanskrit verse in Sardula metre, and a third passage again in Tamil prose (El, VI, pp. 331-33). From this inscription we gather that the then Chief of the Chera kingdom, with his capital at Tagadur (Takata, or Tagadai), named Vyamukta Sravanojjvala (in the Sanskrit portion) or Vidugada-lagiya Perumal alias Adigaiman (in Tamil), son of Rajaraja, and a descendant of the Sangam Age Chief Elini, King of Vanji (identified with Karur), repaired and installed on the hill of Tirumalai „the sculptures of Yaksha and Yakshini referred to above; that he also constructed a channel for feeding the local tank called Kadapperi at the foot of the hill and presented a gong for the deities.

A brief outline of his various inscriptions on the walls and the gopuram of the Laddigam temple is given below:

1. To the right of the entrance of the gopuram there is a Tamil inscription in praise of the sword of Adigaiman, with his name and emblems carved beside it.

2. There is another inscription to the left of the entrance of the gopuram similar to that to the right, depicting his sword, emblems and name.

3. There is a third inscription in Grantha and Tamil on the north wall of the prakara, which is in praise of the Kerala king Adikendra Vyamukta Sravanojjvala. The Chera bow, a stand with an umbrella above and a fly-whisk (chamara) on each side are engraved here.

4. There is a Tamil verse on the east wall which is in praise erf* Vidugadalagiyan of Ten Tagadai, mentioning the Kadava, the Magada and the Ganga as his enemies.

5. There is one more inscription on the south wall of the central shrine which records a gift of money for three lamps, and perhaps this too could be attributed to him.

One Samanta Adigaiman is said to have presented a golden prabha to the deity of Tirumanikkuli in the 19th year of Kulot-tungalll (ARE 161 of 1902); and in the 22nd year of the same ruler, he claims to be Lord of the three rivers, the Palar, the Pennai and the Kaveri, and to have built a stone temple at Sirukottai on the banks of the Pennai (Kambayanallur, ARE 8 of 1900). This temple was called after his own name. Perhaps these two records as well have to be attributed to the above Adigaiman Chief. An inscription at Chengamma in the South Arcot district (ARE 107 of 1900), which is undated, records a political compact between this mighty feudatory, Vidugadalagiya Perumal, son of Rajaraja devan, on the one hand, and Karikalasola Nadalvan and Sengeni Ammaiyappan Attimallan Vikramasola Sambu-varayan on the other, pledging their mutual loyalty, that they would consider the enemies of one party as the enemies of the other party also, and further that neither party would form an alliance with certain other Chiefs like Siya Gangan. As the central government became weak, local Chiefs forged such alliances in their bid for political power and mutual protection against other formidable rivals. Vidugadalagiya Perumal has to his credit a large number of other religious benefactions as well.

A Chola inscription of the ninth regnal year of a Rajaraja perhaps relates to the reign of Rajaraja III (ARE 551 of 1906); it would then correspond to a.d. 1225. It is inscribed on the south wall and records a gift of money for the merit of Uttama-chola-ganga Vettum Amarabharanar by one Akalankan Siyagangan alias Sitravida devar. The temple is referred to by the old name of Irungolisvaram Udaiya Nayanar at Koyarrur alias Uttama-sola-puram in Vada Puli nadu included in Perumbanappadi, in Jayangondasola mandalam.

The Nilakanthesvara temple at Laddigam is thus a foundation of the Irungolas who ruled over this region in the 11th century a.d. Perhaps it was begun in the days of Uttamasola-ganga alias Sambakachchipati Nayanar, and completed by the 16th regnal year of Kulottunga I.It was originally called Irungolisvaram at Koyarrur. We do not know if it was a renovation of an older temple; there is no evidence of its earlier existence.

It is a small compact eka-tala temple built of stone; it faces east; it consists of the garbhagriha, the ardhamandapa and the enclosed mukhamandapa. The garbhagriha is 2.75 m. square, the adhishthana is 90 cm. high. On the north side, there is a stone gargoyle resting on a makara-head; above It on the northern wall of the garbhagriha, there is inscribed a bow resting on a pedestal and crowned by a chhatra (umbrella), with a fly-whisk on either side of the (vertical) bow. There is also an inscription in Tamil which reads “Tagadur Adiyaman Vidugadalagiya Perumal”.

Below the cornice, there is a bhutagana frieze; the grim has, in which there are the following deities;

  1. Balasubrahmanya sitting on an elephant, in the east;
  2. Dakshinamurti in the south;
  3. Yoga Nrsimha in the west;
  4. and a seated Brahma in the north.

There are simha heads over each of these koshtas; there is a spherical stone sikhara crowned with a stone stupi.

The deities in the devakoshtas of the main shrine are Ganapati and Dakshinamurti in the south; a standing figure of Vishnu, with a gada in the right hand, in the west; and Brahma in the north. The other northern niche (which must have been occupied by an image of Durga) is empty.

The ardhamandapa stretches east by 2.15 m. m front; there is a covered mukhamandapa whose walls contain the main inscriptions of this temple, chiefly those of Kulottunga I, the Gangas and the Adiyamans.

Stone sculptures of Valampuri-Ganapati and Chandesvara are lying loose in the prakara and they seem to belong to the ashta-parivara shrines. There is a stone Nandi of this age in front. There is a madil enclosing all the parts of this temple; in the centre of the eastern wall of enclosure, there is the gopuram; this simple all in stone, consists of a dvara (main entrance), a griva and a sala- type of sikhara crowned by stupis of which only one has survived (See Laddigam, by B. Venkataraman, p. 16).

This simple single-storeyed stone gopuram resembles the elementary type of gopuram erected in front of the Shore Temple of Mamallapuram and in the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchi, of the eighth century a.d. During one and the same span of time, covering the days of Kulottunga I and his successor, Vikrama Chola, in the early 12th century a.d., we see in the Nataraja temple at Chidambaram the evolution of a seven-storeyed gopuram (elu-nilai-gopuram) on the one hand, and on the other hand we have at Laddigam a simple, almost elementary, single-storeyed gopuram. Hence great caution is necessary in assessing the stages of evolution of style in architecture and dating them; and structural identity and common features by themselves cannot be depended upon in determining the age of monuments or their coevality. Their location and age are necessary to define the progression of style.

Footnotes and references:


The claim of capture of Koyarrur by the Hoysala Vishnuvardhana only confirms the overthrow of Chola rule in this region. It may be added that Koyarrur which earlier scholars identified as Coimbatore should be Kovattur (ARE 542 of 1906) or Koyattur, i.e., modern Laddigam.

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