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....

Paundarikapuram, in the Kumbakonam taluk of the Tanjavur district, has a very beautiful, well-preserved but unidentified temple dedicated to Siva. There are no inscriptions on the walls of the temple and, therefore, its dating as well as identification will have to be based on grounds of style. There is a striking similarity between the composition of this temple and that of both the Rajarajesvaram at Tanjavur and the Gangaikondasolisvaram at Gangaikondasolapuram. At the same time there is considerable iconic similarity with the temples of the Kulottunga I and Vikrama Chola periods.

Siva Temple

The temple consists of a garbhagriha which is square in cross-section with the central bays on the three free faces projecting forward; these bays house in their the images of Dakshinamurti in the south, Lingodbhavar in the west, and Brahma in the north. Unlike the gigantic parallels quoted earlier, this is a much smaller temple, not unlike the Kulambandal temple, with a low plinth comprising an upapitham and an adhishthamm, the latter containing the upanam, padmam, kantham, kumudam, varimanam and vari mouldings. The srivimana is eka-tala with a hara of kutas and solas. The griva is narrow and tall and the sikhara rests perched on it. The ardhamandapa is in line with the griha; but further eastwards, the temple bulges out into a big mahamandapa as in the case of Gangaikondasolisvaram at Kulambandal. The similarity to that temple in this respect is striking. On the four walls of this mandapa there are beautiful, well-chiseled sculptures which may be dated to the period of Kulottunga I/ Vikrama Chola. Among these sculptures may be mentioned a few: Chandesanugrahamurti, Ganga-Jathadharar, Chandrasekharar and Ardhanari. The Chandesanugrahamurti icon that adorns the eastern wall of the garbhagriha in the great temple at Gangaikondasolapuram finds a not dissimilar imitation at Paundarikapuram, though the latter is smaller in dimension and occupies a different position in the lay-out (here it is on the western wall of the mahamandapa). Parvati too is missing at Paundarikapuram but the tying of the garland over the head of Chandesa is well brought out. Here the right foot of Siva seems to be almost resting on Chandesa’s right knee. This iconic representation of Siva blessing Chandesa is rare even in Chola sculptures and Paundarikapuram thus acquires added significance. This icon is not found in the Later Chola period in any of the other temples we have surveyed. The icon of Ganga-Jathadharar bears a striking resemblance to its counterpart in the Kulottungasolisvaram temple at Chintamani-Agaram while both the Chandrasekharar and Ardhanari icons have close resemblance to icons of Kulottunga II/Rajaraja II’s period. In other words, the temple at Paundarikapuram marks the transitional phase in sculpture and architecture spanning the end of the Middle Chola and the beginning of the Later Chola periods.

In general, Later-Chola iconic features begin to be noticeable at Paundarikapuram exhibiting an easily discernible similarity of its icons to those found in the first and second tiers of the basement of the west gopuratn of the Nataraja temple at Chidambaram, which belongs to the days of Vikrama Chola.

I would therefore date it sometime in the middle of the reign of Kulottunga I.

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