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....

The village of Melaperumballam (and also of Kilaperum-ballam) is situated in the Mayuram taluk of the Tanjavur district and is close to Kaverip-pattinam, Akkur and Tillaiyadi, all very ancient centres of importance.

In the Chola days, this village went under the name of Talaich-changadu, located in Akkur nadu which was a sub-division of Jayangondasola valanadu.

Dakshinapurisvara temple

The deity of the main temple in the village is presently called Dakshinapurisvara, but in ancient times was known as Tiruvalamburi Udaiyar as seen from inscriptions. It is a dated temple having been built as an allstone structure by one Tiruvichchi Tiruvalampura-nambi alias Kalumalam Udaiyar Aludaiyan Pillaiyalvan. The earliest inscription in the temple is dated in the fifth regnal year of Vikrama Chola and the temple appears to have been completed by about that date. A portrait of the builder is found on the temple wall. Besides some undated inscriptions, there is one of the sixth year of Vikrama Chola (a.d. 1124) found on the south wall of the central shrine (with the pu malai midaindu beginning) which relates to a gift of 2½ velis of land by one Velan Gandaradittan of Alangudi in Vela nadu, a subdivision of Kulottungasola valanadu, for offering worship to the images of Ruttadum devar (Nataraja), His Consort and Tiruppalliyaraip-Pirattiyar set up by him in the temple. It is said that the assembly of the village mulapaurushai) met in the hall called the Mummudisolan Perambalam and remitted the taxes on the land by accepting cash payment of 70 kasus from Gandaradittan (ARE 222 of 1925). The assembly of Perunjirai-nallur, a brahmadeya in Nangur nadu in Rajadhiraja valanadu received 40 kasus from the temple of Tiruvalamburam Udaiyar at Talaichchangadu in Akkur nadu, a sub-division of Rajanarayana valanadu, and sold some land and remitted some taxes on that and other lands measuring 3½ velis belonging to this temple (ARE 220 of 1924, dated in the ninth year of Vikrama Chola, north wall of the central shrine). From another record of the same reign, undated, also found on the north wall of the central shrine, we learn that the same Chief Velan Gandaradittan set up images of Kuttadum devar and Tandanganni Nachchiyar and that some private individuals of Marachcheri in Akkur nadu sold land, made tax-free, to the temple of Tiruvalamburam Udaiyar to provide worship and offerings to these images (ARE 215 of 1925). In the days of Kulottunga (II?), the temple paid 100 kasus to the assembly (mulapaurushai) and gifted land free of taxes for two flower gardens measuring 18 mas in extent (fifth year, ARE 221 of 1925). A native of Menmalaip-Palaiyanur in Jayangondasola mandalam set up certain deities in the eighth year of Rajadhiraja II (introduction kadal sulnda par madarum) and the assembly gifted some lands, made tax-free, to the temple for worship and offerings to these images (ARE 223 of 1925).

There are four records on the walls of the temple, all undated, which relate to sales of persons to the temple: (i) Kavakasi Kalaiyan Kumaran alias Tambirantolan of Talaichchangadu sold eight persons to the temple of Tiruvalamburi Udaiyar in the (same) village, in Akkur nadu, a sub-division of Jayangondasola valanadu (sixth year, ARE 216 of 1925); (ii) Soman Tattan of Nangur alias Sripadaduli chaturvedimangalam in Rajadhiraja valanadu sold six persons to the temple for 13 kasus 13th year, ARE 217 of 1925); (iii) Arayan Perungadi sold herself and her husband Sodi Tali alias Chandesvarap-Peraiyar of Ambar along with six others to the temple (same year as before, ARE 218 of 1925); (iv) Nambanambi Kadugal Natigai, wife of a Vellala residing in Cholapandyanallur, a hamlet of Talaichchangadu, sold to the temple 15 persons including herself, her daughter, grandson, his children and others for 30 kasus (same year, ARE 219of 1925).

It seems reasonable to conclude that this temple came into being in the present form during the early years of Vikrama Chola and might have been in existence in the last years of Kulottunga I; however, it is possible that even earlier there might have been another structure, as the temple itself seems to be*more ancient than the Later Chola period. Some important images were added during the days of Vikrama Chola and Rajadhiraja II: Kuttadum devar, his consort, Palliyarai Nachchiyar, Tandanganni Nachchi-yar and some other images.

Kiratamurti and Consort

In this temple there is a metallic image locally called Dakshina-raja accompanied by the Consort. It is two-armed, stands in the alidha pose over a padma-pitham placed in turn on a bhadra-pitham. The left arm is raised in the posture of holding the bow and the right hand is in the kataka pose for holding the arrow. The body which is bare with a rotund belly and a deep sunken navel, is criss-crossed by a channavira; the face is marked by a narrow forehead, a moustache and a flowing beard; ears are adorned with patra-kundalas; the arms don bands of beads and elbow bands (vaji bandha). The image wears the hero’s leg band. This is thus a beautiful specimen of Kirata in his natural form, unlike the images found at Tiruvetkalam, Radhanarasimhapuram and others.

The icon is accompanied by its consort, a beautiful metallic image with a charming face, the hair done up in the The right arm is in the lola hasta posture, the left in the kataka pose; the arm-band is well turned and so is the vajibandha; the breasts are rounded, the waist narrow and the hips broad and sweeping gracefully; the chest is adorned by the channavira; the lower garment is held round the waist by a simha-mukha clasp. The image has all the features of a Rajarajan-Rajendran bronze and, but for the date of the temple, could be attributed to die Middle period. Though belonging to the Vikrama era, we could say that the icons of Kirata and Parvati were the product of the Middle period tradition.

Kuttadum Devar

An image of Nataraja is under worship in the temple. Besides, another image of Nataraja along with his Consort was unearthed in the same village some time back and is now housed in the Madras Government Museum. We are not sure which of these two Nata-rajas (Kuttadum devar) is the one gifted by Velan Gandaradittan; but it seems the one under worship in the temple may be his gift. They both share the characteristics of the age.


It is a fine piece of metal, standing in the tribhanga pose with the deer shown leaping towards his finger. This is an interesting metal image representing Bhikshatanar. The upper left arm probably held a trisula across the back; the other two arms are in the posture of holding and playing on the vim, which makes this image distinct from the rest. This is the first Bhikshatana image depicted as playing on the vim; and another feature is that the figure is not shown in his nude form. However the latter is not an uncommon feature in Chola bronzes or stone sculptures. Among the images set up by a Menmalai-Palaiyanur citizen in the eighth year of Rajadhiraja II referred to earlier, mention is made of an image of ‘Vattanaipada Nadantha Naayakar’. Dr. R. Nagaswamy has identified the icon of Bhikshatanar found in this temple with this gift. Appar in a hymn addressed to the Lord (deity) of Tiruvalampuram (modem Mela-perumballam) called him the ‘great Lord Siva, with a captivating smile on his lips and a vim in his arms, moving around as a Bhikshatana’ (Uerrittadoru vim.... padamdantu mayam pesi..’). The term ‘pada mdantu’ of Appar’s hymn has given the name of ‘Vattamigal pada nadanta nayakar’ for the icon of Bhikshatanar as found in the inscription. It almost, seems that the artist tried and succeeded in presenting in a sculptural form what Appar conceived in his fervid imagination. 'This is thus a dated bronze of great significance, one among a few, enabling us to build up a gallfery of such sculptures in metal of the Later Chola period.[1]

Footnotes and references:


Courtesy: Dr. R, Nagaswamy.

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