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....
Detailed descriptions of the scenes seriatim are appended below.
1) Avan asiyan bar mudalaivay pillai
Here a crocodile disgorges a male child, which is being received by a woman, evidently the mother of the boy; in accordance with the tradition relating to this incident, Sundara-murti Nayanar, by singing a hymn in praise of the local Lord, makes the crocodile in the tank in front of the temple at Avanasi (in the district of Coimbatore) surrender the child which it had swallowed whole while the mother was bathing. The father of the child is close by, his hands uplifted in an attitude of worship.
2) Tirumurvganpunditil perrapad1
Enroute to Tiruvarur from the Chera country and very near Tirumuruganpundi, the treasure which Sundaramurti had obtained from the Chera king was carried away by the pseudo-robbers sent by God. At this, he addressed the deity in the temple at Tirumuruganpundi, Who commanded the wealth to be restored to him. The thieves are shown piling up the wealth in front of Sundarar.
3) Udaiyanambiyai vedar valipar1tta padi
This also refers to the above incident. The thieves are seen molesting the men who accompanied the treasure and carrying it away.
4) Udaiyanambikku olai venrarulinapadi
Herein the sculpture refers to quite a different story altogether from what is understood by the label above. There was a young woman by name Sangili who was leading a life of celibacy, spending her time in the service of the Lord of Tiruvorriyur. Sundarar was enamoured of her and the Lord arranged to get them united in marriage but stipulated that Sundarar should take an oath, as desired by Sangili, ‘never to part’. As it was sacrilegious to take oaths in a temple, Sundarar prayed to the Lord to absent Himself from the temple temporarily and stop below a tree. But the Lord instructed Sangili to insist on the oath being taken below the tree under which He would stop. She is shown pointing out the tree, in the sculpture. Every year a grand festival is conducted in commemoration of this event under (what is believed to be) that particular tree.
5) Udaiyanambiyai andukondaruunapadi
When the marriage of Sundarar was arranged, God in the form of an aged brahman suddenly appeared before him and provided documentary evidence that he was his vassal from his grandfather’s time. When asked to point out his residence, the old brahman entered the temple at Tiruvennainallur and there miraculously disappeared into the linga while Sundarar was looking on.
6) ....Vana-olai kattinapadi
This portrays Siva displaying the cadjan leaf containing the bond referred to in No. 5 above.
7) Udaiyanambi elundarulugirar
This sculpture cannot be identified clearly. Probably this refers to the birth of Alalasundara, one of the beloved devotees of God Siva. On one occasion, Alalasundara, while collecting flowers for Siva, met by chance the two celestial women, Anindita and Kamalini, who also had come there to gather flowers for Parvati. There was mutual admiration. Siva on this account directed Alalasundara and the two ladies to be born on earth in order that they might live together as husband and wives. Alalasundara was born as Sundaramurti and the ladies as Sangili and Paravai both of whom married Sundaramurti.
(The above seven scenes relate to miracles in Sundarar’s life.)
The mother of the great Sundarar.
The father of Sundarar.
10) Tirunilakanthar perumbanar
This bhakta (devotee) is reputed for playing, on a harp-like instrument then in vogue, songs in praise of the Almighty. Here he is seen in front of the temple at Madurai, with the instrument. His devoted wife is holding a pair of jalaras (cymbals) to help her husband keep to the beat.
This is a Chola king, who, by his great devotion, attained to the rank of Saints (Nayanmars). As befits a king, he is represented with a crown.
This weaver of Kampili was so devoted to Saivas that he gave away his all as presents to the deserving and thus attained salvation. He is seen here distributing clothing.
She was the wife of the Pandya king Nedumaran and the daughter of a Chola king, by the name of Mangaiyarkkarasiyar. When the king favoured Jainism, she, with the help of Sambandar, who had been invited to Madurai, got him reconverted to Saivism, curing him also of his hunch-back in the process (also see no. 27 below).
14) Appalum adich-charnda ad1yar
This general term applies to staunch Saiva devotees living outside the traditional realms of the Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas; three such are represented here in a praying attitude in front of a temple.
15) Muluniru pusiya munivar
These are Saiva devotees who smear the sacred ash over the whole body in accordance with the prescriptions of the Agamas. Six of them are shown here seated in front of a temple.
16) Mukkalam tirumeni tinduvar
Those offering worship to the linga thrice a day according to the Agama rules are counted among Saiva devotees. Three such in the act of such worship are shown here.
17) Tiruvarur pirandar
Those born in the holy city of Tiruvarur are automatically reckoned Saiva devotees. Four (presumably such) devotees are portrayed here in front of a temple.
IS) Paramanaiye paduvar
These are devotees who refuse to recognize any God other than Siva, Three such (lady) devotees are shown singing His praises.
19) Pattaraiye pan1var
Those who honour the Saiva devotees are themselves honoured as Nayanmars. Several such are shown here in various postures of adoration of Saiva devotees.
This Nayanar of Tirunattiyattangudi in the Tanjavur district was commander-in-chief under a Chola king. When going to serve with the Army, he left instructions that the paddy stored by him be made use of only for services to God, but during a famine his relations used the grain themselves. On his return, he executed them For the sin thus committed, without sparing even a baby. This pleased the Almighty very much, Who appeared before him with His Consort on the sacred bull and admitted him amongst his retinue (ganas).
This gurukkal (temple-priest) of Srivilliputtur was faithfully worshipping the linga of the place even during famine days. On account of the poor food he had then and his ^Consequent weakness, he once dropped the brass pot containing water on the linga while bathing it and in his state of shock fell into a stupor but the Almighty appeared to him in a dream and gave him to understand that under the bali-pitha, there would appear a coin daily, with which he could have his daily needs satisfied. In the illustration, the individual is seen bathing the God and the bali-pitha is also shown. > * *
He was a native of Tlnjavur. While worshipping in the temple at Tiruvarur, the Nayanar observing the wife dCKalarsingar (a devotee who was also present then) smelling the flowers intended for God, could not put up with this sacrilegious act and cut off her nose with a sword. We find another person in a sitting posture preparing garlands out of the flowers given by a lady. (Also see No. 24 below).
He was a king of Kodumbalur. A man who stole tlie paddy in a granary was produced before him to be punished, and he inquired into the case. On ascertaining that the paddy was stolen in order to feed Saiva devotees, ldangaliyandar not only released him but also made it public that anybody in need of wealth to feed bhaktas might freely make use of his granary and his treasury. While he is shown seated, another standing below is teen tom-tomming.
This was a Kadava (Pallava) king ‘who subdued all other kings and repaired all Siva temples’. One day his queen took a flower intended for worship, without realizing that it was so intended, and smelt it. Seruttunai Nayanar (see No. 22 above), who was witness to this, immediately severed her nose. When news of her disfigurement reaehed the king, he rushed to the spot, but, on ascertaining what exactly had transpired, he cut off the two handsof his queen, as well, as being the culprits in the sacrilegious act: this action of his is portrayed in this panel.
25) Munai aduvar
This native of Nidur in the Chola country used to go to the rescue of the weak in battle, and devoted his income to the feeding of the devotees of Siva.
This Nayanar was a native of Mayilappur and dedicated himself to meditating on Siva ift total silence. He is portrayed here with a beard and telling his rosary-beads, seated under a tree.
The Pandya king Kun Pandya (the ‘hunch-back’) who had embraced Jainism was brought back to Saivism through the influence of Saint Sambandar and the efforts of his queen Mangayarkkarasi and his minister Kulasirai. He was also cured at the same time of his hunched back and came to be known from then on as Nedumaranar or Ninra-Sir-nedumarar. The king is shown seated on a pedestal, flanked by attendants.!
This native of Tirukkadayur (Mayuram taluk, Tanjavtir district) was highly proficient in Tamil literature and was the author of Tirukkovai. lie obtained plenty of wealth from all three famous lines of kings—Chera, Chola and Pandya—but spent ail in renovating Siva temples. Towards the end of his days, he undertook a pilgrimage to Mount Kailasa. In the illustration, he is seen approaching the Holy Mountain.
Born at Akkur in the Tanjavur district, he spent his time worshipping Saiva devotees, giving them money and feeding them. He is shown here making presents to his fellow devotees.
He was born at Irukkuvelur (Vaidisvarankoil) intjfie district of Tanjavur. He was in the habit of regularly burning lamps in temples. Once, in Chidambaram, when he could not get money to buy ghee, he began to collect grass, from the sale proceeds of which he.started burning lamps. On a certain day, when the grass collected could not find a sale, he burnt the grass itself. But finding that the grass was not sufficient to keep the fire burning until the required hour, he set fire to his own hair. This panel portrays him in this act, with his wife behind him holding a burning grass-bundle (torch?).
6) Aiyadigal kadavarkonar
This Pallava king of Kanchipuram was a dedicated Saiva and relinquished his kingdom in favour of his son and went about renovadng temples*. He has sung hymns on the important temples he visited, now found in the anthology called Kshetrakkovai.
A native of Varinjiyur in the Chola kingdom, he was in the habit of cutting off the tongues of those that spoke ill of Saiva devotees. Here he is seen in such an act, wielding a sickle for the purpose. « ^
8 ) kaliyanar
This wealthy oil-monger of Tiruvorriyur, after exhausting his wealth in burning lamps in temples, was in the habit of using his wages for pressing oil for burning lamps in temples. On a certain day, when he could not get his wages, he slit his throat and used blood instead of oil to burn the lamp. The Nayanar is seen in front of the temple in the act of severing his head to obtain blood for the purpose.
9) Kalikkambandar kadai
This bhakia was in the habit of feeding Saiva devotees daily. One day, at meal-time, while about to wash the feet of one who appeared as a bhakta he found his wife hesitating to pour water as the individual turned out to be their old servant. This roused his anger and he cut off her hand with a sickle. In this portrayal of that scene, piles of pots with food are shown heaped up; three persons are sitting down at their meal. Siva and Parvati appear seated on their rishabha (bull) mount to give salvation to them.
10) Adipattar kadai
This fisherman of Nagapattinam was in the habit of dedicating the best of the fish he got daily from the sea to the Lord of the place. One day when he secured an only golden fish, he willingly offered it to God. Siva and Parvati appeared on the rishabha and gave him salvation. The Nayanar is shown holding the fish in one hand and others drawing the net spread out in the sea.
This king used to give presents to all wearing holy ashes, especially on the days of the Ardra asterism. On such a day, even when a pseudo-Saiva appeared before him, he extended his generosity to him by paying double the usual amount. The king is shown with a beard, seated with his queen beside him. Six others are seen in front receiving presents.
This Chola king who was ruling at Uraiyur (in Tiruchirapalli district)~once ordered his army to proceed against Adigan, a chieftain who failed to pay tribute. On returning thence, they brought the heads and the wealth of the enemies’ army. On noticing in the midst of the heaps of heads one witl#matted h|ir, and finding it to be one of a bhakta} he became compunctious and entered a sacrificial fire with that head placed over his in a gold p&te. Then Siva and Parvati appeared before him, as shown in the illustration.
18) Poyyadimaiyilada pulavar
This refers to the poets of the last sangam (the learned assembly) of Madurai, who were staunch Saivites. Nine of them are seen in the illustration, between a shrine and
This devotee conquered many chiefs and acquired enormous wealth. He had all the paraphernalia of an anointed king except the crown. When the brahmanas of Tillai (Chidambaram) refused to crown him, saying that they would crown none but the Chola king, he prayed to God Nataraja to crown him with his holy foot. God blessed him accordingly. His vassals are seen paying homage to him.
15) Gananadandar kadai
This devotee of Sirkali (Tanjavur district) was in the habit of daily instructing all who approached him in the matter of performing several kinds of services to God-raising flower-gardens, bringing water for the sacred bath, etc. In the illustration he is seen instructing several disciples, who are standing on either side, in front of the Almighty.
16) Seraman-perumal kadai
This is another name of Perumakkodaiyar (Lord of Mahodai or Musiri, now Cran-ganore), who was king of the Chera country. As directed by God in adream, he gave plenty of wealth to poet Banapattirar of Madurai, and with Sundarar reached Kailasa in his last days. In the illustration he is seen getting down from an elephant and worshipping the poet Banapattirar.
17) Siruttondar kadai
This devotee of Tiruchengattangudi in the district of Tanjavur was a military officer at the beginning and led a successful campaign against Vatapi (the modern Badami in Karnataka). He would not eat his daily meal unless he found one to partake of the same. Later on, he was residing in his own village and doing service tb God, Who, in the disguise of a Bhairava mendicant, commanded him to cook the flesh of hisbnly son for him, which he did without the least hesitation. But then God in disguise would not eat in tjje house of a childless couple. When the husband and wife were standing perplexed, the mendicant Bhairava commanded them to call for the boy who immediately came running as if nothing had happened. The boy being received by the mother in her arms is shown in the illustration.
This devotee first adhered to Jainism. Finding it to be untrue, he went back to Saivism and spent his days in the worship of linga. In the act of worshipping, he forgof himself so much in his devotion that he mistook the bricks that were lying by for flowers and threw them onto the linga without perceiving what he was doing. Thinking that this abt of his should have had the sanction of Siva Himself, he continued to do the same. Siva was much pleased with this form of worship.
1) Eyarkon kalikkamandar
He was a hereditary military officer, and became in his later years a true devotee of Siva. He executed repairs to the temple at Tiruppangur near Vaidisvarankoil. On learning that God acted as a mediator between Sundaramurti and his wife Paravai, he got offended with Sundarar. In order to show him what a true devotee Sundarar was, God made him suffer from paralysis and sent Sundarar to cure him of it* Being displeased at the idea of getting cured at Sundarar’s hands, he killed himself. When Sundarar approached the house, he was informed that the Nayanar was sleeping on the cot. On approaching the cot, Sundarar recognised the true state of affairs and attempted to commit suicide. Thereupon Kalikkamanayanar was restored to life and in turn prevented Sundarar from killing himself.
This is the boy-devotee Sambandar. While yet a child, his father left him on the bank of the tank within the temple of Sirkali. When the child started crying for mother’s milk, Siva asked Parvati to feed him instead. He was thus favoured with divine milk in a golden cup. On completing his bath, the father, finding a cup of milk in the hands of his boy, began to chastise him and asked him from whom he got it. The boy pointed to Toniappar in the temple close by. We find the boy depicted holding a cup in his hand and the father with a cane in his hand as if about to punish him.
He was a native of Emapperur near Tiruvarur. He was desirous of burning a lamp in the shrine of Araneri within the temple at Tiruvarur. On the Jainas residing near the temple refusing to let him have some ghee for the purpose, he was much perplexed, when there arose an aerial voice directing him to burn the lamp with the water of the tank close by, which he did to the astonishment of all. He is seen in the act of carrying water in a pot, on the left side of the panel and lighting the lamp in front of the shrine on the right.
4) Seyjnalur-pillaiyar kadai
This is Chandesvara whose sculpture is seen installed in ail Siva temples. When he was devoutly worshipping the linga, his father scolded him and kicked the pot containing the milk intended for the sacred bath. For causing this obstruction Chandesa cut off his father's leg with an axe. Pleased with this high devotion, Siva made him the head of all His devotees and also crowned him with a garland. Both the acts of cutting off of the father's leg and his being crowned with a garland are seen in the illustrations.
This washerman-devotee of Kanchipuram was in the habit of washing the clothes of all bkaktas. To test his sincerity, God Ekamranatha in the disguise of an old brahman gave his rag for being washed and returned before dusk the same day, and at the same time brought on a heavy storm and darkness soon after. Unable to fulfil his promise,
this Nayanar attempted to dash his head against the washing-stone which God prevented and gave him salvation. To the left in the panel, Siva appears as an old Brahman holding a stick and in front of him this Nayanar with the torn cloth on his shoulder.
This is the famous pariah (harijan) saint Nandan who joined the Nayanars by the grace of God Nataraja at Chidambaram. When he was precluded from entering the temple because he was an outcaste, God Nataraja directed him to get himself ‘purified’ by entering a sacred fire. This he did as seen in the illustration.
7) Ilaiyamarangudi marar kadai
This bhakta was fond of feeding all true devotees of Siva. At a time when he had no foodgrains, Siva disguised as an aged brahman went to him at midnight and asked for food. He collected the paddy seeds he had just sown in the morning and got the food ready. Then he woke up the aged brahman who was pretending to be asleep. The brahman manifested himself into Siva with Parvati seated on the sacred bull. The Nayanar is seen (on the left) in the act of holding a basket, and the brahman sitting (in the middle); while (on the right) on a bull the God and Goddess are seen.
Annual Report on Epigraphy for 1920, pp. 102-7, para. 22. Also see Vol. II of Vellai Varanar’s Panniru Tirumuraigal (‘The Twelve Tirumurais’) for correction and a new interpretation of some of these stories (Annamalai University Publication, Department of Tamil).