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....

On the Kanchi-Uttaramerur road, after crossing the Vegavati at Kanchi and the Palar four kilometres further south, one reaches Arpakkam after another four kilometres on the same road; it lies midway between the Palar and the Cheyyar, which joins the Palar a few kilometres east at the well-known centre of Tirumuk-kudal. The earliest-known Pallava cave temple, at Mandahap-pattu, is at a distance of only about 8 km. in a westerly direction from here.

Tiruvalisvaram temple

There are a number of inscriptions in this temple, some on the apsidal garbhagriha wall, and others on the eastern face of the mandapa in front of the temple; an important inscription (ARE 20 of 1899; SII, VI, No. 456) found on the south-west face of the garbhagriha wall of the central shrine records an interesting document dated in the fifth year of Tribhuvanachakravartin Parakesari-varman Rajadhiraja deva (II) (a.d. 1171). It is very important from a historical view-point and also enables us to interpret the meaning of the term ‘Tiruvalisvaram’.

It reads as follows:

SvastiSri Ganapataye namaha: Kadal sulnda madarum pooma-darum kalai madarum... sempon virasimhasanattu ulagudai Mukkokki-lanadigalodum virrirundu aruliya kopparakesaripanmarana tribhu - vanachakravartigal sri Rajadhirajadevarkku 5-avadu ilappadai pandimandalattaikkaikondu maduraiyiley irunda iraja kulasekha-ranai pogat-turatti pinbu maharaja Sri Rajadhirajadevar samantarodey poosal porat-tudangi... janangalellam bayappatta-maiyaikkettu edirili sola sambhuvarayanen... svamidevar sri padattu tiruviramesvarattil devar koyilai tirukaappukkondu poojaiyum muttupami... 28 nal agorapoojai panni-yarulinar

The Editor of ‘The Inscriptions of the Madras Presidency’ dealing with this inscription says as follows:

“It sets forth that the army of Ceylon having taken possession of the Pandyan country, drove away king Kulasekhara, who was then in Madurai and then began (?) to fight in battle with the feudatories of the great king Sri Rajadhiraja deva; that the danger of the spreading of the war into the districts of Tondi and Pasi struck terror into the hearts of the people of the Chola country; that Edirilisola Sambuvarayan approached Svami devar and requested him to avert the calamity by prayers, oblations and worship and that, as the result of his worship of Siva for 28 days, the Simhalese generals Jayadratha Dandanayaka, Lankapuri Dandanayaka and others fled. Sambuvarayan in gratitude gave the village of Arpakkam to the Svami who, in his turn, distributed the income from the village among his relations. The Svami was Umapad deva alias Jnana Siva deva, a native of Dakshina Lata in Gauda desa.”...

“Venkayya believes that the Edirili Solan Sambhuvarayan mentioned here must have been an ancestor of Alagiya Solan of the Poygai inscriptions of Rajaraja III (SII, I, pp. 86 ff.); that his solicitude for the success arose from the fact that his son Pallavarayan was the Chola General and that he was a devotee of Siva and the Brahmanas, whose enemies the invaders were, as is seen in their removal of the sacred door and treasure of the Ramesvaram temple. Venkayya compares the account of this inscription with the Simhalese chronicle and points out that the invasion should be attributed to the third quarter of the 12th century.”

One may venture to conclude that Edirili-Sola-Sambuvarayan who took his name from the Chola ruler built this temple and named the deity(Tiru-Iramesvarattu-devar) after the Lord of Ramesvaram, whose temple had suffered damage at the hands of the Sri Lanka troops and their Dandanayakas. It is now called Tiruvalisvaram, a corruption of ‘Tiruviramesvaram’. Perhaps it was meant to commemorate the victory of the Cholas over the Pandyas and the Ceylonese, who, in the course of the war, are alleged to have sacked and plundered the famous Ramesvaram temple at the tip of the South Indian peninsula.

This temple was thus in existence by the fifth year of Rajadhi-raja II, i.e., say, by the year a.d. 1171 and is said to have been located in Alpakkam, in Magaral nadu in Eyil kottam in Jayangonda-sola mandalam.

Besides the important inscription mentioned above, there are others belonging to the periods of Kulottunga (III) and Tribhuvanachakravartin Rajaraja (III).,. A 16th year record attributable to the days of Kulottunga III registers a gift of! 12 sheep for a twilight lamp to Bhumisvaram Udaiyar at Arpakkam in Magaral nadu, a subdivision of Eyir kottam in Jayangondascfla mandalam. A 16th year record of Rajaraja III registers the sale of the village Punnai in seven shares to several individuals for 42,000 pudukkasu by the Big Assembly of Ukkal alias Vikramabhara-na chaturvedimangalam (ARE 137 of 1923). A 19th year record of the same ruler on the south wall of the mandapa in front of the central shrine registers a gift of 500 kulis of land free of taxes, as devadana to the temple of Kailasamudaiya Nayanar at Arpakkam by the residents of Punnai in Pagur (Bahur) nadu, a subdivision of Kaliyur kottam; it adds that the gift was made for the safe preservation on the wall of the temple of the document of the 16th year of the king, referred to above, by which the Assembly of Ukkal sold the village (ARE 136 of 1923). There are two records of the 24th year of the same ruler, one registering a gift of one kalanju of gold for burning a twilight lamp before the deity, and the Other, a gift of gold for another lamp in the same temple (ARE 134 and 135 of 1923).

A Vira Hariyanna Udaiyar inscription (Vijayanagara period) dated in Saka 1303 (a.d. 1381), on the north wall of the shrine, registers the sale of the village of Sirrinaippakkam by the Big Assembly of Ukkal alias Vikramabharana chaturvedimangalam in Pagur (or Bahur) nadu, of Kaliyur kottam, to a native of Magaral in Magaral nadu, a sub-division of Eyir kottam (ARE 133 of 1923). This public sale in seven equal shares to some groups of individuals by the Assembly is attested at the end by fiftyone persons including the madhyastha (arbitrator) and confirmed by about the same number of other residents. The former perhaps constituted the members of the Assembly or the relevant committee concerned with land transactions and were required to sign the sale deed. It is interesting to observe that the transactions relating to another place were recorded on the walls of a temple in a different locality. Perhaps, the transaction required to be given wide publicity and recorded permanently. Or again in a certain region, selected temples, like the Sri Ranganathasvamin temple at Sri-rangam or die Nataraja temple at Chidambaram, were chosen as central recording offices for maintaining important documents undamaged or securing them from being lost.

In accordance with the general practice prevailing in the Tondaimandalam region during this period, this temple is an apsidal one from the upapitham to the stupi; the Tondaimandalam region boasts of two types of Gajaprishtha temples; one in which the cella (i.e., the garbhagriha and the ardkamandapa or the antarala as the case may be upto the prastara) is rectangular, with the griva and sikhara alone being apsidal in structure; and the other in which the cella, the sikhara and the griva are all apsidal in form. This temple belongs to the latter category.

The temple faces east and consists of the garbhagriha and the antarala; it is an ekatala structure; the garbhagriha measures 12.70 m. circumferentially from side to side while the antarala portion measures 1.14 m. Inside, the antarala is 2.36 m. wide while the garbhagriha is 2.33 m. wide.

Ganapati and Durga are found in the southern and northern niches of the antarala, while on the curved outer face of the garbhagriha wall, there are Dakshinamurti, Vishnu and Brahma in the south, west and north niches, respectively. There is a mandapa (11.80 m. x 7.62 m.) in front of the antarala, supported on three rows of four pillars each and four pilasters; the pillars are round. From this hall there are two doors opening to the rear into the perambulatory passage, which is pillared and covered.

The devakoshtas of the garbhagriha measure 1.22 m, x.47 m. and are flanked by pilasters which are miniature versions of the bigger pilasters which divide the outer surface of the apsidal wall of the garbhagriha into segments, there being twelve such pilasters. The plain toranas over the niches have a surface slightly raised above the wail face, and are bound by a sinuous outline sweeping downwards and sidewise to form a bracket to the mouldings immediately over the niche; there is a circular depression in the middle of the torana like a kudu but with no decorative element in it. The griva has three niches with designs to crown

them, and in them there are kudus containing vimana designs; the same element in much bigger proportions is there in the front portion of the sikhara and the griva. There are three stupis on ]the sikhara; lotus petal designs in two strata run all round the apsijial sikhara, midway between the stupis and the griva.

There is a later, now dilapidated, structure for the shrine in the prakara outside the central shrine. It faces south and is to the north of the mukhamandapa. The deity is known by the name of Nallalagi or Tripurasundari. In addition there are two shrines, one for Ganapati and the other for Kartikeya, both behind the central shrine.

The icons are well turned out and original. There is a fine sculpture of Pidari found on the verandah of the Ganapati shrine, We do not know its original location. In the mukhamandapa there are two fine stone sculptures of Bhairavar and Surya.

The following bronzes are there: Ganapati, Nataraja and Sivakami, Somaskandar, Uma, Subrahmanya and His Consorts, Sukravara Ambal, Chandrasekharar and Ambal, the four Saivite Saints, Astra devar, Pradosha devar and a gramadevata. They are late bronzes. (Pls. 280-3).

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