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....

Tiruvennainallur, in the Tirukkoyilur taluk of the Sou\h Arcot district, is a famous Saiva centre known for its association with the attainment of sainthood by the Tamil Saint Sundara-murti Nayanar. It is about 6.5 km. from the railway station by that name on the Southern Railway and is about 20 km. from Villupuram in a south-westerly direction. Tirukkovalur (modern Tirukkoyilur) is about 22 km. to its west.

Kripapurisvara (Arul-turai Nayanar), temple

There are two well-known temples in this village, one associated with the Tamil saint Sundarar, known as that of Arul-turai Nayanar (Kripapurisvara), and the other associated with the Later Pallava chiefs of Sendamangalam, known as the Vai-kuntha Perumal temple. The river Pehnai juns close by the former.

Close by is a village now known as Puttur which, according to local tradition, was the scene of the scheduled marriage of the Saint Sundarar that did not take place. Hence its name of ‘Manam-tavirnda-puttur’ (‘where the marriage was stopped’). The local tradition goes that Sundaramurti’s marriage was fixed to be celebrated at Puttur, and just before the ceremony, Lord Siva in i.the guise of an old brahmana stormed into the marriage function and claimed the Saint as his serf and hence not entitled to marry; Sundaramurti and those assembled strongly disputed this statement and sought proof, and after disputation and exchange of angry words, they all agreed to proceed to Tiruvennainallur, which was where, the old man claimed, he belonged, to seek proof of his contention. The brahtnanas of Tiruvennainallur did not accept the old man’s contention and laughed at him, observing that they were hearing for the first time of a brahmana being a serf of another brahmana. The story goes that on insistence by the old man that he was a resident of Tiruvennainallur and that the young man about to marry was his serf, the assembled men demanded of him to show them his house in the village; the old man, the young man and the assembled disbelievers walked into the temple of Tiruvarutturai, and, all of a sudden, the old man disappeared. When they all shouted for him, there appeared before them Lord Siva on His bull-mount (vahana) in the company of Parvati; He recalled to Sundarar his earlier declaration of total surrender to Him, and bestowed His grace on him. (We have also dealt with this episode in Chapter 2 of Middle Temples, pp. 31-32). The deity in the Tiruvennainallur temple is therefore called Taduttatkonda nathar (‘the Lord Who bestowed divine grace after apparently placing obstacles in the way of the devotee’). The Amman is called Verkanni Ammai. It may be mentioned that there is a village about 2.5 km. from this place, called Taduttatkondavur.

The central shrine consists of a garbhagriha with a tiruch-churru-nadai, and an ardhamandapa supported by two pillars. The vimana is in two tiers. On the southern wall of the ardhamandapa, there is a niche containing a finoimage of Bhikshatanar and on the northern wall is an image of Durga. On the garbhagriha walls are Dak-shinamurti in the south, Lingodbhavar in the west a»d Brahma in the north. The Lingodbhavar image in the rear niche has the usual swan on the top and varaha at the; bottom of the opening, and in the middle Siva with malu and deer. Adjoining the ardhamandapa is a mahamandapa with finely carved pillars in four rows of six pillars to a row and at the eastern entrance to it is a pair of dvarapalas. On the southern wall of this mandapa (which is closed on all sides/ except for the entrance from the east), there is a beautifully carved decorative window. On the northern side of this hall, in a chamber with a projecting landing in front of it, is a fine set of bronzes of Seraman, Manikkavachakar, Sundarar, Paravai Sangiliyar, Chandesvara, Vinayakar, Subrahamanyar, Sokkar and Chandrasekharar.

Obviously a later addition, the mukhamandapa which is multi-pillared is noteworthy for some special features; on the roof of this mandapa is a shrine for Sundaramurti, in the form of a cubicle with a two-tier vimana over it. This hall would seem to be assignable to the days of Rajaraja II.

This entire complex of buildings is enclosed by a tiruch-churru-maligai with a wide circumambulatory passage. In the southwest of this courtyard is a shrine for Ganapati, in the west one for Subrah-manya, and, in the north-west, what was earlier a shrine for Jyeshtha (one of the Parivaradevatas) is now used to house Lakshmi. In the platform to the south is a panel of Saptamatrikas in stone.

Outside the first wall of enclosure is a second one on whose eastern wall is the five-tiered gopuram. In the north-eastern corner of the second prakara is a big mandapa which would appear to have been a 100-pillared one, but, its front portion having collapsed, only sixty-two pillars supporting the rest of the hall still stand. It is called the ‘valakkuraitta mandapam’—‘the mandapa where the disputation took place’, obviously a reference to the argument between the old stranger and the brahmanas of Tiruvennainallur on the former’s claims over Sundaramurti as his serf.

There is an inscription on the jagatippadai on the south side of the east face of the inner gopuram, which reads as follows:

Svasti Sri tribhuvanachakravartigal Kulottungasola devarkku yandu 3-avadu Rajaraja valanattu Tirumunaippadi Tiruvennainallur nattu piramadeyam Tiruvennainallur Udaiyar Atkonda devarkku it-tiru-gopuravasal seyvittan Kudal Mohan Alappirandan Arasanarayanana Kadavarayan.”

This confirms that this gopuram was built before the third year of Kulottunga III (a.d. 1181) by one of the Later Pallava Chiefs, Kudal Mohan Alappirandan Arasanarayanan alias Kadavarayan. There is a record of the 32nd year of a Sambhuva-rayan on the north face of the entrance passage of the main gopuram, and another of the 18th year of Kulottunga III. (Pis. 302-7).

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: