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....

Valuvur in the Mayuram taluk of the Tanjavur district is a small village near Mayuram, a railway station on the main railway line from Madras to Tiruchi. Here is a celebrated Saiva temple called that of Tiru-Virattanam Udaiyar. It is one of the ashta Virattam[1] temples celebrated in Tamil hagiology as centres where Siva exhibited great deeds of valour. Valuvur is connected with the overthrow of the asura known by the name of Gajasura.

Tiru-virattanam Udaiyar temple (Amman shrine)

However, this place is not sung by any of the Nayanmars. But Appar refers to this temple as a place referred to in hymns on other shrines or places, without having any hymns on its own self. In his Kshetrakovai, he refers to this temple as Valuvur Virattam (not Virattanam) and in the Adaivu Tiruttandagam, as Valuvai Virattam. Therefore the temple should have existed in some form even in the seventh century a.d.

However, the temple would seem to have lost all its ancient features as the earliest records inscribed on the walls of the central shrine of the temple relate to the 11th and 15th years of Rajaraja II (ARE 418 and 419 of 1912), This is a stone temple. Most of the inscriptions are found on the walls of the mandapa in front of the central shrine. Three of them are found on the gopuram in front of the temple.

On the south wall of the central shrine, there is a partly damaged inscription of Parakesarivarman alias Tribhuvanachakravartin Rajaraja deva II, dated in his 11th year, mentioning a gift of money for lamps to the temple of Virattanam Udaiyar at Valuvur, a brahmadeya of Tiruvalundur nadu which was a district of Jayan-gondasola valanadu. This inscription makes a reference to Periya devar Vikrama Chola (ARE 418 of 1912). In a 15th year inscription of the same ruler, a gift of money for two lamps and two lamp-stands is recorded. One of the lamp-stands was given by a native of Sirrarkadu in Arkattu kurram of Pandyakuiasani valanadu, for the merit of one Kundavai (ARE 419 of 1912). There is a fifth year inscription of the days of Rajadhiraja II found on the south wall of the mandapa in front of the central shrine (built in in the middle) mentioning a gift of money by a native of Mulangudi in Vela nadu, a subdivision of Kulottungasola valanadu, for getting the Tiruvembavai recited before the image of Vadavurali Nayanar (Manikkavachakar) in the temple, on Margali Tiru-vadirai festival and also for conducting the festival in the month of Panguni (ARE 421 of 1912). Another inscription of the 15th year of the same ruler, Rajakesarivarman alias Tribhuvana-chakravartin Rajadhirajadeva II, mentions a gift of money for purchasing land to maintain a lamp in the temple, by a native of Tiyangudi in Tiruvarur kurram, a subdivision of Geyamanikka valanadu. There is a mention in this record of the 16th year of Rajarajall (ARE 428 of 1912).

There are a number of inscriptions of the days of Kulottunga III. The earliest is dated in his second year (a.d. 1180) and is about a gift of money for a lamp by a native of Modapakkam in Surattur nadu, a subdivision of Puliyur kottam alias Kulottungasola valanadu in Jayangondasola mandalam (ARE 427 of 1912). In the next year of the same ruler, ‘Parakesarivarman alias Tribhuvana-chakravartin Virarajendradeva’ (third year, a.d. 1181), there is an inscription on the south wall of th (builtin in the middle) relating to a land gift by purchase, for offerings to the image of Vadavur Nayanar (Manikkavachakar) set up in the temple of Tiruvirattanam Udaiyar by a native of Mulangudi in Vela nadu, a subdivision of Kulottungasola valanadu, and it also records a gift of money for other articles required for worship (ARE 420 of 1912).

On the wall of the north verandah of the first prakara, there is an inscription, which mentions the construction, by this king’s fifth year, of the shrine of the goddess in the north-west comer of the north verandah by Ekavachakan Ulagukanvidutta Perumal alias Vanakkovaraiyar, the Chief of Tunda nadu in Mudigonda-sola valanadu. It also records a gift of money in the eighth year of the king for purchasing land and maintaining worship in the same shrine (ARE 429 of 1912). After almost three decades, we get another record of the same ruler, dated in his 33 rd year, where he is called Tribhuvanavira deva, mentioning his conquest of Madurai, Ilam and Karuvur and the celebrations of virabhishekam and vijayabhishekam. It relates to a gift of money by a brahmana lady to the shrine of Tiruchchattimurram Udaiyar consecrated by her in the 29th year of the king in the temple of Tiru-Virattanam Udaiyar at Valuvur (ARE 423 of 1912).

Another record, of the Pandyan period, mentions that a tenant of the temple absconded without paying his dues, and the amount was recovered from the person who stood surety for him, by selling his land (ARE 426 of 1912, of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya’s fifth year).

Straddling both sides of the entrance to the main gopuram, an inscription records the construction of the gopuram and the prakara wall by one Alagapperumal Pillai, son of Gangeyar Gana-pati nayinar Pillai of Nallavur in Irungolappadi nadu (ARE 430 of 1912). On the four sides of the same gopuram is another record mentioning the setting up of an icon of Bhikshatanamurti (see plate 198 of my Middle Chola Temples), the main gopuram, the prakara wall and the street by the same donor (ARE 431 of 1912).

From these inscriptional data we may conclude that:

1) the central shrine could be assigned to the early years of the reign of Rajaraja II, though there is no foundation inscription;

2) an image of Vadavur Nayanar was set up in the temple by the fifth regnal year of Rajadhiraja II;

3) by the fifth year of Kulottunga III, a shrine for the goddess was constructed in the northwest corner of the verandah of the temple by Ekavachakan Ulagukanvidutta Perumal alias Vanakkovaraiyar, the Chief of Tunda nadu in Mudigonda-sola valanadu;

4) a shrine for Tiruchchattimurram Udaiyar was consecrated ip the 29th year of Kulottunga III (a.d. 1207) by a brahmana lady; and,

5) in the post-Chola period, one Alagapperumal Pillai constructed the main gopuram and the prakara wall, set up an image of Bhikshatanamurti, and christened one of the streets after his name.

The original temple consists of the garbhagriha and an ardhamandapa; the srivimana is dvi-tala; the sikhara and the griva are octagonal in shape. The devakoshta niches house rather poor specimens of sculptures. The deities are the usual ones: Ganapati and Durga on the walls of the ardha and Dakshinamurti, Lingodbhavar and Brahma on the walls of the garbhagriha; the devakoshtas have makara-toranas adorning their top, with deities in the gadhas. The tiruch-churru-maligai round the temple has two rows of pillars supporting the roof of the peristyle. The temple is enclosed by a wall with a gopuram at the main entrance to the prakara.

There are a number of very fine bronzes in this temple. The best of them all is a marvel of casting, the piece representing Siva as the destroyer of Gajasura. It is a grandly conceived piece of metal with the aureole taking the shape of the elephant which has been shown with the head and trunk at the feet of the Lord, the forelegs as the two ends of the aureole and the hind legs held aloft in the upper part of the aureole. A twisted tail is shown to the proper left of the top of the prabha. The two top arms of this eightarmed Siva icon in atibhanga posture hold the elephant hide aloft; the other right arms wield the damaru, the sword and the spear (sula) and the left arms wield the snake, the shield and the skull cap (kapala). The kapald-mala (skull-garland) reaches down to the right foot resting on the elephant head (See plate 199 of Middle Chola Temples). The other metals found in this temple are of Somaskandar, Bhikshatanar, Nandikesvara and Ayyanar, which are illustrated in my Middle Chola Temples (pis. 197, 198, 200 and 201).

Footnotes and references:


For details on the eight viraltana-kshetras, see my Early Chola Temples, pp. 85-86.

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