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....

Temples in (Ten-) Tiruvalangadu

Tiruvalangadu, or to be more precise, Ten-Tiruvalangadu, is in the Mayuram taluk of the Tanjavur district. It is to be distinguished from the place of the same name (also sometimes called Alangadu or Vataranyam) in the North Arcot district, 60 km. west of Madras City. (The Madras Museum Bulletins invariably and incorrectly describe the place as Tiruvelangadu). [It was from the latter place that the copperplates and the peerless broken Nataraja bronze of Rajendra I’s periodf (now adorning the Madras Museum) were recovered. The place must have been surrounded by a grove of banyan (Vata or Al) trees. The sthala vriksha is however the jack tree. It is a place rich with ancient legends and historical associations. Among them is one about the local Vellalas who, unable to keep their plighted word, performed self-immolation. Karaikkal Ammaiyar, who was one of the 63 Nayanmars, assumed the form of a demon, went on a pilgrimage as far as Kailasa and rolled back here all the way on her head and finally took refuge under the feet of the Lord of Dance here. The chief deity of this temple is called Devar Singapperumal or Alangattu Adigal. The place is adorned with the Ratna and it was reputedly here that Siva performed the dance of Urdhva Tand

Vataranyesvara (Tiruvalangadu Udaiyar) templeava and subdued Kali.]

We are however concerned here with (Ten) Tiruvalangadu in the Tanjavur district that has only a Later Chola temple which came into existence in the days of Kulottunga III. This temple does not seem to be associated with the Devar am hymnists. It is presently called Vataranyesvara or Tiruvalangadu Udaiyar temple.

This temple was completed in or before the 15th year and 21st day of Kulottunga III. It is said to have been located on a site that was part of the larger township of Vikramasola Allur. There are sixteen inscriptions in this temple, ten of which belong to the days of Kulottunga III (ranging from his 15th year to his 36th year) and two to those of Rajaraja III (both relating to a gift to a matha called Vannar Madevar Andar Madam). The earliest inscription on the central shrine registers the grant to this temple of fifteen velis of land at Suttamalli chaturvedimangalam. The temple trustees sold some temple jewels and bought some lands as tiru-namattu kani (24th year of Kulottunga III). An image of Visvesvara was set up in the temple in the 25th year of Kulottunga III. The details of the Urkkil iraiyili lands of the temple were recorded on the temple walls (35th year of the same ruler). An agraharam of Vedic scholars called Irumarabum Tuyya Perumal Mangalam was also set up during this reign. The length of the standard linear measure called ‘Tiruvalangadu-udayar koF (based on and identical with the length of the royal linear measure of Rajaraja I’s days carved in the RajarajesVaram temple at Tanjavur) is found engraved on the gopuram here. The unit of linear measure thus evidendy continued without any change.

The temple consists of a central shrine, a in front and two prakaras with walls of enclosure, and the gopuram. The usual devakoshta figures are there on the walls of the garbha-griha. Opposite the Dakshinamurti devakoshta, there is a This mandapa is in the style typical of Kulottunga Ill’s period.

The two pillars opposite to the Dakshinamurti niche are carved and sculptured in the same style as those of Darasuram and Tri-bhuvanam. On the base of each pillar there is a portrait about 37 cm. in height of a royal personage with anjali hasta and a sword. The figure is looking towards Dakshinamurti. These portraits are alike.

There is yet another royal portrait, 135 cm. in height, found on one of the pillars of this mandapa, carved almost in the round. The figure has a commanding personality, and at the same time is expressive of humility, articulated by the pair of pada-rakshas (sandals) held on his head, which has a big bun-shaped hair-do at its back. Necklaces and chains and armlets and other armbands adorn the figure. The two hands are held together in the anjali (prayerful) pose. N. Sethuraman who first saw this portrait sculpture has identified the figure as that of Kulottunga III.[1]

Another interesting portrait, also taken to be that of Kulottunga III but with slightly different features and form of dress, is found on the srivimana of the Tribhuvanam temple, and has been published by T.V. Sadasiva Pandarattar in his History of Later Cholas (in Tamil, Annamalai University: opposite to page 144). I agree that it is a good guess and it may indeed be a portrait of Kulottunga III.[2]

One of Rajaraja I’s titles was Sivapadasekharan. The first-to-be-engraved and the most important inscription of Rajaraja I on the north wall of his Rajarajesvaram temple at Tanjavur mentions (in paras 55 to 91) the gifts made by the king on the conferment on him of the titles of Sivapadasekhara and of Rajaraja (See my Middle Chola Temples, pp. 5 and 15). It seems that the tide was borne by some of his successors also. As far as I know, we do not have any epigraphical evidence that Kulottunga III assumed this title or that it was conferred on him. But the portrait at Ten-Tiruvalangadu clearly proves that Kulottunga III must have had the title of Sivapadasekharar. We know that Kufot-tunga III was a devout Siva-worshipper. It is unique and as far as I know the only portrait of a king who has this title. Perhaps at important religious ceremonies involving the presence of the king, he wore this garb. (PI. 313).

Footnotes and references:


In one of Kulottunga III’s epigraphs dated in his 15th year, he claims to rule the earth by divine grace (tirukkailaich-chivan-arul). This lends credence to the interpretation of this portrait as that of this king, in view of the two sacred feet (sri padams) held over his head


See also K.A.N. Sastri’s The Colas, 2nd edition, fig, 33 for a (doubtful) metallic portrait in bronze of Kulottunga III and p. 754 for a description by P.R. Srinivasan. This bronze is not found now in the temple at Kaiahasti.

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