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....

Tribhuvanam is about 6 km. from Kumbakonam and is a well-known cultural and art centre. It was perhaps once a part of the city complex of Palayarai and Kumbakonam. It acquired great prominence in the days of Kulottunga III.

Kampaharesvara temple (Tribhuvanaviresvaram)

There is a famous temple here known as the Kampaharesvara temple. This temple is dedicated to Siva adored by Vishnu and Brahma. It is the last of the four great temples built by the Cholas—and the last built by the last great Chola king. We saw that Kulottunga III made three wars against the Pandyas. After his victory in the third war, he held a grand celebration at Madurai, the Pandyan capital, and assumed the title of Tribhuvana Vira devar and built, in commemoration of his great victory, a temple here dedicated to. Siva in the name of Tribhuvana Viresvara. It is now called Kampaharesvaram, based on a local legend that a certain Chola king got relieved of the evil effects of ‘Sani Bhagavan’ after his flight from Tiruvidaimarudur to this place where he took shelter, and so this locality was chosen for building the new temple.

The temple-complex faces east. There are two and two gopurams.

The central shrine and the shrines for the Devi, Chandesvara and Sarabhamurti are located in the first enclosure. The subsidiary shrines are all housed on the north side of the enclosure. This muit have been due to limitations of space.

Between the inner and the outer (second) walls are housed the vasanta (alankara) mandapa, the nandi-mandapa, the balipitham and the flag staff.

The central shrine consists of a square garbhagrika (which measures 3.81 m. in the interior and 18.29 m. in the exterior), a slightly narrower ardhamandapa, an aniarala with flights of steps on either side of the mahamandapa, a mukhamandapa and a portico shaped like a chariot. The Somaskanda shrine is located here. The wails of the garbhagrika are thick, but it is not of the sandhara type as in the case of the Tanjavur temple. The srivimam c onsis ts of a heavy six-tala superstructure over the sanctum. The full height of the srivimana is 126 ft. (38.40 m.) and the superstructure measures 91 ft. (27. 70 m.).

The temple, as in the case of the Rajarajesvaram temple at Tanjavur, has a high upapitham which adds to the grace and majesty of the superstructure and consists of the following mouldings: upanam, padma-dalam, vyala-mala, a high kantham with gala-padas, decorated with scroll work and dancing poses between each, and crowning all is the kapotam adorned with kudus.

Over the upapitham there is a wall on the three sides and above it is the adhishthanam consisting of the following mouldings: upanam (in three tiers), padma-dalam, kumudam adorned with small-sized padma idal (lotus-petal) both up and down, kantham, kapotam, vyalamala and vedika; on the basement, there is a panel of miniature sculptures depicting stories from the Ramayana.

The walls of the central shrine have projections and recesses. The central projections have devakoshtas— with Dakshinamurti in the south, Lingodbhavar in the west and Brahma (not original) in the north. Each bay has pilasters at the ends with square base and octagonal shafts and capitals. There are shorter pilasters on the sides of the devakoshtas. On the southern side of the ardha-mandapa, there is Ganesa, and on the northern side, there is a devakoshta housing a six-armed Durga.

This temple has two gopurams in the east—the inner one is of three and the outer of five nilais (tiers). This temple has a foundation inscription. The main text is on the south wall of the garbha-griha and two copies thereof are inscribed on the outer gopuram (ARE 190, 191 and 192 of 1907). Harle and, following him, H. Sarkar also hold that the two inscriptions on the gopuram are of a later date, mainly on the ground that the kumudam on the gopuram is ribbed—a feature believed to appear only in the sixteenth century a.d. This observation is incorrect. Ribbed kuntudams are found in the Amritaghatesvara temple at Melakkadambur of the period of Kiilottunga I (see my Four Chola Temples) and, in. fact, even earlier, as in the Takkolam temple (9th century a.d.) and the temple at Tondaimanad (10th century a.d.).

This temple is unique in that the shrines for the Devi and for Sarabhamurti, a newly-evolved icon of the late Chola period, are contemporaneous with the central shrine.

Devi shrine

The Devi shrine stands on a highly ornamented The garbhagrika is rectangular. The and the sikhara are circular. It has an ardhamandapa and a mahamandapa in front. The mukhamandapa is a later structure.

The adhishthana is common to these main structures. It consist^ of the following mouldings—upanam, and tri-patta-kumudam with padma idal on either side.

The three devakoshtas contain the icons of Ichchha Sakti, Jnana Sakti and Kriya Sakti.

Sarabha shrine

The Sarabha image, unlike its counterpart at Darasuram which is in a niche on the main wall of the temple, is housed in a separate independent shrine north-east of the central shrine. The Sarabha cult was a new one evolved in the latter half of the Later Chola period. It is said that Narasimha, an avatara of Vishnu, continued his rampage even after achieving the immediate purpose of the avatara, namely, the destruction of the demon-king, Hiranyakasipu. Devas and men suffered, and the devotees of Siva prayed to their Lord for protection. Hence Siva assumed the form of Sarabhamurti, and relieved peoples’ distress by destroying the fierce Narasimha and sending back Vishnu to Vaikuntha.

The Kamikagama describes Sarabhamurti as follows:

“The body of Sarabha is that of a bird of golden hue; it should have two wings which should be uplifted. Sarabha has two red eyes, four legs, resembling those of the lion, resting upon the ground and four others with sharp claws kept lifted upwards, and an animal tail—the body above the loins should be that of a human being, but having the face of a lion, which should have upon its head a kirita-makuta. There should also be side-tusks and on the whole a terrifying appearance. Sarabha is to be shown as carrying Narasimha with two of his legs. The figure of Nara-simha should be the ordinary form of a human being with the hands held in anjali pose.”

The bronze image of Sarabha found in the temple is represented as an icon with three legs, the body and face of a lion, a tail and four human arms; in the right upper hand is the parasu (axe), in the lower right one, the pasa; in the upper left one, the mriga and in the lower left one, agni. With the front leg, Sarabha-murti has pinioned Narasimha who is struggling against his adversary with eight arms.

Such was perhaps the way the Saivites wanted to establish the supremacy of Siva over Vishnu among the Hindu Trinity (See Elements of Hindu Iconography, T.A. Gopinatha Rao, Vol. II, Part I, pp. 172-174).

The Sanskrit inscription engraved in this temple mentions that the consecration ceremony of Siva and Parvati was performed by Kulottunga Ill’s, Somesvara alias Isvara Siva who was well-versed in the Saiva Darsana and the eighteen vidyas and had expounded the greatness of Saiva thoughts in the Upanishads, He is said to be the son of Srikantha Sambhu.

As in other periods of history, there were close and intimate cultural and artistic contacts and free exchanges of philosophical thought between the north and the south and there is evidence also of intimate contacts among the various systems of religious and philosophic thought among important centres of Saivism during the period of the Later Cholas, especially during the reign of Kulottunga III.

It has been suggested that the Philosophy of Somesvara bears close similarity to the Siva-Visishtadvaita system of Sri Kantha, the author of Brahmasutra-bhashyam. He equates Prajapati with Pasupati and identifies the golden person within the Sun with Siva, Who is higher than Narayana. Sri Kantha’s Visishtadvaita philosophy had perhaps exercised great influence on the life and thought of Kulottunga III, especially because of his close connection with Chidambaram, a great centre of Saivism in all ages, Kulottunga III is described in the inscriptions as an (unrivaUed devotee) of Lord Nataraja.

The Kampaharesvara temple is the last of the four great (cathedral) temples built by the Cholas. It constitutes a landmark in the history of South Indian temples. (Pls. 320-39).

Note: This temple has undergone two renovations, in 1937 and 1963. The outer appearance of the temple has been spoiled by the recent tigural paintings lacking aesthetic taste, recalling to mind a Dasara exhibition—such a licence with tradition ill-becomes venerable institutionslike temples,

H. Sarkar has published an excellent and authoritative guide-book on this temple under the auspices of the Department of Archaeology, Government of Tamil Nadu (See p. 12).

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: