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 Tiruvenkadu

Tiruvenkadu lies midway between Sirkali, the taluk headquarters (12 km. from it) and the famous Sangam period seaport of Kavirippumpattinam in the Tanjavur district. It was the birth place of the saint Pattinattar, who came to be called Tiruvenkadar after his native place. The wife of the Tamil Saint Siruttondar also hailed from this place and hence bore the name of Tiruvenkattu Nangai. Appar, Sam bandar and Sundarar have sung the praise of the Lord of Tiruvenkadu. In ancient days, Tiruvenkadu was., part of the larger complex known as Nangur, which name is applied today to a small village about 5 km from Tiruvenkadu. So in the inscriptions of the Chola period, Tiruvenkadu is referred to as Nangur and the deity of the temple here is referred to as Tiruvenkattu Udaiyar. According to local legends, the Asura Maruttuvan performed severe penance and the Lord pleased with his devotion gave him his sula as a boon, which the asura used for the destruction of the devas and the mortals; and Siva to destroy this evil doer took the form of Aghora-murti and killed the asura. A majestic representation of this deity is housed in a south-facing shrine in the northwest comer of the first prakam.

Svetaranyesvara temple

The oldest inscriptions of this temple are found not on the walls of the central shrine or its mandapas but on the eastern and western gopurams and on pillars which are now found round the mulasthana. The earliest of these inscriptions is engraved on a pillar forming part of the mulasthana wall on the north side. It relates to the second year of a Rajakesari who on the basis of the biruda of Perunarkkilli Solar mentioned in the inscription should be none other than Aditya I (A.D. 870 to 907). Thus this temple existed in some form even in the days of Aditya I. Among the other Early Chola period epigraphs may be mentioned three, all relating to gifts to the temple—one by Sadirayan Uttamasiliyar, wife of Vannadudaiyar, another by a queen of Uttama Chola and a third by a lady called Aruran Ambalattadigal (ARE 482 to 486 of 1918). On the west inner gopuram there is a record of the fourth year of the Parakesarivarman ‘who took the head of the Pandya’ (ARE 497 of 1918).

The earliest inscription found on the wall of the central shrine belongs to the'second year of Rajaraja I referring to a gift of gold by a merchant of Adirayamangalyapuram in Merka nadu and mention is made of an organization called the ‘Parthiva sekhara terinda kaikolar'. A sixth year inscription of Rajaraja I’s time lists out the gifts to this temple made by the members of the royal family including Sembiyan Mahadevi, though no chronological pattern is followed in the enumeration. The gifts include the copper vessels presented by this royal lady in the fourth regnal year of her son, Uttama Chola, gold ornaments studded with precious stones gifted in the sixth year of the same ruler, a gold image of Chandrasekhara devar, gold and silver ornaments studded with precious stones and a gold pot, all gifted in the sixth year of a Rajakesarivarman and finally gifts made in the tenth and the 11th regnal years of Uttama Chola by his queen and his mother Sembiyan Mahadevi.

(a) In the 26th year of Rajaraja I, one Kolakkavan set up the image of Vrishabhavahanadevar in the temple and made a gift of money for offerings and jewels for the image (ARE 456 of 1918).

(b) In his 27th year, certain persons of the Jananatha terinjapanvarattar joindy set up a copper image of the Consort of Rishabhavahanadevar (ARE 457 of 1918).

This is a very important temple of the Middle Chola period, attributable to the reign of Rajendra I (a.d. 1012-1044). It is one of a very few temples of this period having a unique group of devakoshta figures, of which mention will be made later. In this respect, it resembles the temple of Panchavan Madevisvaram (now known as Ramanathan-koyil) in Kil-Palaiyaru built by Rajendra I in memory (and perhaps over the mortal remains) of Panchavan Mahadevi, his step-mother and one of the more famous queens of Rajaraja I.[1]

As many as nine interesting and informative inscriptions have been recorded from this temple (ARE 90 to 98 of 1931-32). The earliest among them (ARE 98 of 1931-32), found on the south wall of the garbhagriha, relates to the fourth regnal year of Parakesari Rajendra I. It refers to a grant of land free of taxes by the rattar of Ilaichchikkudi alias Viranarayanapuram for raising a flower-garden, named after the king, for the use of the temple. On the south wall of the garbhagriha is an inscription (ARE 97 of 1931-32) of the fifth year of a Parakesarivarman beginning with the introduction tiru manni valara (so it refers to Rajendra I) which records an agreement made by the Sivabrahmanas of the temple of Sri Kailasam Udaiyar (in Ilaichchikkudi alias Viranarayanapuram in Milalai nadu of Rajendrasimha valanadu) to burn three perpetual lamps in return for the money received by them from one Marai Kodan Patanjali Bhatara of Nangur who was the Devaranayakam of Rajendra Chola deva. There is a fragmentary inscription (on the north wall of the central shrine: ARE 92 of 1931—32) which, from the introduction ‘tiru manni valara’, is to be attributed to Rajendra I.

On the same wall, there is another inscription-(ARE 90 of 1931-32), dated in the 18th year of Rajakesari Kulottunga I and beginning with the introduction pu madu vilanga. It refers to a grant of land in Naganpadi as kuttattuk-kani by the Nagar attar and the temple authorities to Vikramadittan Tirumudukunran alias Virudarajabhayankara Acharyan for enacting the Tamilakkuttu on five occasions during the Chittirai festival in the temple of Kailasam Udaiya Mahadevar at Viranarayanapuram in Milalai nadu. There is again an inscription (ARE 96 of 1931-32), dated in the 23rd year of Rajakesarivarman Kulottunga I (beginning with the introduction pugal sulnda punari), that records an agreement given by the Sivabrahmanas of Kailasam Udaiyar temple to feed the Apuroi-mahesvaras (pilgrims) in the temple, with the interest on the paddy received by them from a merchant of Gangai-kondasolapuram. There is a 38th year inscription (ARE 91 of 1931-32) of‘Rajakesarivarman Chakravartin Kulottunga Chola deva’ beginning with the introduction virame tunaiyaga. This is found on the north wall of the srivimana and deals with a gift of some land by the Nagarattar of Viranarayanapuram for the expenses of tiru-vidi festival of the God in the month of Chittirai. There is another inscription (ARE 93 of 1931-32) of the same year (38th year) of the same ruler beginning with the introduction pugal sulnda punari recording a gift of land after purchase, making it tax-free by payment of a consolidated amount to the Assembly of Viranarayanapuram in Milalai nadu, by a merchant of the village for offerings etc. during the seven days of the Chittirai festival. This record is found engraved on the north and west walls of the central shrine.

Another inscription (ARE 94 of 1931-32) found on the west wall of the srivimana mentions a ‘Parakesari’ (which is a mistake for Rajakesari) Kulottunga, beginning with the introduction pugal maiiu vilanga, and deals with an agreement entered into by the Sivabrahmanas and the sthanattar of the temple to measure out 111 kalams of paddy annually as interest on 444 kalams owned by the merchant mentioned in the earlier record (ARE 93 of 1931-32) in addition to the gift of the same land for the festival. From the same record we learn that provision was also made for the performance of a kuttu (dance recital) and for feeding the devotees in the Bhaktargal-bhakta matham. Finally there is an inscription (ARE 95 of 1931-32) on the south and west walls of the srivimana dated in the 36th year of a king (whose name or details do not find mention in the record) which registers the order (sam-madaniyoga) issued by the Nagarattar of Viranarayanapuram to the devakartmis and mahesvaras of the temple of Srikailasam Udaiyar permitting the latter to supply daily 2000 lilies from the tank called ‘Nambi-Nangai’ during the seven days of the Chittirai festival. In this record there is the mention of one Mahesvara Mara Nambi Pichchar.

In one of these records, as we have seen, there is mention of a gift of land in the village called Naganpadi,, which was perhaps a part of the village of Viranarayanapuram. It is likely that the present-day village of Manambadi derives its name from the ancient name of Naganpadi—corrupted in course of time.

The temple which is entirely of stone is surrounded on all four sides by a thick brick wall of later origin measuring 36 metres by 20 metres. It consists of a garbhagriha and an ardhamandapa separated by a narrow recess. The entire structure measures 11.45 metres in length and 5.35 metres in breadth. The garbhagriha is a square of 5.35 metres side, each of the three free walls being divided into three bays of 1.30, 2.25 and 1.30 metres width. The ardhamandapa projects eastwards from the garbhagriha by 5.60 metres, its side walls being divided into three bays of 1.80, 2.00 and 1.80 metres. On the south wall of the ardhamandapa there are three niches, one in each bay, which contain three fine stone sculptures exhibiting features of the period. They are: Bhikshatanar, Nataraja and standing (dancing) Ganapati (from east to west). Similarly on the northern wall (outer face) there are three niches, housing Gangajathadharar, Durga and Ardhanari (from east to west). On the faces of the central bays of the three free walls of the garbhagriha there are the images of Dakshinamurti in the south, Lingodbhavar[2] in the west and Brahma in the north. On the flanks of the three devakoshtas of the, there jure decorative

koshta-pancharas. In the recesses between the ardhamandapa devakoshtas, there are similar koshta-pancharas; and again in the demarcating recess between the garbhagriha and the ardhamandapa, there are similar koshta-pancharas. Each of these nine devakoshtas is crowned by an ornamental makara-torana, in the centre of which is a low relief sculpture of unusual beauty and clarity. The sri-virnana is ekatala and the griva and sikkara are both circular. The adhishthanam contains kumudam, jagati and padmam mouldings, and all the inscriptions found in the temple are engraved on it.

There is an Amman shrine facing south, located immediately to the north-east of the ardhmmdapa.

There are some fine stray sculptures located at odd places in the campus of the temple. An image of Chandesar is found in a brick-shrine at its appropriate place. An image of Surya is kept inside the ardhamandapa; four of the seven matrikas are housed in provisional niches on the inner face of the northern compound wall. The others are not readily traceable. An image of Bhairavar (very fine but broken below the thigh) has been loosely positioned on the eastern face of the ardhamandapa, south of the entrance to that chamber. The temple had evidently the full complement of the ashta parivara devatas.

On epigraphical grounds as well as on sculptural features and distribution, this temple must be attributed to the period of Rajendra I.

Continuing the architectural tradition and style of Sembiyan Mahadevi temples like the ones found at Olagapuram (the Siva temple: see my Middle Chola Temple, pp. 137-141) and bearing, as mentioned earlier, a near-identical relationship to the Pancha-van Madevi-Isvaram temple built at Kilpalaiyaru at almost the same time (see ibid., pp. 269-272), the Naganathasvamin temple at Manambadi set the pattern for temple-design and disposition of icons that we find in the Later Chola temples of Kulottunga I’s period, as exemplified for instance by the Bhairavar (Siva) temple at Soiapuram (close to Manambadi) and the Kulottunga-solisvaram at Chintamani Agaram near Villupuram (see secs. 27 and 47 of Chapter 2).

Footnotes and references:


For further details of this temple see my Middle Chola Temples (Sec. 62, Gh, 4, pp. 269-72).


An interesting feature of this image is that apart from Brahma and Vishnu shown on the linga itself searching for Siva, they are also shown as standing figures in the Banks in a posture of worshipping lingodbhavar.

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