Middle Chola Temples

by S. R. Balasubrahmanyam | 1975 | 141,178 words

This volume of Chola Temples covers Rajaraja I to Kulottunga I in the timeframe A.D. 985-1070. 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....

Groups or bodies who made donations are:

Udaiyar Sri Rajarajadevar Mummadi-sola-terinda-parivarat-tar, Jananatha-terinda-parivarattar and Palavagai-palampadai-galilar.

There were, in addition, a number of individual perundanams and merchants who made donations, • a vyaparin (merchant) Achchan Konurkkadan alias Rajavidyadhara Mayilatti, the Perundanam Rajaraja Vanakovaraiyan; Savur Paranjodi (a So-nakan, i.e., a Tonaka or Tavanaka, one of Greek, Roman or Arab origin—see SII, II, p. 460), Pudi Sattan, the headman of Nidur, the Perundanam Namban Kuttadi alias Jayangonda-sola-Brahma-maharajan, the Perundanam Tirumalai Vengadan, the headman of Vayalur, the Perundanam Kon Surri alias Arumoli Pallavaraiyan and the Perundanam Nittavinoda Maharajan.

From the second group of records (i.e. nos. 64 and 95), we get a total of 1,296 cows and 5,280 ewes, donated for maintenance of lamps in the temple. According to these two groups of grants for supply of ghee, a total of 4,124 cows, 6,924 ewes and 30 she-buffaloes were made over to a host of shepherds for supply of one ulakku of ghee daily per lamp.

A calculation made of the lamps thus burnt daily brings the number to 158. The temple should have presented a fascinating sight with this huge array of lamps.

“The enormous endowments in lands and gold made to the temple show that the king had one sole object in his life, viz., to leave no want of the temple unsupplied. Almost all the booty he acquired in wars he gave away to the temple. Utensils required for temple services; ornaments for the various images set up in the temple; villages for supplying the temple with the requisite amount of paddy; money for purchasing the various articles for temple use not omitting even camphor, cardamom seeds, champaka buds and khas roots required for scenting the bathing water of the gods; sheep, cows and buffaloes for supplying the ghee required for lamps; skilled musicians for singing the Devaram hymns; women for singing, dancing and decorating the temple; brahmana servants for doing the menial work in the temple; accountants for writing the temple accounts, and temple treasurers, goldsmiths, carpenters, washermen, barbers, astrologers and watchmen were provided on a most liberal scale. The systematic way in which the various endowments to the temple were made and the principles laid down for their proper administration bespeak a genius for organization which could not have been quite a characteristic feature of kings in general at the time” (SII, II, V, Preface pp. 11 - 12).

The long list of beneficiaries of the gifts made to the temple, “a solid fabric of human greatness”, will dispel the erroneous belief that the temple benefited any one class or community. There was a sense of involvement of all members of society in the affairs of the temple. It was a co-operative effort of all, for the good of all, who believed in the temple as an institution for the promotion of the material, moral and spiritual welfare of the people.

The Rajarajesvaram is a veritable art gallery rich in Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Natyam and other allied fine arts. It is further auto-biographical in character. We can reconstruct the history of this temple and the momentous events in the varying fortunes of its life from inscriptions engraved on its walls.

The temple has another important feature of having four doorways leading to the sanctum; the main gateway is in the east, the other three on the three other cardinal points which were closed by the Nayak rulers in the seventeenth century. Such a temple is classified as the Sarvatobhadra type of temple. It is not correct to classify it as a madakkoyil as some scholars hold (See my Early Chola Art I, p. 22).

According to Vastu Sastras, vimanas with five or more talas are termed as Mukhya vimana and the Rajarajesvaram belongs to this superior class and this structural temple entirely built of stone marks the highest achievement of the Indian genius in the field of Architecture; Just like the Kailasa temple at Ellora (originally named Krishnesvaram) sxcavated by the Rashtrakuta King Rrishna I (a.d. 756 - 772) stands unrivalled among the monolithic temples of India.

In many ways, it is a grand and unique monument of an illustrious dynasty and is still a living institution.

A rapid survey of the later history of the temple is given in the Appendix.

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