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....

Tiruvalanjuli, on the southern bank of the Arisil, is on the Tanjavur-Kumbakonam main road, 6.5 kms (4 miles) to the west of Kumbakonam in the Tanjavur district.

Kapardisvara Temple

The central shrine of Kapardisvara would appear to be an old temple dating back to the days of the Early Cholas, as we find in an inscription of Rajaraja I, dated in his seventeenth year, mention of a grant made to the temple in the thirty-eighth year of Madiraikonda Parakesarivarman (ARE 620 of 1902). There is again another inscription of the same king (Rajaraja I) found on the south wall of the mandapa in front of the central shrine dated in the twenty-first year of the ruler, which confirms a grant of land made in the twelfth year of Parakesarivarman. The mandapa itself would seem to be a contribution of Rajaraja I.

The Amman who is called in the inscription Vanduvalkulali Nachchiyar also has a shrine which should have come into existence before the eleventh year of Rajaraja III.

Bhairavar (Kshetrapalar) Shrine

In the outermost prakara of this temple, in the south-eastern corner, there is a shrine dedicated to Kshetrapala devar. This shrine of Bhairavar (Kshetrapala devar) was built of stone by Loga Mahadevi (nam edippitta ka).

An inscription of the twenty-fifth regnal year of Rajaraja I, engraved on the north wall of this shrine, mentions the gift of gold and costly jewels presented to this deity, both by Kunda-vai Nangaiyar, the youngest daughter of Rajaraja I and the queen (Mahadeviyar) of Vimaladitta Devar, and by Nangaiyar Madevadigal, the middle daughter (naduvil penpillai), out of the gold presented by her father at the time of his abhishekamdevarkku adi arula prasadam perra pori” (ARE 633 of 1902; SII, VIII, 234). From another inscription recorded on the south wall of the mandapa in front of the central shrine, we learn that a gift of land, made tax-free (iraiyili-nikki), as devadanam, was made by a royal order on the 258th day in the twenty-fourth regnal year of Rajaraja I, for various services to the two deities of Kshe-trapalar and Ganapatiyar set up in the temple of Tiruvalanjuli Alvar by Danti Sakti Vitanki alias Loga Mahadeviyar.

On the north wall of this shrine is an inscription of the third year (221 st day) of Rajendra Chola I, which states that he ceremonially passed through a hillock (mound) of gingily seeds (tila parvatam pukkaruli) and on that auspicious occasion, gifted twelve gold flowers to be placed at the feet of the Lord (sri-pada-pushpam); another gift of a gold flower is made to this Lord by his queen Valavan Madeviyar (ARE 633 -B of 1902; SII, VIII, 236).

Similarly, we learn from another inscription on the same (north) wall of the Bhairavar shrine, of the third year of Rajendra Chola I (ARE 633 -C of 1902; SII, VIII, 237), of a gift of two gold flowers to the Lord Kshetrapalar by Danti Sakti Vitanki out of the gold used by her for the Hiranyagarbha ceremony performed by her while her husband performed the Tulabhara ceremony at Tiruvisalur in the twenty-ninth regnal year of Rajaraja I (PI 186).

The shrine faces west and, unlike the usual run of shrines for Bhairavar, which are generally located in the north-east corner of the prakara, the Kshetrapalar shrine occupies the south-eastern portion of the third prakara space. The shrine is now cordoned off from the main prakara by a brick wall; but we may presume that, as it originally stood, it had no wall of enclosure of its own. The garbhagriha, the ardhamandapa and the mukhamandapa constitute the shrine. The near-square garbhagriha measures 4.64 ms across the axis and 4.44 ms along it, while the cella inside measures 2.60 ms, by 2.56 ms also almost a square. The finely-chiselled image of Kshetrapalar, measuring 1.65 ms. in height and.85 m across the chest stands on a pitham. It is carved out of fine-grained light blue schist and, in spite of the dilapidated structure enshrining it, the icon itself is in a fine state of preservation.

The srivimana is eka-tala. In the outer wall surface of the adi bhumi, there are three devakoshtas, divided into a central bhadra and two flanking karna elements. The niches in the east and north are empty while the southern niche has the original, beautiful Ganapati. In the griva niches, we have Vishnu in the west and Bhairavar in the east, and the other two niches are empty. There are two loose sculptures of Bhairavar in the vicinity and they perhaps belong to the griva koshtas (Pis 37 and 38). The griva and the sikhara are in brick and mortar and circular in shape. The ardhamandapa projects 4.25 ms forward, with the same width as the garbhagriha. The north wall which alone remains of this hall has two shallow decorative niches on its outer face without any icons. There was a bigger mukhamandapa ahead of the ardhamandapa; but of it, only the plinth remains, measuring a rectangle of 6.95 ms across and 6.85 ms along the axis, being almost a square again. This seems to be an independent Bhairavar temple.

Of the other loose sculptures in the vicinity is one of Jyeshtha devi, which is noteworthy.

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