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....

Tirunedungalam[1] is now a village 3¼ kms west of the Sola-gampatti railway station, 11.3 kms east of the railway station of Tiruverumbur, a few kilometres off the industrial establishment of Bharat Heavy Electricals, close to the village of Tuvak-kudi from which there runs a branch road in the north-east direction to connect it to the temple.

Nityasundaresvara-svamin (Tiru-nedungalanathasvamin) Temple

This temple, of great antiquity, is included in the Venba of the Tamil Saint, the Pallava Ayyadigal Kadavarkon, who should be ascribed to the days before Appar and Sambandar. This temple was visited by Sambandar, who has a hymn of eleven stanzas on the Lord of Nedungalam. He sings of the Lord as the one who destroyed Yama to save his devotee, who held Himavan’s daughter on his left and exhibited himself as Ardha-narisvara, who destroyed the Tripura Asuras, who humbled Ravana, who stood as a pillar of fire to establish his supremacy over Vishnu and Brahma and who worked for the overthrow of the heretical Buddhists and Jains. In his days, this temple should have been built of brick.

There is evidence of the existence of this temple during the Early Chola period, in fact even during the period of Vijaya-laya, the founder of the Chola dynasty of Tanjavur. There is however no Chola inscription on the walls of this temple. But a later stone inscription—an unspecified king with the title of Tribhuvanachakravartin Konerinmaikondan (thirteenth century a.d.?)-—on the south wall of the mandapa in front of the central shrine records a gift of land to this temple, in accordance with “an earlier charter of Parakesarivarman Vijayalaya” (ARE 675 of 1909). This clearly establishes the existence of this temple during the period of Vijayalaya and the grant of land for services to this Lord. Neither the original grant nor its full particulars are now forthcoming. If available, this would have been the earliest of Chola charters, earlier than the Anbil Plates of Sundara Chola.

The temple faces east and consists of a central shrine, an antarala with dvarapalas at its entrance. Further up, there is the snapana-mandapa; it has a window in the south and is adorned at its entrance with another set of dvarapalas. The bronzes belonging to this temple are on a platform in the north side of this mandapa.

In this mandapa, near the snapana-pitha, there are two Mandis, one of stone and another of brass. Further up, there is the mandapa on whose southern side there is the Somaskanda shrine guarded by Ganapati and Subrahmanyar serving as dvarapalas.

The central shrine has a covered verandah running all round its three sides (tiru-nadai-maligai). On the walls of the central shrine, there are three Vijayanagara inscriptions—one of Immadi Tammayadeva Maharaja, dated Saka 1422 (a.d. 1500) and the others of Viruppanna Udaiyar and Mallikaraya. All these Vijayanagara inscriptions (ARE 664, 665 and 666 of 1909) must have been engraved after the rebuilding of the central shrine of the Early Chola temple, sometime in the 15th century A.D. It may be added that on the south wall of the in front of the central shrine, there is an inscription of one Vijaya Naravana Udaivar, son ofBhupati Udaiyar (son of Bukka II?) which records that in Saka 1334 (A.D. 1412) a gift of land, a house, and the permanent right of repairing the temple premises was made to an architect-cum-engineer who repaired the temple at his own expense (serving in an honorary capacity). Perhaps it was he and his associates who renovated the Early Chola temple in the fifteenth century (ARE 676 of 1909).

In this connection, reference may be made to a fragmentary inscription, on slabs of stone built into the wall of the mandapa in front of the main shrine, of a certain Rajakesarivarman (Chola king) in association with his Pandya contemporary Varaguna (acc. a.d. 862). This Rajakesarivarman should be identified with Aditya I. Another fragment contains the name of Madurai-konda Parakesari (Parantaka I). This fragment should have belonged to the old temple of the Early Chola period. Moreover, there are no devakoshtas on the walls of the renovated temple. The devakoshta sculpture of Dakshinamurti of the earlier temple is now placed in a newly built shrine in front of the original position for this deity on the southern side, and the icon of Ardha-narisvara of the original shrine (of Aditya I’s age) is placed on the western side on the floor of the tiru-nadai-maligai. There is a sculpture of Durga on the northern outer wall of the mandapa, close to a Navagraha panel housed in a mandapa supported by lion pillars.

Thus there is the likelihood of the old brick temple having been rebuilt of stone in the days of Aditya I. This again was radically altered and rebuilt in the fifteenth century a.d.

There are two inscriptions on the walls of the Somaskanda shrine. The one of the south wall (ARE 692 of 1909) dated Saka 1386 (a.d. 1464) mentions that one Arasan Vallala Devan of Mulukkudi built the ranga mandapa (in which the Somaskanda icon was housed) and made a gift of lands and a house for offerings to the shrine of Kulandai Nayakar (Somaskanda?).

The other on the west wall dated Saka 1425 (a.d. 1503) refers to a gift of land by a samanta for repairs, offerings and festivals to the temple of Tirunedumangalam-udaiya Tambiran (also called Nilasolaivanam-udaiya Nayanar). The central shrine might have been renovated about this time.

There are a number of Chola and Pandya inscriptions on the south wall of the mandapa in front of the central shrine. One of them is a damaged inscription of the sixth regnal year of Karikala Chola (ARE 672 of 1909). It records a gift of land to the temple of Nedimgalattur Mahadevar by a native of Kalli-kudi (near Golden Rock, Tiruchy). This mandapa seems to be original, unlike the central shrine.

There are two old shrines of the ashta-parivara-alayam, those of Ganesa and Chandesvara.

Ganesa shrine

There are three inscriptions of a certain Parakesarivarman, on the walls of the Ganesa shrine housing a Valampuri Ganesa sculpture, which may be assigned to the period of Madhurantaka Uttama Chola. One, of his thirteenth year (ARE 690 of 1909) records a gift of land by a private individual for the supply of paddy for offerings to the temple of Kayilayattu Mahadevar (the deity of the central shrine?). Another record of the for-teenth year (south wall, ARE 684 of 1909) mentions the gift of ghee for the purification ceremony (Agnikaryam) in the temple for the merit of Sembiyan Muvendavelan of Vada-Puraiyur nadu who had the title of Uttama Sola-Brahmadhirajakanmi.

On the walls of this shrine, there are eight inscriptions of a Rajakesarivarman, which have to be assigned to Rajaraja I.

On the south wall of the shrine, there is an inscription whose date is expressed as “three in figures and six in words” (ARE 682 of 1909). We are not sure about its exact date. It records that an image called Lokasundarar was set up in the temple of Tirunedungalattu-alvar in Kavira nadu by a native of Orriyur. It mentions also a gift of land for offerings. This deity may be either Chandrasekharar or Tripurantakar. There is an inscription of the eighth year of a Rajakesarivarman on the south wall (ARE 683 of 1909) which relates to a gift of land to a native of Suralur by the mahesvaras, the temple servants and the residents of Tirunedungalam. The object of the grant is not clear. Another record of the same year on the west wall (ARE 688 of 1909) refers to a gift of land by the assembly of Tirunedungalam to a person who agreed to provide 220 kalams of paddy to the temple for offerings from the tenth year (described as the year, opposite to the year, opposite to the eighth year, 8+ 1 -f 1 = 1 o) onwards. An inscription of the ninth regnal year found on the east wall (ARE 681 of 1909) mentions a gift of 61 cows for the supply of panchagavyam (five products of the cow used for religious ceremonies) and for burning lamps and incense before the Mahadevar of Tirunedungalam, a devadana in Kavira nadu. In the same year, there is an inscription (ARE 687 of 1909) which records a gift of land made by a native of Orriyur for feeding 550 Sivayogins during the festival of seven days in Masi and Chittirai (by supplying 30 kalams of paddy by the local standard measure). A tenth year inscription found on the south wall (ARE 685 of 1909) records a gift of gold for a lamp to the Pillaiyar-Ganapati installed in this shrine, by a certain Kolam-banachchan of Idaikkudi. Another inscription of the same year (ARE 686 of 1909) records a gift of 20 kalams of paddy for offerings. One Kamban Maniyan alias Vikramasinga Muven-davelan made, in the fourteenth regnal year, a gift of a gold ornament and a copper-tipped mattali (drum) for the sribali service in the temple (ARE 691 of 1909). Incidentally, it may be mentioned that the same Chief got an emerald image (kata devar) from the king Rajaraja I out of the booty taken in the Malai Nadu campaign and consecrated it in the Apat-sahayesvara temple at Tiruppalanam in Tanjavur district (ARE 135 of 1927 - 28). Evidently he was an important local Chief and possibly assisted Rajaraja I in the campaign in Malai Nadu (Kerala region). After an interval of nearly two centuries (some inscriptions of this intervening period might have suffered destruction at the time of the reconstruction of this temple in the fifteenth century a.d.), there are two inscriptions of the thirty-second regnal year of Tribhuvana-Chakravartin Tribhuvana Vira Deva (i.e., Kulottunga III). One records a gift of land (ARE 674 of 1909) and the other (ARE 670 of 1909) records also a gift of land to this temple by one Tillai-Tiru-Nattap-peru-mal alias Vijayalaya Muttaraiyan of Valambakkudi - note the persistent association of the name of Vijayalaya with this place and temple.

Chandesvara shrine

The same donor figures also in an inscription of the fourth regnal year of Rajaraja III (Chandesvara shrine; ARE 679 of 1909). It records that a Linga was set up in the first of the temple of Tirunedungalam Udaiyar in the name of Ulaga-nadisvaram Udaiyar for the merit of Tillai-Tiru-Nattap-perumal alias Vijayalaya Muttaraiyan of Valambakkudi by one of his sons, Anapaya Muttaraiyan. West of the temple well and the Chandesvara shrine in the first prakara of this temple, there is a later Linga shrine now called the Agastyesvaram. It seems very probable that the Ulaganadisvaram shrine might have been named Agastyesvaram in recent times. This surmise seems to get support from the fact that the Agastyesvaram shrine is close to the Chandesvara shrine on whose wall is found the inscription of the days of Rajaraja III, which mentions the consecration of the new Linga shrine (ARE 679 of 1909).

On the east wall of the Chandesvara shrine, there is another inscription of the fourth year of Rajaraja III (ARE 678 of 1909). It records the sale of land by some members of the assembly of Tirunedungalam which got the alternate name of Thyagavalli-chaturvedimangalam, a brahmadeya in Vada Kavira nadu, a subdivision of Pandyakulasani valanadu, evidently for some service to the local deity. This is the last Chola inscription in this temple.

The interior of the garbhagriha is octagonal. The temple is eka-tala; its sikhara too is octagonal.

Sculptures of Jyeshtha devi and two sets of Saptamatrikas are placed in the south-west portion of the Stone images of Kshetrapalar and Surya are found in the eastern verandah of the first prakara. A Bhairavar shrine is located close to the main entrance to the first prakara. The temple has a stone mortar and there is also a brass horse. The gateway of the first prakara has a three-storeyed gopuram.

The bronzes housed in the temple are of Ganesa, big and small, Subrahmanyar and His Consorts, Chandesvara, Pradosha-murti, Manikkavasagar, Nataraja and Sivakami, two sets of Pidari, Chandrasekharar, Tani-Amman and Somaskanda, which was perhaps housed in the Somaskanda shrine.

The later Amman shrine of Mangalambika (or Oppilla Nayaki) is on the north side of the second prakara. It faces south. The second prakara is entered by a gateway which has no superstructure.

Further east is the sacred tank of the temple. This is a very ancient and celebrated temple sung by Ayyadigal Kadavarkon and Sambandar. The temple should have been a brick structure in the Early Chola age. Vijayalaya had made a grant of land to the deity. In the days of Aditya I, it should have been rebuilt of stone. The western devakoshta sculpture of Ardhanarisvara reinforces this supposition as to its age. The central shrine was rebuilt in the fifteenth century a.d. A lot of Chola inscriptions must have been destroyed during this renovation (Pls 81-90).

The temple has enjoyed the homage of the devotees from the latter half of the sixth century down to the eighteenth century a.d., as evidenced by its lithic records covering Chola, Hoysala, Pandya, Vijayanagara and Madurai Nayaka periods. It is still in active worship.

Footnotes and references:


Tirunedungalam is wrongly described as below in the List (Index) of inscriptions copied up to 31.3.1938 and published by the Government Epigraphist for India in 1941, p.90:

Trichinopoly district,
Lalgudy taluk;
Tirunedungulam—hamlet of Mannachchanallur, Nos.664-697 of 1909.
Tirunedungalam (sometimes called Tirunedungulam) is in Tiruchy taluk and not in Lalgudy taluk.

Mannachchanallur is west of Tiruchy town while Tirunedungalam lies east of Tiruchy and so it cannot be a hamlet of Mannachchanallur. After a long search and fruitless enquiry, I found the information incorrect. Then I got the facts confirmed by the Office of the Government Epigraphist, Mysore.

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