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....

The area formed by the triangle joining Villupuram, Tin-divanam and Ginjee would appear to have constituted roughly the taniyur of Rajaraja-chaturvedimangalam with a large number of hamlets known as ‘pidagais’. This taniyur has played a very important part in the days of the Middle Cholas, for we find a concentration of some of the finest temples of this period in this region. Such for example are Brahmadesam, Esalam, Enna-yiram and Dadapuram among others. All these centres are close together; in fact, the first three centres mentioned are within a distance of three kms from one another and the last mentioned is about 15 kms from this group of villages.

Ennayiram is about five kms from Nemur, a village at the nineteenth km stone from Villupuram on the Villupuram-Ginjee road. Brahmadesam and Esalam are within three kilometres of Ennayiram. The famous Pallava cave temple at Mandagappattu is also not far from here, being on the main Villupuram-Ginjee road at the twentieth km stone, set in picturesque surroundings.

An insignificant village today, Ennayiram was the hub of considerable activity during the Middle Chola period and received the royal attention of Rajaraja I, his son and grandsons.

Alagiya Narasimha Perumal (Rajaraja Vinnagar) temple

The temple at Ennayiram known as Alagiya Narasimha Perumal temple has some valuable inscriptions that throw light on the administrative arrangements that existed then; and there is one record in particular that gives us valuable details about a Vedic College and a hostel run in the campus of the temple.

Ennayiram was a taniyur as well as a and was perhaps the focal point of the area. An inscription dated in the twenty-fifth year, 112th day of Rajendra I (a.d. 1036), found on the west and south walls of the central shrine of Alagiya Narasimha Perumal temple (ARE 335 of 1917), mentions that on the order of the king Rajendra I, the assembly of Rajaraja-chaturvedimangalam in Rajaraja valanadu, met in the hall called Mummudi-sola mandapam under the chairmanship of Nambi-udattur Udaiyar, who administered the village, and made arrangements (vyavastha) regarding the allocation of the income derived from lands belonging to a number of temples, and set apart the quantities for various services in these temples.

Among the temples mentioned in this record are those of

  1. Sri Mulasthanam Udaiyar,
  2. Rajaraja vinnagar alvar,
  3. Kundavai vinnagar alvar
  4. and Sundara Chola vinnagar alvar.

Among the deities mentioned in this regard are

  1. Devendra,
  2. Sarasvati,
  3. Sri Bhattaraki,
  4. Mahamodi,
  5. Surya devar,
  6. Durga,
  7. Subrahmanyar,
  8. Jyeshtha,
  9. the Devas of the cheris (the grama-devatas), Sapamatris, Mahasasta
  10. and Singavelkunralvar.

Among the four temples mentioned, the Rajaraja vinnagar should refer to the modern Alagiya Narasimha Perumal temple at Ennayiram and the Kundavai vinnagar to the Kari Varada Perumal temple at Dadapuram; the deities mentioned are devakoshta devatas, ashta-parivara-devatas and the grama-devatas in the taniyur which included Ennayiram, Brahmadesam and Dadapuram. It has to be mentioned in this connection that a sixteenth century Vijayanagara inscription of Sadasiva Maharaja (Saka 1467 = a.d. 1545) says that this Alagiya Narasinga Perumal temple was situated in the centre of 24 sacred shrines murrain) of Ennayiram (ARE 338 of 1918).

An inscription of the thirtieth year of Rajendra I refers to a gift of land by the assembly of Rajaraja-chaturvedimangalam for the festival of Chittirai-Sadaiyam (which was the natal star of Rajaraja I), and Masi Punarpusam, for Raghava-Chakravartin (Sri Rama) in the temple of Rajaraja vinnagar alvar. The assembly is said to have met in the temple of Rajaraja-Isvaram-Udaiyar. Could this possibly refer to the Brahmapurisvara temple at Brahmadesam which was rebuilt by Kulottunga I and his successors?. If so, the temple of Mulasthanam Udaiyar referred to in the ARE 335 of 1917 in the list of temples could also refer to this temple at Brahmadesam.

A very important and interesting inscription found in the Alagiya Narasimha Perumal temple (ARE 333 of 1917), belongs to Rajendra I; the date of the inscription is unfortunately so completely effaced that it is difficult to make it out, but, based on the conquests mentioned therein, it cannot be earlier than a.d. 1023. By the king’s order, 45 velis of land in Anangur alias Rajarajanallur was given to Rajaraja Vinnagar (Alagiyasinga Perumal temple) by the mahasabha of the taniyur of Rajaraja-chaturvedimangalam (Ennayiram) for offerings, festivals, the recitation of Tiruvaymoli, the maintenance of an institution of higher learning for teaching the Vyakarana, Mimamsa and Vedanta.

On the walls of the central shrine, there is an inscription of the thirtieth year of Rajadhiraja I (ARE 330 of 1917). According to it, the Perunguri (the great assembly) of the taniyur of Rajaraja-chaturvedimangalam, a in Panaiyur nadu included in Rajendra Chola valanadu, met in the mandapa called Mummadi-solan with Alagan Virri-randan alias Mummadi-solan with Ala Nripendra-sola Muven-davelar, the governor of the region as its President, and ordered the lands of the temple of Tiruvayppadi devar to be taxed at the lowest scale (kadai-taram), as were those of Rajaraja vinnagar devar (Alagiya Narasinga Perumal temple) and, Kundavai vinnagar devar (Kari Varada Perumal temple) at Dadapuram. The order of the king is said to have been passed on to the Assembly three years later (a case of bureaucratic delay?).

The importance of the temple did not diminish even in the Later Chola period.

Though in a state of considerable disrepair, the temple stands out as a grand edifice in the sky line as one approaches this village via a tortuous country track. It faces east and consists of a garbhagriha, an antarala, an ardhamandapa, a mukhamandapa and an agramandapa. The first three elements constitute one structural unit, being the original foundation. The other mandapas are later additions. What distinguishes this temple from the others in the neighbourhood is the dignified height that is imparted to the entire structure by the three foot high platform over which the temple stands. Besides, the tiruch-churru-maligai is similarly on a platform of the same height. The platform is not a mere rectangle but has central projections into the circum-ambulatory passage on the two sides and the rear of the garbhagnha. These projections, three in number, are of the same height as the rest of the platform and function as the landing for a pair of flights of steps leading up to them from the prakara floor; to add compactness to the entire structure, these flights of steps cling to the sides of the main platform without intruding into the prakara space. In alignment with these projecting platform elements are three chambers on the three walls of the, making use of the space between the antara-bhitti and the bahya-bhitti. Unlike in the Rajarajesvaram temple at Tanjavur where this space has been utilised as a vestibule round the sanctum, here each of the three portions is sealed off from the adjoining portion, thus giving rise to separate chambers. They might have once housed three massive images akin to the devakoshta figures of a Vishnu temple, but today they are empty. The temple is of stone only upto the top of the adhishthanam which is 1.22 ms (4') in height; above it, it is all brick work.

Like the Ramasvamin temple at Seramadevi, in Tirunel-veli district, the superstructure over the mulasthana of this temple is divided into two floors, one meant to house the sitting and the other the reclining Vishnu; the chambers are, however, empty.

The mahamandapa is a vast hall supported by fifty pillars arranged in five rows of ten pillars each; and ahead of it, further east, is the agramandapa. There are a garuda mandapa, a bali-pitha and a dhvajastamblia in that order in front of the temple.

There is a very fine figure of Narasimhamurti in the mukhamandapa (north-west corner). Could it have been the main deity in the past? Today, the deity of the mulasthana is a standing figure of Narasimha.

It is sad to contemplate that this temple of such rich associations and such architectural beauty is now a dilapidated structure, almost in a state of collapse. Before it is too late, this temple requires to be taken up for preservation (Pis 119 to I20). (see Vedic College)

Later Chola period

There are seven inscriptions which are assignable to the reign of Kulottunga I (ARE 340, 344, 348, 349, 347, 350 and 351 of 1917). The first, of his seventh regnal year, mentions a gift of 10 cows for a lamp to the temple of Rajaraja Vinnagar Alvar at Rajaraja-chaturvedimangalam by Ulagalandan Tiruvarangadevan of Kulattur, evidently the officer entrusted with the work of land survey. One relating to his thirty-eighth year, fiftieth day records a settlement (vyavastha) regarding a gift of land to the temple of Sri Vaikuntattalvar at Araisur in Tirumunaippadi nadu. The assembly is said to have met in the temple of Rajaraja Vinnagar Alvar at Rajaraja-chaturvedimangalam.

His inscription of the thirty-ninth year, fiftieth day deserves special attention as it refers to an act of piety by the royalty for the general weal of the people. At the instance of the king, the assembly of Rajaraja-chaturvedimangalam, in Panaiyur nadu, in company with (presided over by?) prince Kulottunga-Sola Muvendavelar, the headman of Sembiyan Puliyur Verkadu in Puliyur kottam, performed the consecration ceremony of the god (deyvapratishthai) and made available water sources (jala-pratishthai-tanks) for the spiritual merit of the king and for the destruction of the wicked and the promotion of the prosperity of the good and made certain gifts of land in Anangur.

This was not the first time that such a provision was made. As early as the reign of Rajendra I (ARE 333 of 1917), we have a similar act of devotion and piety, and a grant is said to have been made to the “Paramasvamin (Lord) who was pleased to stand with a fierce aspect” (Ugra-Narasimha?) in the temple of Rajaraja Vinnagar. This is again repeated in an inscription at Brahmadesam which relates to the forty-first year of Kulottunga I (ARE 158 of 1918). It is stated that the king was residing at that time in the temple of Rajaraja Vinnagar Alvar, the king’s tutelary deity and he is said to have performed deyvapratishthai and jala-paratishthai.

It has to be remembered that this region round about Ennayiram was a frontier area, formerly the home of the Banas and the Gangas. About this time in the reign of Kulottunga I, the Hoysalas in Karnataka rose to prominence and wrested Talakkad and Gangavadi (Eastern Mysore region) from the Cholas; happenings in Kalinga were also ominous and about to lead to the second Kalinga war. It may be that the king wanted to propitiate God by promoting works of social well-being and invoking the blessings of Narasimha of the fierce aspect to ensure success for his arms and to suppress the unruly elements in the region.

The next important inscription is one of the eleventh year of Rajarajadeva (II). At the order of the king, the assembly of Rajaraja-chaturvedimangalam gave to a private person, as janmakkani, the village of Nannaderpakkam alias Vikrama-Chola-nallur, which was a devadana of Tiruvira-mcsvaram Udaiyar at Eydar, now called Esalam, a hamlet of Rajaraja-chaturvedimangalam (ARE 326 of 1917).

An inscription of the sixth year of Tribhuvanachakravartin Vira Rajendradeva (i.e., Kulot-tunga III) mentions the construction of a mandapa in front of the Alagiya-Narasimha-Perumal temple by Ammaiyappan Pandi nadu Kondan Gandan Suriyan alias Rajaraja Sambuvarayan, whose extensive building activities in this region we see at Tiruvakkarai and Brahmadesam (ARE 345 of 1917).

Under the orders, dated in Saka 1467 (a.d. 1545), of Surappa Nayakka Ayya, the local Chief of Sadasiva Maharaja of Vijayanagara, provision was made for betel leaf offerings to the Lord of this temple (ARE 332 of 1917). Another Vijayanagara inscription (ARE 338 of 1917) also dated in Saka 1467 (a.d. 1545J rnentions that one Sri Rangarajar Pillai was the Treasurer and Manager of this temple, which was situated “in the centre of the twenty four shrines [hru-murram) of Ennayiram, which was a taniyur in Panaiyur nadu in Rajaraja valanadu in the district of Palakunrak-kottam in Jayangondasola mandalam.

Vedic College:

According to the inscription of Rajendra I, relating to the setting up of a Vedic College in the temple premises (ARE 333 of 1917), the assembly made the following provisions among others:

(i) Four persons were appointed for the recitation of Tiruvaymoli hymns in the temple and they were allowed three kurunis of paddy each per day. To meet this charge, land at Anangur alias Rajarajanallur measuring half a veil and two ma in extent was given.

(ii) For feeding twenty-five Sri-Vaishnavas in the matha attached to the same temple, one veil and four ma of land in the same place were allotted.

(lit) Sixty kalams of paddy and three kalanjus of gold were also provided for the seven-day festival of Ani-Anulam in order to feed one thousand Vaishnavas and dasas (devotees) who came to witness it.

(iv) Half a veli and two ma of land and some gold were given to meet the cost of taking the god in procession round the village, in a car; for the grant of clothes to the mendicants on the occasion; for purchasing cloth to be put on the deity; for offerings, bath and garlands; for performing certain ceremonies etc.

The following students were fed in the Gangaikondasolan-maWtf/?<2:

(a) 75 studying the Rig-Veda
(b) 75 studying the Yajur-Veda
(c) 20 studying the Chandoga-Sama
(d) 20 studying the Talavakara-Sama
(e) 20 studying the Vajasaneya
(f) 10 studying the Atharva
(g) 10 studying the Baudhayaniya Grihya-kalpa and Gana,

thus making a total of 230 brahmacharins for studying the above-mentioned (apurvam) Vedas which, with the 40 persons learning the Rupavatara, came to 270. Six nalis of paddy were allotted for each of these per day.

Further there were:

(h) 25 learning the Vyakarana
(i) 35 learning the Prabhakara, and
(j) 10 persons learning the Vedanta.

For these 70 pupils (sattirar) who learnt the ottu (Vedas), provision was made at the rate of one kuruni and two nalis of paddy each per day.

One kalam of paddy was given to the nambi who expounded the Vyakarana, one kalam to another who expounded the Prabhakara and one kalam and one tuni to the third who expounded the Vedanta.

Ten professors were appointed to teach the Vedas as detailed below:

Three to teach the Rig-Veda
Three to teach the Yajur-Veda
One to teach the Chandoga
One to teach the Talavakara Sama
One to teach the Vajasaneya (i) (Yajnavalkya’s recension of the Yajur Veda)
One to teach the Baudhayaniya grihya and kalpa and Kathaka

The teacher who expounded the Rupavatara got three kurunis of paddy a day. Thus, for a day, 30 kalams of paddy measured by the Rajaraja-marakkal were required. The annual requirements came to 10,506 kalams of paddy. The gold required for expenses was as follows:—

8 kalanjus of gold to the professor of Vyakarana for expounding 8 adhyayas at one kalanju per adhyaya,
12 kalanjus to... forexpounding 12 adhyayas at one kalanju per adhyaya,
kalanjus to the 13 professors who taught Vedas and to the one who expounded the Rupavatara at half a kalanju each, and
35 kalanjus at half a kalanju each, to the 70 pupils (sattirar) who learnt the Vyakarana and the Mimamsa.

Thus, in all, for the 61 J kalanjus of gold and the paddy that were required, the temple was putin possession of 45 Delis of land situated in Mambakkachcheri alias Pavittira-manikka-nalInforming part of Anangur alias Rajarajanallur and Melakkudalur alias Purusha-narayana-nallur.

King Rajendra Choladcva I, having thus directed the assembly of Rajaraja-chaturvedimangalam, ordered, in the presence of Kali Ekamranar, the head of the village, that they should not show in the account books, any more taxes than 1/16 ma and one padakku against the persons residing in the said two villages and cultivating the 45 veils of land, and this they promised to do under solemn oaths.

This inscription is of great importance to us as it shows clearly that in ancient temples not only was the regular conduct of worship maintained but also the study of the Vedas, philosophy, grammar and other sciences was encouraged by munificent royal grants. Gifts made for such purposes as these were known as Vedavritti and Adhyayananga. In some cases, provision was made for feeding a few persons versed in the Vedas, and Apurvins.

The hostel attached to the temple at Ennayiram seems to have fed not only teachers and students of the Vedic College but other men as well. One of the records (ARE 343 of 1917) refers to the maintenance of a hostel, presumably attached to the college. Here provision was made for feeding 506 learned men among whom were Vedic scholars and Sri Vaishnavas. This number might have included the 350 attached to the college. The rest must have included those who sang the Tirttppadiyam, who formed the goshti, who recited the Tiruppugal and who uttered Sadyajnam. As jatakadakshina on the day of Jayantyashtami (the birthday) of Vennai kuttar (Krishna), it is stated, those brahmanas who completed the study of the Rig, Yajur and Sama Vedas should receive a gold flower and a gold ring. On the merchant class which received money from the markets devolved the duty of supplying well-husked rice which they were enjoined to bring to the hostel and measure out at the rate of two to five of paddy for (feeding?) the inmates. The great men in charge of the urvariyam (the village Supervision Committee) had to look after the daily supply of firewood required for the hostel. The brahmana and Valanjiya merchants who traded in the south bazaar were given a certain amount of money and they agreed to supply sugar and other articles in lieu of the interest on the sum lent. And it is further added that the excess of ghee, milk and curds that remained after meeting the requirements of the temple should be made over to the hostel.

There is a reference to a similar feeding house, but in a much smaller scale in ARE 323 of 1917 which comes from Panaiyavaram. Here provision is made for conducting a hostel (salai) which fed daily 50 brahmanas and 10 Sivayogins who were also given oil for bathing. The same inscription further provides for a teacher of a free school (dharma-palli) and for maintaining three water-sheds, one in front of the temple of Paravai Isvaramudaiyar, another in front of the mandapa of Rajendrasolan and the third in front of the temple of Rajendrasola Vinnagar Alvar. For rendering service in the hostel and the water sheds, brahmacharins were appointed.

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