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....

Polur is an important station on the Villupuram-Katpadi rail link of the Southern Railway. Sixteen kms (10 miles) to its east is the village of Tirumalai, which was an important Jaina centre in the Pallava and Chola days. Here is a hill known in the local inscriptions as Vaigai (or Vaigavur) Tirumalai. Some of the inscriptions refer to a Kundavai Jinalaya.

Kundavai Jinalaya

This Jaina centre, so we learn from a Later Chola inscription, was ruled by a Yavanika, called Elini of Vanji (which is to be identified with modern Karur), during the early Sangam period. This chief is claimed to have set up images of Yaksha and Yakshini on the Tirumalai hill, which bore the Sanskrit name of Arnasugiri and the Tamil name of En-guna-virat-tirumalai.

The earliest Chola inscription at Tirumalai relates to a gift of gold in the third regnal year of Parantaka I (a.d. 910), by two residents of Kaduttalai for feeding a devotee in the Jaina temple at Vaigavur. We next hear of a gift of a lamp to the Yaksha of Tirumalai made in a.d. 959 by a servant of the Rashtrakuta king Krishna III.

Next comes a record of Rajaraja I dated in his twenty-first year, which is found on a rock in front of the gopuram at the base of the Tirumalai hill (SII, I, 66). It mentions that a certain Gunavira-mamunivan built a sluice in the local reservoir.

There are two inscriptions of Rajendra I. Both of them relate to his twelfth regnal year. One of them records a gift to the temple Vaigavur-Tirumalai which is therein called Kundavai Jinalaya, i.e., the temple dedicated by Kundavai to the Jina (SII, I, 67).

According to this inscription, “Chamuddappai, the wife of the merchant Nannappaiyan, resident of Perumbanappadi, alias Karaivarimalliyur, gave a perpetual lamp to the temple of Sri Kundavai Jinalaya (on) the holy mountain at the chandam (a village belonging to the Jaina temple) of Vaigavur in Mugai nadu, a division in the middle of Pangala nadu in Jayangondasola mandalam. Twenty kasus were given for one lamp and ten kasus for the sacred food-offerings”.

At the foot of the hillock is a shrine in a natural cave under a ledge of the rock mentioned earlier. It is likely that this cave temple was renovated at about the time when Kundavai built her Jinalaya and reconsecrated the sculptures of Yaksha and Yakshini held to have been set up in the days of Elini, the ancient Chera ruler. There are paintings on the walls of the cave, which might also have been carried out at Kundavai’s instance; they appear to have been overlaid on an earlier layer of paintings. Patches of the latter are still to be seen in the background. Presumably, the older paintings had mostly faded and Kundavai had them repainted. The centre of attention in the paintings is a wheel of victory (Vijaya-chakra) whose nave is occupied by the Jina flanked by attendant deities. What the Dharma-chakra is to the Buddhists, the Vijaya-chakra is to the Jainas. Such a wheel is mentioned by the Jaina ruler Kharavela of Kalinga in his inscription at the Khandagiri-Udayagiri caves near Bhubanesvar in Orissa. There is also a Jaina Vijaya-chakra painted on the ceiling of the Jaina cave temple at Sittannavasal in the Pudukkottai district[1] (seventh century a.d.).

In Puduppadi in Walajapet taluk, North Arcot district, there are a Siva temple and a Vishnu temple (called Vedaranya Perumal temple), belonging to the Middle Chola period. Besides, there was a Jaina temple built during the days of Rajaraja I and named Iravikula Manikkap-perumpalli, after a surname of Rajaraja I. Nothing beyond a slab of stone containing the inscription, “Svasti-sri Iravikula remains of the temple (ARE 225 of 1905). Puduppadi, like Dadapuram and Olagapuram, must have been an important centre in Jayan-gondasola mandalam where sectarian rivalries were then unknown (Pis 141 and 142).

Thus, Kundavai Jinalaya was a foundation of the days of Rajaraja I. The paintings in the lower cave require our attention.

Footnotes and references:


Lalit Kala No. 9, pp 30 - 54.

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