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....

On the road from Bangalore to Mysore, there is a country track that takes off from the highway at a point 2½ kms southwest of Chennapatna, the present taluk headquarters, to reach Malur-Patna which is at a distance of 8 kms along this track in a southerly direction. In the olden days, Dodda-Malur, where the temples of Kailasesvara and Apprameyasvamin are located, as well as Malur-Patna, which is also on the western bank of the river Kanva about 8 kms south of Dodda-Malur, evidently constituted adjoining administrative urban units, under the names of Rajendrasimha chaturvedimangalam and Nigarilisola-puram, names given to them during the Middle Chola period.

Nigarilisolapuram was evidently a nagaram, an urban unit administered by the mercantile community, since in one of the inscriptions dated in A.D. 1007, the nagarattom (the members of the mercantile community constituting a guild) of Nigarilisolapuram is referred to.

In this township there were two fine temples built during the days of Rajaraja I, one named Arumolisvaram Udaiya Maha-devar temple, dedicated to Siva, and the other Jayangondasola Vinnagar, dedicated to Vishnu. Today they are in a sad state of neglect and stand out as two decrepit reminders of the glorious days that they had known. They are set in the midst of cultivated fields and are now outside the village limits in a westerly direction. There is a grand lake as one approaches the village from the east, which must have been a gift of the Cholas to the prosperous township close by.

The two temples now called Arkesvara temple and Narayana-svamy temple are separated from each other only by a hundred metres or so.

Arkesvara (Arumolisvaram Udaiya Mahadevar) temple[1]

Seven inscriptions have been found on the walls and pillars of this temple. Of them the earliest are dated in a.d. 1013 and 1015 respectively. The former, found engraved on the outside of the south wall, is dated in the second regnal year of Kop-Parakesaripanmar alias Sri Rajendrasola devar and is incomplete, but we get the information that certain inhabitants of Manalur, including Kottayan Uttaman alias Solavichchadirag-Gamundan and Vidiyan Kottayan alias Idava Gamundan received some assets as a gift in favour of the god Arumolidevisvaram Udaiya Mahadevar of Nigarilisolapuram, which was a portion of “this village”, for conducting the festivals of the god (EC, IV, CN, 135). Similarly, in the fourth year of Rajendra I, certain members of the chaturvedimangalam, the first part of whose name is missing in the inscription, received full payment in gold and gave full possession of certain lands, whose boundaries and other details are specified, as tax-free devadana, for Arumolisvaram Udaiyar of Nigarilisolapuram, which was a portion of Manalur in Kilalai nadu. There was also a grant for the drummers at the temple (EC, IV, CN, 139). Two other records are dated in a.d. 1152 and 1150 respectively, and mention the gift of one for a bell-metal censer and bell by one Madurantaka devan’s son, Palliperiyan, and the gift of a certain sum of money to Gomali by Malaiyandan, the headman of Merpadi, in order to provide for the night offerings of rice for the god, who continues to be called almost a hundred and fifty years later, by the same name of Arumolisvaram Udaiyar (EC, IV, CN, 136 and 138).[2] We are aware that a few decades earlier this region had temporarily gone back to the hands of the Hoysalas but was retaken by the Cholas during Vikrama Chola’s rule.

This temple, now called that of Arkesvara, came into existence during the early part of the rule of Rajaraja I and along with the temples of Rajendrasimha-isvaram and Jayangondasola-vin-nagar, received considerable attention from the local bodies in this region during the period when the Cholas were ruling this area and also under the Hoysalas. The deity was named after one of the earliest names of Rajaraja I, Arumolidevan.

This temple faces west and is eka-tala; it consists of the garbhagriha, the ardhamandapa and the mahamandapa in front. Fortunately the sikhara is still in position though its massive stones have been loosened by rank vegetation growing from the crevices. The square sikhara is reminiscent of the many structures of Rajaraja I’s period as well of the later years of the Early Chola phase. The griva-koshtas are empty. The garbhagriha walls have niches in the middle, with flanking pilasters, and square pilasters further away on either side. The garbhagriha measures 4.25 ms in breadth and 4.95 ms in length along the axis of the temple; the ardhamandapa is 3.20 ms in length along the axis of the temple and is 3.75 ms in breadth; the mahamandapa in front which widens out is 9.10 ms in breadth and 6.20 ms in length along the axis; thus from the rear wall of the garbhagriha to the front of the mahamandapa, the length of the temple is 15 ms. The ardhamandapa, in ruins, is supported by four very beautifully carved round pillars. The southern wall has partially collapsed. The mahamandapa is in shambles; the roof has given way in many places. There are three rows of pillars, six to a row; the mahamandapa was completely walled up on all sides except for the front entrance; there is a brief inscription on the inner surface of the western wall of this mandapa, which is in fine calligraphy and mentions the name of the temple, Arumolisvaram (Pis 178 and 179).

Narayanasvamy Temple (Jayangondasola Vinnagar Alvar)

Eight inscriptions have been recorded on the walls of this temple. They range over a short span of time, from a.d. 1007 to 1030. There are four inscriptions in the year a.d. 1007, and relate to various gifts made to this temple at the time of consecration of the deity, which is called in the inscriptions Jayangonda-sola-Vinnagar-alvar.

In the 23 rd year of the reign of‘Sri Kovirajarajakesaripanmar alias Irajaraja devar’, the members of the assembly of Periya Malavur alias Irajendirasingach-charuppedimangalam in Kilalai nadu of Gangapadi, “assembled without a vacancy” “in the temple of the god Jayangondasola-Vinnagar-alvar at Nigarilisolapuram, which was a portion of Manalur of this nadu, on the day the above god was set up” and made a grant of certain lands, to provide for a daily offering of 2 nalis of rice for the god. The members of the assembly bound themselves to plough and cultivate the lands themselves and to bring to the temple and measure out fully, with the marakkal named Jayangondasolan, a certain quantity of clean paddy; they also authorised pujaris to receive suttukkadan and a share of the produce of the above lands (EC, IV, CN, 128).

Similarly, the members of the assembly of Punganur alias Tirailokkiya-madevich-charuppedimangalam in Kilalai nadu of Gangapadi made, on the day the god Jayangondasola-Vin-nagar-alvar was set up at Nigarilisolapuram, a grant of certain lands as a devadana, exempt from taxes, for daily offering of 2 nalis of rice for the above god. This order was written down as a sasanam (order in stone) under the direction of the assembly by one Divakarayan Vasavayan, a ganattan (member of the assembly) of this village (EC, IV, CN, 130).

In like manner, the members of the assembly of Vandur alias Sola-madevich-charuppedimangalam in Kilalai nadu of Gangapadi met in the temple of Jayangondasola-Vinnagar-alvar on the day that the deity was set up at Nigarilisolapuram and made a grant of certain lands whose area, boundaries and other details were specified and gave a lithic order to that effect. They also mentioned that the tank and wells of their village could be used for irrigating these lands. This grant was made at the instance of the headman of Kilaru, Tamilpperiyan Gandaradittan, who was the settlement officer of Kilalai nadu and other nadus during the tenure of the local officer Nittavinoda Pallavaraiyar (EC, IV, CN, 132).

The citizens of Nigarilisolapuram made a grant for the god and a sasanam as well.

From these four inscriptions we gather that by the 23 rd year of Rajaraja I (a.d. 1007) the Vishnu temple of Jayangonda-sola-Vinnagar-Alvar had come into being at the nagaram of Nigarilisolapuram, described as being a part of Manalur in Kilalai nadu and was named one of the many surnames of Rajaraja I.

Thus this temple is a foundation of the days of Rajaraja I and was named after one of his surnames viz., Jayangondasolan.

In addition to these gifts, other benefactions were made a few years later, in a.d. 1014. Some inhabitants of Manalur gave permission to have the temple lands irrigated from the Manalur tank (EC, IV, CN, 127).

Another record relating to the third year of Rajendra I (a.d. 1014) mentions that some members of the assembly of Vandur gave an undertaking that, having received from the treasury of this god 320 kalams of paddy measured by the kal called Jayangondasolan, they would deliver from that year onwards by way of interest, 100 kalams of clean paddy; they agreed that the entire supervision of this transaction would be entrusted to the Sri Vaishnavas and the Five hundred of Tiraiyayiram (tisaiyayiram). Another record which is incomplete also relates to the third regnal year of Rajendra I, and presumably deals with a similar undertaking by one of the other assemblies.

Finally, in an inscription (a.d. 1030) in the reign of Rajendra I, the members of the assembly of Kudalur alias Iraja-iraja-charuppedimangalam made a grant of certain lands to provide for a daily offering of two nalis of rice for the god Jayangonda-sola-Vinnagar-alvar (EC, IV, CN, 133).

Structurally of less significance to the art-historian than the Arkesvara temple, Jayangondasola Vinnagar Alvar temple is a tiny piece of beauty, its walls covered over with meticulously engraved inscriptions of considerable significance in impeccable calligraphy, comparable with the Rajarajesvaram inscriptions of Tanjavur. Perhaps, in its own days, this was a more important temple than Arumolisvaram. It consists now of only the garbha-griha, the ardhamandapa, and the remains of the wall of enclosure, which would have given the tiru-murra the campus of the temple, a greater dimension than that of Arumolisvaram (Pis 180 and 181).

The temple faces west and it being without the griva and sikhara, we could only hazard a guess that, like its sister shrine, it must have been eka-tala; the garbhagriha measures 4.50 ms in breadth and 4 ms in length along the axis of the temple; the ardhamandapa is 2.40 ms along the axis and 3.20 ms across. From the basement to the foot of the griva, the height is 2.18 ms. The walls of enclosure should have measured 19.90 ms in length and 14.55 ms in breadth as ascertained from the foundation of the walls, which is all that is left of them.

Footnotes and references:


Also called Amritesvara temple (cf. Early Chola Art I, PI. 104).


There is a record dated in a.d. 1159, when Mahamandalesvara Tribhuvanamalla, cap-turer of Talaikkadu and other areas, was ruling the region. Malaiyandan, the headman of Merpadi, gave three pon for maintaining a perpetual lamp in the temple of the god Arumolich-charam udaiyar at Manalur alias Nigarilisolapuram in Kilalai nadu of Irajendirasola valanadu in Mudigondasola mandalam (EG IV, CN, 137). There is a fragmentary inscription (a.d. 1160) which merely mentions Vira Ganga Jagadekamalla Poysala Sri Narasimha devar as ruling the earth. The rest of the inscription is lost. The region continues to be called Mudigondasola mandalam.

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