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 village of Malur, also called Dodda-Malur, is about 2.50 kins from Chennapatna, the headquarters of the taluk of the same name in the Bangalore district. It is perched on the western bank of the meandering river Kanva, a tributary of the river Kaveri, at the point where it crosses the Bangalore-Mysore highway, about 64 kms south-west of Bangalore. Situated in picturesque surroundings amid dense coconut groves are two temples here dating back to the days of Chola hegemony over this region; Kailasesvara, the Siva temple, is in a state of neglect; but the Vishnu temple of Apprameya is in a state of good preservation; they are only a few yards away from each other, the former being south of the latter.

Dodda-Malur, also called Mallur-agraharam, has a long history and tradition[1]; it is said that sage Yagnavalkya wrote his celebrated Mithakshara here; Kanva rishi is said to have worshipped the Lord Aprameyasvamy, and because of this association, even the river on whose banks this ancient township stands came to be called Kanva It bore the alternate name of Jnana-mandapa-kshetram and Rajendra-simha-nagari; it is considered a divya-kshetram; in more recent times, the great saint-composer Purandhara Dasa who lived in the 16th century visited this temple and worshipped the Lord and Navanita Krishna, who was installed in the north-west corner of the temple; and it was here, overwhelmed with ecstatic joy when in communion with young Lord Krishna, that he composed the famous song in Kannada beginning with “sidalu Yasodha Jagadoddharana” which has been rendered into an incomparable visual Bharata natyam composition.

1. Kailasesvara (Rajendrasimhesvaram Udaiyar) temple

Bereft of any wall of enclosure, which must have been there in the past, the temple consists of the central shrine with a griha without any superstructure, an antarala and a mahamandapa; the entire complex is a unitary structure, with a kalyana mandapa in front, which is of a slightly later date; there is a massive gateway to the courtyard of the temple, which belongs to a much later date (the Vijayanagara period?) and is shorn of the upper storeys.

On the south wall of the central shrine, there is a highly obliterated inscription, datable to circa a.d. 1000, which mentions for the first time the existence of a temple dedicated to the deity called Rajendrasimha Isvaram Udaiyar at Periya Maluvur alias Rajendrasimha chaturvedimangalam in Kalikala-sola valanadu of Mudikondasola mandalam. It refers to the setting up of an image of god Gandaraditta Vitankar, by one Sivajnana Gandaraditta, who would appear to have been a general of the Chola army evidently stationed here. It mentions that he purchased some lands and granted them, with exemption from taxes, to this deity (EC, IV, CN, 92). The next record, datable to about a.d, 101 o, is also highly obliterated; we learn that Maluvur was in Kilalai nadu of Rajendrasola valanadu 87 ). From a record of about a.d. ioio also highly obliterated, we learn that Maluvur was in Kilalai nadu of Rajendrasola valanadu (Ibid. 87). A record of about a.d. 1014 is more informative. A Kramavittan (full name is not discernible) purchased from the assembly certain lands for maintaining a perpetual lamp to be burnt before the god Sri Kailasam Udaiyar. A similar grant of land, the boundaries of which are mentioned in detail, is made for providing the noon offerings of rice and for ghee for the god Appirameya-Vinnagar alvar of the same village. This charity was placed at the “holy feet of the Sri Vaishnavas” (Ibid. 88 c). Another epigraph of the same date is recorded in the third year of the reign of Kop-Parakesarivanmar alias Sri Irajendrasola devar and relates to the grant of certain lands for the goddess Durgaiyar, on the bund of the pond which a local citizen caused to be dug, in order to provide for offerings of rice, oil for lamps and for the pujari (Ibid. 88). A record of a.d. 1024 relates to the 13th regnal year of Rajendra I and mentions that the members of the assembly of Irajendirasinga-saruppedimangalam sold 300 kulis of land to the temple, on receipt of money from the king (Ibid. 84). A full record dated in the 23 rd year of Rajendra I (a.d. 1034) is found on the back of the north wall which after narrating the full birudas and prasasti of the king, mentions that the members of the great assembly of Rajendrasimha-chaturvedimangalam, having received gold from a servant of Sri Rajendrasola devar (the headman of Puliyur in Kshatriyasikhamani valanadu in Chola mandalam) gave certain lands free of all imposts in order to provide offerings of rice (specified), vegetables, ghee, betel leaves and areca nuts for the god Adavallan Rajendrasola-singar and His Consort set up in the temple of Rajendrasimha Isvaram Udaiyar of “our village” (Ibid. 83 and 84). There is a brief record of the fourth year of Kovirajakesarivanmar alias Sri Virarajendra devar, whose prasasti is given in full (Ibid. 85).

From the inscriptions in this temple, we come to know that the village of Periya Maluvur was rechristened Rajendrasimha-chaturvedimangalam after the conquest of this region by Raja-raja I; that it was located in the subdivision of Kilalai nadu in the district of Rajendra valanadu; the whole of the western and southern Mysore region was rechristened Mudigondasola mandalam, just as Gangavadi was renamed Nigarilisola mandalam, both after surnames of Rajaraja I. A Siva temple was built in the place and named Rajendrasimha-Isvaram after a surname of Rajaraja I. Evidently, a contingent of the occupation army was stationed here and one of its chief officers set up a sculpture called Gandaraditta Vitankar, named after himself. An image of the goddess Durga was set up on the bund of a tank dug in the village by a local citizen in the 3 rd year of Rajendra I. Later on, in the reign of the same ruler, the headman of Puliyur (a servant of Rajendra I) donated and set up images of Adavallan Rajendrasola-singar and His Consort, evidently images of Nataraja and Sivakama sundari. The main deity continued to be called by its alternate name of Kayilasamudaiyar till the advent of the Hoysalas, when the name changed to Kailasesvara, its present name.

The garbhagriha is a square 5.80 ms to a side and the antarala projects 2.35 ms forward being narrower in width than the garbhagriha by.90 m. The mahamandapa is asymmetrically placed across the axis of the temple, the northern wing projecting to a greater extent than the southern; it measures 13.25 ms by 9.55 ms. The kalyana-mandapa is a beautiful open pavilion with finely carved pillars, three rows of four each, the foremost outer pillars being carved in a style different from others. The northern pillar bears an inscription in fine calligraphy proclaiming that the pavilion was erected by one Tillaikkuttan; it is datable to circa a.d. 1100 (Pis 182 and 183).

Unlike the temples in the heartland of the empire, the Kailases-varar temple has no icons in the garbhagriha or antarala niches, which are mere shallow tokens, as in Chola temples in Pandi Nadu.

There are four structures which served as subsidiary shrines; one for Chandesvara is at its appropriate place close to and north of the garbhagriha and the antarala. The deity faces west. The other three structures, which are rectangular in section, are now empty and are all to the west of the garbhagriha, evidently having housed Ganesa in the south-west, Subrahmanyar in the west and Jyeshtha in the north-west. Thus, even in the conquered land, we notice the vogue of the homeland regarding the ashta-parivara devatas being adopted. We found the same practice in respect of the Chola temples of Rajaraja I’s days in Pandi Nadu.

2. Apprameyasvamy temple

The earliest reference to the existence of this temple is contained in an inscription which may be dated in a.d. 1019; this is found inscribed on the north side of the basement of the shrine and is in Tamil. It mentions that the mahajanas of Malavur alias Rajendrasimha-chaturvedimangalam granted certain privileges to a person (whose name is obliterated) in connection with some houses of the village; and the order signed by the inhabitants of the village is in the name and on behalf of the deity, Sri Apprameya (EG, IV, CN, 96). Another record dated around a.d. 1034 mentions that the assembly of Malavur granted certain lands to provide for offerings of rice for the god Manavalalvar, who was pleased to take up his abode in the courtyard of the temple {Ibid. 95 ). Another record datable to around a.d. 1050 deals with a grant of land to god Appirameyapperumal {Ibid. 95 a). One Nilakanta devar gave liberally towards the replacement of the jewellery lost from where they were kept buried during the disturbed days prior to a.d. 1166. The same person, it is mentioned in a record found on the north basement, gave un-asked, a sum of money to the mahajanas for repairing a tank {Ibid. 97 a.).

In all likelihood, the present structure of the Vishnu temple came into existence during the days of Rajaraja I on an earlier foundation. Even the Chola foundation of the Apprameya temple has had many accretions during its long history covering the days of the Hoysalas and later the Vijayanagara period and much that was Chola in it is no longer there; however the main shell of the temple, comprising the the ardhamandapa and the mahamandapa, is original (Pis 184 and 185).

The temple faces east and is only a few yards west of the Kailasesvara temple. The garbhagriha measures 4.60 ms across and 3.40 ms along the axis of the temple. It is preceded by an ardhamandapa which is 6 ms along the axis and 10.10 ms broad. The mahamandapa in front of it has the same width as the ardhamandapa and projects 11.45 ms forward and is supported by two rows of three pillars each.

The peristyle is perhaps original as it has much in common with the typical peristyles of this period in the Chola mainland but its roof has been decorated at a later date.

Footnotes and references:


See Sri Apprameyasvamy Temple Renovation Committee brochure.

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