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....

Temples in Gangaikondasolapuram (Gangaikondacholapuram)

Gangaikondasolapuram, now an insignificant village in the Udaiyarpalayam taluk of Tiruchy district, lies on the road from Tiruchy to Chidambaram running almost parallel to and on the northern bank of the river Kollidam, and at a distance of 10 kms to the east of Jayangondasolapuram (which itself lies on one of the highways from Kumbakonam to Vriddhachalam).


It is bounded on the west by the celebrated Cholagangam lake and on the east by the river Vadavaru. Out of an otherwise rather dreary and barren skyline for miles around, the lofty srivimana of the great temple of Gangaikonda-cholisvaram here lifts its stately head as if scanning the vast arena of the bygone empire. In the heyday of Chola rule, its srivimana possibly served as the tallest watch tower of the city. It is no ancient city sung by the Devaram hymnists, but a creation of the early eleventh century, and the only literary references to it are found in the Tiru Isaippa of Kuruvur devar, the Kalingattup-parani of Jayangondar, the Muvar Ula of Ottakkuttar (the court poet of Vikrama Chola and his two immediate successors), and the Koyil Olugu (a legendary history of the Srirangam temple). The Vikramankadeva charita of Bilhana, the court poet of Vikrama-ditya VI, the Western Chalukya ruler, refers to Gangapuri in the context of Vikramaditya’s sojourn in the Chola capital in connection with his efforts to control its destiny during the troubled days of a.d. 1069 - 70.

The City

In a.d. 1014, Rajaraja I died and his son Rajendra I, till then Yuvaraja and Co-ruler, succeeded him. Rajendra I in turn associated his son Rajadhiraja I with his reign as Yuvaraja in a.d. 1018, in which capacity the latter served for 26 years (a.d. 1018 - 44) till the death of Rajendra I.

The earliest reference to the Ganga expedition of Rajendra I is found in a record of his eleventh regnal year (a.d. 1023). The earliest reference to Gangaikondasolapuram is found in an inscription of his seventeenth year (a.d. 1029). The city and the palace there must have come into existence between a.d. 1023 and 1029. How much earlier it was designed and its building begun is a matter of conjecture. He might have conceived of the scheme of a new capital even during the last years of his father. His total dedication to the new temple is illustrated by the following sequence of events. In the nineteenth year, 242 nd day of his reign, he made a gift of 2,000 kalams of paddy per year as acharya bhogam to the chief priest Sarva Siva Pandita Saivacharya of the Rajarajesvaram at Tanjavur and his descendants (a.d. 1031 - 32). Four years later, he himself transferred these land gifts, made earlier in perpetuity to the Rajarajesvaram, to his newly built temple of Gangaikonda-cholisvaram (twenty-third year, a.d. 1035). Nine years later, he died at Brahmadesam (a.d. 1044). These transfers are recorded 25 years later in an inscription of Vira Rajendra. There is no record of Rajendra I himself of this transaction (on the walls of this temple or elsewhere). In fact, the total absence of any inscriptions of his in this temple remains an enigma.

The city had the advantage of being built from scratch; it was carefully planned and laid out according to the injunctions of treatises on architecture and town-planning; the city would appear to have had an inner and an outer wall of fortification, identifiable with the utpadaivittu madil and the Rajendrasolan madil respectively. From the debris, it is clear that the walls were built of large-sized burnt bricks. The palace also would appear to have been built of brick, with many of the buildings in it being multi-storeyed. Flat tiles were used for the roofs and polished wood for pillars and panelling. Granite stumps which presumably supported wooden pillars have been recovered from the debris. We have inscriptional references to a palace-building called Chola-Keralan tirumaligai (after a surname of Rajendra I), and to a throne in it called Mavali Vanadhirajan. An inscription of the 49th year of Kulottunga I (a.d. hi 9) as well as later inscriptions make reference to a palace-building called Gangaikondasolan maligai. We hear of another wall of enclosure called Kulottunga-solan tirumadil; and of highways and roads called Kulottungasolan tirumadil peruvali, Vilangudaiyan peruvali and Kulayanai-pona peruvali; Rajarajan peruvali and Rajendra peruvali were evidently laid out even at the time of the creation of the city. We also get the names of a few suburbs of the city such as Virasolapuram, Kolla-puram, Meykavalputtur, Vanavanallur, Virabhoga and others.

Vastu and Agama requirements of town-planning were implicitly followed as regards the disposition of the various temples in the diverse corners of the city; thus, the Siva temple is to the north-east (isana)of the city, and the Sasta (Ayyanar) temple to the south-east; and, according to the local population, an image of Vishnu with Consort was found till recently in its original place to the west of the site of the palace ruins.

But, of all the remains, the one most certainly worth a visit is the magnificent temple of Gangaikonda-cholisvaram, dedicated to Siva and built in close imitation of the Rajarajesvaram at Tanjavur. The Linga in the sanctum rises to a height of 3.96 ms (13 ') and is said to be the largest such in any South Indian temple. The temple-campus, whose courtyard is 172.82 ms (567 ') long and 96.93 ms (318 ') wide, consists of the main shrine in the middle, two subsidiary shrines to its north and south called the Vada Kailasam and Ten Kailasam respectively, a shrine for Chandesvara, one for Mahishasuramardini, a rather large step-well called the Simhakkeni (lion-well), a massive stucco Nandi, a bali-pitham east of the Nandi, and an alankara mandapa (in ruins), a much later construction. All these are encompassed by a vestigial wall of enclosure[1] in whose eastern wing there was a gopuram; the superstructure of the latter has fallen, and only the basal portion is left.

The Main Shrine

In its structural constituents, the main shrine closely resembles its Tanjavur counterpart. It consists of a an ardhamandapa and a mahamandapa. They share a common massive adhishthanam, mounted on an equally massive upapitham. Projecting horizontally along the dividing line between these two is a narrow running platform, going the full round, and imparting a light-and-shade effect to the structure. The upapitham is decorated by a series of mythical and other animals, mostly lions and leogriffs, interspersed with low relief panels of floral design. A portion of the upapitham is possibly embedded in the ground, the level of the latter having risen in course of time. The sides of the adhishthanam contain many of the formal mouldings such as the padmam, kumudam, (here, an ornate frieze of yalis carrying riders) and though some, like the kantham and the kapotam, are absent. The upapitham is 103.63 ms (340') long and 30.48 ms (100') wide. The garbhagriha and mahamandapa are also of the same width, and respectively 30.48 ms (100') and 53.34 ms (175') long. The is shaped like a constricted square neck between the two, of side 19.81 ms (65').


The dominating element of the temple is of course the srivimana. The garbhagriha walls rise to a height of 10.67ms (35) over the adhishthanam, and are divided into two (equal) horizontal courses, as in the Rajarajesvaram at Tanjavur, by a massive cornice going all around. The lower and upper courses each have five bays on each of the three free sides (i.e., other than the eastern). Of the five bays, the central bay is the widest, the end bays are square, while the intermediate bays are oblong, with the vertical side longer than the horizontal. Each bay is terminated at its flanks by a canton in the form of a pilaster; in the central bay, the wide expanse of its facade is relieved by two more pilasters (of the same size as the cantons) framing the central and main niche (of that course and that side), instead of the diminutive pilasters that frame the niches in the remaining bays. There are thus twelve large and beautiful pilasters on each side of each course. Above the intervening cornice, the design and pattern are replicas of the lower course, only the niche figures varying. The pilasters are massive, square in cross-section, and have all the constituent elements including a rather massive abacus (palagai) etching a discontinuous line along the upper reaches of each course, below the cornice. An interesting feature, found here as well as at Tanjavur, is the indulgence in cameos wherever there was space between the pilasters and the niche, as is the case with the central and the end bays. The cameos in the central bay are in four horizontal rows of anecdotal panels relating to some Puranic story centering round the niche figure. The space between the vari, and varimanam mouldings below the central and the end bays carries some fine dancing figures; there is no such (or other) embellishment under the intermediate bays. In the treatment of the recesses between the bays, there is a difference between the lower and the upper courses; each recess of the lower course has a kumbha-panjara, and of the upper, a niche with a figure. The mid-level cornice is supported on a beam (uttiram) resting on a three-pronged corbel with a bevelled edge and a tenon. The cornice is segmented into five lengths corresponding to the bays below (and above) and has floral designs in cameo over the corners and decorative kudus, each with a semi-circular niche in the centre and a simha-mukha (lion-face) crowning it; the central segment has two such kudus and the others one each. There is a yali frieze above the cornice and a khutagana frieze (overshadowed by the heavy inward curve of the cornice} below it. There is a hara over the prastara.

The srivimana comprises nine talas including the ground tala (as against thirteen at Tanjavur). The upper talas are gradually diminishing replicas of the lowest. The ornamentation consists of square and oblong pavilions; the central and intermediate ones on each side project forward beyond the alignment of the corner kutas; this planned, symmetrical unevenness of surface treatment lends a sinuousness to the tower that we do not have at Tanjavur. The griva is embellished with niches in the four cardinal directions and, at the four corners of the square platform supporting it, there are four nandis. The graw-niches are crowned with kirtimukhas. The sikhara is not of one stone, despite local belief, and is draped on the top with lotus petal designs. It is (even in proportion to the rest of the structure) smaller than that at Tanjavur. The gold-coated stupi is of metal, with a lotus-bud design at the top. It is said to bear an inscriptional reference to Nallakka-tola Udaiyar, a poligar of Udaiyarpalayam; he might have gifted a new stupi or re-gilded the original.

The srivimana rises to a height of only 48.77 ms (160') as compared to the 63.40 ms (208') of the Rajarajesvaram; even so, it dominates the vicinity. The base of the srivimana in both the cases being virtually of the same dimensions, the reduced height, the smaller number of talas and the concavity imparted to the superstructure here in contrast to the severely straight pyramidal form of the Tanjavur counterpart, all add up to present an entirely different image here from what obtains at Tanjavur. To quote Percy Brown (JISOA, Vol. II): “In spite of its almost cloying richness viewed as a whole, there is a fine fully matured beauty in this Chola masterpiece.” In fine, he terms it “the feminine counterpart of Tanjore”.[2]


The ardhamandapa connects the garbhagriha and the mandapa and is approachable from the north and the south by flights of steps located between the east wall of the garbhagriha and the west wall of the mahamandapa. The steps are in two stages as at Tanjavur, the first stage taking us to a landing on a level with the top of the upapitham, and the second stage to the threshold of the doorway to the ardhamandapa (on a level with the top of the adhishthanam). These doorways are guarded by massive dvarapalas. The mandapa is supported by plain, square and heavy pillars. On the eastern wall of the ardhamandapa (and facing west), there are series of thematic panels depicting puranic episodes (on either side of the entrance to the mahamandapa). One set of three panels illustrates Siva humbling Ravana’s pride; another depicts Vishnu in the act of pulling out one of His eyes on finding that He was one short of the 1,008 lotuses intended to be offered to Siva in worship, and Siva bestowing grace on Him (anugraha). Uma’s marriage to Siva is the theme of a panel close to the doorway. Vishnu is the kanya-data (giving away the bride) and Brahma the chief priest. Close to and north of the doorway is a panel dealing with the Kirata-Aijuna episode. At the northern extreme, there are two panels; one depicts the Markandeyar episode (Kalantaka) and the other the Chandesvara episode. The quality of these sculptures is not to be compared to that of the massive and exquisite sculptures on the garbhagriha walls.

Comparative Statement of the Height of a Few Temples


Temple Total Height Height of Sanctum


1. Kanchipuram Kailasanathar 20.28ms (66.33') 5.49ms (18.00') 14.79ms (48.33')
2. Kanchipuram Vaikuntha Perumal 22.30ms (72.75') 6.60ms (21.42') 15.70ms (51.33')
3. Mamallapuram Shore Temple 16.96ms (55.42') 4.06ms (13.20') 12.90ms (42.22')
4. Tanjavur Rajarajesvaram 59.98ms (196.50') 15.85ms (52.00') 44.13ms (144.50')
5. Gangaikonda-Cholapuram Gangikonda-Solisvaram 54.86ms (180.00') 14.78ms (48.50') 40.08ms (131.50')
6. Darasuram Airavatesvara 25.17ms (83.00') 5.82ms (19.50') 19.35ms (63.50')
7. Tribhuvanam Kampaharesvara 38.45ms (126.00') 10.79ms (35.25') 27.66ms (90.75')


What may place Gangaikonda-cholisvaram on a higher pedestal than even Rajarajesvaram is a delectable set of sculptures found on the garbhagriha walls, numbering as many as fifty. They are boldly conceived and executed with consummate skill and dedication. The very soul of the craftsman would seem to have been poured out into these forms in stone. Of all these products of the Dravidian ateliers, three stand out as superb specimens: Chandesanugraha-murti, Nataraja and Sarasvati, which have luckily not been touched by the hand of time or of the vandal. The two-tiered garbhagriha offered the sculptor two separate “canvases” to work on. The niche-figures in the cardinal directions are the traditional ones: Dakshinamurti in the south and Brahma in the north, in both tiers; and, in the west (rear), Vishnu in the lower tier and Lingodbhavar in the upper. There being four bay-niches and four recess-niches in the upper tier and four bay-niches in the lower, other than the central niches already covered above, we get as many more niche-figures—four in the lower tier and eight in the upper tier of each free side. On the east wall of the garbhagriha, there are two niche-figures in the first tier and four in the second tier. Being a mahaprasada, the temple gave full scope to the artists to follow the Agamic specifications, and thus we have both Lingodbhavar and Vishnu as niche figures in the west (rear), in the lower tier; Subrahmanyar occupies another such niche, yet another special feature. Chandesanugraha-murti in the northern lower-tier niche of the eastern wall has precedents in the Pallava temples of Airavatesvara, Muktesvara and Matangesvara at Kanchipuram.

The (clockwise) disposition of the images on the free sides, in both tiers, is given below:



Vishnu Anugrahamurti



South Kalantakar
A four-armed standing deity
A four-armed deity


A three-headed figure Varuna (?)
A four-armed deity

Gauri Prasada
A four-armed deity
A four-armed deity

In the first tier of the east wall of the garbhagriha, there are images of Chandesanugrahamurti on the north and Kankaladharar on the south, overlooking the flights of steps leading to the mandapa on the north and south sides respectively. Facing them, on the west wall of the mahamandapa, are images of Sarasvati and Lakshmi, respectively. In the second tier of the east wall of the garbhagriha, there are images of Gajasamharamurti and Chandra in the north (above the Chandesanugrahamurti image of the first tier) and Surya and Agni in the south (above the Kankaladharar image of the first tier).

A chart showing the positions of these icons in the temple walls will be found among the illustrations.

The figures in the upper tier may be grouped into: the normal niche figures found in the cardinal points; the eight guardian deities or dikpalas (listed clockwise from the south-east, these are: Agni, Yama, Nirutti, Varuna, Vayu, Soma, Isana and Indra—the last not represented here; and the Ekadasa (Eleven) Rudras (Sadyojata, Vamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha, Isana, Mrityunjaya, Vijaya, Kiranaksha, Aghorastra, Srikantha and Mahadeva), who, according to the Agamic texts, are to be shown standing, with four arms, holding the parasu and the mriga in the upper hands while the lower ones are in the abhaya and varada poses; besides these figures, Kalantakar, Bhikshatanar, Vishnu, Brahma, Gauri Prasada, Bhuvarahar and Subrahmanyar are also depicted.


There are guardian deities here in all the places where we have them in the Rajarajesvaram at Tanjavur, except for three pairs which are found only in the latter flanking the big doorways on the three sides of the garbhagriha: in fact, even these openings are not there at Gangaikonda-cholisvaram. We have one pair in front of the gopuram. Victims of the ravages of time and man, they now lie face down in front of the which is itself in ruins. A second pair stands majestically at the entrance to the mahamandapa which must once have been grand and imposing. There are a pair each at the entrance from the mahamandapa to the ardhamandapa and again from the latter to the garbhagriha, and flanking the flights of steps leading to the ardhamandapa from the courtyard in the north as well as south.


The plinth, consisting of the upapitham and the adhishthanam supporting the garbhagriha, ardhamandapa and mahamandapa, also supports a pavilion akin to a manimandapa in front of the last-mentioned. The mahamandapa and this pavilion are separated by the flight of steps from the courtyard leading to either of them. The continuity of the mouldings on the adhishthanam indicates that the plinth has remained intact and that the main structure of the temple-complex comprised these four units. The original mahamandapa must have been an imposing structure of twice the present height, in keeping with the rest of the structure of this mahaprasada. As it now stands, only the plinth and remnants of its walls at the western extremity are original, the side walls, pillars and roof having been reconstructed. From the surviving portion, it is clear that the prastara of the mahamandapa must have been on a level with that of the and that the cornice which divides the garbhagriha walls into two courses must have continued on to the mahamandapa walls as well. There must have been niches in the two courses so created on the latter walls, of which only one in the upper course and a few in the lower course have survived. They must have housed various subsidiary deities, such as the Vidyesvaras, Vasus and Adityas.

There is a central passage leading from the main entrance to the garbhagriha through the ardhamandapa; the size of the dvarapalas at the main entrance suggests that there was no ceiling above this passage except the original roof (at twice the height of the present roof); over the two platforms created by, and on either side of, this passage, there must have been a pavilion in two tiers, the roof of the first tier being at the level of the present roof (equivalently, at the level of the cornice which divided the outer wall into two courses).


In the north-east corner of the mahamandapa, there is a delicately carved representation of the Sun and the eight other planets of Hindu astrology, on an altar. It is in the form of a full-blown lotus on a square pedestal, in two tiers. The upper tier has the eight planets in the eight principal directions, and the lotus stands for the Sun, thus making up the nine grahas. The lower tier of the pedestal is crafted as a wheeled chariot drawn by seven horses, representing the seven days of the week. The wheels are ornamented with twelve petals each, representing the twelve months of the year. At the corners of the chariot are representations of celestial beings carrying flower-garlands.

The style, workmanship and even the sculptural theme of this piece bespeak its Chalukyan origin and it might have been brought here as a war trophy.


Notice should be taken of a fine set of loose sculptures found in the courtyard of the temple. Assembled together on a platform by the side of the northern entrance to the temple are sculptures of Bhikshatanar, Lingodbhavar, Ganapati, Subrahmanyar, Devi, Virabhadrar, Brahma, Durga, Chandrasekharar, Vrshabhantikar, Vinadharar and four of the lesser divinities. In the southern wing of the courtyard, close to the Ten Kailasam, images of Ardhanari, Gajalakshmi and Surya (two) are found partially buried in the ground. Near the lion-well is an icon of Vishnu with Sridevi. Many of these icons evidently occupied the niches of the maha-mandapa walls once.


It is surprising that the bronzes of this temple should have survived nearly a thousand years, particularly as the hand of the enemy must have fallen heavily on the palace and the city which was the capital of the Cholas. The Tanjavur temple has not shared this good fortune, for hardly any are left of the vast array of metals gifted to it by the king, his sister, his queens and his nobles. Perhaps even here, only a few of the original gifts has survived. Among them are two pieces of outstanding beauty and grandeur: the Somaskandar group and Karttikeya. The images of Siva and Uma in the former are giant-sized (Skanda is missing), forming perhaps the biggest set among such icons of the Chola or of any other period; datable definitely to the age of Rajendra I, this set must have been used as the processional deity-set. The Karttikeya image, measuring 107 cms in height, stands on a padmapitham, of which the lotus is realistic and not stylised; it has four arms: the right upper hand holds the sakti (partially broken), the right lower, the sword, of which only the handle remains, the left upper, a cock and the left lower, a shield. Among the others, also of remarkable workmanship, are the images of Bhogesvari, Durga, Adhikara-Nandi and Vrishabhavahanar. The Bhogesvari image, stationed as usual near the threshold of the sanctum, is two-armed and has an arresting smile and a perfect torso. The four-armed, standing image of Durga is in the samabhanga (erect) posture; the upper hands hold the sankha and the chakra, while the lower arms are in the varada and kati-avalambita poses.[3] (Pis 204 to 231).

The Subsidiary Shrines

As already mentioned, there are two subsidiary shrines, one on either side of the main shrine, called the Vada (northern) and the Ten (southern) Kailasams.[4] Both shrines were originally dedicated to Siva; the Vada Kailasam has since been converted into an Amman shrine, most probably in the early years of the Later Chola period, when separate Amman shrines came into being for the first time. Both face east, and are alike in most respects.


The Vada Kailasam comprises a, an ardhamandapa, and a mahamandapa (which appears to be a later addition). It has a dvi-tala srivimana with a griva, curvilinear sikhara and stupi. The garbhagriha walls contain three niches with the usual images installed in them: Dakshinamurti in the south, Lingodbhavar in the west (rear) and Brahma (bearded) in the north. The ardhamandapa niche-figures are: Ganapati, Nataraja, Bhikshatanar and Subrahmanyar in the south, and Gauri Prasada, Durga,

Ardhanari and Bhairavar in the north. At the entrance from the mahamandapa to the ardhamandapa, there is a pair of and, facing them, on the west wall of the mahamandapa, are images of Sarasvati to the north and Gajalakshmi to the south.


The mahamandapa of the Ten Kailasam has collapsed; and the niche figures in the garbhagriha and ardhamandapa walls are the same as in the two shrines above, except that the northern garbhagriha niche here is empty. The sanctum is empty, and in ruins.

(C) There is a small shrine for Ganapati to the south-west of the main shrine. It is perhaps a later structure.

(D) To the south-east of the palace remains, there is a small shrine housing Ayyanar and His Consorts, Purna and Pushkala. The image of the main deity is a beautiful piece of sculpture and of the same quality as the sculptures of the main temple.

(E) The Vishnu temple, about 1.5 kms to the west of the main temple, is associated with the lives of the Vaishnava saints Nada-muni, who breathed his last here, and his grandson Alavandar, who, failing to reach the place in time to see his grandfather alive, built a memorial temple at the spot where the latter died. Local tradition has it that this memorial temple is the Vishnu temple here called the Kurugai Kavalappar (corrupted into Kuruvalap-par) temple. The main deity is called Viranarayanap-Perumal.

(F) To the north-east of the main shrine and close to the lion-well is the Mahishasuramardini shrine, a later structure. The main deity has the characteristics of a Chalukyan piece and was probably brought here as a war trophy.


In addition to the Saura pitha and the Mahishasuramardini images above, there are a few images which may be taken to be of Chalukyan origin, judging from the general treatment, features and disposition of weapons (if any): the Durga image found in the Vira Reddi street here; the four-armed image of Ganapati called Kanakkup-Pillaiyar installed in a small shrine a few hundred metres to the south-west of the big temple; and possibly the sculptures of Surya and an eight-armed Durga, installed near the Saura pitha.

The Department of Archaeology, Tamil Nadu Government, recently unearthed from a mound called Kalaichanga medu, close to the village of Meykavalputtur and about 2 kms east of the main temple, some sculptures of Kalingan origin. One is of Kali or Durga[5], eight-armed and seated on a pedestal. There are three red-stone sculptures typical of Kalingan art of the ninth and tenth centuries a.d., namely, a standing Bhairavar, a fragmentary Bhairavar with only the upper portion intact, and a Bhairavi. These were presumably brought as trophies of the Gangetic campaign in the days of Rajendra I.


To consider briefly the lake now called Ponneri. It was brought into being by Rajendra I as a “water pillar of victory” (jalamayamana jayastambham) and named Cholagangam, according to the Tiruvalangadu Plates of his. It has a bund of considerable height and a length of more than 5 kms. At full water-level, it has a water spread of nearly 130 sq. kms. It once had a surplus weir, and input channels from the Kollidam river and other sources, and must have been connected to the palace-moat. It has been allowed to go to seed, and a road now cuts through the bund in the middle, dividing the lake into two parts.


A surprising feature of this temple is the total absence of any inscriptions here of the (days of the) founder, Rajendra I. (It is likely that he had intended to set up ultimately a comprehensive record giving the foundation details and the list of endowments made to the temple by himself and others, following the example of his illustrious father in respect of the Tanjavur temple who set up such a record in the last year of his life; but, as we know, death came to Rajendra I at Brahmadesam, far from his capital. His two immediate successors also did not apparently find the time to record his endowments or theirs. Whatever be the causes, the earliest, and incidentally the longest, inscription in the temple is of the reign of Vira Rajendra (ARE 82 of 1892; SII, IV, 529). Running to 216 lines, it records in fact a compendium of six different orders, issued over the years by Rajendra I and his sons: the earliest order is of the twenty-third regnal year of Rajendra I (a.d. 1035), followed by two of Rajadhiraja I of his twenty-sixth and thirtieth regnal years (a.d. 1044 and 1048). For the most part, the contents of this inscription form a repetition of the foundation inscription of Rajaraja I at the Tanjavur temple, and appear to transfer in effect to the (local) temple most of the benefactions made to the Tanjavur temple by Rajaraja I. The first mention of the name of Gangaikonda-cholisvaram for the temple is to be found in this inscription. Vira Rajendra refers to his father as the conqueror of Purvadesam, Ganga (region) and Kadaram (Purvadesamum, Gangaiyum, Kadaramum kondarulina Ayyar), to Rajadhiraja I as the victor at Kalyanapuram and Kollapuram who died on the back of an elephant as a hero in the battlefield (KalyanapuramumKollapuramum kondu anai mel tunjina Annal), and goes on to narrate His own victories (against the Western Chalukyas and in the reconquest of Vengi). The inscription tells us that altogether 340 kalanjus of gold and 1,10,000 kalams of paddy were to be given to the temple treasury annually by various villages named in it (with precise details of the individual contributions to be made).

An inscription which has suffered fragmentation apparently due to a later shoddy reconstruction of the steps and the landing is of the forty-first year of Kulottunga I; it is the record of a Gahadavala king, with whose dynasty the Cholas, particularly in the days of Kulottunga I, kept up close contacts. It gives the Gahadavala prasasti almost completely, but stops short of the name of the king and the purpose of the inscription. The Gaha-davalas were great patrons of Sun worship and their influence may be read into the setting up, during the reign of Kulottunga I, of the only known Sun temple in the Chola country, at Suryanar-Koyil.

We have a few fragmentary inscriptions of Kulottunga III (by the side of the flight of steps leading to the mahamandapa entrance), referring to his victories over the Pandyas, Sri Lanka and Karuvur and to the erection of a commemorative pillar of victory.

There are four Pandyan inscriptions. One is of the second year of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya, who proved to be the nemesis of the Cholas; it records the institution by him of a daily service in the temple in his name, called the Sundara Pandyan sandhi and the grant of lands for the purpose. An inscription of the sixth year of his brother Vikrama Pandya records the establishment by him of a service in his name called the Rajakkal Nayan sandhi and the grant of 20 veils of land for the purpose. The other two are of the fourth and fifth years of Maravarman Kulasekhara (the latter an incomplete one).[6]

Footnotes and references:


Extract from a local publication of a.d. 1855, reproduced in The Indian Antiquary, Vol. IV, p.274: “When the lower Kolerun anikut was built, the structure (of Gangaikonda cholisvaram) was dismantled of a large part of the splendid granite sculptures which adorned it, and the enclosing wall was almost wholly destroyed in order to obtain materials for the work. The poor people did their utmost to prevent this destruction and spoliation of a venerated edifice by the servants of a Government that could show no title to it, but of course without success. They were also punished for contempt. A promise was made that a wall of brick should be built in place of the stone wall that was pulled down; but unhappily it must be recorded that this promise has never been redeemed.”


These measurements are based on those found in the standard published books. Our plan records slightly different data furnished by our Surveyor.

See also Tables I and II showing the height of the superstructure in relation to that of sanctum, and of the proportion of the plinth of the temple in relation to its height in respect of some South Indians Temples in the scholarly publication ‘The Kampaharesvara Temple by H. Sarkar, brought out by the Department of Archaeology, Government of Tamilnadu.


Two other bronzes of the period of Rajendra I found elsewhere deserve mention. These are the urdhva tandava form of Nataraja housed in the temple at Tiruvalangadu, and the ananda tandava form, a treasure trove unearthed at Tiruvalangadu, now preserved in the Government Museum, Madras.


We recall that two subshrines with these selfsame names exist at the Panchanadisvarar temple at Tiruvaiyaru also. The Vada Kailasam there is a creation of Logamahadevi, a queen of Rajaraja I, and the Ten Kailasam, of Rajendra I. These twin shrines appear to have provided the prototype for their counterparts here. It is noteworthy, however, that at Tiruvaiyaru they have remained as Siva shrines.


Durga images are usually found enshrined in the four cardinal directions in the periphery of a city, protecting it from evil. At Gangaikondasolapuram, such images have been found at Palli Odai in the north, at Meykavalputtur in the east (a majestic seven-foot figure) and on the Vira Reddi street in the south (the Ghalukyan image already mentioned). An image was found in the west, on the bund of the great lake, and recently re-located close to the palace remains.


An authentic guide-book on this temple is published by R. Nagaswamy, Director of Archaeology, Government of Tamil Nadu.

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