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 Tiruppattur (Tiruppidavur)

The village of Tiruppattur (to be distinguished from its better-known namesakes in the North Arcot and Ramanatha-puram districts) is about 30.50 kms (19 miles) from the town of Tiruchy and 5 kms (3 miles) from Siruganur to the left of the trunk road from Tiruchy to Madras. It is referred to as Tirup-Pidavur in ancient Tamil literature and in local inscriptions. There are a number of temples in this locality: (1) The Kailasa-nathar temple; (2) The Tirumandapam udaiya Nayanar (Ayya-nar) temple; (3) The Purushottama Emperumanar (Vishnu) temple; (4) The Brahmapurisvara temple; and (5) The Kasi Visvanathar temple. The following temples are mentioned in inscriptions to have existed in the locality: the Siva temple of Tiru-Veppan-terri udaiya Nayanar; the Anbichchuram udaiya Nayanar temple; and the temple of Subrahmanyar (or Kunram-erinda) Pillaiyar.

The Kailasanathar temple, built of stone, seems to have been erected in the 8th century a.d., between the reigns of Rajasimha alias Narasimhavarman II and Nandivarman II, and bears a close resemblance to its namesake at Kanchipuram in style and features except for the absence here of the Somaskandar panel in the rear wall of the garbhagriha.

Tirumandapam Udaiya Nayanar (Ayyanar) temple

Next to the above temple is the Ayyanar temple called in inscriptions that of Tirumandapam udaiya Nayanar. We shall revert to this important temple below. It seems probable that the Siva temple (shrine) called that of Tiru-Veppan-terri udaiya Nayanar in local inscriptions, was located on a platform in the prakara of this temple. The other two temples, of Anbichchuram udaiya Nayanar and Subrahmanya Pillaiyar, mentioned in inscriptions, are not traceable.

The Brahmapurisvara temple is a big one of the Middle Chola period. We are, however, unable to trace its evolution in time because of the total absence of inscriptions on its walls. Two interesting temple-cars with metal attachments are worthy of notice here.

Half a mile (800 ms) north of the preceding temple, there is a Vishnu temple, which must be that of Purushottama Em-peruman referred to in an inscription of Jatavarman Vira Pandya (of about a.d. 1277). It must have been an ancient Pallava temple, reconstructed later. In the western prakara of this temple, there is a huge stone image of Vishnu, 1.96 ms (6' 5") high and 0.79 m (2' 7") wide, of good workmanship and assignable to the Pallava period.

To the far west of the village is a Siva temple called that of Kasi Visvanathar. It is of the Later Chola or possibly Vijaya-nagara period.

Historically, and especially from the point of view of Saiva hagiology, the Ayyanar temple here is important. Appar mentions the temple of Tiruppidavur in his Kshetra tiruttandagam. In the last section of his Periyapuranam (twelfth century a.d.), called the Vellanaich-charukkam (The canto of the white elephant), Sek-kilar describes graphically the last journey, to Mount Kailasa, of Sundarar and Cheraman Perumal. When the former, seated on the white elephant sent by Lord Siva, set off for Kailasa, the latter got on to a horse and merely whispered the Siva-mantra (panchaksharam) into its ears, to find himself in Kailasa even ahead of Sundarar. Both of them were blessed with a vision of Siva with His Consort in Kailasa, well-adorned and attended by Brahma, Vishnu, Kama and Rati, Murugan, Vinayaka, Kari (Ayyanar), the devas, vidyadharas, yakshas, kinnaras, nagas, palas, dikpalas, dik-gajas and others. This divine “procession” is described by Cheraman Perumal in his swan-song called the Tiruk Kailaya Jnana Ula; this is the first instance of this form of Tamil poetry and is hence also called the Adi Ula. This Ula of Cheraman Perumal is held by tradition to have been expounded by Varuna to Siva’s devotees at Tiruvanjaikkalam (Mahodai or Kodungolur, modern Cranganore), the home-town of Cheraman Perumal, and by Sattanar (Ayyanar) in the temple at Tirup-pidavur.

The inscriptional name of Tirumandapam udaiya Nayanar temple for this temple would appear to be in commemoration of this legendary final episode in the life of Cheraman Perumal. An earlier version of the present stone mandapa in front of the Ayyanar shrine must have existed from the days of Sundarar and Cheraman Perumal (ninth century a.d.). The present shrine and mandapa seem assignable to the Middle Chola period. The earliest Chola inscriptions here are two, of the days of Rajendra I; one, of the second regnal year, is on the east wall of the and the other, of the sixth year, on the stone pedestal on which the images of Ayyanar and His two Consorts are placed. The first mentions that the residents of Tiruppidavur nadu and two other nadus granted the lease of some fallow land to a servant of the temple of Anbichchuram udaiya Nayanar at Tiruppidavur. The second is fragmentary and mentions a gift by one Uttama-sola Muvendavelan.

In the north-east corner of the prakara of the Ayyanar temple and to the north of the (main) mandapa, there are a shrine and a mandapa, both in ruins. On the pillars of the ruined mandapa there are two inscriptions of the days of Rajadhiraja I. One is fragmentary and contains only the historical introduction. The other, of his thirty-first year, refers to a gift of cows for a lamp to the temple of Pillaiyar Veppan-terri udaiyar at Tiruppidavur (described as situated in Rajaraja valanadu) by a native of Mechchumangalam, a hamlet of Perumpaluvur (Melappaluvur), the headquarters of the Paluvettaraiyars. In this connection, it may also be mentioned that an inscription of the sixth regnal year of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya (I?) found on the north wall of the main mandapa records a gift of the income of two villages to the temples of Tirumandapam udaiya Nayanar and Tiru Veppan-terri udaiya Nayanar here; also the residents of Urrattur Malavi nadu gave gifts for offerings and repairs to the temple of Subrahmanya Pillaiyar in the same village (ARE 594 of 1908). The Veppan-terri udaiyar shrine might have been located within the premises of the Ayyanar temple: could it have been the shrine in ruins (in the prakara) already referred to? The Subrahmanyar temple is referred to as that of Kunram-erinda Pillaiyar in a record of the fourth year of Rajaraja III (ARE 595 of 1908). There are several other Later Chola inscriptions in this temple, as well as of the Hoysalas (Vira Ramanatha) and of the Pandyas of the Second Empire.

As already stated, the main shrine is of stone and consists of a garbhagriha, housing the images of Ayyanar and His two Consorts (later additions?), and the mandapa in front. There is a. prakara with a few shrines in it, enclosed by a madil with a threestoreyed gopuram built in the thirteenth century a. d. which bears an inscription of its builder. There is a unique stone sculpture of an elephant (the vahana of Ayyanar) in front of the temple.

The importance given to the mandapa, to the extent of naming the deity after it (so to speak), is of interest. An analogous situation exists at Uttaramerur, where the big mandapa in the Vai-kuntha Perumal temple apparently first served as the meeting place of the mahasabha of the chaturvedimangalam (probably with a Vishnu image as the presiding deity) and later on the present Vishnu temple was erected adjoining it, in the days of Kulot-tunga I.

As far as our knowledge goes, this is the only important stone temple for Ayyanar, not to speak of the huge elephant vehicle in stone sculpture in front of it. The Abhiramesvara temple at Ayyur-Agaram (in the vicinity of Villupuram, South Arcot district) is, in spite of the name given to it, a Sasta temple. The central deity is still Sasta, while in recent times a Linga has been installed in the prakara, perhaps justifying the new name of Abhiramesvara (Pls 248 to 250).

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