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 hamlet of Ramanathankoyil is about 2 kms south-west of the village of Pattisvaram and falls within the revenue jurisdiction of that village. The local name for the site where the temple of Mahadevar is located is kolait-tidal. Pattisvaram, Ramanathankoyil, Palaiyarai, Tiruchchattimurram and Darasuram were important Chola centres lying close to one another, having formed an integral part of the ancient secondary Chola capital of Palaiyarai (now called Palaiyaru). In this capital, many a Chola monarch got himself anointed. Today, the village of Palaiyarai is an insignificant place, with no remnants of its past glory. It is referred to in a record of Kundavai Pirattiyar (ARE 639 of 1909) as the royal home of her nephew Rajendra I. We learn from another record, of an order issued from the palace here by the king (ARE 463 of 1908). Intimately associated with the Cholas as it was, it now contains no inscriptions of theirs; the only record found there (ARE 254 of 1927) states that the big mandapa and the sopana (flight of steps) in the Somanathadevar temple there were constructed by Vanadarayan Narasingadevan of Poruvanur in Saka 1375 (a. d. 1453). The village of Pattisvaram is within five kms due north-west of Palaiyaru, and that of Ramanathankoyil is close to the latter.

Siva (Mahadevar) temple (Panchavan Madevi Isvaram)

There is a Siva (Mahadevar) temple at Ramanathankoyil with a dilapidated, three-storeyed gopuram in front. The temple faces east. On either side of the entrance to the central shrine, there is a fine dvarapala sculpture. The south wall of the central shrine contains fine sculptures of Bhikshatanar, Ganesa, and Dakshi-namurti; Brahma, Durga, Ardhanari and Gangadharar are on the north wall, and Lingodbhavar is in the west. There are loose sculptures of Chandesvara, Bhairavar and Chandrasekharar lying in the mandapa. The litigant in the sanctum is fluted, reminiscent of the Pallava Rajasimha tradition.

An inscription of the seventh year of Rajendra I (ARE 271 of 1927) found here, mentions a gift of land for worship and offerings, by the king and a queen of his (Nambirattiyar) made to “the Mahadevar of Panchavan Mahadevi Isvaram, built as a pallippadai at Palaiyaru alias Mudikonda Cholapuram”: provision is made for offerings on the days of Tiruvadirai, the natal star of Rajendra I, and Revati, stated there to be that of the (unnamed) queen.

During the Middle Chola period, two Chola queens bore the name Panchavan Mahadevi (Madevi): one of them was a queen of Rajaraja I, and the other of Rajendra I. Parakesari Uttama Chola also had a queen of that name (ARE 491 of 1925). While Rajendra I’s queen of that name finds mention in only one record (ARE 464 of 1918), Rajaraja I’s queen is associated with several acts of piety, extending in time over practically the whole reign of Rajaraja I. Thus, an inscription of the third year of Rajaraja I at Tirumalpuram describes her as “Chola Mahadevi alias Panchavan Mahadeviyar, queen of Mummudi Chola” and mentions that she made a gift of a lamp to the local temple (ARE 294 of 1906). In the nin th regnal year of Rajaraja I, a servant of hers made a gift of an ornament to Uma-Bhattaraki at Tiruvidaimarudur (ARE 278 of 1907). In the tenth year of Rajaraja I, this queen set up a gold image of Uma-sahita at Tiruvidaimarudur (ARE 254 of 1907). An inscription of his 16th year at Tiruppugalur mentions a tax-free gift of land by “Nakkan Tillai Alagiyar alias Panchavan Mahade-viyar, queen of Rajaraja I” for festivals and offerings on the day of Sadaiyam every month, this star being both the king’s and her own natal star (ARE 47 of 1928). An inscription of his 21 st year at the same place mentions that the assembly of Karo-duchcheri received 15 kasus and granted remission of taxes on lands granted to the temple by the king and this queen for special worship on the day of Sadaiyam every month (ARE 54 of 1928). Again, an inscription of his 23 rd year at the same place mentions that a servant of this queen’s presented nine flowers of gold to Konapiran, the lord of Tiruppugalur (ARE 62 of 1928). Finally, from an inscription of the 27th year of Rajaraja I at Melappaluvur (ARE 385 of 1924), we learn that Nakkan Panchavan Mahadevi was the daughter of Avani-Kandarppa-purathu-devanar of Paluvur, and that, at her request, the king provided for offerings and worship in the local temple by granting an additional income of 900 kalams of paddy (derived from an enhancement of rents) following a re-survey and re-assessment of lands.

In the Rajarajesvaram temple, she set up two images (as already seen), namely of (1) Tanjai Alagar (Siva dancing on Muyalakan) with Uma Paramesvari and Ganapati, and (2) Patanjali-devar with five hoods mounted on a single crowned head, two arms, a human body above the waist and three coils below it. She also made a large number of gifts to both of them (SII, II, 51 and 53).[1]

In view of the many acts of devotion attributed to Queen Panchavan Madevi of Rajaraja I, it is highly probable that the pallippadai was erected over her mortal remains (though Uttama Chola and Rajendra I had queens of the same name). Though there is no foundation inscription revealing its date or builder, it is likely that it was erected by Rajendra I himself in homage to the saintly character of his step-mother.

In any event, this temple is unique as the only pallippadai known to be erected in honour of a queen. The ARE for 1926-27 states that “some interested hand has attempted to erase the word pallippadai; nevertheless, the word can be clearly traced in the inscription”. We have already seen (Chola, pp 215-7) that Rajaraja I built a sepulchral temple over the mortal remains of his grandfather Arinjaya at Melpadi, calling it Arinjigai Isvaram.

The above inscription of Rajendra Fs found on the north, west and south sections of the garbhagriha and ardhamandapa walls, also makes mention of the mathadhipati Lakulisvara Pandita who supervised the affairs of the temple in collaboration with “Venkatan Kovandai of Maruthur in Serrur kurram, a division of Kshatriyasikhamani valanadu”. We will see, when discussing Tiruvorriyur, the hold which the Lakulisa and Soma Siddhanta cults had over the Cholas in general, and over Rajendra I in particular (Pis 253 to 261).

Footnotes and references:


As already seen in our chapter on Rajaraja I, section on gifts of icons to Rajarajesvaram by his queens, if indeed Panchavan Mahadevi and Chola Mahadevi were one and the same person, then this list of benefactions is further enhanced.

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