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....

Rajadhiraja I was the eldest son of Rajendra I and was born under the star Pusam or Purva Phalguni. From a. d. 1018 till his father’s death, he served as Tuvaraja and won for his father many a battle; in turn he associated his younger brother Rajendra-deva (II) as his co-regent for two years prior to his own death in a. d. 1054. His inscriptions begin with the historical introduction “tingaler peruvalartingaler tarn tirukkodiyodu thyagak-kodiyum”. Soon after his accession, he had to engage himself in putting down the rebellion in Sri Lanka (Ceylon). The strength of the Chola army in the island at this time was about 95,000; between a. d. 1017 and 1029, Vikramabahu, the Sri Lanka king, was the leader of this revolt. Several wars were fought in the south-eastern part of the island and the Lanka rulers were helped by certain North Indian princes from Ayodhya and Kanauj. Though the Cholas were successful, the war went on till Kitti alias Vijaya made himself the leader of the freedom movement and ultimately succeeded in overthrowing the Cholas about the time of Kulot-tunga I’s accession in a. d. 1070.

On the north-western boundary too, the Western Chalukyas were restive. Between a. d. 1044and 1054? the Chola army invaded the Western Chalukyan kingdom, destroyed the palace at Kampili, sacked the city of Pundur on the left bank of the river Krishna, defeated and took prisoner several vassals of the Western Chaluk-yan ruler Ahavamalla Somesvara I and set up a pillar of victory with the tiger crest; then the victorious Chola army marched to the capital city of Kalyanapura, sacked the city and there Rajadhi-raja I celebrated his virabhisheka assuming the title of Rajendradeva”. It was on this occasion that a sculpture of a dvara-pala belonging to Kalyani (Kalyanapura) was taken away from there as a war trophy; the sculpture bears the inscription: “Svasti Sri Udaiyar Sri Vijaya Rajendradevar Kalyanapuram erittu kodu-vanda dvarapalakar”. This trophy brought by the king was found till recently in the front platform of the eastern gopuram of the Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram: it has since been removed to the Art Gallery at Tanjavur. An incorrect and thoroughly distorted and confused picture of this event is given by H. Goetz in his book India (pp. 173-176—Art of the World Series). He states: “Only the temple of Darasuram forms an exception to some degree. But it had been erected to house an idol looted by prince Vijayarajendra after the victory of Rajadhiraja I over Somesvara I Ahavamalla from the Western Chalukyan capital of Kalyanapuram (Kalyani) and it was therefore decorated with relics of Western Chalukyan style, and even some original dvara-pala statues from the destroyed enemy temple.” It is obvious that Goetz has very little knowledge of South Indian History and Art.

Vijayarajendra was only a title of Rajadhiraja I, which he assumed after his sack of Kalyanapura and the celebration of his victory there. He belonged to the first half of the eleventh century (a. d. 1018-54). The Darasuram temple was a Later Chola temple built in the second half of the twelfth century by Rajaraja II (a. d. 1146-73), more than a hundred years later. It is therefore wrong to state that this temple “houses an idol looted from Kalyanapura” and that it was decorated with “relics of Western Chalukyan style”. What ignorance and distortion of facts!

On his return to Gangapuri, the capital, Rajadhiraja I performed an asvamedha yajna.

In the fourth year of Rajendradeva II, there is a reference to a fierce battle fought at Koppam between the Cholas and the Western Chalukyas; and the Chola king Rajadhiraja I, helped by his brother Rajendradeva, led the battle. The king was in the thick of the fight, leading the battle himself, and made a great advance against the Chalukyan forces. From inscriptional material, it is gathered that the Chalukyan forces concentrated on the elephant carrying the king; the enemy’s arrow struck the head of the royal elephant and the king himself was wounded mortally; he succumbed to the injuries and, as the inscription euphemistically puts it, he “went up into the sky and became a sojourner in the land of Indra, where he was welcomed by the celestial nymphs”. The Chalukyan army, jubilant over the fall of the Chola king, redoubled its assault on the Chola army; it was at this perilous hour for his side that the undaunted Rajendradeva entered the thick of the battle and turned what would have been a tragic rout into a resounding victory; he mounted an elephant and plunged into battle, gathering the Chola army in disarray into a powerful phalanx; and, despite his being wounded in the thigh and shoulders and his elephant’s forehead being pierced by the enemy’s arrows, he killed many Chalukyan Generals on the battlefield, including Jayasimha, brother of Ahavamalla, and, with his wounds still fresh, crowned himself emperor on the battlefield—a most unusual coronation indeed! He set up a jayastambha at Kollapuram (Kolhapur) and returned triumphantly to Gangapuri, the capital.

In many ways, Rajadhiraja I holds a unique position in Chola military history; commencing his career as a General even in the days of his grandfather, he had distinguished himself in many a battle against the Cheras, the Pandyas, the Ceylonese and the Western Chalukyas, in a manner equalled by few others even among the mighty Chola race. After his long and distinguished military career of about fifty years, it almost seems apt that he should have crowned it with a heroic death on the battlefield.

In spite of his being almost constantly engaged in wars, he seems to have found time for benefactions to temples in the later years of his reign. We have already referred to a twenty-seventh year record of his at Tiruvarur, making provision for offerings to the images of his father and Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar, and to a 31st year record at the same place, ordering the erection of a golden pavilion for Vithi Vitanka devar. A record of his twenty-ninth year at Tiruvenkadu (ARE 114 of 1896: SII, V, 978) mentions his gift of some land as tax-free devadana to an Ardhanarisvara image (Pis 350 and 351) in the temple of Tiruvenkadu Udaiyar; the order was issued whenhe was seated (on the sopana in the north wing of the Gangaikondasolan maligai in the palace at the capital. In his thirty-fifth year, the village of Tiruvadandai was given as a devadana to the Varaha temple (of Mahavishnu) in the village, and the income from certain dues ordered to be spent on a festival every month on the day of his asterism, Purva Phalguni (ARE 258 of 1910: also see Early Chola Temples, pp. 203-7). In the same year, land for the wages of two gardeners, entrusted with a flower-garden in his name, was gifted to the Tirukkolambiyur temple (ARE 45 of 1925). Again in the same year, the village called Sarvatirthanallur was granted as a tax-free devadana for worship and offerings to the temple of Sarvatirtham Udaiya Mahadevar at Kanchipuram by the king, seated on the throne called Pallavaraiyan in the western outer mandapam of his palace at Gangaikondasolapuram (ARE 420 of 1925). The most important cultural event of his reign was the setting up of a Vedic college at Tribhuvani, in his thirtieth year. (PI 349, Tiruvenkadu: Bhikshatanar).

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