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 Tirumukkudal

We have dealt with the Venkatesa Perumal temple at Tiru-mujkkudal in detail under Rajaraja I. But of considerable historical interest is the attention that this temple received at the hands of Vira Rajendra, the last great king of the Middle Chola period.

Venkatesa Perumal temple

There is a unique inscription[1] in this temple which is dated in the fifth year, 348th day of the reign of this ruler; one of the biggest inscriptions known so far, it consists of 55 lines of writing and is engraved in two sections. In the first section the lines are very long running to a length of 16.76 ms (55 feet); the entire waif space, covered by the inscription is about 50.20 sq ms (540 sq. ft).

It gives us an insight into the working of the governmental machinery at various levels and of the political events of. the first five years and a half of Vira Rajendra’s rule. The main object of the record is to provide for the maintenance of worship in the temple and for the running of a Vedic college with an attached hostel and a hospital. At the time of engraving the record, all the four institutions—the temple, the college, the hostel and the hospital—were housed in one building with separate accommodation earmarked for each of these institutions.

The king issued, this order while he. was seated on the, throne called Rajendrasola Mavali Vanarajan in. his palace named Sola-keralan-timmaligai at the capital of Gangaikondasolapuram. This royal order (kelvi) of the king was committed to writing by a royal officer designated tirumandira-olai (the royal secretary) and was attested by three other royal officers who bore the designation of tirumandiravolai-nayagam. On receipt of this royal order, certain officers designated eval (authenticating officers) gave the formal command and this was seconded by thirty-eight lower officials who belonged to three departments of the State, comprising six udankuttam (Royal attendants on the king), twenty-eight vidaiyil (those who issue permits) and four naduvirukkai (arbitrators). A further stage was gone through in the translation of the order into action when thirty-two officers of the Accounts Department belonging to ten sections gathered together, and with four out of them authorising the entry, one reading out the order and another making the entry, with a third issuing the revised account, the order became operative. The substance of the order was as follows:

The gift to the temple consisted of:

(i) 75 kalanjus of gold, which the residents of the village of Vayalaikkavur were paying towards the maintenance of a feeding house (sala),

(ii) certain customary dues raised from the same village which had been assigned as a sala bhoga to the temple of Maha Vishnu at Tirumukkudal in the second year of the king’s predecessor Parakesarivarman Rajendrasola Deva (who took Rattapadi seven and a half lakhs), and

(iii) 72 kalanjus and nine manjadis of gold, which formed a prior devadana gift.

The income from items (i) and at the rate of 16 kalams of paddy measured by the rajakesari measure* per kalanju amounted to 1359 kalams and odd. This was converted into the new measure called arumolidevan which yielded an excess of 884 kalams and odd. Thus the total income for the temple came to 3243 kalams of paddy and 2i6| kasus of gold. The allocation of these among the four institutions is given below:

(1 ) The Temple:

(i) 601 kalams (approx)—Offerings are to be made thrice daily (morning, noon and night) to the deity Sri Raghava-chakravartin (Rama) at noon.

(ii) 68⅚ kasus—for sandal paste and its ingredients karpura and kunkumam and for lamps.

(iii) 28 kalams and odd—for special offerings to be made on the occasion of festivals in the months of Aippasi Masi, Kartigai as well as for the hunting festival and Jayantyashtami (the birthday of Krishna).

(iv) 6 kalams, 5 kurunis, 2 nalis—Offerings on the king’s birthday (fa llin g on the asterism Ashlesha in the month of Avani)

(v) 6 kalams, 5 kurunis, 2 nalis—Purchasing cloth to cover the images of gods and for offerings to be made on the birthday asterism of the Vaisya Madavan Damayan, who built the Jananatha-mandapa in the temple.

(vi) 5 kalams—expenses to be met on the occasion of taking out the deity Vennaikkuttan (Krishna) in procession on the day of Tiruvonam in the month of Purattasi every year.

(vii) 88 kalams, 11 kumis, 4 nalis—for meeting the expenses of feeding Sri Vaishnavas on various festive occasions.

(viii) 382 kalams, 6 kurunis—for payment to be made to an astrologer for announcing festivals, the singer for reciting the Tiruvoymoli hymns, the cultivators attending the flower garden of Virasolan, the Vaikhanasa devakanmis (i.e. priests worshipping the deity according to Vaikhanasa tenets), the accountant, the potter and the washerman attached to the temple.

(ix) 40 kalams—for repairs (pudukkuppuram) in the tiruch-churru-maligai to be annually undertaken.

(x) 13½ kasus—for purchasing cloth for various servants.

(2) The Vedic College:

This institution had a staff'on its roll consisting of

(i) a teacher for Rig Veda, remunerated at the rate of 60 kalams of paddy and 4 kasus per annum,

(ii) a teacher for Tajur Veda, also on a similar remuneration,

and (iii) a Bhatta to explain Vyakarana and Rupavatara, drawing an annual fee of 120 kalams of paddy and 10 kasus.

(3) The Hostel:

This was attached to the College and had a total strength of 60 inmates consisting of 10 students (sattirar) studying Rig Veda, 10 studying Tajur Veda, 20 students engaged in the study of Vyakarana and Rupavatara, 10 Mahapancharatras,[2] 3 Siva-brah-manas, 5 Vaikhanasas[3] and two others on studies whose details are lost in the inscription. They were all fed in the hostel at the cost of the institution and the feeding expenses, along with the cost of the sleeping-mats and oil for night study provided to the students as also oil for a weekly oil-bath on all the 51 Saturdays of the year, coupled with the wages of the cooks and the maidservants who served the students and the teachers, came to 1642 kalams of paddy and 37 and 5/8 kasus in money. It is interesting to note that the present day South Indian custom of having an oil bath every Saturday was in vogue even in the eleventh century a.d. The students and teachers were provided with mats for sleeping and provision also existed for oil lamps for reading by night.

During the Middle Chola period alone we have come across three instances where the temple functioned as a Vedic College—one at Ennayiram now in the South Arcot district, dealt with in detail in our chapter on Rajendra I, another Vedic College set up in the days of Rajadhiraja I at Tribhuvani (now in the Union territory of Pondicherry) and the present one, at Tiru-mukkudal.

We know that there was provision for expounding certain subjects in some temples as for instance Vyakarana in the Vyaka-rana-Vyakhyana-mandapa at Tiruvorriyur. Inscriptions attest to the fact that certain gifts of land were made to teachers who were called upon to teach various subjects like the Vedas in the village itself; gifts were also made to individuals for expounding the Mahabharata, Somasiddhanta, Prabhakara and Mimamsa. However, of the three institutions for imparting knowledge of the Vedas, the biggest would appear to be the college of Ennayiram, which had a strength of 370 students on its rolls.

(4) The Hospital (Virasolan Atular-salai):

This hospital which was named, a surname of the king, had 15 beds and was placed in the charge of a physician who drew an annual emolument of 90 kalams of paddy and 8 kasus in addition to a grant of land; his duties included the prescription of medicines to the in-patients of the hospital, the servants attached to the institutions in the temple campus and the teachers and students of the Vedic College. There was also a surgeon (Sel-liyaik-kiriyaip-pannuvan) attached to the hospital who drew a remuneration of 30 kalams of paddy; he was assisted by two persons for fetching medicinal herbs, who drew a pay of 60 kalams of paddy and two kasus. These two persons were also to supply firewood and attend to the preparation of medicines. Two nurses, drawing 30 kalams of paddy and one kasu per annum were attached to the hospital, for attending on patients and administering medicines. A barber was also attached to the hospital who received 15 kalams of paddy; he appears to have attended to minor surgical cases. In addition, provision was made for meeting the dietary expenses of the patients.

A lamp was kept burning in the ward throughout the night, for which a provision of 2½ kasus per annum was made. In addition, a waterman was provided for the hospital at a remuneration of 15 kalams of paddy per annum. Finally, a provision of 40 kastis was made for stocking medicines. The stock included the following 20 medicines:

  1. Brahmyam kadumburi,
  2. Go-mutra-haritaki,
  3. Vasa hartitaki,
  4. Dasa-mula-haritaki,
  5. Bhallataka-haritaki,
  6. Gandira,
  7. Balakeranda taila,
  8. Lasuady-eranda-taila,
  9. Panchaka-taila,
  10. Uttama-kamadi-taila,
  11. Sukla....sa. grita,
  12. Bilvadi-ghrita,
  13. Mandukara-vatika,
  14. Dravatti,
  15. Vimala,
  16. Sunetri,
  17. Tamradi,
  18. Vajrakalpa,
  19. Kalyana-lavana and,
  20. Purana-ghrita[4],

The proper administration of the grant was entrusted to the protection of the members of the mahasabha of Sri Madhurantaka-chaturvedimangalam.

Thanks to this well-preserved inscription, containing the royal order giving such elaborate details, we have been able to get an insight into the working of the temple in ancient days, which combined in it the roll of the educational institutions and the tender of the spiritual and physical health of the people.

Temple funds and charities made in favour of temples, thus, served not merely for the maintenance of temple service and offerings, but also a larger social purpose of taking care of educational institutions, hostels, hospitals and other welfare institutions.

Footnotes and references:


Tirumukkudal, according to this inscription, is said to be in Sri Madurantaka chaturvedimangalam, a taniyur in Kalattur kottam, a district of Jayangondasola mandalam.


Mahapancharatra had five samhitas viz., Paramesvara, Sattavata, Vishvaksena, Khagesvara and Sri-Pushkara. According to the Varaha Purana, the persons eligible to study Pancharatra are the first three classes and it was one of the four means of realising God, the other three being Veda, bakti, and yajna (K.V.Subrahmanya Ayyar, Epi.Ind. Vol.XXI, p. 223).


Evidently, the agamas and tantras, such as the Pancharatra, Saiva and Vaikhanasa were also taught in the college.


These medicines are found mentioned in well-known Indian medical treatises Charaka - Susruta-Samhita and Ashtangahridaya.


Vide H. Sarkar’s article on “Chola Prasadas” in Prof. K.A.N. Sastri Felicitation volume.

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