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 Tiruvasi

Marrarivaradisvara (Samivanesvara) temple

Tiruvasi (the corruption of its ancient name of Tiruppachil Asramam) is on the northern bank of the river Kollidam (Coleroon), 12 kms from Tiruchy on the road to Musiri and Salem. On the northern bank of the Kollidam and on the south side of the main road, there is an ancient early Chola temple of the period of Aditya I called that of Tiruk-Kadambat-turai Udaiya Mahadevar (now named Matsyapurisvara temple) at Tudaiyar (incorrectly called Turaiyar near Tiruvasi—see my Early Chola Temples, pp. 219-20 and plates 7 to 13 of Supplement to Early Chola Art I). Opposite to this temple there branches off a country track north of the main road to Musiri. The village of Pachchil-Asramam and the temple in it are about a km and a half from this junction. Pachchil or Pachchur is just west of Tiruvasi but as there is no direct approach to that place, it has now to be approached by an indirect road through Manachcha-nallur. At Pachchur there is an Early Chola temple of Aditya I’s days called that of Pachchil Amalisvaram. Opposite to it is the ancient ruined Vishnu temple of Adi Rartgam. Close to it is another Siva temple of the late Pallava period called Pachchil Merrali (of the age of Pallava Rajasimha). The Muttaraiyar inscription of Niyamam found on pillars of a later mandapa built in the temple of Sundaresvara of Sendalai mentions a famous Tamil poet called Pachchilvel Namban. Pachchur lay on the highway from the Hoysala capital of Dvarasamudram to the heart of the Chola country and is referred to in the Tiru-vendipuram inscription (see my Kopperunjinga—Tamil, p. 88-89), which describes the release of the Chola king Rajaraja III from Sendamangalam, where the Later Pallava king Kopperunjinga had kept him in prison (thirteenth century a.d.). With the enfeeblement of the Chola authority, the Hoysalas who were connected by marriage with the Cholas, set up a southern capital at Samayavaram alias Kannanur Koppam, about 8 kms north of Srirangam, and thus Pachchil became an important place not only from the religious angle but from a strategy and military point of view as well. Srirangam and Tiruvanaikka on the one side and Tiruvellarai on the other have temples of hoary antiquity. Further down on the main road from Tiruchy to Lalgudy lies Peruvala-nallur where the great Pallava ruler Paramesvara-varman I gained a decisive victory over the Western Chalukya ruler Pulikesin II, who is said to have fled, after the defeat, with only a rag on his body (seventh century a.d.).

There are a number of miracles and local traditions relating to the temple here:

(i) Uma is said to have taken the form of a hamsa (swan) and worshipped the Lord to gain her Lord’s favour. The Amman shrine is believed to be the site of her penance and the tank in its front and associated with her is called Annamam Poygai.

(ii) Brahma is said to have done penance here to regain his full powers of creation and the Lord is called Brahmapurisvara.

(iii) Ayyadigal Kadavarkon (the Pallava king in the latter part of the sixth century a.d.) has a hymn on the Lord of Pachchil-tiru-achchiramam (asramam) in his Kshetrak-kovai.

(iv) Sambandar who has a hymn on the Lord of the temple, calls the Lord Mani-valar kandar (Manikanthesvara). There is a miracle connected with him; at the time of his visit to this temple, the region in the neighbourhood was ruled by a local chief called Kolli-Malavan. The chief had a daughter, who was struck down with a fell disease called Muyalagan (akin to polio). The ailment defied treatment. So the chief brought the disabled daughter to the temple and sought divine grace. Just then Sambandar happened to visit the place; naturally he sought the intervention of Sambandar who sang a hymn praying for His divine grace; the daughter was restored to health.

(v) Sundarar of the later eighth and early ninth century a.d. (a.d. 820 is said to be his date of beatitude) has visited this place. In this hymn, he demands gold from the Lord in a challenging mood that if he did not give, others would. After getting the gold he questions its fineness and gets satisfaction from the Lord as to its quality. Hence the deity is called Marrari-varada-Isvara.

(vi) There is a local legend connecting an episode during the time of his visit. It is said that there was a Chetty, Kamalan by name. He was a devotee of the Lord. He was issueless. One day on his return after worship of the Lord, he found a female child. His wife was delighted to have this divine gift. Amalai, as she was called, grew to marriageable age. She was keen on winning the hand of the Lord of the temple. The father was desirous of giving her away in marriage to his brother-in-law. So the latter was told to go to Kasi for worship and on his return the wedding would be celebrated; so he went. After some months, Siva appeared in the guise of the brother-in-law of Kamalan and in the company of Sundaramurti, went to Kamalan’s house and demanded his bride. The wedding was celebrated. The newly wedded couple went to the temple for worship. Then suddenly appeared the real brother-in-law, the Kasi-pilgrim. Everyone was puzzled and worried. Siva and Amalai hurried past. Amalai threw her anklet in front of them. So there ran a rivulet called the Panguni or Silambur nadi now flowing north of the temple. The worried parents and their followers became dazed when they witnessed Siva and Uma on the back of their mount Rishabha disappearing into their ‘abode’. This legend has an echo in the Vaishnavite legend of Andal in divine love with Sriranganathar. Even now the seventh day of the Brahmotsavam (the great festival) is celebrated as the day of the divine wedding.

The sthala-vriksha is Sami or Vanni tree; hence the name of the place is Samivana-kshetram.

The temple faces east. There are two prakaras excluding the car streets round the madil of the second prakara. The outer gateway (gopuram) in the second prakara has five storeys. The Amman temple of Balasundari or Balambikai is in the south-east corner of the second prakara. The legends of the incarnation of Uma devi and the sacred tank called Annamam Poygai are old.

Appar refers, in his hymn of Tiru-Nagaik-karonam (Tiruttandagam, stanza 4) to the Annamam Poygai at (Pachchil) Asramam; but the present structure of the shrine of the goddess is a construction of the Later Chola period. It is an eka structure with a griha and an ardhamandapa. On the outer walls of the shrine there are, in the devakoshtas, sculptures of Vaishnavi, Brahmi, Mahesvari, Chamundesvari and Indrani (?). On the northern side of the second prakara close to the inner wall of enclosure, is a shrine dedicated to Sahasralinga (a Linga with a thousand dimunitive Lingas around). The inner gopuram at the entrance to the first prakara has three storeys, in consonance with its ancient character. The later adornment during renovations would relate only to the stucco work of the sculptures.

The man shrine consists of the garbhagriha, the ardhamandapa and the snapana-mandapa whose entrance is guarded by dvarapalas. It is this gateway that is associated with the place where Sundarar got his gift of gold from the Lord. The garbhagriha rests on a high apapitham (62 cms) and an adhishthana (4.35 ms) anticipating the Rajarajesvaram temple at Tanjavur. It is an eka-tala structure surmounted by a round sikhara. On the outer walls of the garbhagriha, there are five devakoshtas housing Ganapati and Dakshinamurti in the south, Ardhanarisvara in the west and Brahma and Durga in the north. There is a bronze Bhogasakti kept in the garbhagriha.

There are subshrines of Ganapati in the south-west and Subrahmanyar in the west. The original sculptures of Subrah-manyar and Vishnu are in the verandah of the there is also a sculpture of Somaskanda. The image of Lakshmi in the western subshrine is modern replacing Jyeshtha devi now kept on the platform in the south. A bronze of Nataraja dancing on a snake is kept in this mandapa. Bronzes of Sambandar and Sundaramurti deserve mention. On the southern platform of the tiruch-churru-maligai, there are sculptures of the Saptamatrikas, Ayyanar, and Jyesthadevi displaced from her subshrine by the later Lakshmi. A Linga named Rajaraja-vitankan is said to have been installed in the days of Rajaraja I (Pls 376 to 382).

The Epigraphical Department have so far copied only one inscription of the twenty-ninth year of the Hoysala Vira Somes-vara; ARE 34 of 1891 ). I understand that there are uncopied inscriptions of Rajaraja I, Rajendra I, Rajadhiraja I, Rajendra II, Kulottunga I, Kulottunga II and Rajaraja III; also inscriptions of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya and of the Hoysala Vira Somes-vara (thirteenth century a.d.) are found in the temple; but as the temple was undergoing renovation and the inscribed walls were unapproachable during my two visits, they could not be verified on the spot. It is hoped that this work will not be further delayed so that whatever is left without damage or destruction can be salvaged before it is too late. At my request, the Epigraphi-cal Department has since copied some of the inscriptions of this temple. The ardhamandapa is named the Parantaka mandapam, and the mahamandapa in its front is called the Uttamasolan tirumandapam.

The temple has existed at least from the days of Ayyadigal Kadavarkon (the latter half of the sixth century a.d.). The installation of Ardhanarisvara in the western devakoshta gives us the clue that the temple was built of stone in the days of Aditya I. The temple of Pachchil-Asrama-Mahadevar is one of great celebrity in the Tamil land.

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