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....


Four miles (6.5 kms) to the north of Walajabad on the Walajabad-Sriperumbudur road and about 22½ kms (14 miles) from Kanchipuram via Walajabad is the small village of Tenneri, of ancient origin deriving its name from the huge lake on whose bund it is situated, said to have been excavated by the Sangam ruler Tiraiyan. Tiraiyan-eri in course of time has become Tenneri. There are two temples in this village, one which is inside the village itself known as that of Apatsahayesvara and the other about 200 metres (a furlong) off the village set in the midst of fields and shrub jungle and in a state of utter neglect, known locally as the Kandalisvara temple.

Kandalisvara (Uttama Cholisvaram) temple

We are concerned with the latter. There are five inscriptions on its adhishthanam, four of them relating to the period of Rajaraja I and the remaining one to that of Vira Rajendra (ARE 198 to 202 of 1901). The earliest is found on the south wall of the temple and belongs to the eleventh year of Rajaraja I; it mentions the name of Madhurantaka devar alias Uttama Chola devar and the gift of a number of ritual vessels in copper for offerings and various services in the central shrine of the Uttamasolisvaram temple; the relevant portion of the inscription reads as follows:

“... Korajarajakesari panmarkku yandu 11 -avadu kottattut-tan-kurrattu Sri Uttama Cholisvarattu Alvar Gandaradit-ta devar Pirattiyar Uttama Cholanai tiru vayirril vaittu aruliya Pirantakan Madeviyar Sembiyan ana Udaiya Pirattiyar... Urrukkattuk-kottattut-tan-kurrattu Uttamachola chaturvedi-mangalattu...

From these we get to know that this temple should have come into existence in or before the tenth regnal year of Rajaraja I and must have been dedicated to the memory of Uttama Chola, the son of Sembiyan Mahadevi, the queen of Gandaraditya and the place also was christened Uttama-Chola chaturvedimanga-lam. This temple is thus one of the many temples raised by Sembiyan Mahadevi.

The temple faces east; it consists of a garbhagriha (5.09 ms by 5.77 ms) and an ardhamandapa (8.40 ms by 11.05 ms)- The garbhagriha stands on an adhishthana measuring 80 cms in height. The superstructure of the srivimana is of brick and chunam and is overgrown with trees. On the three walls of the garbhagriha there are excellent sculptures of Dakshinamurti in the south, Vishnu in the west and Brahma in the north. The garbhagriha has a Lingam measuring i.40 ms in height. There are two majestic dvarapalas kept on the ground at the flanks of the entrance to the ardhamandapa; they measure 1.80 ms in height and 50 cms in width. The ardhamandapa has three niches on each side (north and south) though only one houses a sculpture of Durga; the other five are empty (Pis 398 to 405).

The temple is a piece of beauty, overwhelmed by the cruel hand of neglect and overgrown with trees. Immediate steps should be taken for its protection and preservation.


K.V. Soundararajan (Indian Temple Styles) assigns the following dates for the Early Chola Temples but the dating is not supported by evidence:

Tirukkattalai: a.d. 960 (See my Early Chola Art I—pp.89-91);
Kilaiyur: a.d. 900 (See my Early Chola Art I—pp. 107-111);
    (a) Aivar Koyil: a.d. 810
    (b) Muvar Koyil: A.D. 880
         (See my Early Chola Temples—pp. 24-29 and pp. 108-137).

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