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Temple inscriptions point to early Chola inroads into Pallava region

T.S. Subramanian

Lithic records at 1,200-year-old temple tell the story of dynastic transition

— PHOTOS: S. THANTONI

TALES IN STONE: Archaeologist T. Satyamurthy explaining the Chola inscriptions at the Kailasnatha temple at Uttaramerur

CHENNAI: Six important inscriptions have come to light in a 1,200-year-old Siva temple in Tamil Nadu. One each belongs to Aditya Chola I and Vijayanagara king Krishnadevaraya and three belong to Rajendra Chola I. The sixth one is from the late Vijayanagara period. The Kailasanatha temple is situated at Uttaramerur in Kanchipuram district.

Ongoing restoration work on this dilapidated temple has yielded a relief with the sculptures of Tamil Saivite saints Sundarar, Tirugnana Sambandar and Appar.

T. Satyamurthy, former Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India, and a founder of the REACH Foundation, said the inscriptions in Tamil were revealed when the plinth of the front mantapa, which had collapsed, was being removed. The Kailasanatha temple built by the Pallava king Dantivarman is in ruins and REACH Foundation is restoring and conserving it with permission from the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department of Tamil Nadu.

Dr. Satyamurthy termed the discovery of Aditya Chola I’s inscription in the Pallava region as “rare” although similar inscriptions have been found at Tirukazhugukunram, Takkolam and a few other places. The discovery of the inscriptions belonging to both Aditya Chola I and Rajendra Chola I in the temple built by an earlier Pallava king showed that the Chola kings had later established total supremacy in the heart of the Pallava kingdom.

The inscription of Aditya Chola I (871-907 A.D.) talks about the donation of nine “kalanju” (weight or coin) of gold by a woman called Adithan to keep a lamp perpetually alight in the Brahmesvara Mahadeva temple at Uttaramerur. The village “thotta variam” (garden committee) gave an undertaking that it would use the interest accruing from the gold to provide one measure of oil daily to light the lamp “as long as the sun and the moon shine.”

D. Dayalan, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, Temple Survey Project (southern region), termed the Aditya Chola I inscription as “interesting,” for it “clearly indicated” that it was meant to establish the authority of the Cholas in the Pallava territory that has been referred to as “Thondaimandalam.”

Expansion

It was Aditya Chola I who vanquished Pallava ruler Aparajithavarman and expanded his sovereignty to Pallava territory. The Tiruvalangadu plates, the Tillaisthanam records and inscriptions at Kanyakumari attest to the fact that Aditya Chola I overthrew Aparajithavarman and extended his sway to “Thondaimandalam,” said Dr. Dayalan. After annexing the region, he made donations to many temples built by the Pallavas.

The “Brahmesvara Mahadevar” temple mentioned in the inscription must be this Kailasanatha temple, argued Dr. Dayalan.



A measuring scale engraved along the wall of the temple.

An inscription in the Vaikuntha Perumal temple at Uttramerur referred to “Brahmesvaragriha,” situated northeast of Uttaramerur. Since this Kailasanatha temple is situated to the northeast of Uttramerur, it must be the Brahmesvara Mahadevar temple.

The three inscriptions of Rajendra Chola I (1014-1043 A.D.) referred to donations made to the temple. All the three refer to Uttaramerur as “Rajendra Chola Chaturvedimangalam” – he renamed Uttaramerur after himself.

Krishnadevaraya’s inscription (early 16th century) mentioned the existence of an ‘Isanasivacharya Mutt.” This inscription was important, said S. Rajavel, Senior Epigraphist, ASI, because this mutt was established by Rajendra Chola I himself to honour his teacher called Isana Sivacharya, a Saiva scholar. The tradition seemed to have continued during the Vijayanagara period.

The restoration work revealed a measuring scale, with sub-divisions, engraved on the temple wall and named after a chieftain, “Virupparayan.”

The restoration work had reached a critical stage, according to Dr. Satyamurthy. The architectural members of the front mantapa of the Vijayanagara period, which had collapsed, had been collected; it would be re-built. While the sanctum sanctorum was built of granite, the vimana was made of bricks and mortar. The vimana had developed a 3-foot crack due to vegetation, which had dislocated the sanctum’s slabs.

As a trial measure, six slabs have been stitched together using stainless steel rods, with the help of Professor M.S. Mathews of the Civil Engineering Department of Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

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