BRIHADl§VARA TEMPLE, GANGAIKONDACHOLAPURAM

The great monument at Gangaikondacholapuram, the second Brihadisvara Gangaikondacholesvara temple (pi. VI), rears its head nobly and bespeaks the imperial dignity of the capital that Rajendra (1012-44), the son ofRajaraja, established after his victorious march to east India up to the river Ganga.

By: Diksha Sharma

Posted on: 29/10/2020 View : 180

BRIHADl§VARA TEMPLE, GANGAIKONDACHOLAPURAM

The great monument at Gangaikondacholapuram, the second Brihadisvara Gangaikondacholesvara temple (pi. VI), rears its head nobly and bespeaks the imperial dignity of the capital that Rajendra (1012-44), the son ofRajaraja, established after his victorious march to east India up to the river Ganga. The capital itself has dis¬ appeared: even the palace where the emperor dwelt does not exist except in ruins marked by brick debris about T5 km away from the temple, at a place known as Ulkottai, where a mound even now called Maligaimedu, ‘palace-mound5, supplies bricks to the villages. In the vicinity is another village with a large tank known as Tottikulam excavated by the king. About 1.5 km to the south of the temple is a third village, Vanadipattam, ‘place offireworks’, which is believed to be the place where fireworks for the temple-festivals were prepared. Yet another place, Meikavalputtur, 1*5 km to the east, is so named as it was the place for the watchman ofthe temple. A fifth village, 1*5 km beyond the last one, is called Tirthakulam, which had the teppakutam, the tank for floating the barge in the festivals ofthe temple. About 3 km to the west is the large water-reservoir known as Ponneri, now all in ruins. In this or in the reservoir outside the gopura ofthe temple, which is also dilapidated, must have been poured the sacred waters ofthe Ganga, which Rajendra caused to be brought from east India. At the temple itself a ruined gopura greets the visitor: it is in the inner compound-wall of the temple, the outer and larger wall, with its gopuras, having been despoiled long ago. On entering through the gopura, one sees, beyond the bali-pitha, a huge bull, which, unlike its counterpart at Thanjavur, is not monolithic. Two flights ofsteps, on the northern and southern sides, as at Thanjavur, lead up to two dvara-palas—huge mono¬ liths that guard the first entrance to a long closed mandapa.

The plinth of the entire mandapa up to the ardha-mandapa and mukha-mandapa ofthe main temple is a part of the original structure itself, though its wall appears to have been renovated; the pillars and the platform are later additions. The ardha-mandapa of the temple is approached by two flights of steps from the north and south. Here the mukha-mandapa is guarded on either side by two pairs of dvara-palas, and a third pair may be seen at the entrance to the east leading on from the main mandapa to the mukha-mandapa. Yet another pair of colossal dvara-palas guards the entrance to the sanctum. In the mukha-mandapa, the walls on the east, on either side, are decorated with carvings representing Siva in different aspects of anugraha (favour), such as Vishnvanugrahamurti (bestowing grace on Vishnu who worships him with his lotus-eye), Ravananugraha-murti (blessing Ravana who is penitent after having raised mount Kailasa), Devyanugraha-murti (bestowing grace on Devi who worships the lingo), Kalyanasundara-murti (going forth for his marriage attended by his bhuta-ganas, goblins, and the marriage itself with all the incidental rejoicing and merry-making), Markandeyanugraha  murti (blessing his devotee Markandeya by rescuing him from Yama, the god of death, whom he overcame) and Chandesanugraha-murti (blessing Chandesa, who did not refrain from cutting offhis father’s legs for having interfered with his worship of Siva and bathed the linga with the milk of cows in his care). To the north¬ east is a beautiful large-sized panel, a masterpiece of Chola art, which shows Siva bestowing his grace on ChandikeSvara. o * The temple is 54*86 m high and in arrangement follows its Thanjavur predecessor. But while the latter is tall and stately, with its contour straight and severe, suggestive ofstrength, the present one is shorter and its contour more graceful and delicate and somewhat feminine in its lack of angularity. 

The sculptures in the temple are less numerous than in the Thanjavur one but are of the same nature. Here again we have representations ofprincely warriors, with swords and shields. Lakshml and Sarasvatl are shown seated in niches as at Thanjavur. In the northern and southern niches of the central shrine are Bhikshatana-murti and Chandesanugraha-murti (pi. VII), the former disfigured with a plaster-coat. In the southern niches a figure, presumably that of Dakshinamurti, is missing: the rest variously represent dancing Ganesa, Ardhanarisvara beside the bull, Hari-Hara and Nataraja (pi. VIII A) dancing along with Kali and Bhringi atten¬ ded by ganas and Karaikkalammaiyar playing cymbals. On the sides ofthe niche Vishnu plays the drum, Ganesa and Karttikeya approach the scene on their vehicles, and Devi, with her arm resting on the bull beside her, watches the dance. To the west is Siva as Gahgadhara appeasing Devi who is forlorn and sullen on account of her lord having received Ganga on his matted locks. On the sides of the niches is narrated the story of Bhagiratha’s pen¬ ance to bring Ganga down to the earth. Then there are Lirigodbhava, Vishnu with his consorts and Karttikeya or Indra and Siva as Uma-sahita. On the walls of the niche with Uma-sahita, Vishnu is shown adoring him by offering his eye as a flower. The northern niches contain the figures of Kalantaka with the story of Markandeya on the sides of the niche, eight-armed Mahishamardim standing beside her Hon, Brahma with a beard, accompanied by his consorts Savitri and Sarasvatl (pi. IX A), Bhairava with eight arms, Siva as Madanantaka burning Manmatha (pi. VIII B), one of his hands in tarjani (threatening) attitude, Manmatha and his consort Rati, the former first shooting with a bow and then helpless, and other gods intervening on his behalf. The lowest series of panels on the base of the temple shows seated lions with one of the paws raised and rear¬ ing in an attitude usually found in the Pallava temples of the time of Rajasimha (690-715) and with analogues at Prambanan in Indonesia.

The niches are arranged in the same fashion as at Thanjavur: there is a large central niche flanked on each side by two smaller ones, all projecting out of the main wall, with a kumbha-panjara pattern between each pair of niches. Noteworthy are the roof-forms on the respective tiers, in the shape ofsaid, koshtha and kudu. In the eaves of the lowest niches are bracket-figures of the ganas of Siva and rearing lions. The principal niche on each side is devoted to one or the other ofthe gods ofthe Trinity— Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva: Siva Dakshina-murti on the south, Vishnu with consorts on the west and Brahma with consorts on the north. The bays of the niches at every stage have rows ofyali as decoration, with makaraheads at the extreme ends from which warriors are issu¬ ing. The niche-tops are decorated in a circular fashion as in the Thanjavur temple. The space on the temple-base below the jw/i-frieze is covered with inscriptions, though not as completely as at Thanjavur. In the niches, numerous iconographic forms are repeated in a different order and with the ad¬ dition of a few more, such as Varaha rescuing the Earth, space for the representations being made available by the utilization of the space for the kumbha-panjaras in other niches in addition to the five main niches. The shrine to the north of the main temple, dedi¬ cated to Chandikesvara, contains a large fine carving representing the steward of Siva’s household. There are two other shrines, respectively to its north and south, contemporary with the main temple, on either side of the main shrine. There is no deity in the southern shrine, but in the shrine to the north is installed an image ofDevi of a later date. That this shrine was also originally inten¬ ded for Siva is indicated by the bull guarding the door.

A feature to be noted here is that the bull is quite different from those of Ghola workmanship and resembles those of the earlier Chalukya period. The dvara-palas in the two shrines and the images in the niches, wherever they are extent, are contemporary with, but less carefully exe¬ cuted than those in the main temple. To the south-west of the main temple is a small temple with a large image of GaneSa, his trunk curling round the sweets (modaka), as is usual in some early Chola representations of the deity. Beyond and to the north of the shrine of ChandikeSvara is another shrine, wherein is housed a fine early image of MahishamardinL Further beyond is a large representation of lion in plastered brickwork, through the body of which runs a- flight of steps leading into a large well, known as Simhakinar. The popular story goes that the Chola king got water from the Ganga and poured it into this well, so that there could be a perpetual supply of it for the bath (abhisheka) of the deity. Among the bronzes in the temple the following are specially noteworthy: a large Somaskanda, BhogaSaktidevi, another Devi and Mahasena or Karttikeya as wargod carrying a vajras shield and cock (pi. IX B). The significance of the remarkable figure of the war-god to the ideal ofthe royal warrior Rajendra cannot be under¬ estimated. The unique slab with the nine planets (navagraha) (pi. X) in the large temple, hidden in total darkness, is an eloquent testimony to the cosmopolitan spirit of Rajendra, who, after his northern conquests, combined northern and southern elements to produce this most interesting group. The most remarkable carving here, the Chandesanugraha-murti panel, is almost a suggestion ofthe laurels won by Rajendra through the grace of Siva, and he humbly presents himself as a devotee of the Lord, who blessed Chandesa.

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