Temple Architecture of Pallava and Chola Dynasty

Temple Architecture of Pallava and Chola Dynasty

Question: The temple on the eastern side of Kumbakonam, Kudanthai Keezh Kottam is recently being renovated ahead of Mahamaham festival. It combines the finer elements of Pallava and Chola architecture. Discuss the features of Pallava and Chola temple architecture in this context.

- South Indian style of temple architecture differs from the rest of India and specifically revolves around the four periods corresponding to the 4 principal kingdoms- Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas and Vijaynagar rulers.

- In the Southern Silpa and Agama Texts, Vimanas are classified in the following 3 categories-Nagra, Dravida and Vesara

Temple Architecture of the Pallavas

- Earliest examples of temples of the Dravidian style belonged to the Pallava period

There are two different sub styles of Pallava temple architecture:

i. Rock Cut(610-690 AD)

ii. Structural (600-900 AD)

- The rock cut temples at Mahabalipuram are the epitome of Pallava temple architecture.

- The Pallava temples are further categorised into excavated pillared halls/mandapas and monolithic shrines called rather

- 5 rathas were building by Narasimhavarman I in the period from 625 to 645 AD

- The rathas are named after the characters in Mahabharata-Draupadi, Arjuna, Bhima, Sahadeva and Dharmaraj

- The ratha of the latter is the most complete and largest in the series

- Famous Kailasnatha and Vanikunthaperumal temples from Kanchipuram are amazing specimens of structural temples of the Pallavas

- Early temples were in veneration of Lord Shiva and had simplistic interiors

- During later period, pillars became more richly adorned with scenes from Mahabharata and Ramayana

- Transition of wood to stone took one thousand years under the Pallavas

Chola Temple Architecture

- Chola art was an extension of the Pallava era

- Cholas building several 100 temples, some of which were modest in size while others were massive with vimanas or gopuras

- Chola architecture is epitomised by the temple of Koranganatha at Trichinopoly constructed by Parantaka I (907-949 AD)

- Temple comprises pillared hall/mandapa with attached sanctuary/vimana

- Height of the shikara is around 50 feet while the mandapa is located at the height of 16 feet from the base

- Chola temple architecture reached its fullest glory at Thanjavur which was the capital established by Chola King Rajaraja I

- Tamil architecture saw its peak in the Brihadeshwara temple at Thanjavur, constructed around 1000 AD

- 55 m long structure of the temple has a 58 metres feet tall pyramidal tower/shikhara

- Temple is composed of several axially combined structures including a Nandi pavilion and a pillared portico as well as a massive assembly hall

The following temples illustrate the temple architecture style in S. India between the 11th and the 13th centuries

- Thanjavur,
- Chidambaram,
- Sri Rangam,
- Gangaikonda-Cholapuram,
- Darasuram
- Tribhuvanam

- Chola style of architecture also influenced Hindu temples of Ceylon and S.E.Asia

Facts and Stats

- The Nageswaran temple combines finest elements of Pallava and Chola architecture

- This beautiful temple represents the transition between Pallava and Chola period

- Entire Ramayana has been shown at the base or athirstanam of the temple

- Sculptures are known for perfect craftsmanship and bhava(emotion)

- Saivite saint Thirunavukkarasar referred to the presiding deity as Kudanthai Keezh Kottanthen Koothanarey/the dancing deity of Kudanthai Keezh Kottam.

- Temple also has a Ganesha statue belonging to the 10th century
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