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Posts Tagged ‘Ponniyin Selvan’


The Chola dynasty of South India, has a long association with valor and bravery, and it gives me great pleasure to present a sculpture that links their valor, sculptural beauty, spirituality etc. Many thanks to Sri N.S. Narayanasamy
(www.shivatemples.com) for allowing us the use of this rare sculpture and content.

Its a simple legend and a lovely sculpture. Lets take a look at the legend first. When a Chola King named Veeravadhithan was passing a town on his elephant, the animal suddenly turned rogue and went around creating collateral damage. ( The Kings soldiers were no match for the rogue elephant. As per some version - The pious King prayed to Lord Shiva. He graced his blessings on a rooster which was nearby) The rooster showed remarkable courage is standing up to the rogue elephant and took on the mighty beast. It flew high to its head and used his sharp beak and claws to inflict lot of damage on the elephants sensitive eyes. The vanquished elephant was almost blinded and ran away ( to take refuge / calm down near a tree). Seeing the valor of a common rooster and the spiritual energy in the place, the Chola King decided to use the City as his capital.

Lets look at the sculpture now - from the Panchavarneshwarar Temple in Uraiyur.

uraiyur legend.jpg

A very simple sculpture, but you can still see the detailing. The raised tail of the elephant indicating its rage, the barve rooster clamped on its massive head. That the elephant is loosing, is clearly shown by its demeanor - the bent front legs and the almost crouched head.

Seeing the valor of a simple rooster the Chola king, thought it fit to shift his capital to the town - Uraiyur - which got a new name Kozhiyur ( kozhi hen or rooster) and the kings were praised as Kozhi vendhar ( vendhar - Lord or king ) surprised since technically you could get into trouble for comparing a King to a hen.

Infact, Sri kalki Krishnamurthy would pull this explanation as an answer to a simple question in his immortal work Ponniyin Selvan when describing the Tiruvisaippa sung by Kandrathitha Chola - where the King takes pride in calling himself a hen or rooster king !!

Ponniyin_selvan_volume_1

But who is this King and what period can we ascertain him to. When we tried to search more we found references to the “hentown” in Thevaram Verses.
There are Thevaram verses. But the great surprise came when we found the legend in Elango’s Silapathigram ( a tamil work dated roughly to the 2nd C AD) - Tale of the Anklet. The hero and heroine - Kovalan and kannagi , in search of a new market ( after the has wasted all his wealth on his `other’ women Mathavi) move from Chola country into Pandya land towards Madhurai - passing through Uraiyur - Kozhiyur. So the legend was famous even then to find mention in the work !!

So much for legends living on for 1800 years !!!

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After doing the intros of Ajanta, Ellora,thought i should do one for the Big temple in Tanjore. But a post of its sculptures preceded the post, so we take this as a prequel.

This grand exhibition of Chola architecture and its lasting beauty is but a fitting tribute to one of the greatest kings of our land. The great man, as Arulmoli, who was content to let his uncle rule for 15 years, waiting by the sidelines ( after the assassination of his elder brother - the crown prince, Aditya Karikala in 969 AD), and then take on the reigns in 985 AD and user in a glorious period of chola rule.

The exact words are beautifully translated by Sri. K.A. Neelakanta Sastry in his lovely work COLAS ( 1935 - Madras Univ publication) from the thiruvalandadu plates

You can read them here:

but for this verse in particular

(V. 69.) (Though) requested by the subjects (to occupy the Chola
throne), in order to destroy the persistently blinding darkness of
the powerful Kali (age), Arunmolivarman who understood the essence
of royal conduct, desired not the kingdom for himself even in (his)
mind, while his paternal uncle coveted his (i.e., Arunmolivarman’s)
dominions.

Look at the lovely use of the words desire when it comes to Arulmoli and covet when it comes to Uttama ( his uncle)

Arulmoli took the title Raja Raja on his coronation and his military prowess and administrative capabilities are to be etched in gold - but maybe for longivity he chose Stone - yes, he left behind his illustrious deeds in the form of his Prasithi ( in sanskrit) or meikeerthi ( in tamil ) - mei - true, keerthi - fame - his true fame. That would be another post altogether

We look to another plate that sums up the big temple ( thanks to Sri Nagaswamy’s sir site http://tamilartsacademy.com/articles/article29.xml)

To him was born Arumolivarma, who with his long and beautiful arms bore the marks of sankha and cakra in his palms. He conquered the Ganga-s, Vanga-s, Kalinga-s, Magadha-s, Malava-s, Simhala-s, Andhra-s, Ratta-s (Rastrakuta-s) Odda-s (Orissans), Kataha-s, Kerala-s, Gauda-s and Pandya-s. By the wealth obtained through his conquests he erected at Tanjanagari (Tanjore) a very great temple (atyuttamam) named Rajarajesvaram

the big temple at a distance towering.jpg

As you enter tanjore - you are greeted by this - the towering Vimaana ( Vimaana is on top of the main Idol, Gopuram is on top of the outer walls/compound - most south indian temple gopurams are taller than the vimaana, Raja Raja’s tanjore temple and his illustrious son Rajendra’s Gangaikonda cholapuram being one of few exceptions - why ??) - we go nearer in the next post..

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