There are few persona who can create such an sense of awe among history lovers, and in that select brand there are fewer still who inspire a sense of belonging amongst his followers a thousand year hence. The supreme among this select band is our very own Raja Raja Cholar – A King, who continues to live on in his mighty creations and in the hearts of his followers. Its a dream for us, to be able to envision him in flesh and blood, even though Kalki, in his immortal work Ponniyin Selvan strung together such a beautiful garland of words to go with Artist Maniam’s sketches, the quest to find an accurate and authentic version of his portrait or sculpture lingers on. There have been many claimants, for the Karuvur Thevar and Raja Raja Cholar painting in the big temple fresco, to the current hot topic of the Bronze in the Sarabai Museum. While in the pursuit of such, i chanced on an interesting research paper: The Problem of Portraiture in South India, Circa 970-1000 A.D.,Author(s): Padma Kaimal
There was a small reference to an inscribed miniature sculpture but the title got me all excited – for it reads.( well this is not the actual inscription in the temple but a simple Meikeerthi of him)
Inscribed portraits of Rajaraja Chola and his chief queen Lokamahadevi. South wall of the mahamandapa, Sivayoganatha temple, Tiruvisalur.
This led to a frantic search for a good photograph of the said sculpture and a further search for the connected inscription.
On the Sivayoganatha temple at Tiruvisalur, an inscription below two relief figures identifies them as representations of Rajaraja and his queen Lokamahadevi, and notes that the king and queen performed rituals at this temple, and that the queen endowed it with 458 kasu of gold.”
Thanks to our contributor Sri Lakshmi Narayanan of Kumbakonam, ( he has an excellent collection of dilapidated temples desperately needing attention at http://picasaweb.google.com/slnvasu) , who immediately undertook the trip and got us the sculpture photograph.
I know you are already jumping, but first a word of caution.Tiruvisalur has an ancient temple which goes back to the days of Aditya I. The reference to inscribed portraits is unclear, the inscription, albeit a very interesting one, talks of a very interesting ritual – the Hiranyagarba ceremony – where one passes through the womb of a golden cow, to stop the process of rebirth and be one with God from this birth, was performed by Raja Raja here at Tiruvisalur. ( thanks to note from Arvind – a copy of this inscription is also found in the temple in Thiruvaalanchuli ). Its also important to note here that this is in his last year of reign -ie 29th Year of reign ( 1014 CE).
Lets take a look at the actual inscription.
No.42 (Page No 20)
(A. R. No. 42 of. 1907)
Tiruvisalur, Kumbhakonam Taluk, Tanjavur District
Sivayoganatha temple— on the same wall
Rajaraja I : year 29 : 1013-14 A.D.
A slight deviation is found in the historical introduction in that it adds the “Twelve Thousand Islands” to the usual list of the king’s conquests. The reference is evidently to the Maldives which are said to have been known by that name in ancient tradition, and which the king should have conquered late in his reign. (Prof. K.A.N. Sastri’s The Colas’. Vol. I, p.220).
The inscription registers an agreement given by the mahasabha of vemgarrur alias Solamattanda-chaturvedimangalam a Brahmadeya in Manni-nadu, to the temple of Tiruvisalur-Mahadeva. A sum of 458 kasu was endowment to the temple and deposited with the assembly by queen Dantisaktivitankiyar alias lokamahadeviyar on the occasion of the performance of tulabhara by the king and of hiranyagarbha by herself in the temple. As interest on this amount they undertook to measure out annually 229 kalam of paddy at the rate of 1 tuni and 1 padakku on every kasu per year, and with this paddy the ur-variyam and kudumbu committees of the year were to meet the daily requirements of akkaradalai offering to the god, of which the details are given as follows:
Items required Equivalent in paddy
Rice – 2 nali … … One kurini and 2 nali
Tupparuppu(dol)—1 nali … …. 5 nali
Cow’s milk – 4 nali …. ….. ….. 1 padakku
Ghee –1 ulakku … …. ….. 1 kuruni
Sugar – 12 ½ palam … …. …. 1 kuruni and 2 nali
Plantain fruits –20 (?) …. …. ….. 6 nali
Arecanut … 10}
Betel leaves … 40} …. ….. …. 2 nali and 1 nali
Earthen pot …. …., …. 1 nali, 1 uri and 2 ¾ sevidu
Firewood …. …. ….. 1 nali
Remuneration to person preparing the offering … 1 nali
Now for the sculpture
Let us study the characters in more detail
The temple per say doesn’t have many sculptures or panels. This is maybe one of the three that are there apart from the main deities. So we can take it that they are no ordinary souls – usually a portrait sculpture is reserved for someone who has done major donation for the temple. So its evidently a royal couple of some importance. The man is definitely not young, but the lady appears a bit younger but no way a teenager, but is depicted with a radiant face, standing there ( most royal portraits show other Kings in a seated position), both are shown praying in total devotion. The man is depicted slightly short stature by normal iconographic measures, slightly rounder. He wears his hair with a top knot but not head gear, his ears are long and again with no ornaments. He wears a Kilt like dress. Is he a King – we cannot spot any special ornaments like the Veerakkazhal ( anklet on either feet – the royal anklet). The Lady does wear a necklace, some light jewelery on her head and elaborate clothing, but is also matching her Lord in her humble prayers. Why show an important donor, who wears no ornamentation, while his wife is wearing. The point to note here is in his closing years Raja Raja took the name Siva Padha Sekhara ( shining at the resplendent feet of shiva) and hence is considered to have lived almost a saintly life. So is the man the Great King in his final years as Siva Padha Sekhara ?
The object of worship however is very simple.
A simple Shiva Linga, which is adorned with a garland of flowers, a conch is also placed before the Linga in front of the worshipers to maybe indicate that they have just performed an abhisekam using the conch and are standing.
So, if we are to tag this Portrait sculpture to the cited inscription, and the circumstantial iconographical evidences, it does show a strong cause to believe that this is indeed He and his Pattamahishi.
A note for history lovers and lovers of historic fiction – Rajendra’s mother was different from this queen. She was Vanavanmadevi ( or Vanathi for ponniyin selvan enthusiasts ) as we have inscriptions which state ” vanavanmadevi tiruvayir uditha rajendra” – meaning rajendra born from vanavanmadevi. The Queen who took the throne along with Raja Raja was Danti Sakthi Vitanki or Lokamadevi.
Now, i leave it for the experts to take this forward.