Brief notes on the temple of the Deccan and Tamil land


Beginning in the middle of the seventh century, ten temples were built at Pattadakal over the next hundred and more years. Five of these temples are of Dravida style while the five others following the Nagara style are Papanatha, Jambulinga, Galaganatha, Kasivisvesara and Kadasidvesara.

The two wives of the Chalukya, Vikramaditya IT, Lokamahadevi and Trailokyamahadevi, by con­structing the temples of Lokesvara (better known as Virupaksa) and Trailokesvara (also known as Mallikarjuna) respectively, provided the final flourish to temple building at Pattadakal.

These were con­structed around the middle of the eighth century to commemorate the Chalukyan victory over the Pallavas of Kanchipuram and are regarded (espe­cially, the Virupaksa) as a milestone in the devel­opment of the Dravida style. Temples of Sangamesvai a and Chandrasekhara and a Jaina temple nearly also belong to this group.


The Virupaksa, however, stands apart from all of them for its beautiful conception and superior execution Epigraphic evidence suggests that Vikramaditya 11 (733-744) was very impressed with the temple of Kailasanatha at Kanchipuram when he invaded the city.

It would appear he brought the builders of the Kailasanatha temple to Pattadakal to build the Virupaksa in the image of the former. Built under a comprehensive plan, the Virupaksa has a central structure and a detached Nandi pavillion, all inside a walled enclosure approached through an impressive gateway.

There are beautiful plastic decorations on the outer walls and it is this harmo­nious blending of the seemingly fluid embellishments with the heavy solidity of the structure that made the Virupaksa an early example of the formidable Dravidda style.

The Rashtrakutas snatched political powers from the Chalukyas in Deccan in the middle of the eighth century, but temple building activity continued unabated. Among the temples built during the reign of the Rashtrakutas, the Jaina temple at Pattadakal is notable. If is of Dravida type, has a three-storeyed vimana and is of a square plan from the Utse to the pyramid atop.


The Rashtrakuta dynasty’s greatest contribution to the development of the Dravida temple style is undoubtedly the great Kailasa and Ellora, a glorious example of Indian architectural creativity, the like of which is found nowhere in the world.

Out of the living rock, an extensive temple complex measuring 300 feet by 200 feets was hewn out; the mammoth project commencing during the reign of Dantidurga (the founder of the house of the Rashtrakutas) and ending at the time of his successor Krishna I (758- 773). The scheme of the temple is close to that of the Virupaksa at Pattadakal and contains all the four principal characteristics of the Dravida style temple; Vimana, Mandapa, Nandi-Mandapa and Gopuram.

The Pallava contribution to the evolution of the Dravida style is seen in the Rathas, cut out of the boulder-like, granulic rocky out-crops on the sea shore at Mahabalipuram during the reign of Narasimhavanam Mamalia circa 630-668.

However, a new trend (construction by dressed stones) was started and in the days of Narasimhavarman II (695-722) the prosperous era of structural temples began.


The western Chalukyas who defeated the Pallavas in the middle of the eighth century were nonetheless admirers of the Paliava arts, in their temples, the Dravida style made significant progress and further development occurred during the reign of the Rashtrakutas. It was, however, during the reign of the Cholas who replaced the Pallavas in the Tamil country in the second half of the ninth century that the Dravida st’le of temple construction attained its pristine glory.

The early Chola rulers before Rajaraja (circa 985 AD) were great builders, constructing a number of temples, rather small compositions in stone, which generally followed the Pallava scheme. Nonetheless, experimentations were there and fresh thinking was evident in the matter of temple layouts and the embellishments and decorations.

Among the numer­ous temples of the early Cholas, those at Melamalai (850-871), Kannaur and Tirukkattala (871-907), Kumbakonam and Srinivasanallur (907-955) and the twin temples of Agastyisvara and Cholisvara (969- 985) are quite significant.

The Melamalai temple (Vijayalaya Cholisvara) is the earliest of the Chola temples (9th century) and is at a distance of ten miles from Pudukottai. It is on a strong double lotus base with walls enclosing vimana and mandapa. There are dvarapalas flanking the entrance to the mandapa and apart from these there are no figure sculptures in the ground floor, a The plan of the garbhagriha is circular and the a squarish hall containing it provides the ambulatory.


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Similar features. In these three temples, apparently there seems to be a return to Pallava simplicity and unostentatiousness, but there is also a more purpose­ful use of space and architectural compositions. Furthermore, the introduction of brick as a material for construction in the Kuranganatha presaged the direction the great Dravida style temples to be built in the future would take.

Nandivarman II (730-800), the Pallava king, a follower of Vishnu built the Muktesvara temple at Kanchi and some more at other places. During his reign as also of his successors, the Pallava power went gradually into decline and was totally eclipsed by the Cholas in the end.

The Mukteswara and Matungeswara temples at Kanchi, the Vedamallisvara temple at Oragadam, the Virattaneswara temple at Tiruttani and Parasurames- wara temple at Gudimallam belong to that unhappy, stressful period when the Pallavas were losing their hold. Perhaps for this reason, the later Pallava temples are merely copies of the ones built earlier and are not architecturally significant in any manner.


The accession to the throne of the Chola emperor Rajaraja the Great, is regarded as a water shed by Art Historians in regard to the evolution of the Dravida style of temple architecture.

It was probably he who encouraged the Chola artists and sculptors, builders and artisans and masons and stone-cutters to conceive like giants and to finish like jewellers (as Fergusson so appropriately remarked).

For instance, a new feature which modified the Dravidian style temple architecture in later times gradually started to appear and that was the scaling up of the relatively small gateways to the magnificent, soaring gopurams which complemented the equally majestic vimanas in the years to come. (It attained maturity under the Pandyas).

Rajaraja the great and his son and successor Rajendra Chola built two temples (one each) which are believed to have set the bench-mark for the Dravida style temples for all ages. The Rajarajesvara (or the Brihadisvara) temple at Tanjore of Rajaraja and the Gangaikondachola-puram temple of Rajendra Chola at his capital city are to this day regard as the supreme example of Dravida style temple architecture.

The main components of the Tanjore temple besides its vimana are the Nandi pavillion, a pillared portico and a large assembly hall.

The temple built by Rajendra Chola at Gangaikondacholapuram is fundamentally the same as the temple built by his father, but it has been damaged considerably and at present stands among mud huts of a desolate village.

Also in Tanjore, the Subramanya temple is more graceful but less imposing than the Rajaraja. Its highly decorated vimana, less severe in the outline emphasize that quality. Other Chola era constructions in the Tanjore area are the Airavateswara temple at Darasuram and the Kampaharesvara or the Tribhuvanesvara temple at Tribhuvanam. Originally, the Darasuram temple seems to have a number of enclosures, each with its separate gateway or Gopuram. The mandapa of the Darasuram temple looks like a chariot drawn by elephants.

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