Rare inscriptions throw light on administration during Chola period

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A total of 18 inscriptions have been discovered in a temple dedicated to Lord Siva located at Visalur village near Keeranur in Koluthur taluk. 

An inscription discovered at Visalur [Credit: The Hindu]

All these inscriptions stand as a source of interesting information and act as a mirror of social, cultural and economic history of the region. They give a vivid picture about the donation of land, gift, steps for organising temple festivals, and so on. 

J. Rajamohamad, former curator, Government Museum, Pudukkottai and president Pudukkottai historical and cultural research centre, K. Rajendran, its secretary led a team of epigraphist who discovered the inscriptions during their study. 

An early Chola edifice, relating to the rule of Prantaka I, the temple is a small ‘ekatala’ structure in granite with ‘vimanam’, ‘ardhamandapam’ and ‘mahamandapam’ and testifies to the evolution of temple architecture in Tamil Nadu. So far, six inscriptions have been recorded here. 

In a recent conservation process, the Archaeological Suruey of India removed the stucco coating on the walls of the ‘vimanam’ and ‘mandapams’, which led to the discovery of new inscriptions dating back to the period of Raja Raja I, Rajendra Chola II, Kulothungachola III, and Rajathjraja besides that of some local chieftains. These inscriptions throw much light on the Chola administration in this region. 

The Chola empire was divided into Mandalams and Valanadus. The inscription of Raja Raja I dating back go 997 AD says that Visalur was situated in the Jayasingakulakala valanadu in Mel Sengilinadu. This inscription describes the large extent of land gifted by the villagers, its measurement, boundaries, quantum of paddy to be used in each ritual and ‘puja’, varieties of rice to be offered during each ‘sandhi’, festivals to be celebrated etc. The inscriptions refer to the presiding deity as Sri Vasuhisvarar, though the Lord is now known as Sri Margapurisvarar. The circumstances and period under which the change was effected could not be ascertained. 

Another inscription dating back to the period of Rajendra Chola II (1074 AD) describes the endowment of land to the temple by family members of Ganavathy Azhiathan of Visalur to celebrate the Chithirai festival. The third inscription of Kulothungachola III (A.D 1222) details the installation of statues of Chola ruler Kulothunga III and his queen in the temple by a local chieftain Adhithan Thenkarai Nadalvan and the gift of land for their maintenance. 

Another inscription of the same period says Vijayalaya Mutharaiyan of Valambakudi had offered gifts and land to the temple for various rituals in memory of his father Valambakudi, after whom a village near Visalur has been named. 

There are interesting references to various festivals, burning of perpetual lamps, providing holy water in the temple and vast tracts of lands, huge amount of money as gifts by rulers, chieftains, commanders, village assembly and philanthropists. 

A significant finding of the study in the temple is that a few blocks of granite which perhaps would have formed part of the ‘mandapam’ seem to have been cleared during renovation and are found preserved nearby. 

These blocks do not match with the structure of this small temple. Many of these inscribed stone blocks belong to the period of Raja Raja I. These stones might have been brought from some other nearby temple in the past to construct the mandapam in the front. 

The inscription (in bits) on the blocks bears the name of places Thiruvennainallur and Thiruvennayil and names of temples Kava mozhi Vinnagaram (Vishnu temple) and Kava mozhi Iswaram (Siva temples). Structural temples in such names are not present in the area now. It is possible that these temples of the period of Raja Raja Chola in the area might have fallen to ruins. 

Further field studies are in progress in this area to identity the place, the details of the temples and the facts will be brought to light soon, says J.Rajamohamad.  

Source: The Hindu [July 05, 2012]

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