Nayak legacy at Big Temple comes to light


Nayak legacy at Big Temple comes to light

D Madhavan

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CHENNAI: Going against the popular belief that the great temple of Thanjavur was built entirely by Rajaraja Chola, a group of archaeologists claim that most temples in the state were not built during one particular era but were added upon by successive dynasties and kingdoms.

They claim the temples retain only some of the basic elements of a specific era, mainly the Pallava era, while rest of the features were added by rulers of successive Chola, Pandiya, Vijayanagara and Nayak regimes. In fact, many additions made by these regimes, especially the Nayaks, has enriched the temple architecture and sculptures of the Pallavas -- the original inhabitants of Chola Mandalam or Coromandel.

"For example, the great temple at Thanjavur is not totally the work of Rajaraja I, the illustrious Chola emperor (AD 986-1014). In fact, the shrine of Skanda (Murugan) and the gargantuan Nandi and the pavilion ( Nandi mandapa) in the temple were added during the Nayaka time between the 16th and 17th centuries). Most scholars have so far concentrated on the original Pallava and Chola contributions and have not turned their attention to the additions made after their time," J Soundararajan, assistant professor of department of ancient history and archaeology, University of Madras, told The Times Of India, on the sidelines of the two-day national seminar on "Pallava temples with Nayaka additions in the Chennai region: A historical survey". The seminar was inaugurated by the University vice chancellor, G Thiruvasagam on Thursday.

Recent studies done by V Latha and RKK Rajarajan, research scholars at the Tamil University in Thanjavur, are in agreement with Soundararajan's views. While the former concentrated on the Pandiyan rock-cut temples in Pudukkottai region, the latter looked at temples in the four Nayak zones of Madurai, Thanjavur, Ginjee and Keladi-Ikkeri. Originally, a small rock-cut complex in Tirupparankundram, over the years, several mandapas, rayagopura, teppakkulam (tank of the raft) and vahanas had been built at the temple.

Similarly, there are examples in the Chennai region where the original temples are of the early Chola period while the mandapas, subsidiary shrines and gopuras are of later period. Good examples are the temples in Tiruvorriyur, Tiruverkadu, and those in the Pallava metropolis, Kanchipuram. "Nayakas also refined to some extent the Vijayanagar tradition in Dravidian temple architecture for almost two centuries. The Subramanya temple in Thanjavar is a good example," said C B Kamati, assistant professor in History, GI Bagewadi College, Belgaum (Karnataka).

Experts also argued that though the Pallavas introduced stone as the medium for the erection of temples, the additions made by Nayakas were equally significant. While the temples during Pallava era remained small in size, restricting its limits to sanctum sanctorum, it were the subsequent rulers, especially the Nayaks, who built the mandapas, gopurams, stucco images and vahanas (temple cars). "Pallava style of temple architecture was to built small shines. Subsequent rulers like the Nayaks expanded these shrines into big temples with gopurams and sabha mandapas. It was also part of renovation work taken up by these rulers because most of the original temples built during Pallava time were either destroyed or dilapidated," said P Venkatesan, deputy director (south zone - Bangalore), Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).