The divine dancer in miniature
The best-known, most eye-catching temple of the Chola era is the Brihadeeswara (Rajarajeswaram) temple in Tanjavur, built in the reign of Rajaraja I (985 – 1014 AD). Close behind come the outstanding Chola architectural marvels at Gangaikondacholapuram, Darasuram and Tribhuvanam. Not many are aware of innumerable other temples, big and small, dotting villages, towns and cities across Tamil Nadu and some other parts of south India as well, belonging to the reign of various Chola monarchs, before and after Rajaraja I. Among such less-known Chola temples is one dedicated to Siva called the Brahmapureeswara temple in Pullamangai, a small village near Pasupati Kovil, approximately twenty kilometers from Tanjavur and also accessible from Kumbakonam. It is one of the most remarkable temples of the early Chola era. The original name of the temple, according to the stone epigraphs etched on its walls, was Tiru Alandurai Mahadevar.
A Tamil inscription in this temple, datable to 918 AD, belongs to the reign of Parantaka Chola I (907 – 955 AD). It indicates that this temple was built early in the reign of this monarch or perhaps even earlier, in the reign of his father Aditya Chola I (c. 871 – 907 AD). This temple has undergone many structural changes over time. The central sanctum sanctorum (garbha griha) and the mandapa in front (ardha mandapa) are from the Chola epoch, while other additions like the front mandapa (mukha mandapa) were added in later periods.
As in some other early Chola temples, many sculptures on the outer walls of the main sanctum sanctorum in the Pullamangai temple, are miniatures – not more than a few centimetres in height. They depict various interesting episodes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, various manifestations of Siva, incarnations of Vishnu and also musicians and women in dance poses.
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