ART AND ARCHITECTURE UNDER THE CHOLAS

The Chola kings built many temples throughout their kingdoms. The temples of early Cholas are found in large number in the former Pudukottai region. These Chola temples reveal the gradual evolution of the Chola art and architecture. The Chola kings earlier built brick temples. Later they built stone temples.

The first Chola ruler Vijayalaya Chola built temple at Narttamalai. This is a stone temple. It is one of the finest examples of the early Chola temple architecture. Balasubramaniya temple of Kannanur in Pudukottai region and Thirukkatalai temple were built during the period of Aditya-I. Nageswarar temple at Kumbakonam is famous for sculptural work. King Parantaka I built Koranganatha temple at Srinivasanallur (Trichy District). Muvarkoil of Kodumbalur. They are good examples of the later Chola architecture and sculpture.

Besides all these temples of the Chola period, the greatest landmark in the history of south Indian architecture is Brhadeeswarar temple at Tanjore. This is also called as big temple. It has many architectural significance. It was built by Rajaraja I. This is the largest and tallest temple in Tamil nadu. Rajendra Chola built a temple at GangaiKonda Cholapuram which is also equally famous. King Rajendra Chola added credit to the Chola art and architecture. King Kulothunga I built a temple for Sun God at Kumbakonam. This temple is first of its kind in the south Indian architecture. Rajaraja II built Airavatheeswarar temple at Dharasuram.

Special features of Chola architecture

The Cholas followed the Pallava style of architecture. Sanctum of the Chola temples are both circular and square in size. Inner side of the external walls and the sanctum were beautified. On the upper side of the sanctum special vimanas are built. Dome shaped sikhara and kalasa were also there on the top of Gopurams. Chola temples are noted for the sculptures and ornamental works. Gopurams of these temples were meaningful. Many temples are having pillared mandapams namely arthamandapa, mahamandapa and nandi mandpa. Sculptures and inscriptions are also fixed on the walls of these temples.

Sculpture

Stone and metal sculptures are found in plenty in Chola temples. They depict the socio religious ideas of the Chola period The Nataraja sculpture is world famous not only for its beauty but also for its spiritual meaning. Vishnu idol is placed in Vaishnava temples. A spiritual calmness is depicted in sculptural representations of Alwars. The Cholas made use of sculptures to decorate the walls, pillars and roofs. The value of sculpture is very much felt on Chola works. The decorative sculptures are still there. Realism dominated sculpture of the Chola period. Scenes from Ramayanam Mahabharatam, Puranas and lives of the 63 Nayanmars are sculptured in narrative panels on the walls of temples.

Portraits

The Cholas excelled the Pallavas in the art of portrait making. The best specimens of portraits are found on the walls of Koranganatha temple and Nageswarasamy temple. The portraits of Cholamadevi and Kulothunga-III are there in Kalahasti temple. They are good examples of Chola art of portrait making.

Paintings

The art of paintings flourished, Figures were painted with realism. The proficiency of’ the Choia painters are seen on their paintings. Paintings in Big temple are good examples. Scenes of Periyapuranam are beautifully depicted Kailasanathar temple at Kanchipuram, Vishnu temple at Malaiyadipatti contain fine specimen of the Chola paintings. Rajaraja-I and Rajendra contributed more for the development of the art of painting during the Chola period.

Music

During the Chola period the art of music was developed. Twenty three panns were used in music. The seven music alphabets sa. ri, ga, ma, pa, da, ni were used. The hymns of Aiwars and Nayanmars were sung in every temple. Nambiandar nambi and Nathamuni contributed much for the development of music. Books were written on music. Several musicians were appointed in Brahadeeswarar temple. Drums, udukkai, veena, flute were famous music instruments Sagadakkottigal formed a group of musicians. Endowments were made to promote music. Musicians were honored by the kings. Temples and mutts imparted training in vocal and instrumental music.

Dance

The Chola kings patronized the art of dance. Bharatha natyam and kathakali were two types of dances performed during the Chola period. Lord Siva was represented as the exponent of Karana dance. Natarajar temple at Chidamparam and Sarangapani temple at Kumbakonam have dancing poses of Lord Nataraja. Rajaraja I appointed 400 dancing girls in the big temple at Tanjore. There were two dance directors to coordinate these dancing girls. Dance dramas were also performed on stages at festival times. Chola kings made endowments to promote the art of dancing.

Drama

The Cholas promoted the art of drama. Music and dance were affiliated to drama. Many types of theatres and stages were there to perform dramas. Rajarajeswara natakam and Rajarajavijayam were the dramas enacted during festival times. Drama actors received honors from the Chola kings. Koothu is one type of drama. Koothus were also there. Inscriptions refer about Ariyakuthu, Chakki koothu and Santhi koothu.
Chola literature speaks about the cultural glory of the Cholas. Hundreds of temples built by the Chola kings. Particularly Brahadeeswarar (Big temple) temple at Tanjore and temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram are cultural monuments of the Cholas. The glorious Chola culture created very big impact on Tamil society and imbibed lot of cultural values like bakthi upon the Tamil society.