A Siva temple built by Rajendra Chola’s guru

The Koozhamandal temple, once in a dilapidated condition, has been restored by and is under the care of the Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology. 
Photos: Chithra Madhavan
Photos: Chithra Madhavan

CHENNAI: The famous Siva temple, now known as Brihadeeshwara, and formerly as Gangaikondacholeeshwaram, in the village of Gangaikondacholapuram in Ariyalur district is world famous. Built in the reign of Rajendra Chola I (1012-1044 AD) and called after his famous title ‘Gangaikondachola’, this magnificent temple is a protected monument of National importance and is a UNESCO World Heritage site, attracting thousands of visitors every year.

Not many are aware of another Siva temple, built in the same century, also in the reign of Rajendra Chola I that goes by the same name, Gangaikondacholishwaram, located in a small village called Koozhamandal, which used to be called Gangaikondacholapuram.

While the huge temple in Gangaikondacholapuram in Ariyalur district was a royal temple, built with resources from the empire’s treasury, this much smaller temple in Koozhamandal was constructed by Emperor Rajendra Chola’s spiritual guru Isana Siva Pandita as seen from an inscription found on the walls of this temple.

The Koozhamandal temple, once in a dilapidated condition, has been restored by and is under the care of the Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology. 

Some information about Isana Siva Pandita is available from the inscriptions in the Brihadishwara temple in Thanjavur, constructed in the reign of Rajaraja Chola I, the father of Rajendra Chola I. It is recorded that this spiritual preceptor was the gurukkal of Rajaraja Chola and that he gave stupis (finials) made of copper to be placed on top of the subsidiary shrines in the Thanjavur temple; a silver vessel for the vibhooti (sacred ashes) and money for burning camphor in the main shrine of this temple for daily worship and during the annual festivals.

Isana Siva Pandita was the Rajaguru of Rajaraja Chola I and subsequently continued to be the spiritual preceptor of Rajendra Chola I for some time also.

The temple consists of the beautifully constructed main all-stone vimanam (sanctum), ardha-mandapam and maha-mandapam. The devakoshtas (niches) on the outer walls of the main sanctum have images of Ganesha, Bhikshatanamurti, Harihara, Vishnu, Lingdhbhava, Subramanya, Brahma and Durga.

Unfortunately, the gopuram, if there was one, the compound wall and other shrines have all disappeared. The outer walls of the main sanctum have many inscriptions of Chola and Vijayanagara times. The Gangaikondacholeeshwaram temple in Koozhamandal is in worship, as is another temple in the same village for Vishnu, worshipped as Pesum Perumal, which is also ancient, but has been much modernised. 

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