Monday, August 22, 2011

Chulamanipanma Vihare of Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu, India

With the beginning of the tenth century the Cholas with their capital in Thanjavur in Tamilnadu, emerged as a powerful ruling dynasty after a long spell in partial obscurity in the political scene of South India.

In the year A.D.985 king Rajaraja Chola-1(A.D.985-1014) ascended the throne as the next successor of the Chola kingdom. He gradually conquered the neighbouring and far lying territories within the Indian continent forming a great Chola empire.

He laid a firm foundation to this empire by the wits of his political ingenuity and well streamlined administrative system backed by a powerful army and naval power which made it to grow steadily into an overseas empire.

During this period in South-East Asia there existed the mighty Sri Vijayan empire ruled by a royal dynasty named the Sailendras. This kingdom of Sri Vijaya was located at the lower part of Sumatra in Indonesia, with its capital in the present Palembang.

At the time of Rajaraja on the Chola throne, king Chulamanivarman(A.D. 998-1008) was ruling the Sri Vijaya empire, which encompassed the whole of Sumatra.

In the same period in Malaysia there existed the famed kingdom of Kadaram covering the present Kedah and Perak states adjoining the sea in the north-west coast of the peninsular Malaysia.

However during the period of Rajaraja Chola, the kingdom of Kadarem too came under the sway of the Sri Vijaya empire of Sumatra, with king Chulamanivarman being the overlord of this kingdom.

The trade of Tamilnadu with Sumatra and peninsular Malaysia increased during the reign of Rajaraja Chola. Many Traders flocked to these countries from the Chola country and found settlements and establised units if their trading guilds.

The Traders from Kadarem and Sri Vijaya too crossed the seas to the Chola country with their commodities of trade. The iron ore and the teakwood from Kadarem being two of the commodities were known as Kadaraththu Irumbu and Kidaravan in the Chola country.

The good trade relations thus established paved way for better diplomatic understanding between these two countries.

The Traders from Kadarem mainly Buddhists by religion sought the assistance of their overlord king Chulamanivarman of Sri Vijaya who too was a Buddhist, to construct a Buddhist Vihare at Nagapattinam in the Chola country.

The Nagapattinam was the seaport city of the Cholas and was well known to the traders of South-East Asia and China, where traders from eighteen different countries traded in their commodities.

Rajaraja Chola on the request of Chulamanivarman granted land at Shythiriya Sihamani Valanadu at Nagapattinam to build a Buddhist temple under the name of "Chulamanipanma Vihare".

In the year A.D.1006 a village called Aanaimangalam closer to this site was surveyed and donated to upkeep this vihare from its revenues which were exempted from taxes.

In the following years, in A.D.1008 Rajaraja Chola confirmed on copper plates the earlier grants made by him to the "Chulamanipanma Vihare" at Nagapattinam and exempted same from taxes.

While the vihare was still under construction king Chulamanivarman of Sri Vijaya died in A.D.1008, and his successor the son Maravijayotungavarman (A.D.1008-1020) completed the construction of this temple, which was also known as the Rajrajaperumpalli.

In the year A.D.1014 Rararaja Chola died after twenty nine years of rule and was succeeded by his son Rajendra Chola-1 (A.D.1012-1044) on the throne of the Chola empire.

After the ascension of Rajendra Chola, king Maravijayotungavarman of Sri Vijaya requested him to reconfirm the grants made earlier by his father to the "Chulamanipanma Vihare" built at Nagapattinam.

This request was granted and Thuvavuran Annukan the agent of the ruler of Kadarem arranged the record of the history relating to the construction of the vihare, and the grant of the Anaimangalam village by Rajaraja which was written on copper plates by one Thillaiyali.

It is evident there has also been another Buddhist Temple built at Nagapattinam at the request of Maravijayotungavarman during the rule of Rajendra Chola-1. Whether that too was named after the king of Sri Vijaya the Maravijayotungavarman is not known, but it has been called as Rajendra Chola Perumpalli.

At Sri Vijaya with the demise of Maravijayotungavarman in A.D.1020 his son Sangirama Vijayotungavarman (A.D.1020-1022)succeeded on the throne. During his rule however the good relations that existed between these two empires broke, probabely due to some sort of interference or hinderence to the flourishing Chola trade which would have sparked off the anger of the Cholas.

The strain in the Chola-Sri Vijaya relationship caused Rajendra -1 to send a big naval expedition with a large fleet of ships to South-East Asia in the year A.D.1022.

The Cholas defeated Sri Vijaya, Kadarem, and many other kingdoms in the present Malaysia, and in Sumatra of Indonesia, and it appears eventually the Cholas handed back the kingdoms to the respective rulers on they accepting the authority and agreeing to pay tributes.

However over a period of time gradually the good relations between the Chola country and Kadarem was re-established. During the rule of Kulothunga Chola - 1 (A.D.1071-1120) the king of Kadarem through his envoys Rajavidyadara Sri Samandan and Abimanothunga Samanthan in the year A.D.1091 requested him to reconfirm on copper plates the earlier grants made to the Buddhist temples Rajendra Chola Perumpalli and Rajaraja Perumpalli alias Sailendra Chulamanivarma Vihare built by his predecessors at Nagapattinam in Shythiriya Shihamani Valanadu of the Chola country.

This request was granted by Kulothunga Chola, and in the year A.D.1090 the officers Rajavallaba Pallavaraiyan and Rajendrasinga Muvendavelan arranged confirmation of same on copper plates.

Towards this period the seaport city of Nagapattinam was renamed as Cholakulavalli Pattinam after one of Kulothunga's consorts, and Shythiriya Shihamani valanadu as Keyamanikka valanadu.

These temples no longer exist today. However among the Bronze Buddha Statues excavated in this area by the Archaeological Department. two of them have the following inscribed words on their pedestal confirming the location of the Chulamanipanma Vihare and that they were kept enshrined in them.

(1) "......Chola Perumpalli Alvaar......" (seated Buddha)
(2) "......Chola Perumpalli Nayakar....." (standing Buddha)

The exact version of the inscription found on the Item (2) above is as follows.

"(This is) the alvar for a festival procession of the temple of Akkasalai-perumpalli in Rajendra Chola-perumpalli. This alvar was set by Nalan-gunakara-udaiyar of Chirutavur.

Let it be auspicious (This alvar called) Akkasalaikal-nayakar is for all the Padinen-vishayam" 


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