Monday 10 December 2012

The temple of the Cholas

This is one of the oldest temples of Bangalore and it has a history dating back to a thousand years. Built by one of  India’s greatest Emperors, it today stands just off the maddening traffic, a forgotten monument in stone.
The name of the temple is as intriguing as the temple itself. The name sounds as if the temple belongs to Shuva. However, it is a temple dedicated to Vishnu.
Yes, this is the Chokkanatha or Chokka Perumal Temple in Domlur, Bangalore. Located just off the Old Airport Road facing West, it is generally recognised by historians and archaeologist as the oldest temple of Bangalore. It is believed to have been built by Raja Raja Chola in the 10th century.
The 10th century saw the emergence of Raja Raja Chola and Rajendra Chola as among the greatest Emperors. They expanded the Chola Empire and Domlur then was part of the Yelahanka principality of the Chola Kingdom.
Raja Raja Chola defeated the Gangas in 1104 and Bangalore-Yelahanka-Domlur region came under the Cholas. The region remained with the Cholas till 1117 when the Hoysalas crushed the Cholas in the Battle of Talakad and drew them away.
The Cholas built not only the Chokkanatha Temple in Domlur, but also the Aigandapura temples  at Hesarghatta, Mukteshwara at Binnamangala, Cholaeswara at Begur and Someshwara in Madiwala.
This principality of Yelahanka was called by  the Cholas as Illaipakka Nadu of Rajendra Solavala Nadu (Gangaikondacholapuram). Domlur, which had a forest and a small village then, was called Tombalur and Desimanikkapattanam. Both these names are to be found in the inscriptions in the temple.
Raja Raja Chola built a temple in honour of Vishnu or Sokka Periumal but named it as Chokkanatha. Why the name? This could be because Chokka in Telugu means Beautiful and Natha means male. The image of Vishnu is a beautiful piece of architecture and perhaps this explains the name.
If this explains the name, what could explain the reason for the Cholas, who were ardent Shaivites, to build a temple for Vishnu. The reason could be that there were a number of temples for Shiva in the vicinity and the Cholas gave in for the demand of the local people for a temple to Vishnu.
This could explain the reason for carving of the Dashavatars-ten forms or avatars of Vishnu on the pillars in front of the temple.
The script of some of the epigraphs in the temple and on its walls are in Kannada but the language is Tamil.
The six inscriptions prove that the temple was of Chola origin. It mentions the name of the place as Tombalur. An inscription on the door posts dated 1270 AD, says it has been donated by Alagiyar.
Another inscription in Tamil says Talaikkattu  and his wife donated lands in the village of Jalapalli, the tank at Vinnamangalam and other lands below the big tank of Tombalur.
It is not only the temple that is interesting but also the sanctum sanctorum. The sanctum was sculpted from a large cave which according to the locals had a huge cobra guarding the jewels.
The door the cave was built in such a way that it was narrow and that even if thieves entered it, they could not make a quick getaway.
 The temple is built in the Dravadian style and the pillars are worth a close examination. The pillars exquisitely depict the fight between the Vanara brothers Vali and Sugreeva in Kishkinda.
The idols of Vishnu are hewed from Saligrama stones. Vaishnavas consider Saligrama to be very holy and, therefore, the Vishnu idol is doubly important for Vaishnavas.
There are two beautiful Goddesses on either side of  Vishnu. They are the images of Bhoodevi and Sridevi. The Anjaneya temple is just a few metres away from the Vishnu Temple. The head of Anjeneya is beneath the feet of the Vishnu idol of the Chokkanatha Temple.
The Chokkanatha Temple has been recently renovated.  
Another interesting feature of the temple is the existence of  eight  Pranic points that were discovered by a retired chief executive engineer a few years ago. Three of the points are in the temple prakaram and are marked. The other five are outside the temple.


  1. A very interesting and rare piece. Can someone give the address Olathe temple and how to reach the temple from MG Road?


    1. near the domlur bus stand towards the water tank.