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The Gangaikondacholapuram Temple: The remarkable past of Cholas

The Gangaikondacholapuram Temple

Tamil Nadu, June 22 (UITV): History is thrilling. It teaches us about the culture, people, and traditions of a period that passed off. In the history of the southern parts of the country, the Chola Empire ruled for centuries. They endowed a major chunk of history to us to consume on by constructing some of the most magnificent temples in the world. The Chola Temples were built between 11th- and 12th-century. The three temples built by the Chola kingdom are a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and are marked as, "Great Living Chola Temples". These are - The Brihadesvara Temple (Thanjavur), Brihadisvara Temple (Gangaikondacholisvaram) and Airavatesvara Temple (Darasuram).

The Gangaikondacholapuram Temple amongst the three is stands as the magnificent of all. It is an engineered work of genius. Situated at Thanjavur (Tanjore) in Tamil Nadu, Gangaikondacholapuram can be reached simply through regular buses that are available from the main towns and cities of Tamil Nadu. In the early 11th century, the temple was constructed by Rajendra Chola, who was the son and successor of Rajaraja Chola.

The curvaceous temple stands next to the popular Brihadisvara temple at Tanjore. Gangaikonda Cholapuram is considered as the reproduction of Brihadisvara Temple that was erected by Rajaraja Chola, father of Rajendra Chola. Gangai Konda Cholapuram was built to surpass the temple made by the father. The temple is celebrated for having the biggest Shivalingam in the Southern part of India.

The sanctum sanctorum holds the four meter high lingam (phallic form) of Lord Shiva. To offer a private worship area for the aristrocratic family, the sanctum is enclosed with two walls. The dignified entrance of the sanctum is decorated by the beautiful image of Goddess Saraswati. The impact of Chalukyas is also contemplated from the icons of 'Suryapita' (Sun worship) and 'Navagrahs' (Nine planets).

The diligent accounts of the Cholas are carved on the copper plates and temple walls. Favoured place of crowned heads, the tropical structure took around nine years to complete. Gangaikondacholapuram has been robbed for mulitple times, but the architectural and sculptural wealth endured fate. The temple was constructed to glorify the achievements of a fighter king. Gangaikondacholapuram is a salutation to the architects and artisans, who produced this spectacular testimony.


For about 250 years, Chola clan dominated over a considerable part of South India. In those times, the Chola dynasty was at its peak and conquered many a parts of the northern territory. The wealth was overflowing due to the outcome of their flourishing war victories. On one of the voyages, Rajendra Chola brought Ganga water in a golden pot and sanctified the pool 'Ponneri or Cholaganga'. Accordingly, Rajendra was entitled as 'Gangaikondan' (the one who brought the Ganges). The king wanted to build a 'larger than life' temple comparable to the Brihadeeswara Temple. During 1020 - 29 AD, Gangaikondacholapuram saw its construction.


The excellent architecture of the temple praises of a 9 storey vimanam that outreaches to the height of 185 feet. Facing the east direction, Gangai Konda Cholapuram hugs laboured sculptures and carvings. Not less than 54.86m in height, the temple structure chases the style of Brihadisvara Temple. The whole temple is prospered with rich and complex carvings that are individual to Chola style of artistry. Known to contain a little northern style, the structure distingusihes itself with intricate carvings in the Vimanams.

The architecture is a representations of complicated carvings on the hard granite stones, notwithstanding of the easy style of Cholas. Arresting sculptures decorate the walls and ceilings of Gangaikondacholapuram. The innovation of sculptors is presented in the figures of dancing Nataraja and peaceful Saraswati. However, the sculptures constructed here are as imaginative as found in any other temples of Cholas. The most alluring are of Shiva-Parvati, Ardhanareshwar (the man-woman manifestation of Lord Shiva) and Ganesha. The enormous holy place also marks several important bronzes of the Chola age.