The temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram (கங்கைகொண்ட சோழபுரம்) (‘City of the Chola who Conquered the Ganges’), 35km north of Kumbakonam, 46km from Vriddhachalam and Chidambaram, is dedicated to Shiva. It was built by Rajendra I in the 11th century when he moved the Chola capital here from Thanjavur, and has many similarities to the earlier Brihadishwara at Thanjavur.
Just a couple of years after Rajaraja I built the Brihadeeshwara Temple in Thanjavur, his son Rajendra I became the Chola ruler. Rajendra ruled jointly alongside his father, until the latter’s death in 1016 AD. GangaiKonda Cholapuram is about 70 km from Thanjavur, and had a royal temple by the same name built in it. The temple is commonly called the Brihadeeshwara Temple now. Rajendra also built a lake in the town called Cholagangam to mark his victorious expedition. It was fed by the Cauvery river, and some water from the Ganga was poured into it as well. Today, people call it Ponneri lake.
The temple looks amazing during the evening golden hours as the light partially reflects the white granite structure. There are two fortified walls, one in the inner and another as an outer wall. There is a big Nandi Bull (the mount of Lord Siva) statue of Sand stone and another small one back in color within the temple facing the entrance of the temple. The temples complex houses a garden which adds beauty to the temple. Both the Brihadeshwara and the Gangaikonda Cholapuram temples are considered to be engineering marvels, as both of them still exist strong in the aftermath of the natural catastrophe that hit the Chola Dynasty.
Gangaikonda cholapuram served as the Chola capital for about 250 years, until the decline of the Cholas and the rise of the Pandyas. Today, the temple features on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, and is one of the three Great Living Chola Temples. The Brihadeeshwara temple of Gangaikonda cholapuram is undoubtedly as worthy a successor to the Brihadeeshwara temple of Thanjavur, as Rajendra Chola was to Rajaraja Chola.
- Temple Opening Hours: 6am-noon & 4-8 pm
- Photo Credits: Venkatesan PRS (All the photos taken during the Sunset time 4.30 pm – 6.45 pm)
- PhotoGraphy Device: Huawei Honor 4x