With a history as complicated as its name, GangaikondaCholapuram is much more than a tongue twister. I was in class seventh when I first heard about this place and have been intrigued with it since then (mostly because I liked its name). But still, when I got into its depth, I realised that this place was a lost wonder of India and deserved much more than a slight mention in our history books.
Located in the Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu, this fascinating city was founded by Rajendra Chola to commemorate his victory over the Pala Dynasty. The meaning of GangaikondaCholapuram is literally The town of the Chola who took over Ganga. Unfortunately, the only remaining architecture is the Brihadisvara Temple, which was built in 1035 A.D. The city also seems to had have two fortifications – one inner and one outer. The reason for the destruction of the city is still unclear.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this Temple has the largest Shiva Lingam in South Indian (nearly 4m). This Temple is often cited to be a replica of the Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur, which was built by the legendary Rajaraja Chola. The size of the temple is a bit smaller than the original Temple on Thanjavur. This Temple is built on an elevated structure which measures 170m in height and 98m in width and is 341ft high and 100ft wide. Now that’s huge!!
This extravagant temple exhibits rich sculpting with a hint of Chalukya style of architecture. Due to its relatively smaller size, it is often considered the feminine equivalent to the Thanjavur Temple. There is a huge structure of Nandi right in front of the temple. The interesting part is that this Nandi is sculpted in a way that it reflects the sunlight directly into the sanctum. The sanctum is made of a stone called Chandrakanta which keeps the area cool during summers and warms during winters. India was full of Science freaks even back then!!
The temple also boasts a nine story vimana which is approximately 185ft. The sculptures of various deities, prominent ones being the Ardhanareshwara, Ganesha, Saraswati and Shiva garlanding his devotee (most probably Rajendra Chola himself), are also a major attraction.
GangaikondaCholapuram was the capital of the Chola Empire for as much as 250 years. The temple was plundered several times but it has still not lost its aura and radiance. This Temple is a true example of India’s heritage and is indeed a creation to be proud of. Such unknown places need to be promoted because Indian history is much more than dates and events, it’s about pride and of course, vibrance.