Gangaikondan Cholapuram Temple
: 51-km From Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu
Built By : Rajendra I, A Chola King
: Lord Shiva
Gangaikondan Cholapuram is in the Udayarpalayam Taluka (also spelt as Taluk) in Perambalur district, 245-km from Chennai and 51-km from Chidambaram. Rajendra I, a Chola ruler established Gangaikonda Cholapuram as his capital city and built a magnificent temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. There is a big temple, known as "GangaikondaCholapuram" situated in the east, against six acres of land.
Rajaraja's son and successor, Rajendra I the mightiest emperor in the history of South India, removed his capital from Thanjavur to GangaikondaCholapuram. The name of this town means "The town of the Chola who conquered the Ganga." This temple was constructed during his reign.
Rajendra I during one of his campaigns to the north brought water from the river Ganges in a golden pot, and sanctified the reservoir Ponneri or Cholaganga, hence he was given the title of 'Gangaikondan' (the one who brought the Ganges).
The king wanted to build a temple equivalent in stature to the Brihadeeswara Temple at Tanjavur. And thus the Temple at GangaikondaCholapuram came into existence between 1020 - 29 AD.
It took a long time to complete the temple of GangaikondaCholapuram. The temple was used as a garrison and fortified cantonment by the Pandyas and later on by the British during wars. The temple has also been looted in many occasions, but the architectural and sculpting treasure can never be looted.
Architecture Of The Temple
The architecture of this temple is an exhibition of intricate carvings on the hard southern granite stones, discarding the earlier Chola and Pallava style of subtlety and simplicity. Few sculptures found here are as great as the sculptures found in any other Chola temples. The walls tell us stories of many victories of the warrior king, the land donations made during the period, kings ascending to thrones etc.
The most striking and unique sculptures found here are The Nataraja, Coronation of King Rajendra Cholan by Lord Shiva and Parvati, the dancing Ganesh and the most interesting the Ardhanari (the man-woman manifestation of Lord Shiva).
At the sanctum sanctorum, we see the radiant Shiva Linga. Appropriate to the name, this huge Linga (also spelt as lingam) is carved from a single stone. Of all the six linga's this is the gigantic one, larger than any known.
Two walls surround the sanctum sanctorum, the inner and outer, providing private worship area for the royal family. There is a bull opposite to the sanctorum of the presiding deity. The Linga (also spelt as lingam) and the idol of the Goddess are now placed in this hall, which were originally in the outer county. The wall facing the west features life like relaters, depicting scriptural stories.
Crossing the huge hall we coupe to the inner count. This is known as the "Light pillared hall", in the shape of an 'I', with light pillars in two rows. On the upper side of both the pillars, 53 different Bharathanatya poses are beautifully displayed.
A well-crafted image of Goddess Saraswati adorns the royal entrance of the sanctum, which indicates the Chalukyan influence. Also, the presence of the 'Suryapita' icon, signifying sun worship and the presence of the 'Navagrahas' (nine planets), is said to have been influenced by the Chalukyan connection.
HOW TO GET THERE
Air : The nearest airport is at Trichy.
Rail : The nearest railway station is in Kumbakonam. There are frequent trains from Mayladudurai, Kumbakonam and Ariyalur.
Road : There are regular buses from Kumbakonam almost every hour and a few other buses to Trichy and Chidambaram. Tourists who wish to drive from Chennai can reach the temple via the Chennai-Kumbakonam-Thanjavur highway. It is 245-km from Chennai, 74-km from Thanjavur and 34 km from Kumbakonam.
WHERE TO STAY
Accommodation is available at the moderate class hotels and choultries in Chidambaram.