Gangaikondas Cholapuram

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Location : 51-km From Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu
Built By: Rajendra I, A Chola King
Deity Worshipped: Lord Shiva


GangaikondaCholapuram 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 GangaikondaCholapuram 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.

History Of The Temple
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).

About The Temple
This temple of dedicated to Lord Shiva is noted for its massiveness and richly carved sculptures. There are two entrances to the temple. One entrance is towards north on the Trichy-Chidambaram road and the other is on the eastern side with a raised tower.

The eastern entry with the raised tower is the main one, as signified by the two Dwarapalaks (doorkeepers) at the entry. Steps on the south and the north enable entry to the main temple. After going inside we see a long and big hall on an old basement.

One can see a huge temple tank that has pots of water from the Ganges emptied into it by subser-vient kings to the Chola court. There is a big Nandi in front of the temple, which is made of brick and mortar. A lion head well with a flight of steps leading to the water level and gigantic Dwarapalakas are the other thrilling features of this temple. It is advisable to get a torch, as parts of the temple can be dark.

The Idol
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.



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