Gangaikonda Cholapuram – Brihadeesvara Temple

It was raining heavily for half an hour, when I arrived at the Chidambaram Bus Stop and dark Nimbus Clouds had gathered at the distance towards Pichavaram, I differed my original plan from Pichavaram to move towards Gangaikonda Cholapuram, which was on opposite direction.

I left Chidambaram by 02:00 PM. Like all, other main temples, even this temple was closed in the afternoon from 12:00 noon to 04:00 PM.

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Gangaikonda Cholapuram – Brihadeeswara Temple

I arrived at the Bus Stop by 03:00 PM. Bus Stop is located just outside the Iconic Temple. Since the temple opens at 04:00 PM,  I went around the huge complex photographing the monument externally. Then sat for sometime, watching Korean Odyssey in Netflix (Network is good throughout here).

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Side view of the Temple, alongwith Amman Brihanayaki Temple

Gangaikonda Cholapuram (GKCP – using as abbreviation) is around 1 hour (approx. 45 kms – one way) from Chidambaram. The less explored, Brihadeesvara Temple, UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located here and if you are travelling around, you have to visit this amazing, brilliant piece of Great Living (functional) Chola Temple. Most parts of the Temple has been renovated from ruins.

This Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, considered to be one of the largest temples in the Country and brilliant example of Dravidian Architecture of the Chola Dynasty. This temple was built by Rajendra Chola I , completed in 1035 AD. This temple is similar to the Brihadeeswara Temple in Tanjavur in terms of architecture. The Vimana of the temple (Shikhara) is 55 m (180 ft) high, which is 3 m (9.8 ft) smaller than the Tanjavur Temple.

The story goes as – Raja Raja Chola I (renowned King), Father of Rajendra Chola I,  had built a magnificent temple in Tanjavur called as Brihadeesvara Temple. This temple was known for its grandeur. Rajendra Chola I after winning the war over the Ganges Region and the Pala Dynasty, decided as a mark of victory to build bigger temple than the Tanjavur one with the same name & architectural style. However, he left it midway, after coming to an agreement that his father’s temple in Tanjavur is bigger. Other version of the story says that Rajendra Chola I wanted the height of Vimana to be higher than the Tanjavur one, but the nature of the Sand did not allow the architects to increase the height. Experts say that, this temple has a concave outline and divided into eight zones. This temple was built intentionally smaller than the Tanjavur one, keeping in mind the father-son hereditary aspect, also, this temple is considered as female equivalent of the Tanjavur temple.

It was more like case of having a famous father, while Son is trying to build his own image but is being overshadowed by the fame of his illustrious father. However, Rajendra Chola I is also credited for expanding the Chola Dynasty and winning many wars for his Father Raja Raja Chola I.  

Rajendra Chola I was called as Gangaikonda Cholan (One who conquered the Ganges). To create an independent identity for himself, he shifted the Chola Capital from Tanjavur to GKCP and for next 250 years GKCP remained the Capital of the Chola Dynasty. (Need to delve more into this interesting story).

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Ardhanarisvara (Half Shiva, Half Parvati)

Inside the Sanctum, photography is not allowed. There is a 13 ft tall Lingam, representation of Shiva, in the Sanctum. The flooring of the Sanctum is made up of a stone called as Chandrakanta, which keeps the area cool in summer and warms up the area during winter. The mahamandapa is pillared and long. Due to less lighting, the interior is dark, but the Pillars are sculpted well with deities & animals. I found the camel carving interesting, a lady in dancing pose, Shakti Ganapati, Karthikeya etc.

There are more than 50 sculptures around the sanctum. Vimana is 9 storey, with carvings of various deities on the wall like Vishnu, Harihara, Surya, Durga, Dancing Nataraja, Ardhnarishwara, Saraswati and Ganesha.

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Lord Natraja along with Goddess Shakti

At the entrance, there is a well maintained Garden, further ahead greeted by a huge Nandi, which is almost 15 feet in length, 8 feet in breadth and 11 feet in height, sculpted in Stucco, brick stones and mortar. Nandi is placed in such a way that it reflects the light into the Sanctum. Huge Dwarpalas greet you at all entrances to the temple. There are few other smaller shrines around and one lion well called as Simhakeni.

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Goddess Brihannayaki – Amman Temple

Simhakeni was added later in the 19th Century.

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Simhakeni

Rain was drizzling intermittently, once the temple opened up, the crowd started expanding. Still managed to get some unhindered shots.

By 05:00 PM, I had finished with GKCP and was again at the Bus Stop moving back to Chidambaram.

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