A past imminence only remembered by the existence of this great temple.
GANGAIKONDACHOLAPURAM city was founded by Rajendra chola (1012-1044 AD) to commemorate his victories march to the Ganges, the name means " the town of the chola who captured Ganges". He assumed the title of Gangaikondacholan.Originally he was called Mathuranthagan. He assumed the title of Rajendra during his coronation and continued to rule along with his father Rajaraja-1 for a while. He achived the supreme title of cholas called Psrskesari. Rajendra-I, a great warrior and assisted his father, is numerous expeditions to elevate the Cholas to supreme power. The various expeditions, he conducted, were : Gangetic expedition, eastern/western Chalukyas, war against Cheras/Pandyas, Ceylon expedition, Kadaram (currently called as Malasia- Burma) expedition. His empire extended the whole of southern India to river Thungabathra in the north India and Gngetic regins
For administrative and strategic purpose he shifted his capital and built another capital named it as Gangaikondacholapuram. Most of the kings who succeeded Rajendra chola were crowned here. They retained and trained the efficient army. Judging from the available literature we may conclude that it was an extensive city carefully planned and laid in accordance with the architectural treaties to suit the needs of a capital probably it's diameter was 6 miles comprising various parts like veeracholapuram that means army soldaires living place,Meikavalputhur (personnel security guards place) Authakalam(arms storage place) etc.,As the capital city of Cholas from about 1025 A.D.for about 250 years, envisages entire administration of Gangetic resigns,Srilanka,Malisia-Burma- Kambodia (Kidaram),Nikobar island,Sumatra island were subjugated
The city seems to have had two fortifications one inner and other outer. The outer probably wider, it was named as Rajendra chola mathil (the fort wall named Rajendra chola) evidently after the builder, is mentioned in an inscription. The remains of the outer fortification can be seen as a mound running all around the palace. The inner fortification was around the royal palace, probably identical with the utpadi vittu madil of the inscriptions.
The royal palace was built of burnt brick. The ceiling with flat tiles of small size lay in number of course in fine lime mortar. Pillars were probably with polished wood on granite base. Evidently the palace was multi-storeyed, there were more than one royal building each having its own name. Besides the names of the palace and fort walls, the names of a few roads and streets are preserved in the epigraphs. The entryways named Thiruvasal, the eastern gate and the Vembugudi gate, evidently the south gate leading to the village Vembugudi situated in that direction is mentioned. Reference is also found to highways named after Raja raja and Rajendra as Rajarajan Peruvali and Rajendran Peruvali. Other streets mentioned in epigraphs are the ten streets (Pattu teru), the gateway lane (Thiruvasal Narasam) and the Suddhamali lane. The inscription also refers to the highways, Kulottungacholan Thirumadil peruvali, Vilangudaiyan Peruvali and Kulaiyanai pona Peruvali (the highway through which a short elephant passed by).
The epigraphs also refer to the Madhurantaka Vadavaru, now called the Vadavaru, running about six kilometres east of the ruined capital. Madhurantaka Vedavaru, named after one of the titles of Rajendra I, was a source of irrigation to a vast stretch of land bordering the capital. An irrigation channel called Anaivettuvan (destroyer of elephants) is also mentioned.
There were both wet and dry lands inside the Fort, used for cultivation and other purposes. The present positions of the existing temples throw some light on the layout of the city. With the palace as the centre to the city, the great temple, and the other temples in the city seem to have been erected. Towards the northeast (Isanya) of the palace is the great temple of Siva. The Siva temple according to Vastu and traditional texts should be in the northeast of the city or village and should face east. The temple of Vishnu should be in the west.
A number of small tanks and ponds mentioned in inscriptions and a number of wells supplied drinking water to the resident.
The sculptures of Gangaikondacholeswaram are known for their boldness of conception and excellent execution. They present pleasing and charming faces full of life and rhythm. The images of Gnasarasvathi, Chandikeswaraanugragamurthy, Nataraja are undoubtedly from dextrous hands of a master craftsman who has a permanent place for his creation in the art history of Tamilnadu.
The main tower surrounded by little shrines truly presents the appearance of a chakravarthi (emperor) surrounded by chieftains and vassals. The Gangaikondacholapuram vimana is undoubtedly a devalaya chakravarthi an emperor among temples of South India. The great vimana arrest the visiters's sight.The vimana with its recessed corners and upward movement presents a striking contrast to the straight sided pyramidal tower of Tanjore, it is often described as the feminine counter part of Tanjore temple.Though the temple of Gangikondacholapuram follows the plan of the great temple of Tanjore in the most details it has an individuality of its own. The courtyard is 566'9" in length 318'6" width and has a transept at the west in line with the main sanctum. The cloister has a raised platform, 18' in height. The entrance tower, the superstructure of which has completely fallen down, is located in the east. It measures about 68' x46' with a 12' gate way.
A simhakeni (Lion figured well) to the north of mahamandapam is a circular well steps provided at the western end. The entrance of the steps is adorned with a lion figure which has given the name to the well. According to the tradition Rajendra poured a part of the Ganges water, brought from his famous expedition, in to the well, to sanctify it. An inscription on the lion sculpture, in 19th century characters, records that it was constructed by the Zamindar of Udayarpalayam.
A Mahishasuramardini to the west of the lion-well is a shrine dedicated to the Goddess Mahishasuramardini.The shrine is a later structure (probably built in 14-15th Century) and did not from part of the original layout. It consist of a sanctum is similar to a Durga found at Veerareedi street, in the same village and is in all likelihood, some Durga shrines found in Sengalmedu nearby village Chalukyan in origin.
The southern Kaliasa south if the main vimana and called the southern Kailasa has a sanctum preceded by a mandapa of which the basement alone remains.The inner sanctum of the shrine is now in ruins. To the south-west of the main temple, is a small shrine dedicated to Ganesa.It has a sanctum preceded by a mandapa.The structure could be assigned to the 13th century on stylistic grounds.
The north of the main temple is a small shrine now housing the Goddess Brhannayaki, the concert of Lord Gangaikondacholesvara. The temple, as mentioned earlier, resembles the southern Kailasa in every aspect and is called Uthirakailasa. The beautiful image of Goddess now enshrined in the sanctum of this temple should be a later installation. Originally the temple should have enshrined a Siva Linga, like the southernkailasa.Though separate shrines for Goddesses came to be built in the main temples only from the reign of Rajendra 1, no Devi-shrine was built originally in this temple, the present one being clearly a later institution.
The little temple to the north-east of the central shrine enshrining Chandikesvara, the steward of Siva temple is of interest. He is the principle subsidiary deity in Siva temple and till about 13th century A.D.all transactions relating to the temple were made in his name.This shrine is coeval in time with the main temple.
The main temple consist of a sanctum tower called sri vimana or sri koil, a big rectangular mandapa called mahamandapa with an intervening vestibule called mukhamandapa.The sri vimana consists of the following parts beginning with the lowest basement.
- Upa-pitha (The basement)
- Upa-pitha (The basement)
- Adhishtana (The base)
- Bhitti (The wall)
- Prastara (The roof cornice)
- Hara (The garland of miniature shrines)
- Tala or bhumi(The storeys)
- Griva (The neck)
- Sikhara (The crown)
- Stupi (The final)
In the temple basement is ornamented with sculptures of lions and leogriffs with lifted pawns.The main tower, consisting of nine stories including the ground floor.The upper stories of the main tower carry the same type of ornamentation, consisting of square and oblong pavilions except a change ; the central wagon –shaped pavilion is flanked by square ones instead of "the nest", whole being projected forward than the rest.This is the change from the Tanjore tower which presents a pyramidal appearance without the central projection. The inside staircase leads up to 100' out of 182' of the main tower. The tower is like an inverted basket of octagon in shape inside space echoing a fine rhythmic resonance for manthara chantings.
The mahamandapam only the portion up to the main base is original. The side walls, the pillars and the ceilings have been reconstructed, probably in the 18 th century A.D. The north –eastern corner houses an interesting Solar alter, now worshipped as navagraha (nine planets) a documentation of solar system. The solar alter called Saura pitha in agamic texts is in the form of full blown lotus on a square pedestal in two tiers. The upper tier carries eight deities portrayed at eight directions. They are considered the eight planets, which including central lotus representing Surya (sun) constitute the navagrahas (nine planets) worshipped by Hindus for the bestowal of good fortune and the removal of obstacles. The lower tier is modelled as a chariot with wheels on either side, drawn by seven horses.Aruna the charioteer of Surya is shown driving the horses. The horses are said to represent the seven days of a week and VIBGYOR. The wheels are ornamented with twelve petals, representing the twelve months of a year. At the corners are seen flying celestials, gandharvas carrying flower garlands.
The inner sanctum, houses a very big Siva Linga, rising to a height of thirteen feet. It is said to be biggest Siva Linga enshrined in a sanctum in any South Indian temple. The entrance to the sanctum is guarded by massive doorkeepers duvarapalagas.
Beautiful sculpture placed in the lower niches of the main vimana, Lashmi, Kankaladhara, GanesaArdhanari, Dhashnamurthi, Hariharan, Adavallar, are in the south wall Kangadhara, Lingothbavar, Mahavishnu, Subramania, Vishnuanugragamoorthy are in west wall, Kalandhaka, Durga, Brama, Bhairava, Kamantaka, Chandekeswara anugragamurthy, GnanaSaraswathi in the north wall.
A number of literary works in Tamil and Sanskrit refer to Gangaikondacholapuram and its temple. Thiruvisaippa, Muvar ula, Kalingathuparani, Vikramankadevacharitha are noted literary works refer this place. Kamber, Jayamkondar, Ottakkuthar, Karuvurdevar were the great poets lived in this Gangaikondacholapuram.
Twelve inscriptions and few fragments have been noticed so far in temple. An inscription of Virarajendra chola, the third son of Rajendra-1 is the earliest and lengthiest running to about 216 lines. It relates to gifts of lands in a number of villages in the Chola Empire. It is strange that most of the lands gifted to Tanjore temple by Rajaraja should have been transferred to the temple of Gangaikondacholapuram by his son within twenty five years of the original gift. The inscription of great value, it mentions the names of the various divisions and sub-divisions of Chola Empire. It also gives a long list of officers who were in charge of the administration in the reign of Veerarajendra. Sixty four officers are named at the end of this chapter.
The great lake lying about 3 km to the west of the temple and now called Ponneri, the glittering evening sun light over the water surface spelled this name is of historic interest.It is closely connected with the history of the capital.Thiruvalangadu plates reveals that, the lake was the liquid pillar of victory that Rajendra established to celebrate his conquest of Gangetic plains. Further from the plates, Rajendra himself went to the banks of the river Godavari to receive his generals, who brought holy Ganges water in the golden vessels on the heads of vanquished rulers. The holy water was poured into the lake and the lake itself was named Cholaganga a liquid pillar of victory.
In the eastern part of this place, a village called Ulahalandhacholan in which the great Vaishanavite teacher Nathamuni's thiruvarasu (------) is there, a statue of Vishnu with Goddess can be seen by the visitors.
This capital of the most powerful empire in Asia at one time is now desolate; only the temple of Gangaikondachola survives.
What caused the destruction of this city? The Pandyas who put an end to the Chola empire late in the 13th century, avenging their earlier defeats, should have razed the city to the ground, a misfortune that befell on capitals in early times. It should have remained a heap of brick debris, the inhabitants of the nearby villages pilfering the bricks for their constructions. The people have also dug systematically deep into the ground and extracted cartloads of ancient bricks.
The emblem of the Chola empire was the tiger, which was featured on the Chola flag, coins and in other contexts of political significance.
List of Medieval Chola Kings
Name of King Reign Period Son of Capital
Vijayalaya Chola 848-881 Is not available Thanjavur
- Athiththa Chola 871-907 Vijayalya Chola Thanjavur
- Kandarathiththa Chola 950-957 2nd Son of Paranthaha Chola-I Thanjavur
- Arinchchaya Chola 956-957 3rd Son of Paranthaha Chola-I Thanjavur
- Paranthaha Chola-II 957-970 Arinchchaya Chola Thanjavur
Uththama Cholan ruled Tamil Nadu from 973 to 985. He came to power after Aditya Karikalan, the eldest son of Paranthaga Cholan was assassinated in Kadambur. The people wanted to give the throne to Rajaraja Cholan but at the time of swearing-in ceremony, Ra 973-985 Kandarathiththa Chola Thanjavur
- Rajaraja Chola-I 985-1014 Paranthaha Chola-II Thanjavur
- Rajendra Chola-I 1012-1044 Rajaraja Chola-I Gangaikonda Cholapuram
- Rajadhiraja Chola-I 1018-1054 Eldest Son of Rajendra Chola-I Gangaikonda Cholapuram
- Rajendra Chola-II 1051-1063 2nd Son of Rajendra Chola-I Gangaikonda Cholapuram
- Virarajendra Chola 1063-1070 Rajendra Chola-I Gangaikonda Cholapuram
- Athirajendra Chola 1067-1070 Virarajendra Chola Gangaikonda Cholapuram
- Kulothunga Chola-I 1070-1120 Son of the daughter of Rajendra Chola-I Gangaikonda Cholapuram
- Vikkrama Chola 1118-1135 Kulothunga Chola-I Gangaikonda Cholapuram
- Kulothunga Chola-II 1133-1150 Vikkrama Chola Gangaikonda Cholapuram
- Rajaraja Chola-II 1146-1163 Kulothunga Chola-II Gangaikonda Cholapuram
- Rajadiraja Chola-II 1163-1178 Cousin of Rajaraja Chola-II Gangaikonda Cholapuram
- Kulothunga Chola-III 1178-1218 Rajaraja Chola-II Gangaikonda Cholapuram
- Rajaraja Chola-III 1216-1256 Kulothunga Chola-III Gangaikonda Cholapuram
- Rajendra Chola-III 1246-1279 Rajaraja Chola-III Gangaikonda Cholapuram