Weekly Feature - July 30 1999
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Introduction: Templenet focuses this week on the glorious temples attributed to the reign of the successors of the monarch Raja Raja Chola in the Thanjavur Cauvery belt of South India. Last week's issue focussed on the glory of the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur. We continue our journey through the next 200 years and through the temples of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Darasuram and Tribhuvanam.





Brihadeeswarar Temple


Raja Raja Cholan I (985-1014 AD)

Grandest and largest of Chola temples, 13 storey Vimanam towering to 216 feet, spacious courtyards, second biggest Nandi in India, gigantic Mahalingam in the sanctum (Peruvudaiyar), 250 other Shiva Lingms, Abundant sculpture and frescoes, Splendid bronzes, A history of patronage of music and dance

Gangaikonda Choleswarar Temple

Gangai Konda Cholapuram

Rajendra Cholan (1014 - 1044 AD)

Modeled along the lines of the Thanjavur temple, 9 storey vimanam, 185 feet tall, biggest Shiva lingam in South India, breath taking sculpture

Airavateeswarar Temple


Raja Raja Cholan II (1146-1073 AD)

'Sculptor's dream in stone', musical pillars, mandapam in the shape of a chariot, a wealth of sculpture and painting, 5 storey 85 feet tall Vimanam.

Kambahareswarar Temple


Kulottunga Cholan III (1178-1218 AD)

Chariot shaped mandapam, sculptured panels depicting scenes from the ramayanam, 130 feet high Vimanam.

Gangaikonda Choleswarar Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram: The new capital of the Cholas under Rajendra Cholan saw the rise of the majestic Gangaikondacholeeswaram Temple. This temple resembles the Thanjavur Peruvudaiyar Temple in all respects, however its tower just falls 3 meters short of the Thanjavur temple's record height. The Shiva Lingam however is 4 meters high, taller than the one at Thanjavur.Sculptured images abound in this masterpiece of Chola architecture.

Airavateswarar Temple at Darasuram near Kumbhakonam : The name Darasuram is said to be a corruption of the original name Rajarajapuram, and this temple - smaller than the Periya Kovil and Gangai Konda Choleeswaram dates back to Raja Raja II's period (12th century AD). The Periya Nayaki Amman temple stands out as a separate temple because the outer walls of the temple have disappeared with the passage of time, unlike the original Periya Kovil in Thanjavur. Darasuram is described as a sculptor's dream re-lived in stone. The front mandapam itself is in the form of a huge chariot drawn by horses. Paintings and sculptured panels abound here, causing this shrine to be a veritable storehouse of art. The Vimanam is only about 80 feet in height. In front of the temple are stone panels which produce tones of varying pitches when struck.

The Kampahareswarar temple at Tribhuvanam - near Kumbhakonam is the last in this series of four Chola masterpieces. The front mandapam here is again built in the form of a huge charriot. The Vimanam here is larger than that of Darasuram, and is about 120 feet in height. Sculptured panels depicting scenes from the Ramayana adorn this temple.
These four temples under discussion stand out from the others in Tamilnadu in that, it is only in these that the Vimanam towers over the entrance Gopurams. After these four temples, the Cholas went back to their traditional style of building temples with larger Gopurams and smaller central Vimanams. These temples are fitting memorials to the glory of the rulers that built them, as well as monuments of piety and a committment to art and architecture.
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