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Gangai Konda Cholapuram

Historical

Photo Credit: Flickr

Distance (From Chidambaram): 42 Kms

Trip Duration (Including Travel): 3 Hours

Place Location: Near Mamangalam, Between Kumbakonam & Vadalur

Transportation Options: Bus / Cab

Travel Tips: This place can be also visited from Thanjavur & Kumbakonam

At a distance of 42 km Chidambaram, 76 km from Thanjavur, 110 km from Trichy & 268 km from Chennai, Sri Brihadeeswara Temple is situated at Gangaikonda Cholapuram. Gangaikonda Cholapuram was the capital of Cholas. It was built by Rajendra Chola I, the son and successor of Rajaraja Chola, who conquered a large area in South India at the beginning of the 11th century. It occupies an important place in the history of India as the capital of the Cholas from about 1025 CE for about 250 years. This temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site 'Great Living Chola Temples'.

Rajendra Chola I has established this temple after his great victories in Northern India. He was originally called Madurantakan and assumed the title of Rajendra during his coronation and continued to rule along with his father Rajaraja-I for a while. Gangai Konda Cholapuram is regarded as the reproduction of Brihadisvara Temple that was built by Rajaraja Chola, father of Rajendra Chola. The temple is renowned for having the biggest Shivalingam in the Southern part of India.

The temple was located at the center of the Gangai Konda Cholapuram and occupies around 6 acres of land. The temple has 2 enclosures surrounding the vimana, most of the wall was destructed and the granite rocks were used to construct a dam during the British rule. Archeological Survey of India has renovated and restored the vimana. The 182 feet tall tower over the sanctum is the second biggest after Thanjavur temple.

The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Shiva. To provide a private worship area for the royal family, the sanctum is encircled with two walls. The stately entrance of the sanctum is adorned by the beautiful image of Goddess Saraswati. Also the presence of the Suryapita icon, signifying sun worship and the presence of the Navagrahas said to be influenced by the Chalukyas.

The Linga in Gangai Konda Cholapuram temple is 13.5 feet tall. The Nandi, vehicle of Lord Shiva is also bigger than of Thanjavur. The Nandi in this temple is made of lime stone and placed on the ground, 200 meters away from the sanctum in this temple. Sun light falls on Nandi each day and reflects on the Lord in the sanctum.

A rare stone called Chandrakanta stone is installed under the Linga which has a strange characteristic of making the sanctum sanctorum cool in summer and warm in winter. Mother Periya Nayaki, is 9.5 feet tall standing majestically. Mother Durga in the temple graces the devotees as a 9 year old pretty smiling little girl with 20 hands killing demon Mahishasura. She is the family deity of King Rajendra Chola.

Now, most of the city is destroyed and only the temple of Gangai Konda Cholapuram survives.

Maha Shivrathri in February-March, full moon day in October-November, Panguni Utsav in March-April and Margazhi Tiruvadhirai in December-January are the festivals celebrated in the temple.

Timings: 6 AM to 12 PM and 4 PM to 8 PM