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Three Great Living Chola Temples

Updated on February 17, 2020
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Lakshmi Menon is a published author who writes both fiction and non-fiction. She is also a travel enthusiast.

Brihadeeswarar temple
Brihadeeswarar temple | Source

Great Living Chola Temples

Thanjavur, also known as Tanjore, located in Tamil Nadu, is nick named as "Rice bowl of Tamil Nadu" and a great pilgrim destination of South India. It was the capital of Chola kings who ruled the region during 9th to 13th centuries. Thanjavur is also famous for bronze sculpture and painting. During the Chola Dynasty, who ruled South India and many other neigbouring areas, the Chola Kings had built many famous temples and some of them are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites. These temples are examples of supreme brilliance of Indian architecture.

Though these temples are ancient temples regular pujas are still performed in these temples.

1. Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur

Brihadeeswarar Temple
Brihadeeswarar Temple | Source

Brihadeeswarar temple is one of the great living Chola temples. It is located in the heart of Thanjavur city in Tamil Nadu, India. It was built by King Raja Raja Chola I in the 11th century. There are three main gopurams (towers) for this temple.

A Brief About Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur

Brihadeeswara Temple is also known as Big Temple. The architectural style of Chola kings is marvelously displayed in the construction of BrihadeeswararTemple. It is a homage paid to Lord Shiva. The temple tower known as vimana of this temple has 66 meters height and it is the larges temple tower in the world. The rounded temple structure is believed to be constructed out of carving on a single stone. The huge black bull (Nandi) in the front is in 13 feet in elevation and 16 feet in length. The other most interesting sculptures are Shiv-Parvati, Ardhanareswar (man-woman manifestation of Lord Shiva) and Ganesha.

In the year 2010, Brihadeeswarar temple completed in 1000 hours and the event is celebrated with great pomp and show.

This great temple is widely visited by both domestic and global visitors.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Big Temple
Big Temple
Big Temple | Source

How to go to Brihadeesvara Temple, Thanjavur

Nearest Aiport: Thiruchirappaly Airport, 65 kms away.

Nearest Railway Station: Thanjavur Railway Station .

By Road- Many bus services (Both government and private ) are going to this place regularly. You can also get Uber taxis and autorikshaws.

Timing of Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur

Timing : 5:30 AM to 12 PM and 4 PM to 8 PM

Entrance Fee : Free.

Photography: Allowed

2. Gangaikonda Cholesvara Temple

Gangai Konda Choelswaara Temple
Gangai Konda Choelswaara Temple | Source

A Brief About Gangaikonda Cholesvar Temple

This temple is called Brihadeeswara temple at Ariyalur and referred as Arulmigu Pervudayar Temple and Big Temple locally. This magnificent temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, was built by Rajendra Chola I (son of King Raja Raja Cola) in 12th century after his victory over the northern part of India. After his victory, the king brought the holy water from River Ganga and added in the reservoir. Hence the name Gangaikonda cholapuram. The distance from Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur to this temple is just 70 kms.

The 9 storey temple tower has a height of 185 feet. The temple follows the style of Brihadeesvarar temple, but there are considerable differences in the architecture. Here, Lord Shiva is worshipped as Lingam, and this lingam is the largest lingam in the country. It measures 18 feet in height.

Regular pujas are performed here and festivals are also celebrated every year. King Rajendra Chola I shifted his capital from Thanjavur to here and remained the capital for 250 years of Cholas. That time Gangaikonda Choleswaram was a flourishing city, but today it just remains as a historical village.

This great temple is widely visited by both domestic and global visitors


How to Go to Gangaikonda Choleswara Temple, Jayankondam, Ariyalur Dist. TN

By Air - Thiruchi International airport (136 km), Chennai (280 km) from there domestic flights to Neyveli (43 kms)

By Train - Ariyalur and Chidabaram

By Road - Gangaikonda Cholapuram is on NH 227 from Chidambaram till Trichy and is well connected to other parts of the state by buses and roads, and 35 kms from Kumbakonam.

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Gangaikonda Choleswara temple
Gangaikonda Choleswara temple
Gangaikonda Choleswara temple | Source

Timing of the Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple

Timing: 6 am - 12 noon and 4 to 8. pm

Entry Fee : Free

Photography: Allowed

3. Airavatheswara Temple, Darasuram near Kumbakonam

Airavatheswara Temple, Kumbakonam
Airavatheswara Temple, Kumbakonam | Source

A Brief About Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram, Kumbakonam, TN

Airavatesvara temple is the third of the trinity great living Chola temples in India. This temple is also dedicated to Lord Shiva, built by Raja Raja Chola II in 12th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The temple theertham (pond) is called Yamatheertham. According to legends, Lord Yama worshipped Lord Shiva who is known here as Airavatheswara, to get rid of his curse and he became alright. Since then this pond is called as Yamatheertham. The temple has a chariot structure and several other shrines are also there. However, the shrine of Periya Nayakai (Goddess Parvati), consort of Lord Shiva is housed in a detached temple.

According to the inscriptions, the temple premises was much bigger than what is seen today. There were sapta veedhis (seven streets) and seven courts, Over the period many parts were destroyed.


How to go to Airavateswara Temple, Darasuram, Kumbakonam

By Air : Thiruchi International Airport is 87 kms away

By Train: Kumbakonam, 5 kms away.

By Road: Kumbakonam Bus Stand is just 5 kms away.

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Airavatesvara temple entrance
Airavatesvara temple entrance
Airavatesvara temple entrance | Source

Timing of Airavatesvara Temple near Kumbakonam

Timing: 6:00 AM to 8:30 PM

Entry Fee: Free

Photography: :Allowed



How to visit all the Above 3 Temples in the Same Day

If you are short of time and would like to visit all the three temples on the same day this is the best way to do-

  • First, visit Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur and reach there before 8 am. It will be pleasant to visit at this time. Spend about two hours there.
  • Then leave for Gangaikonda Cholesvar temple at Jayankondam, which is just 70 kms away in a car or taxi.
  • Spend about 1.30 to 2 hrs there, and leave there.
  • Head towards Airavateswara Temple at Darasuram near Kumbakonam, which is about 30 kms way.
  • On the way, stop for lunch. .
  • Reach Airavatheswara temple leisurely by 3 or 4 pm. and visit the amazing temple and enjoy the architectural marvel.


Shopping for Silk Saris

If you are interested you can buy silk saris from the weavers directly. They are just near the Airavareswara temple. You can get these saris for much cheaper rate than the market price.

Comments

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    • lex123 profile imageAUTHOR

      lex123 

      17 months ago

      Thanks for your comment. It is worth visiting these glorious temples at least once in lifetime. These temples were made when there were no advanced technology or facilities available. I had been thinking about these places for quite some time and finally I was able to visit these places just last month. Mesmerizing architecture!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      17 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Nice informative article about the Chola temples. Your pictures are beautiful and provide a good reference to your article. I haven’t seen these glorious temples, but am eager to visit them, after reading your well written article.

      Thanks for sharing the other details.

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