Great Living Chola Temples

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Year : 10th and 12th Centuries | State : Tamil Nadu | City : Thanjavur

A network of temples includes Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram, in which first one was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, whereas second and third one in 2004. This cultural site includes temples that testify development of the architecture and the ideology of Tamil civilization in southern India. According to inscriptions and chronicles, richly endowed by the sovereign, the sanctuary, these temples were homes of hundred priests, 400 devadasi (also known as sacred dancers), and 57 musicians.

The most celebrated Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur is considered grandest creation by Chola emperor Rajaraja (AD 985-1012). Inaugurated by the king himself, architecturally, it is the most ambitious structural temple built of granite. It is often testified as a landmark in the evolution of building art in south India so as a touchstone of Indian architecture. The temple with three architecturally superior entrances one at each lateral side and massive proportions became symbol of simplicity of design. It became inspiration for future construction designs in south India as well as south-east Asia. The Brihadisvara’s income in gold, silver and precious stones during the Chola period has been resources for the upkeep and improvement of the buildings.

In 1035, The Temple of Gangaikondacholapuram was built by Rajendra I, and have honor to owe recessed corners with a graceful upward curving movement. It has six pairs of massive and monolithic statues at the entrances with bronzes of remarkable beauty inside. The Airavatesvara temple complex at Darasuram was built by Rajaraja II, featuring a stone image of Shiva. The temple is symbol of brilliant achievements in architecture, sculpture, painting, and bronze casting from Chola Empire.

Map of Great Living Chola Temples