Rajendra Chola-I (1012-1044 A.D) son of the Great Rajaraja-I, established this temple after his great victorious march to river Ganges on Northern India. He was originally called Madurantakan. He assumed the title of Rajendra during his coronation and continued to rule along with his father Rajaraja-I for a while. He achieved the supreme title of Cholas called Parakesari .
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 Burma) expedition etc.,
His empire extended the whole of southern India to river Thungabathra in the north India, for administrative and strategic purpose he built another capital and named Gangaikondacholapuram. The Gangaikondacholapuram temple, he constructed consists of 3 stories and surrounded by a huge fort like wall, the outer wall was greatly destructed during the English rule (1896 A.D) to reuse the building material (Granite rocks) for constructing the Lower Anicut (Dam across river Kollidam). He built around 10 temples at various places.
He assumed the title of Gangaikonda Cholan and named his new capital as Gangaikondacholapuram and he also constructed a huge Lake known as Chola Gangam that spreads 22 km mainly used for drinking and irrigation. A statue of Rajendra-I is found in Kolaram temple at Kolar of Karnataka state in India.
The temple was located at the center of the Gangaikondacholapuram city and occupies around 6 acres of land. There seems to be 2 Praharams surrounding the Srivimana, most of the wall is destructed and the Granite rocks where used to construct the Lower Anicut during the British rule. The remains of these outer wall is very less and one can judge the actual size of the temple if it had remained, whereas the second wall has the gopuram completely destructed and from the height of the entrance one could estimate the height of the second gopuram. Archeological Survey of India has renovated the Srivimana and painted it beautifully after the chemical cleaning. The sight of the Srivimana from this second entrance is magnificent and beautiful. A western historian who studied Gangaikondacholesvaram compared the structural difference of this Srivimana with that of Rajaraja-I’s Brihadisvara temple at Thanjavur and mentioned that this Srivimana is of feminine structure and the Tanjore Srivimana as masculine in nature. The main difference that is obvious is this Srivimana has 8 sided (Octagonal) in structure and Thanjavur Srivimana has 4 sided (Quadragonal) in structure.
The basement of Srivimana is 100 feet by 100 feet and the foundation is square in structure and raises 20 feet above the ground level. The 3 lower stages houses many beautiful masterpiece sculptures of chola period including the Laxmi (goddess of wealth), Gana Saraswathi (goddess of knowledge), Ardhanareeswarar ( Shiva and Sakthi in equal but in one form), Shiva blessing Chandigeswarar with along Parvathi. One has to enjoy the beauty and the elegance and these fine masterpieces by visiting Gangaikondacholesvaram no words or even the photographs that we have taken are only our attempt to bring this 1000 year old art and architecture near to the readers.
There are many shrines inside this temple found on the 2nd praharam (circumventing path), Mahisasuramardhini shrine, Amman shrine, Chandigeswarar shrine, Ganapathy shrine etc., There was Nataraja Mandapam now totally destroyed and only the remains were found. There were special Poojas for Mahisasuramardhini every month.
Maalikai Medu (Ruins of RajendraCholaPalace)
The emperor Rajendra Chola (1012 A.D – 1044 A.D) built a big palace in the place of Utkottai, where a mound even now called Maalikai Medu (Palace mound) in Gangaikondacholapuram – the capital of chola dynasty. The base of the palace is found in Maalikai Medu which is 1.5km away from the Brihadisvara Temple, Gangaikondacholapuram. The breadth of the palace wall is 1m and built by using only the bricks. Now the palace is maintained as a protected monument by the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Survey (State ASI), telling that the palace had two floors including some sculptures, paintings on the wall. Some of the beautiful handicrafts made up of elephant ivory , bones and Chinese style painted things were also found in the palace, proves that the Chinese accompanied with Tamil people in the period of Chola. The things used in the palace by the period of chola is kept in the museum of Gangaikondacholapuram.
Maalikai Medu Sculptures
Damaged statues were collected from various place and located in the Maalikai Medu. Now it is protected by the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Survey.
Lingam and Nandhi
Vanni tree is the thalavirutcham of this temple. It is resided in the northern prahara of the temple and rear to the shrine of Chandigeswarar.
Chola Gangam Tank