Gangaikonda Cholapuram was a city built in 1025 by Rajendra Chola, son of the famous Chola emperor Raja Raja. It was meant to commemorate his victory over the Pala Empire across the Ganges. Gangaikonda Cholapuram served as the capital of the mighty Chola Empire for 250 years and is most famous for its Shiva Temple. The other highlights of this lost city of Cholas are The Royal Palace made of burnt brick, a Giant Nandi and a magnificent Lion figure next to the Well where the King poured the Ganges water brought from his conquests.
Gangaikonda Cholapuram is located on NH227 which connects Trichy to Chidambaram. Kumbakonam is the nearest town, located 30 kms away. It is 74 Kms away from Thanjavur.
The best way to reach Gangaikonda Cholapuram is to hire a taxi from Kumbakonam. If you prefer a bus then you will have to take a bus from Kumbakonam to Anakarai and then change to another Bus from Anakarai to Gangaikonda Cholapuram as there is a Dam on the way.
Buses are also available from Thanjavur for Gangaikonda Cholapuram.
The best place to stay near Gangaikonda Cholapuram would be Kumbakonam, 30 kms away. Hotel Raya is a good option with clean rooms and can be contacted at 04352423270. Tariff is Rs 900 for non AC and 1100 for AC double occupancy.
The Morning Pooja starts at 9am which is followed by Uchhi Kalam at noon. Sayaratchai Pooja is performed at 6pm. The last prayer of the day is Artha Jamam, performed at 9pm.
The Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple complex consists of 3 stories and surrounded by a huge wall. The Chola Empire centred out of Gangaikonda Cholapuram stretched up North beyond the Gangetic Plains to Ceylon in the South and Burma to the East. Tributes came to Chola empire even from Java, Sumatra and Malay kingdoms across the Indian Ocean.
The Shiva Lingam is 4 meters tall and surrounded by 2 walls inside the Sanctum sanctorum for the Royal Family to pray. The entrance to the sanctum sanctorum has a beautiful image of Goddess Saraswati. Facing the Shiva Lingam is a giant sculpture of Nandi 15 feet in length, 8 feet breadth and 11 feet in height. It is made of brick and lime.
You will find magnificent carvings all around the Temple Walls. The Cholas were master record keepers and the walls still retain some of the records of conquests, coronations and donations.
Along the Praharam or the circumventing path, there are several shrines dedicated to Amman, Mahisasuramardhini shrine and Chandigeswarar. Look out for the Vanni Tree near the Chandigeswarar shrine as this served as the “Thalavirutcham” of the Shiva Temple.
Gangaikonda Cholapuram has a remarkable array of sculptures. Foremost among these is the Nataraja or Lord Shiva in cosmic dancing mode. There is another remarkable piece where King Rajendra Chola is being coronated by Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. A dancing Lord Ganesh and Ardhanarishwar, the man-woman manifestation of Lord Shiva, are the other noteworthy sculptures.
The Royal Palace is located at Utkottai and one can see a mound even today called Maalikai Medu.
Archaeological findings show that the Palace must have been a 2 storied structure full of sculptures and paintings. Some of the artifacts excavated from here are on display in a small museum. The museum has a collection of Ivory, bones and Chinese painted items. There is also a magnificent painting of Rajendra Chola with a map of his Empire.
In ancient times a thousand armed Asura named Banasura used to live in these parts. He was a pious person and requested the Gods to bring down Ganges to a well nearby so he can take a holy dip before his prayers. The Gods obliged and the Well can be seen even today at Gangaikonda Cholapura. A magnificent sculpture of Lion is seen guarding the Well.
Rajendra Chola had a unique way of collecting tribute from his vanquished enemies of the North. He forced the defeated Kings to carry the Ganges water to his reservoir in Gangaikonda Cholapuram, as a tribute!