Gangaikonda Cholapuram

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Gangaikonda Cholapuram
The Shiva temple in town
The Shiva temple in Gangaikonda Cholapuram
Gangaikonda Cholapuram is located in Tamil Nadu
Gangaikonda Cholapuram
Gangaikonda Cholapuram
Coordinates: 11°12′33.5″N 79°26′45″E / 11.209306°N 79.44583°E / 11.209306; 79.44583Coordinates: 11°12′33.5″N 79°26′45″E / 11.209306°N 79.44583°E / 11.209306; 79.44583
Country  India
State Tamil Nadu
Region Chola Nadu
 • Official Tamil
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)

Gangaikonda Cholapuram, also called Gangaikondacholapuram, is a town whose origin trace to medieval India and which was the capital of the Cholas for king Rajendra Chola I. He was the son and successor of king Rajaraja Chola who conquered a large area in South India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Sumatra, Kadaram (Kedah in Malaysia), Cambodia and others at the beginning of the 11th century A.D. It occupies an important place in the history of India. As the capital of the Cholas from about 1025 A.D. for about 250 years, the city controlled the affairs of entire southern India, from the Tungabhadra in the north to Ceylon in the south and other south east Asian countries.

The town is about 70 kilometres (43 mi) northeast of Thanjavur city. As of 2014, the ancient city exists as a heritage town in the Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu, India. The great temple of Brihadeeswarar Temple at this place is next only to the Brihadisvara temple at Thanjavur in its monumental nature and surpasses it in sculptural quality.


Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple Entrance

Gangaikondacholapuram Temple is situated near Thanjavur city of Tamil Nadu and known for an architectural and engineering marvel. The great temple of Lord Siva at Gangaikonda also has one of the largest statue of Nandi in entire southern India.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 .Rajendran-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 city was founded by Rajendra Chola I to commemorate his victory over the Pala Dynasty. The name means The town of the chola who took over Ganga (water from Ganga) or who defeated (the kings near) Ganga. It is now a small village, its past eminence only remembered by the existence of the great Siva Temple.[1] The Chola empire included the whole of southern India to the river Thungabadhra in the north. For administrative and strategic purposes they built another capital and named it Gangaikondacholapuram.

The city seems to have had two fortifications, one inner and the other outer. The outer was probably wider. The remains of the outer fortification can be seen as a mound running all around the palace.[2][3]

Ruins of the ancient city

Excavations suggest that the outer fortification was built of burnt bricks, was about six to eight feet wide. It consisted of two walls, the intervening space (the core) being filled with sand. The bricks are fairly large in size and are made of well-burnt clay.[2][3]

The surviving temple in Gangaikonda Cholapuram was completed in 1035 AD.[4] Rajendra emulated the temple built by his father after his victory in a campaign across India that Chola era texts state covered Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Bengal. After his victory, he demanded that the defeated kingdoms send pots of Ganges River water and pour it into the well of this temple.[2]

Rajendra I, states the Tamil tradition, thereafter assumed the name of Gangaikonda Cholan, meaning the one who conquered the Ganges. He established Gangaikonda Cholapuram as his capital from the medieval Chola capital of Thanjavur, which would go on to become the capital for the next 250 years.[5] Rajendra I built the entire capital with several temples using plans and infrastructure recommended in Tamil Vastu and Agama sastra texts.[2] These included a Dharma Sasta, Vishnu and other temples. However, all of these were destroyed in late 13th and 14th centuries except the Brihadishvara temple. The other Chola landmarks are evidenced by soil covered mounds and excavated broken pillar stumps and brick walls found over an area of several kilometers from the surviving temple.[2][3]

The reasons for the city's destruction are unclear. According to Vansanthi, the Pandyas who defeated the Cholas during the later part of 13th century "may have raged the city to ground" to avenge their previous defeats.[3] However, it is unclear why other temples were destroued and this temple was spared, as well as why there are around 20 inscriptions from later Cholas, Pandyas and Vijayanagar Empire indicting various gifts and grants to this temple.[6] An alternate theory links the destruction to the raids and wars, particularly with the invasion of the capital city and the territories that were earlier a part by the Chola Empire along with Madurai by the armies of Delhi Sultanate led by the Muslim commander Malik Kafur in 1311, followed by Khusrau Khan in 1314 and Muhammad bin Tughlaq in 1327.[7][8][9] The period that followed saw wars between the Hindu kings and the Muslim Sultans who seceded the Delhi Sultanate and carved out new polity such as the nearby Madurai Sultanate (1335–1378).[10][note 1] The Vijayanagara Empire defeated the Madurai Sultanate in 1378 and this temple along with other Chola era temples thereafter came under Hindu kings again who repaired and restored many of them.[10][7]

Arts and architecture[edit]

Chola rulers were active patrons of the arts. They built the temple of Gangaikondacholisvara.

Royal Palace[edit]

Remains of Royal Palace as of 2005

The royal palace also was built of burnt brick. The ceilings were covered with flat tiles of small size, laid in a number of courses, in fine lime mortar. The pillars were probably made of polished wood, supported on granite bases; a few pillar bases have survived to this day. Iron nails and clamps have been recovered from this palace site.There is an underground tunnel that links the palace and the temple inner 1st pragara(north).

Side View of Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple.

In the reign of Virarajendra Chola, Rajendra's third son, the palace at Gangaikondacholapuram is referred to as Chola-Keralan Thirumaligai (Chola Keralan palace) evidently after one of the titles of Rajendra I. The same inscription mentions a few parts of the palace as adibhumi (the ground floor), Kilaisopana (the eastern portico), and a seat named Mavali vanadhirajan. Evidently the palace was multistoried. In an inscription dated in the 49th year of Kulothunga I (1119 C.E.) reference is made to Gangaikondacholamaligai at this place. It is likely that there were more than one royals building each having their own name.

Ardhanarishvara (half Shiva, half Parvati) statue in Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple

Roads and City gates[edit]

Excavated Ancient Items

Besides the names of the palace and fort walls, the names of a few roads and streets are preserved in the epigraphs. The entryways named Thiruvasal, the eastern gate and the Vembugudi gate, evidently the south gate leading to the village Vembugudi situated in that direction are mentioned. Reference is also found to highways named after Rajaraja and Rajendra as Rajarajan Peruvali and Rajendran Peruvali. Other streets mentioned in epigraphs are the ten streets (Pattu teru), the gateway lane (Thiruvasal Narasam) and the Suddhamali lane. The inscription also refers to the highways, Kulottungacholan Thirumadil peruvali, Vilangudaiyan Peruvali and Kulaiyanai pona Peruvali (the highway through which a short elephant passed by).

City layout[edit]

The epigraphs also refer to the Madhurantaka Vadavaru, now called the Vadavaru, running about six kilometers east of the ruined capital. Madhurantaka Vedavaru, named after one of the titles of Rajendra I, was a source of irrigation to a vast stretch of land bordering the capital. An irrigation channel called Anaivettuvan is also mentioned.

"Anaivettuvan" - Anai means irrigation (step irrigation) vettuvan means labour or engineer.

There were both wet and dry lands inside the Fort, used for cultivation and other purposes. The present positions of the existing temples throw some light on the lay out of the city. With the palace as the centre to the city, the great temple, and the other temples in the city seem to have been erected. Towards the northeast (Isanya) of the palace is the great temple of Siva. The Siva temple according to Vastu and traditional texts should be in the northeast of the city or village and should face east. The temple of Vishnu should be in the west.

A number of small tanks and ponds mentioned in inscriptions and a number of wells, supplied drinking water to the residents.


  1. ^ Thanjavur was a target of both Muslim and Hindu neighboring kingdoms, both near and far. The Madurai Sultanate was established in the 14th century, after the disastrous invasions and plunder of South India by Ala ud-Din Khalji's armies of Delhi Sultanate led by Malik Kafur.[11] Later Adil Shahi Sultanate, Qutb Shahis, Randaula Khan and others from east and west coasts of South India raided it, and some occupied it for a few years.[10]


  1. ^ "Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple Tanjore India". 
  2. ^ a b c d e S.R. Balasubrahmanyam 1975, pp. 241-249.
  3. ^ a b c d S., Vasanthi (2009). "Excavation at Gangaikonda Cholapuram, the imperial capital of Rajendra Chola, and its significance". In Kulke, Hermann; K., Kesavapany; Sakhuja, Vijay. Nagapattinam to Suvarnadwip: Reflections on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia. Singapore: Institute of south-east Asian Studies. pp. 96–100. ISBN 978-981-230-938-9. 
  4. ^ Dehejia, Vidya (2013). Art of the Imperial Cholas. Columbia University Press. pp. 79–81. ISBN 9780231515245. 
  5. ^ Melton, J. Gordon. Faiths Across Time: 5,000 Years of Religious History [4 Volumes]: 5,000 Years of Religious History. 
  6. ^ Pillai, J.M. Somanasundaram (1994). The great temple at Tanjore. Tamil University, Thanjavur. pp. 109–111. 
  7. ^ a b Michael C. Howard (2012). Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval Societies. McFarland. pp. 93–94. ISBN 978-0-7864-9033-2. 
  8. ^ George Michell (1986). Islamic heritage of the Deccan. Mārg Publications. p. 8. 
  9. ^ Jamal Malik (2008). Islam in South Asia: A Short History. BRILL Academic. p. 140. ISBN 90-04-16859-1. 
  10. ^ a b c George Michell (2008), Architecture and art of Southern India, Cambridge University Press, pages 16-21, 89-91
  11. ^ George Michell (2008), Architecture and art of Southern India, Cambridge University Press, pages 9-13, 16-21


  • S.R. Balasubrahmanyam (1975), Middle Chola Temples, Thomson Press, ISBN 978-9060236079 
  • Michell, George (1988), The Hindu Temple: An Introduction to Its Meaning and Forms, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-53230-5 
  • Nagasamy R, Rajapalayam (1970), State Department of Archaeology, Government of Tamil Nadu
  • Nilakanta Sastri, K. A., The Cholas (1955), University of Madras, Reprinted 1984

External links[edit]