The Chola empire is, arguably, the greatest of the lineage of kings that ruled the Deccan, with its glory peaking between 900 A.D. And 1100 A.D. (approximately). At the height of their glory, their influence extended up to Indonesia and beyond.
Among the greatest of their accomplishments in the field of art and architecture, are a set of three temples, that now go by the nomenclature of “Great Living Chola Temples”. Declared as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, these symbolize the power, prestige, prosperity and the philosophy of art and beauty during the later Chola empire.
These temples are:
- Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur (Chola capital during Rajaraja Cholan’s reign)
- Shiva Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram (Chola capital during Rajendra Cholan’s reign)
- Airavateshwara Temple at Darasuram (near Kumbakonam in today’s Thanjavur district)
Gangaikonda Cholapuram was built during medieval India and was erected as the capital of the Cholas by Rajendra Chola I, the son and successor of Rajaraja Chola, the great 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. As of 2014, the ancient city exists as a small forlorn village 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.