Architecture

lion-well (singa kinaru):
Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple Lion Water well

The temple of Gangaikondacholisvara is approached through the eastern entrance from the road. The entrance is called the "Mahaduvar" leads to the inner court.

As one steps in, the great Vimana arrests the visitor's sight. The Vimana with its recessed corners and upward movement presents a striking contrast to the straight-sided pyramidal tower of Thanjavur but with octagon shape of Dravidian architecture. As it rises to a height of 182 feet (55 m) and is shorter than the Thanjavur tower with larger plinth, it is often described as the feminine counterpart of the Thanjavur temple.

The Vimana is flanked on either side by small temples; the one in the north now housing the Goddess is fairly well preserved. The small shrine of Chandikesvara is near the steps in the north. In the north-east are a shire housing Durga, a well called lion-well (simhakeni) with a lion figure guarding its steps and a late mandapa housing the office. Nandi is in the east facing the main shrine. In the same direction is the ruined gopura, the entrance tower. The main tower surrounded by little shrines truly presents the appearance of a great Chakravarti (emperor) surrounded by chieftains and vassals. The Gangaikondacholapuram Vimana is undoubtedly a devalaya chakravarti, an emperor among temples of South India.

Royal Palace

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.

Catastrophe on Gangaikondacholapuram

As per the available evidences, the last Chola King Rajendra Chozha III’s rule did not end due to any defeat in the war field. But devastations are available underneath, which proves that some major catastrophe happened around Gangaikondacholapuram which brought the Chola’s Rule to an end. After about six/eight decades, the Chola region was taken over by Pallava from whom it was Hoysala and then to Vijaya Nagar Rule. During Vijaya Nagar Rule, lots of settlements by Telugu, Telugu Brahmins, Kannada etc.happened. It is also evident that while the farmers tried to dig wells for farming around Gangaikondacholapuram, it was revealed to the world that the Palace buildings and other constructions are underneath about 50 – 80 feet depth.

Expedition to the Ganges

Main article: Chola expedition to North India

With both the Western and Eastern Chalukya fronts subdued, Rajendra’s armies undertook an extraordinary expedition. 1019 CE Rajendra’s forces continued to march through Kalinga.

Kalinga was a kingdom in central-eastern India, which comprised most of the modern state of Orissa, as well as some northern areas of the bordering state of Andhra Pradesh to the river Ganges. The Emperor himself led the advance up to the river Godavari.

The Chola army eventually reach the Pala kingdom of Bengal where they met Mahipala I,considered the second founder of the Pala Empire . Gopala I established the dynastic rule of the Palas in the middle of the 8th century C.E and defeated him.

According to the Tiruvalangadu Plates, the campaign lasted less than two years in which many kingdoms of the north felt the might of the Chola army. The inscriptions further claim that Rajendra defeated the armies of Ranasura and entered the land of Dharmapala and subdued him and thereby he reached the Ganges and caused the river water to be brought back to the Chola country. The new conquests opened up new routes for the Cholas to head for distant lands like Burma by land (through what are now modern Orissa, West Bengal, Assam and Bangladesh).

Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple Side View

It is true that Rajendra's army defeated the kings of Sakkarakottam and Dhandabhukti and Mahipala. These territories were initially added to the kingdom, while later they had the status of tribute paying subordinates and trade partners with the Chola Kingdom, an arrangement that lasted till the times of Kulothunga-III and to a limited extent, of Raja Raja-III too. It was undoubtedly an exhibition of the power and might of the Chola empire to the northern kingdoms. But the benevolent leadership of the Cholas treated them in a benevolent manner and did not permanently annexe them to the Chola dominions.

Arthanareswarar at Gangai Konda Cholapuram Temple

Roads and City gates

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 theSuddhamali 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

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. Hence the above seque is not matching, more over Hindu dharam never allows to kill elephant.Another possible meaning of "AnaiVettuvan" - Anai means Dam, vettuvan means constructor(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 Vastuand 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.