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Gangaikonda Cholapuram is located in Thanjavur district of Tamilnadu, South India. Gangaikonda Cholapuram was originally found by Rajendra Chola - I (1012-1044), son of Great Rajaraja - I of the Chola kingdom. He was addressed as Madurantakan. The Cholas ruled over the southern India from the Tungabhadra in the north to Ceylon in the south. Gangaikonda Cholapuram was the capital of Chola dynasty from about 250 years. Rajendra Chola - I established this palace as the capital for administrative and strategic purpose after his great victorious march to river Ganges in Northern India.
Rajendra Chola - I built a great temple to his cordial divinity Shiva, called Brihadeeswarar temple. It is an architectural work of genius and a brilliant example of the major heights achieved by Cholas in temple architecture.
The temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Great Living Chola Temples." This temple is one of the India's most prized architectural design sites. The Brihadeeswarar temple stands among strengthened walls that were probably added in the 16th century. The 'Vimana' or the temple tower is 216 ft (about 70 meters) and is among the tallest of its kind in the world. The 'Shikhara' or bulbous structure on the top of the temple is very large and heavy (81.25 tons).
The three lower floors holds many beautiful work of art sculptures of Chola period with the Goddess Laxmi, Gana Saraswathi (goddess of knowledge), Shiva and Sakthi in equal but in one form called has Ardhanareeswarar, and Shiva blessing Chandigeswarar along with Parvathi. One has to enjoy the beauty and the elegance and these fine masterpieces. The entire temple structure is made out of hard granite stones, which is hardly available in Thanjavur area where the temple is located.
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 also a Nataraja Mandapam, which is totally destroyed now and only the remains were found.
The temples are examples of the architectural construction of the purely dravida type of architecture which not only represents the Chola Empire but also mythology and the Tamil civilization in Southern India. The temples "testify to the brilliant accomplishments of the Cholas in architecture, sculpture, painting, and bronze casting."
There are special Poojas Pradosham events, monthly twice, Shangadahara Chaturthi once in a month, Pournami Pooja on full moon days, monthly Karthikai festival for Lord Muruga, Annaabishegam (rice abishegam) for the Shiva Linga once in a year, which is organized by Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam.
How to get there:
Nearest Airport: Reaching Thanjavur by air is one of the easiest ways of traveling to this tourist destination of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Tiruchirapalli airport is about 65 km from Thanjavur.
Nearest Railhead: Thanjavur has a railway junction of its own, which helps the tourists to communicate between Thanjavur and many other prominent regions of the state of Tamilnadu as well as the rest of the country.
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