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The Great Living Chola Temples

Brahadeeswarar TempleEditorial

Built between 10th and 12th centuries CE, the Great Living Chola Temples stand testimony to the achievements of Cholas in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting. Brihadeeswarar at Thanjavur, Brihadeeswarar at Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram figure high on the Chola temples’ list and have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Gangaikonda Choleswarar TempleOne of the longest-ruling dynasties (850 CE-1250 CE) in Southern India, the Chola dynasty built the temples over a period of nearly 200 years. The Chola temple architecture reflects the glory, prosperity and stability under the Chola emperors.

Staunch devotees of Lord Shiva, the Cholas temples were dedicated to their favourite god in the Hindu pantheon.

Continuing with the temple building traditions of the Pallavas who preceded them, the Cholas elevated Dravidian temple design to greater heights. The Chola style involves use of granite to create design consisting of deities, warriors, kings and dancers. Cholas built huge temples. The Brihadeeswarar temple at Thanjavur stands within a spacious inner prakara of 240.9 m long (east-west) and 122 m broad (north-south).

Airavateswarar Temple

The most ambitious of the Chola temples, Brahadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur was built after Chola king Raja Raja I received command in his dreams. With its grand design and magnificence, it added to the architectural splendour of the Chola capital.

The temple houses a 3.7 meter tall linga of Lord Shiva and the tallest vimanam in the world. One of the architectures splendours, the gopurams in Brahadeeswarar temple are decorated with sculptural depictions of various gods and goddesses.

With its massive proportions and simplicity of design, Brahadeeswarar is believed to have provided inspiration for future designs in constructions not only in south India but also in south-east Asia.

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