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Old 10th February 2017, 15:41   #1
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Default Chasing the Chola Architecture...

Tanjore (or Thanjavur, which I prefer to call it as it sounds more poetic), has always been a fascinating place to me ever since I got connected to Tamil Nadu and Tamil people. And have been always looking for a reason to travel down. Though I have traveled to this place couple of times before, those were just short visits to attend marriages and could not, or was not really bothered to look anything beyond attending them and returning back.

And now being an avid traveler and bit more mature enough to appreciate history and art , a road trip to any such places excites me. There comes an invitation from a colleague for his wedding in Thanjavur. I didn’t have a second thought, (except convincing my wife that I am going without her ) in getting myself prepared to take a glimpse of the marvels.

Reading and understanding more about the Big temple in Thanjavur walked me through the glorious past of the Chola Kingdom, which also made me realize that history subjects that we studied in school was all about the series of Kings who ruled Delhi and the North, the Mughals. Cholas ruled not just South India and Ceylon. They had almost the whole of SE Asia under their control. I am not getting into details of that, as such information is abundant on the internet and can be easily readable. Let me only try to connect through these places with this travelogue. Inspired from a fellow BHPian's travelogue on Chasing the Hoysala architecture, it was easy for me to find a title for this T'logue.

Preparation:
Car- Suzuki Baleno VXI

Having clocked 1.2Lakhs Kms on the ODO, it was time for a much needed shock absorber replacement for my Baleno. Got them procured and replaced a week ahead of the trip and checked all the vitals of the car to make myself confident that it will transport us without any hiccups.

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Planning the places of interest and route:

Though the marriage function is at Thanjavur, we planned to take a detour to the neighboring places of interest. Finally it was decided we are primarily going to visit three temples which are regarded as the Great Living Chola Temples. By doing some research and discussion with a friend, finalized on the route after several route revisions that went up to Rev5.0. And it happened to be exactly the same route that we traveled finally.

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Start: 04:00 AM (Bangalore)
Picked up my co-travelers (3 of them) and headed towards Hosur road to hit the highway as early as possible to beat the weekend traffic, and we did.

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Quick stop to stretch the legs and re-charge before setting off the journey. A little ahead of Krishnagiri

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Reached Salem at 08:00 AM and had breakfast at Hotel Anandas, situated in the bypass road, but on the opposite side. Since my friend was familiar with the place, it was easy to navigate through.

Our first visit is planned to Gangai Konda Cholapuram, and hence had to take a detour from Salem towards Vridhachalam instead of heading straight to Thanjavur via Namakkal.

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The road was in perfect driving condition with 4 lanes and intermittent switching to 2 lanes up to Vridhachalam. Further, it is a 2 lane single carriageway up to Gangai Konda Cholapuram.

Reached Gangai Konda Cholapuram at about 11:45 PM in search of all the glory of the Cholas. We could see the Gopuram emerge on the right side from far away as we approached the temple.

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As we enter into the serene premises, there stands the marvelous monument. Like father, Like son - King Rajendra Chola made no compromise to match this to the temple built by his father Raja Raja Chola at Thanjavur.

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There is no fees for cameras, no strict checking, no policing, no restrictions. You are all by yourself and can click as many pictures you want and roam around. That made it a pleasant and peaceful experience.

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Spent time in the temple for a good 2 hours. The temple sanctum was about to be closed at 12:30pm, but we were early enough to get a good Darshan.

After clicking those photographs and walking around the monument, it was time to head to the next destination.

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A new refreshment to me - Panneer Soda. First time tasting it.

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A tea which we missed.

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Is this for all the riots around Kaveri about?

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Revving up

After a quick lunch at a hotel on the way to Darasuram, we reached the next place in the list- Airavateswara temple.

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It was about 2:30pm and the temple was closed, but not the entrance. Though you cannot see the deity as it is closed, you are free to get inside the premises and do circumambulation. Unlike the previous temple, this is not as big but the intricate carvings and beautiful sculptures are beyond measure.

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Add to it, the neatly maintained lawns outside the temple

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The pillars, the steps, the walls, the ceilings are filled with sculptures.

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The temple in the form of a chariot being pulled by an elephant and horse with a fleet of steps is no doubt a repository of Indian art and culture. A well preserved place to be certainly not missed !

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The ruins..

Last edited by balenoed_ : 10th February 2017 at 15:44.
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Old 10th February 2017, 16:12   #2
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Default Re: Chasing the Chola Architecture...

The next in plan is to head to Thanjavur. Checked in to our hotel at 5 PM and got ready to rush to the Big temple before it gets dark. It was just 10 minutes away and we reached there before light started to fade.

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Many names have been given to this living Chola temple, but the most popular name is ‘Big Temple’ – and that’s because everything about this granite edifice is big – the entrance, the area around the temple, the Shiv lingam, the Nandi and the magnificent vimana or the tower.

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We stood in awe, astonishment and reverence. A standing testimony of the Chola’s opulence and vision, their architectural excellence can be seen in this structure built during the 11th century by Rajaraja Chola-I. The intricate carvings on the pillars and walls, and the inscriptions on the walls make the temple a delight to watch.

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Could only get few pictures this evening as the Sun started to shoo away taking his flash away from the horizon.

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It was a bliss to just hang around this place. Left at about 8 PM but with a thought that I would certainly come back next day in the morning to get a perfect glimpse of the architecture.

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And I did come, and spent a little time capturing more of it:-


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The view of all three towers

Well, I almost forgot that we had come here to attend the marriage and it was time to rush to the venue. Did a short visit to the Museum and a quick shopping of souvenirs before that heading to the function.

Wishing the couples and having a sumptuous meal, it was time to pack up and start back. The route was again, as planned.

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Passing through the Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu

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Last, but not the least, we reached another testament to the engineering skills present and used in the times of Chola. Kallanai Dam – A 2nd century structure built for irrigational purposes and is rock solid even now and still in use.

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Kallanai Dam


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Crossing over the Grand Anaicut

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Karikala Cholan - The mastermind of Kallanai

Ultimately, what was supposed to be a marriage trip turned out to be a real chase of history.

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A break before heading back

Some questions remain unanswered to me. How were the rocks brought into the site to build these gigantic structures? How were they erected to such heights? Elephants, humans, inclined planes? I am yet to find some answers.

The copious admiration lives on..
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Old 10th February 2017, 16:59   #3
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Default Re: Chasing the Chola Architecture...

Quote:
Originally Posted by balenoed_ View Post
Some questions remain unanswered to me. How were the rocks brought into the site to build these gigantic structures? How were they erected to such heights? Elephants, humans, inclined planes? I am yet to find some answers.

The copious admiration lives on..
Wow. What a trip! I am a very big fan of Chola empire and their architecture. About your question on bringing the rocks to the site, it is a wide spread belief that the stone on top of the gopuram was rolled up using an inclined plane (elephants were used). And the inclined plane started from a village about 10kms from the temple.

There is another theory as well which can be found in this link - https://www.quora.com/How-did-Cholas...eswarar-Temple

Another interesting trivia
Until recently it was believed that the stone on the top of the gopuram was a single stone. But few years back they found that it is 2 stones (hemispheres) joined together
Just imagine how they did it without any technology and the joint was not visible until recently. Oh man! Compare it with the tiles and other stuffs we build in our constructions today.

Baap Baap hotha hai!

Last edited by narsi_6989 : 10th February 2017 at 17:14.
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Old 11th February 2017, 12:09   #4
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Quote:
Some questions remain unanswered to me. How were the rocks brought into the site to build these gigantic structures? How were they erected to such heights? Elephants, humans, inclined planes? I am yet to find some answers.
if you can read Tamil Novel Udayaar by Balakumaran. you can get a very good idea on how the Big Temple was constructed. one word " Mind Blowing". cant imagine the sheer scale of the activities....
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Old 13th February 2017, 18:07   #5
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Default Re: Chasing the Chola Architecture...

Excellent log and pictures, thanks for sharing

As you just experienced, these short trips using a function/event to attend as an excuse turn out to be very satisfying trips as you can plan to visit places enroute that you haven't had a chance to visit

Also, these places are probably best visited before summer sets.
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Old 13th February 2017, 18:39   #6
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Nice pics! These temples are amazing!! Making Thanjavur as the base will help. Normally, people miss out Darasuram and Gangaikonda Cholapuram. But they are extremely beautiful like Brihadeeshwara temple.

Last edited by Gannu_1 : 13th February 2017 at 21:00. Reason: Personal blog link deleted. Please do not share them on the forum. Thank you!
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Old 13th February 2017, 21:31   #7
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Fantastic pictures! As a person that grew up in Chola land (a cycle ride away from Kallanai), I have visited these places several times. The Archaeological Survey of India has done an excellent job renovating these places. They look much better today than they did during my childhood.

Strangely enough, when I was a kid, I didn't realize how much there was to take in in my own backyard. It is only in the last few years that I have started to notice that TN presents a little bit for every taste. History (places that have been standing for nearly 2 millenia), beaches, forests, hills and of course, for the folks on this group... wonderful roads!

If only we could do something about the climate...
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Old 13th February 2017, 22:09   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kovilkalai View Post
Strangely enough, when I was a kid, I didn't realize how much there was to take in in my own backyard. It is only in the last few years that I have started to notice that TN presents a little bit for every taste. History (places that have been standing for nearly 2 millenia), beaches, forests, hills and of course, for the folks on this group... wonderful roads!
You seem to be absolutely right. Even a friend of mine who was along with me and a native of this place echoed the same. One of these temples was infested by miscreants and some of the outer wall structures at Darasuram were all demolished and not to be seen. ASI has done a commendable job in restoring and maintaining the archaic look.
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Old 14th February 2017, 12:20   #9
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Originally Posted by balenoed_ View Post
After a quick lunch at a hotel on the way to Darasuram, we reached the next place in the list- Airavateswara temple.
Some more reading on the Airvateshwara temple - it even has 7 steps that produce the 7 basic musical sounds on tapping them.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airavatesvara_Temple

http://detechter.com/this-temple-has...ds-on-tapping/
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Old 14th February 2017, 14:44   #10
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Thank you for the succinct but informative post about the Chola temples.
The pictures were a real treat.

The great Brihadeswara temple has one of the tallest standing gopurams of all temples and at the very top, the Kumbam, is made from a single piece of granite and weighs a massive 80 tons.
Its just baffling to imagine how these perfect structures were built in the past, and with such precision without any modern scientific equipments that we have at our disposal today.
I have visited the temple as a kid and it is good to see that the temples and premises are being maintained well. We Indians have a very rich culture to be proud of and we should make sure that we pass it on to our next generation. I am looking to visit the temples again in the not to distant future.

Keep traveling and posting.

Cheerio
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Old 14th February 2017, 21:26   #11
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Love the big temple! Spectacular architecture. I've shot more than 500 images or so of the temples
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Old 14th February 2017, 22:06   #12
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Nice choice of temples.

- The one at Gangai Konda Cholapuram stands alone in that area and as you said you can it from far! But its really grandiose.
- Darasuram is the understated one of all. Especially since there are countless ones in Kumbakonam, it goes unaccounted for (especially because many dismiss it as a mere memory of the past).
- Not to mention anything about Tanjore!
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Old 15th February 2017, 08:03   #13
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Nice travelogue buddy! This took me on trip down my memory lane! My mother's native is a village near Kallanai and I did my graduation in Sastra University! Have fond memories of these places. Any historical monument poses many questions for us - how/why/what? Also without any advanced tech in place, these monuments have withstand the forces of nature and time!! I wish we had a time machine to just see how they did it.
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Old 15th February 2017, 09:25   #14
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Any historical monument poses many questions for us - how/why/what? Also without any advanced tech in place, these monuments have withstand the forces of nature and time!! I wish we had a time machine to just see how they did it.
So true. In fact that whole region is so high on the *history quotient*! Even if you leave out the big ones, there are some amazing next level of temples to visit.
Another interesting study is to line-up this style of architecture vs the Hoysala architecture we see around Karnataka.

It took me about 3-4 visits to visit most of them. (I surely wont say all!)

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