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Old 13th May 2017, 18:29   #1
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Default A trip to the great living Chola Temples

Some weeks back, when I had some free time on my hands, I was doing some random google searches. One thing lead to another and I ended up reading about the cholas and their architectural marvels. I was particularly fascinated by the three temples: Brihadeeswar temple in Thanjavur, Gangai Konda Cholapuram temple in Gangai Konda Cholapuram and the Airavateswar temple in Darasuram. A quick background on these temples from Wiki:

Quote:
The Great Living Chola Temples are temples built during the Cholarule in the south of India and neighboring islands. These sites includes 3 temples of 11th and 12th century. These 3 temples are the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram. The Brihadisvara Temple was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987; the Temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram were added as extensions to the site in 2004. The site is now known as the "Great Living Chola Temples
Having read about these temples, I decided to plan a visit to each of them. Weekends came and went, and I was finally able to lock down the Tamil New Year weekend as it gave me an additional day to cover all the temples.

The first temple on the list was the Gangai Konda Cholapuram temple. We started from our home at around 6:30 AM. The route we took:

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This route, though longer, took almost the same time as the other routes as the roads are in excellent condition throughout. Stopped on the way at Balaji Bhavan to have a quick breakfast (good food, fast service, very impatient customers) and reached the first temple after passing through Villupuram, Ulundurpet, Virudachalam and Jayamkondan. The first glimpse of the temple as you approach it is sublime.

About the temple, again from Wiki

Quote:
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.
Some snaps of the temple:

A trip to the great living Chola Temples-cholapuram-entrance.jpg

A trip to the great living Chola Temples-cholapuram-entrance-2.jpg

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Some points:
  • No parking fees was taken from us
  • We went when it was scorching hot and suffered with blisters on our feet. Best time to visit would be morning before 11AM or evening after 5 PM.
  • Even though it was a weekend, the crowd was not much. Very peaceful

Last edited by Aditya : 1st June 2017 at 08:09. Reason: Spacing
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Old 31st May 2017, 11:52   #2
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Default re: A trip to the great living Chola Temples

By the time we reached the place, it was around 11 AM. It was scorching hot. Covering the temple including darshan and photography and some aimless roaming around took almost an hour of our time. With the heat only increasing and my daughter feeling very tired and hungry, we decided to go straight to Thanjavur where we had booked our lodging instead of going to the second temple, as the heat was well and truly unbearable. It took us around 90 minutes to reach Thanjavur, by taking the following route:

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Reached Thanjavur and checked into hotel Gnanam (Parking – 4/5, food – 4/5, service 4/5, overall 4/5). As my ratings suggest, was happy with the hotel, the only downsides being, for the rate they were charging (~3k per night), the room was a bit small and the A/C also was emanating some smell when it was switched on. This was however rectified when we requested, so pretty satisfied.

Took rest for some time in the afternoon and went to visit the Brihadeeswarar temple at around 5 in the evening.

As usual, some details from Wiki:
Quote:
Brihadeeswarar Temple (locally known as "Big temple") is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva located in Thanjavur in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is also known as RajaRajeswara Temple Rajarajeswaram and Peruvudayar Temple.It is one of the largest temples in India and is an example of Dravidian architecture during the Chola period.Built by Raja Raja Chola I and completed in 1010 CE, the temple turned 1000 years old . The temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the "Great Living Chola Temples", with the other two being the Brihadeeswarar Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Airavatesvara temple
I also returned to this temple on the 3rd day morning to capture additional pictures, both are combined in the set of pictures below
A trip to the great living Chola Temples-tanjore-1.jpg

A trip to the great living Chola Temples-tanjore-2.jpg

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Click image for larger version

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A trip to the great living Chola Temples-tanjore-22.jpg

My daughter's attempt at a namaskar
A trip to the great living Chola Temples-tanjore-daughter.jpg

There was a museum of sorts inside the main temple which had written material on how the temple was constructed. The pictures below are of the same. Some of the pictures might not be very clear, apologies for the poor quality of pics. You can click on the image to open in a separate window to read without straining your eyes:

A trip to the great living Chola Temples-details-1.jpg

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Some points:
  • This temple will be perenially crowded, especially in the morning and evening times, so be prepared for it
  • There is a huge parking space near the temple, I did not know that so took an auto from my hotel. Autos are cheap. However if you want to take your car, it can be done here
  • Plan well to leave your sandals, it might take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes for the same. It is well organized though and pretty cheap at 2 rupees per pair
  • When I went in the evening around 6 30, there was archana being performed on the Nandi statue. Interested people can take note

Last edited by Aditya : 1st June 2017 at 08:08. Reason: Spacing
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Old 31st May 2017, 12:10   #3
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Came back to the hotel and wound up for the night by watching whatever was playing on TV. Next day, after breakfast set out to the 3rd remaining temple through the following route:

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About the temple, from Wiki:

Quote:
Airavatesvara Temple is a Hindu temple of Dravidian architecture located in the town of Darasuram, near Kumbakonam in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This temple, built by Rajaraja Chola II in the 12th century CE is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur, the Gangaikondacholisvaram Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram that are referred to as the Great Living Chola Temples. The Airavatesvara temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Shiva is here known as Airavateshvara, because he was worshipped at this temple by Airavata, the white elephant of the king of the gods, Indra. Legend has it that Airavata, while suffering from a change of colour curse from Sage Durvasa, had its colours restored by bathing in the sacred waters of this temple. This legend is commemorated by an image of Airavata with Indra seated in an inner shrine.The temple and the presiding deity derive its name from this incident.
Spent some time going around the temple taking some pictures and also having the Darshan. Some snaps below:

A trip to the great living Chola Temples-darasuram-1.jpg

A trip to the great living Chola Temples-darasuram-2.jpg

A trip to the great living Chola Temples-darasuram-3.jpg

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Some points:
  • Darasuram temple is I suppose the least visited amongst the 3 temples. The craftsmanship though, dare I say, is better than the other 2 temples
  • Compared to the other 2 temples, this is much smaller
  • Darasuram pattu (or) Darasuram silk is famous and there are people who sell these from their homes. We bought a couple of them after the temple visit. It is a big draw for tourists I think as, in the otherwise sleepy town, I could see POS machines in these homes. A result of a lot of foreign tourists I guess.

After completing the temple visit went back to Thanjavur the same route in which we came back. There were a couple of additional temples on our itinerary which we completed post lunch. Next day morning, as mentioned, visited the main temple once more and then started to Chennai. Started at around 10:30 AM and reached home by around 4 PM, thus ending a memorable trip.

Ending the short travelogue with some random ramblings:
• Only the main temple at Thanjavur was crowded, both from a tourist and Darshan perspective. The other two temples were very free. The Airavateswar temple was actually empty with probably 10 people there, that too on a Sunday
• The Airavateswar temple had lush green grass banks being maintained and due to the less crowd, these parks also ended up as being used as romantic getaways. Pathetic!!
• Though the Airavateswar temple was the smallest of the lot, I personally liked this the most as the carvings on this temple were truly exquisite
• There is a museum of sorts inside the main temple which explains how the temple was built, some pictures from the same below. It is a technological marvel (the temple, not the museum )!!
• FAStag helped in some of the tolls by helping us to avoid traffic. The total time saved would probably add up to around 45 minutes one way
• Best time to visit these temples would be between 6 – 8 AM and 5 – 7 PM. From a photography perspective it’s the best time and also your feet would thank you. The stones heat up considerably and the protective rug can only protect so much

That ends this short travelogue. Thanks for reading!!

Last edited by Aditya : 1st June 2017 at 08:10. Reason: Spacing
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Old 1st June 2017, 08:12   #4
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 1st June 2017, 08:39   #5
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Originally Posted by arvind71181 View Post
Ending the short travelogue with some random ramblings:
• Only the main temple at Thanjavur was crowded, both from a tourist and Darshan perspective. The other two temples were very free. The Airavateswar temple was actually empty with probably 10 people there, that too on a Sunday
Though the Airavateswar temple was the smallest of the lot, I personally liked this the most as the carvings on this temple were truly exquisite

There is a museum of sorts inside the main temple which explains how the temple was built, some pictures from the same below. It is a technological marvel (the temple, not the museum )!!

Best time to visit these temples would be between 6 – 8 AM and 5 – 7 PM. From a photography perspective it’s the best time and also your feet would thank you. The stones heat up considerably and the protective rug can only protect so much
Nice rounded summary and good trip you guys had.

- And yes Darasuram ranks the best of the 3. The less crowd here goes on to say, how much our folks like history! Given all the 3 are UNESCO world heritage properties.
- I think prayers/offerings at Gangai Konda Cholapuram (GKC) and Darasuram are more in principlpe. Hence I guess less crowd. Let it be better that way. Hope the places stay that way. Clean and Clear.
- Having said that, while I was at Gongai KOnda Cholapuram once, we saw a group of country folks offering milk. And they brought in a big canter!
- Given there are SO MANY other *active* temples in Kumbakonam, the on at Darasuram stands silent.

- Gangai Konda Cholapuram is a temple which stands out of nowhere. You are on a highway and suddenly it just pops out. Beautuful spectacle.

- Tanjore is the same, but as you said more crowded.

- There is one more to complete the set: Tribuvanam. Its on the Kumbakonam-Mayavaram road.

Last edited by ampere : 1st June 2017 at 08:41.
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Old 1st June 2017, 17:26   #6
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Nice rounded summary and good trip you guys had.

- And yes Darasuram ranks the best of the 3. The less crowd here goes on to say, how much our folks like history! Given all the 3 are UNESCO world heritage properties.
- I think prayers/offerings at Gangai Konda Cholapuram (GKC) and Darasuram are more in principlpe. Hence I guess less crowd. Let it be better that way. Hope the places stay that way. Clean and Clear.
- Having said that, while I was at Gongai KOnda Cholapuram once, we saw a group of country folks offering milk. And they brought in a big canter!
- Given there are SO MANY other *active* temples in Kumbakonam, the on at Darasuram stands silent.

- Gangai Konda Cholapuram is a temple which stands out of nowhere. You are on a highway and suddenly it just pops out. Beautuful spectacle.

- Tanjore is the same, but as you said more crowded.

- There is one more to complete the set: Tribuvanam. Its on the Kumbakonam-Mayavaram road.
Thanks Ampere. Will check out tribuvanam and complete the quartet as soon as possible. Also agree with you on the cholapuram temple creeping up from nowhere, it is a majestic sight.
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Old 1st June 2017, 18:47   #7
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Thanks Ampere. Will check out tribuvanam and complete the quartet as soon as possible. Also agree with you on the cholapuram temple creeping up from nowhere, it is a majestic sight.
This was last year. I just put in extra colours to spruce it up, but nothing to take away the original credit.

True example of grandiose !


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