The Great Living Chola Temples

The Chola period witnessed the greatest temple building activity in India especially in Tamil speaking regions. Vijayalaya Chola conceived the thought and initiated the activity but it was accomplished well during the reigns of Raja Raja Chola I, his son Rajendra Chola I and Kulothonga Chola III.

The Chola temples are massive when we talk about their size and matchless when it comes to the architectural engineering and sculptural craftsmanship. Few of the many noteworthy temples built during Chola period are the Brihadeeshwara Temple (Big Temple) at Thanjavur, Brihadeeshwara Temple at Gangai Konda Cholapuram, Airavateshwara Temple at Darasuram, Nageswara Swamy Temple at Kumbakonam, the Agastyeshwara Temple at Panangudi, the Mahadeva Temple at Tiruchendurai, the Koranganatha temple at Srinivasanallur, the Moovar Kovil at Kodumbalur, Pasputhikovil at Pullamangai, Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram and Kambahreshwara Temple at Thirubhuvanam.

Of these, the Big Temple of Thanjavur, the Brihadeeshwara Temple of Gangai Konda Cholapuram and Airavateshwara Temple of Darasuram need a special mention since they are inscribed as “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO under the caption “The Great Living Chola Temple“. These are the finest masterpieces of Chola period temples and no words or photographs could do the justice of fully capturing the beauty of these temples.

(Photo Below – Brihadeeshwara Temple aka the Big Temple, Thanjavur)

(Photo Below – Brihadeeshwara Temple, Gangai Konda Cholapuram)

(Photo Below – Airavateshwara Temple, Darasuram)

The Chola rulers were great conquerors. They had their kingdom stretched out to Ganges in North and Sri Lanka in South. They also had their footprints at Burma, Malaysian Penninsula and many South East Asian Countries. It is believed that the Chola Kings built these monumental temples to show case the world, their valour, power and mightiness. The architectural marvel and structural beauty of these temples itself speaks for it.

While I intend to write individual blog posts for each of these temples, I would conclude this one by mentioning that if you are a person who loves exploring the heritage sites and finds great peace in devouring the beauty of such places, these three marvels of Chola period are not to be missed out!

Travel Tips:

  1. The Big Temple is located at the heart of Thanjavur; Darasuram is a village located at the outskirts of Kumbakonam and Gangai Konda Cholapuram is located at Ariyalur District.
  2. One could easily travel to these places by taking an accommodation at either Thanjavur or Kumbakonam.
  3. Hotels and lodging facilities are available in all ranges that suits everyone’s pocket.
  4. Food is never a problem when you’re in south India. One could find ample eateries everywhere and the quality and taste of food even in the smallest of eating joints would be par excellence.
  5. It is better to explore the temples during the morning or evening hours. Because during the mid day, the granite floors of the temples get too hot to walk barefoot.


  1. Shobhi this brought back tanjore days..Good writing di.. its believed that there exist a secret pathway between Thanjavur big temple and Gangaikonda cholapuram temple. I think I read somewhere, in one of the wars Chola warriors hid there and beat the opponents to recapture their lost kingdom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks di! Yes, it is believed that such secret pathways do exist even today. I was amazed to find a “Vilaku maadam” where they used to keep lamps, to be so deep at Thanjavur palace. When I asked about it, the care taker there told me it has space as much as one full sized adult can fit in. And there are canons from the darbar hall of Thanjavur palace pointing out that they could attack the enemies sitting inside only. The more we pay attention, the more we get awe-stricken!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s