The kids of celebrities sort of go through a social pressure that their life stories are constantly being compared with their parents’ and they are stamped ‘unsuccessful’ if their scores are not on a par with their parents’. Looks like even the great king, Rajendra Chola was not spared of this ugly comparison. Because, one of the folklore I remember having heard during my childhood days used to mention that Rajendra Chola got so jealous about the magnum opus, Brihadeeshwara Temple aka the Big Temple built by his father Raja Raja Chola at Thanjavur that he wanted to construct a similar structural wonder at his capital town of Gangai Konda Cholapuram but failed miserably because the Gangai Konda Cholapuram temple could no way match the architectural excellence or aesthetic aspects of Big Temple, Thanjavur.
However, having read about the glory of King Rajendra, the way he successfully expanded his territory all the way from Indo-Gangetic Plain in North to Sri Lanka in South; his conquest of some of the south east Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia and having visited and cherished the beauty of both the temples multiple times, I could now realise how nonsensical that folklore can be.
Although it is true that Rajendra Chola had taken the inspiration from the magnum opus, Brihadeeshwara Temple at Thanjavur, the Gangai Konda Cholapuram temple can never be considered as a poor replicate of Thanjavur temple like it used to be gossiped in the past. There are many similarities and differences one could make out between the architectural aspects of both the temples. As the western historian, Percy Brown beautifully expressed, “There is a voluptuousness in the later structure (Gangai Konda Cholapuram temple); the beauty of ripe feminity in contrast to the masculine strength of the earlier type (a Thanjavur temple).”
Like the other two “Great Living Chola Temples”, Gangai Konda Cholapuram too has many beautiful sculptures that speaks of great craftsmanship and epigraphs of historic importance. All in all, the beauty and elegance of Gangai Konda Cholapuram temple is unparalleled and one needs to visit the place physically to appreciate the same.
Please refer to the travel tips mentioned in my other post on ‘Great Living Chola Temples’. I have covered these over there.