- Benjamin John
Visit the Great Chola Temples of South India - Marvels of the South
dThe Tamil Kingdoms of Southern India has its own share of prominent kings and dynasties. History and stories of a thousand years are still here in the form of temples and monuments. By the Tamil Kingdom, I mean all kingdoms who spoke Tamil, the classical ancient language that has a history of over three thousand years. As a South India Tour Operator, our goal is to showcase the marvels by the Cholan Kings of Tamil Nadu, which still exist in its very own pride
Every time we go on a trip to Tamil Nadu, mostly the trip to Chennai by road which mostly works as a familiarization trip to visit new properties, new experience and stories for our guests to experience. I have been to the Tanjore Big temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram and the Temple at Darasuram (Kumbakonam) Multiple times. These trips with eminent guides like Siva whom you see in the video we made about Madurai. He has given me very interesting perspectives of the history of our land. The destination guides we work with are a great source of knowledge, not just about the temples, but the lifestyle and culture that existed thousand years back. In a way our South Indian tours are an great eye opener towards the a civilization that existed in this part of the country since ages.
The first time I came to know about the Temple of Tanjore would be from the National Geographic documentary (The video is at the end of this blog post) about the architecture of the temple and Dravidian architecture as a whole. More than that they were investigating as to who the kings, a thousand year back managed to build a temple like this, and what helped them complete these extreme laborious works. For Example, The Kumbum or spire on top of the Gopuram of the Tanjore Brihadeshwara Temple (Tanjore Big Temple) weighs 80 tons. This was taken up 66 meters. The answer is Elephants, but still, a lot of mysteries still remain unsolved. I saw this documentary probably when I was in School. Today when I look into it, I see much more than the laborious processes involved in the building of the temples.
Cholans were Shaivites, and all the temples built had its diety as Lord Siva. They followed elements of Dravidian architecture and installed numerous sculptures all over the temple, most of them are like a narrated story. The Chola Dynasty was formed by the Raja Raja Chola during the latter half of the 9th century on the fertile banks of the river Cauvery. Raja Raja Chola was the king who ordered for the construction of the Brihadeshwara Temple which was completed in 1009. The main temple was completed, however, whatever you see towards the exterior of the temple complex are annex and extensions built during the reign of the Vijayanagara empire.
Son of Raja Raja Chola, Rajendra Chola was an excellent administrator just like his father. I have noticed when you have a consecutive king sharing the same capabilities and vision, the empire progress is faster than you can imagine, that was just the case here. I think Raja Raja Chola was able to mentor his son the right way from his childhood, and since he gained the ability to take this forward, Cholan gained great heights. Their kingdom expanded to the far east, they ruled over entire Sri Lanka and had even sent diplomat missions to China. Rajendra Chola expanded his kingdom until the banks of the River Ganga and made his new capital at Gangaikonda Cholapuram, he collected the water from the Ganges in golden pots and poured in into the tank at Gangaikonda Cholapuram and named it Chola Ganga, it is also perceived that the title Gagaikonda Cholapuram means the victor of the Ganges.
Son of Rajendra Chola, Raja Raja Chola II took forward the essence of the kingdom and built the Airavateshwara Temple at Darasuram, near Kumbakonam. While the temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram is a miniature of the Brihadeshwara temple at Tanjore, Airavateshwara Temple at Darasuram follows a different pattern of architecture, holding the elements of Dravidian Architecture.
During the reign of the Cholas, art, music, dance, poetry, sculpture, and architecture had a flouring time. A visit to these temples will give you an exact idea as to how well the Cholan kings embraced art. The sculptures at the temples will tell you the story of how well the kings embraced art forms. Temples were the center of all these art forms, the center stage was all within the temple complex then.
At Green Earth Trails we have certain trails that take you through the Tamil Country and give you a glance of the prosperity they had once and their reminisance in the form of a story. Check out our Tour like the "Glimpses of South India" Apart from The Cholas, there were Pandyas and Cheras who had their very own identity and many royal stories about how kings save and betray their country in terrible moments of crisis, I was mentioning abouthe incidents the Pandyans kings Veera and Sundara had when they were under the attack of the Delhi Sultanate - The the blog post - "Madurai - The city that stood over centuries". Cheras who were mostly concentrated on the Coastline of the Arabian sea has a different story altogether. Join our Newsletter mailing list to get an update of the blogs we post.
Still interested about these magnificient temples, watch this video from begining to end. You will travel with us for sure to see the lost temples of India.
Apart from The South Indian Tour, we operate tours to Kerala and Karnataka. Essentially we are a Pan South India Tour Operator based in Kochi.