During my visit to India earlier this year, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit and photograph Gangaikonda Cholapuram, one of the temples that was on my must-visit list.
A brief history:
Gangaikonda Cholapuram is a historical town located in the Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu, India. The town was established in the 11th century by Rajendra Chola I, the son of the famous Chola king, Rajaraja Chola.
The town was built as the new capital of the Chola Empire after Rajendra Chola I returned victorious from his campaign in northern India, where he defeated the Pala and the Rashtrakuta dynasties. The town was named "Gangaikonda Cholapuram," which means "the town of the Chola who captured the Ganges," to commemorate Rajendra Chola I's conquest of the Ganges river.
The town was designed to reflect the grandeur and power of the Chola Empire. It was laid out on a square plan, with a central temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Chola's patron deity. The temple, called the Brihadeshwara Temple, is the main attraction of the town and is considered one of the finest examples of Chola architecture.
The Brihadeshwara Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is famous for its towering gopuram (entrance tower), which is over 50 meters tall. The temple is also renowned for its intricate carvings and sculptures, which depict various scenes from Hindu mythology.
Gangaikonda Cholapuram was an important center of trade and commerce during the Chola period. The town was connected to various ports along the east coast of India, and it also served as a hub for inland trade. The Cholas were known for their maritime prowess, and Gangaikonda Cholapuram was an important center for shipbuilding.
In the morning, we departed from Karaikal, eager to arrive at our destination before sundown. Just as the last rays of sunlight were fading away, we arrived at the temple, which was bustling with activity. I managed to take photographs of the exterior, scrambling to capture as many shots as possible before the light vanished completely. The temple grounds were meticulously maintained and remarkably unblemished, yet I had to digitally edit out several plastic bags from my pictures.
I hope to return to this exquisite monument built by Rajendra Chola I to capture the sunrise. It's astounding that everything else from this ancient Chola capital has vanished, leaving behind only this historic temple. The sunset was truly breathtaking, and I hope the photos I've taken do it justice. Dear reader, I am looking forward to your feedback!