Gangaikonda Cholapuram 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 at the beginning of the 11th century C.E. It occupies an important place in the history of India. As the capital of the Cholas from about 1025 C.E. for about 250 years, the city controlled the affairs of entire south India, from the Tungabhadra in the north to Ceylon in the south. The great temple of Siva at this place is next only to the Brihadisvara temple at Thanjavur in its monumental nature and surpasses it in sculptural quality.
he temple of Gangaikondacholisvara is approached through the northern entrance from the road. The passage passes through the enclosure wall and leads on to the inner court.
As one steps in, the great Vimana arrests the visitor's sight. The Vimana with its recessed corners and upward movement presents a striking contrast to the straight-sided pyramidal tower of Tanjavur. As it rises to a height of 160 feet and is shorter than the Tanjavur tower, it is often described as the feminine counterpart of the Tanjavur temple.
The Vimana is flanked on either side by small temples; the one in the north now housing the Goddess is fairly well preserved. The small shire of Chandikesvara is near the steps in the north. In the north-east are a shire housing Durga, a well called lion-well (simhakeni) with a lion figure guarding its steps and a late mandapa housing the office. Nandi is in the east facing the main shrine. In the same direction is the ruined gopura, the entrance tower. The main tower surrounded by little shrines truly presents the appearance of a great Chakravarti (emperor) surrounded by chieftains and vassals. The Gangaikondacholapuram Vimana is undoubtedly a devalaya chakravarti, an emperor among temples of South
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