Big Temple

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Great Living Chola Temples , Standing Big For Thousand Years

Stunning Marvels In Stone

The Great Living Chola Temples were built by kings of the Chola Empire, which stretched over all of south India and the neighbouring islands. The site includes three great 11th- and 12th-century Temples: the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Brihadisvara Temple at Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram. The Temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram, built by Rajendra I, was completed in 1035. Its 53-m vimana (sanctum tower) has recessed corners and a graceful upward curving movement, contrasting with the straight and severe tower at Thanjavur. The Airavatesvara temple complex, built by Rajaraja II, at Darasuram features a 24-m vimana and a stone image of Shiva. The temples testify to the brilliant achievements of the Chola in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting.


Tungabadra at Hampi

Under the guidance and direct patronage of the grand Pallavas and Cholas, the region that is now part of Tamil Nadu saw increasing sophistication in temple building and art. By the 8th century, the form of the South Indian temple had fully evolved in Tamil Nadu. At Kancheepuram and Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram), some of the finest temples ever to be made were created under the Pallavas. Further south, at Kalugumalai, under the Pandyas, the Vattuvankovil temple was hewn out of a hill face. The sculptures on the temple were carved in fine detail in a naturalistic style. The hard stone was transformed to appear as soft flesh with the breath of life within.

Around A.D. 850, a Chola chieftain named Vijayalaya took control of Thanjavur and ushered in an era of unsurpassed prosperity and grandeur in the region that is now part of Tamil Nadu. The largest and most impressive temples of South India were made under the Cholas.Indeed, the art of this period is filled with a sense of wonder. The temples are made with a jewel-like perfection. The beauty of the temple itself and of every sculpture on it serves to take one away from mundane concerns to a world filled with a sense of the wonder of all creation.

The Brahmapurisvara temple at Pullamangai characterises the extraordinary quality of early Chola sculpture. The temples of this period were not very large. The purpose was not to inspire awe through size and grandeur but to take one to the world of gentleness that can be found within one. The grace of the figures and their profoundly peaceful expressions awaken in one a sense of the sublime. The figures are fully occupied with the miracle of creation and the sense of stillness that comes from this absorption. 

UNESCO in it's justification for Big Temple (Great Living Chola Temples) as a heritage site-

  1. Criterion (i): The three Chola temples of Southern India represent an outstanding creative achievement in the architectural conception of the pure form of the dravida type of temple.
  2. Criterion (ii): The Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur became the first great example of the Chola temples, followed by a development of which the other two properties also bear witness.
  3. Criterion (iii): The three Great Chola Temples are an exceptional and the most outstanding testimony to the development of the architecture of the Chola Empire and the Tamil civilisation in Southern India.
  4. Criterion (iv): The Great Chola temples at Thanjavur, at Gangaikondacholapuram and Darasuram are outstanding examples of the architecture and the representation of the Chola ideology.

The Three Great Temples

The following three Chola Temples form part of the World Heritage Site as "The Great Chola Temples". Please click on the links for more information, images, videos...


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