Brihadisvara Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram
Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva in Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Jayankondam, in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Completed in 1035 AD by Rajendra Chola I as a part of his new capital, this Chola dynasty era temple is similar in design, and has a similar name, as the older 11th century, Brihadeeswarar Temple about 70 kilometres (43 mi) to the southwest in Thanjavur. The Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple is smaller yet more refined than the Thanjavur Temple. Both are among the largest Shiva temples in South India and examples of Dravidian style temples. The temple is also referred to in texts as Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple or Gangaikondacholeeswaram Temple
The main. temple dedicated to Shiva is based on a square plan, but it reverentially displays other Hindu deities such as Vishnu, Durga, Surya, Harihara, Ardhanarishvara, and others. It opens to the sunrise and its sanctum, as well as the mandapas, are aligned on an east-west axis. In addition to the main shrine, the temple complex has a number of smaller shrines, gopura, and other monuments, with some partially ruined or restored in later centuries. The temple is famed for its bronze sculptures, artwork on its walls, the depiction of Nandi and the scale of its tower. As well as its notability for having been built by Rajendra I, the temple is also noteworthy for its numerous inscriptions, although none of them are his.Except for this temple, the old city of Gangaikonda Cholapuram – the capital of a powerful Asian empire from around AD 900 to AD 1215 or over three centuries along with its other major Chola-era Hindu temples have been completely destroyed, leaving a desolate place. The Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple remains an active temple. Four daily rituals, and many yearly festivals are held there, of which the Shivarathri during the Tamil month of Masi (February–March), Aipassi Pournami during Aipassi (October– November) and Thiruvadirai during Margazhi (December–January) are the most prominent. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Tamil Nadu. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) administers the temple as a protected heritage monument. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 2004, along with the Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur and Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram. These are referred to collectively as the Great Living Chola Temples.