The biggest legacy the Cholas have left for today's generation to know about them is the Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu. Their contribution to the literature of Tamil Nadu and their passion for building temples has left a deep impression on the history of the region.
The Cholas were visionaries building temples as places of worship for people to gather. These were also buzzing centres for economic activity and political discourse. They innovated new building techniques and used advanced technologies like the wax process for building sculptures. Their beautiful bronze sculptures of deities are called the Chola bronzes.
The Great Living Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu
Cholas were avid builders. They built some of the best architectural temples in south India. UNESCO recognized their work and marked a group of temples built by the Chola Dynasty as the 'The Great Living Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu.'
The Great Living Chola Temples are a group of temples built between the 11th and 12th centuries A.D. These temples include Brihadisvara at Thanjavur, the Brihadisvara at Gangaikondacholapuram, and Airavatesvara at Darasuram.
The group of temples that form The Great Living Chola Temples are unique. They depict the peak of progressive Chola architecture, showcasing the best of Chola history in Tamil Nadu.
Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu Architecture
There are two distinct styles of Chola temples in Tamil Nadu - the ones built during the early Chola reign and those built during the later part of their reign. The architecture of the early temples influenced Pallava art, and the later temples were influenced by Chalukya art.
The distinct features of Chola temples are the boundary wall and the vimana. The high boundaries protected the vast courtyards within the temple. Chola temples also had high vimanas over the sanctum sanctorum.
The Cholas built Dravidian-style temples. They carved their temples with intricate designs and exquisite sculptures. The main deity of the temple, Lord Shiva, was installed in the sanctum sanctorum or the garbhagriha.
The Cholas took inspiration from multiple architectural styles. A unique feature found in Chola temples is the presence of dwarapalakas or guardian sculptures. These were found at the temple entrances created in the Pallava style of architecture.
Structure of the Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu
The Pallava temple architecture was among the best in Dravidian art. The Cholas used this art as their signature style. They carved the temple walls with unique architectural designs. They also carved similar sculptures on the walls.
A distinct feature of the Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu is the pilasters. These are exquisite designs carved into the walls as projections with deities. Pilasters have curved roofs with two lines crowning them. Apart from this, mythical creatures like yazhis and motifs of warriors' heads are common features.
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Importance of Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu
Chola temples are scattered all over Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Some of the important ones are -
- The Brihadisvara temple in Thanjavur, with its tallest vimana in the world built during the Chola king Raja Raja's reign.
- The temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, built by Rajendra I, is known as the female counterpart of the Brihadishwara temple.
- The Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram, Kumbakonam, built by Rajendra II. It is believed that the mythical white elephant Airavata worshipped the deity Lord Siva in this temple.
- Nageswara Swamy temple in Kumbakonam. The presiding deity of this temple is Siva in the guise of the Nataraja Vijayala Cholsvaram temple in Narthamali is the oldest stone temple in south India.
FAQs on Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu
Q1: Who is the presiding deity in Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu?
Lord Siva is the presiding deity in all the Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu.
Q2: The architecture of Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu was influenced by which period?
Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu architecture were influenced by the Pallava period.
Q3: What is the UNESCO site of the Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu complexes called?
The UNESCO site of the Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu complexes is called 'The Great Living Chola Temples.'
Q4: Which Chola temple of Tamil Nadu has the tallest vimana globally?
The Brihadisvara Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu have the tallest vimana in the world.