Imagine a king, so overjoyed that after the conquest of the Gangetic plains he built an entire city and called it Gangaikonda (conquest of the Ganges) Cholapauram and at its centre he built an immense Shiva temple and named it Gangaikondacholisvarar. Rajendra 1, as he was known also built a lake in the town called Cholagangam to mark his victorious expedition. The lake was fed by the Cauvery river, and ceremonial water that had been carried from the Ganga. He shifted his capital from Thanjavur to his newly built town. The city remained the capital of the Chola Empire for a period of 256 years. Rajendra 1’s plan was to built the temple mightier than the one of his father, who built the massive Brihadeshwara temple in Thanjavur. As the story goes, that the respect for his father was too great so he reduced the temples in size, but installed the largest Shiva Lingam into its shrine, after all the Lingam is the centre of worship.
The city is now in ruins, its massive granite blocks and those of the temple walls were used to build a dam to block the river for irrigation. Yet, Gangaikondacholisvarar is one of the most stunning temples in South India. Its outer walls are decorated with the most elaborate carvings depicting episodes from Shaivite mythology. The imposing Nandi statue in front of the temple was built to deflect the morning light into the inner shrine. Many of the beautiful sculptures were brought from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Bengal as war trophies.
The temple is well worth a visit and can be combined with a stopover at the famous Kalamkari Artist Rajmohan