7th march,2011:It was 4 AM as we reached thanjavur and we zeroed in on hotel karuna opposite the new bus stand. With three chola temples to complete in a span of 3 days, we boarded a 2 hour bus to kumbakonam which was followed by a 1 hour bus to Gangakondacholapuram to view the first of the three temples.
Set in the midst of thatched hut villages, this temple must have once been the royal attraction to the chola kingdom that spread far and wide. The poverty that exists outside the temple is totally hidden once you enter the gigantic gateway. Well manicured lawns and perfectly trimmed bushes provided a wonderful contrast to red and brown sandstone that was used to build this magnificent shiva temple. This temple built by Rajendra I(son of Rajaraja chola I,the builder of brihadishwara temple) is only slight smaller than the temple his father built in thanjavur.
The Airavateswara temple in darasuram can be seen while on the way back to thanjavur,near kumbakonam. One temple built for shiva,while the other for parvathi are again built with an intricate attention to detail.
The brihadishwara temple in thanjavur clearly steals the show. A visit at sunset is highly recommended to capture the different colours the sandstone assumes in the dying rays of the sun. 2011 marked the 1000th year of it’s existence and one just cannot see it’s age due to the superior quality of the craftsmanship and materials that were used by the cholas in their prime.
A leisurely walk around the magnificent main structure which holds a giant shivalingam that faces one of the biggest Nandi statues in India made us think how grand this place must have been a 1000 years ago. As we boarded the bus to chennai at night, the bus drove past an illuminated Brihadishwara temple almost as if to ask us to appreciate it’s beauty once more.