Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The great significance of the "Rajarajaeswarem" & "Gangaikonda Cholaeswarem" - Siva Temples of Tamil Nadu, South India

The great significance of the "Rajarajaeswarem" & "Gangaikonda Cholaeswarem" - Siva Temples of Tamil Nadu, South India

The "Gangaikonda Cholaeswarem" Siva temple - of Ariyalur district was built by the other Tamil Emperor "Rajendra Cholan - 1" (A.D.1012-1044) the worthy and most eminent son of Rajaraja Cholan - 1-$- who conquered 3/5 of India including present Bangaladesh, whole of Sri Lanka, Maldive & Laccadive Islands.

Rajendra Cholan - 1 also had much political and trade relations with the Hindu-Buddhist Malaysia (the Kadaram, and others), the Buddhist Empire of Sumatra - Indonesia (the Sri Vijaya, and others), Southern Sung Empire of China and the Kamboja kingdomof his period.

Rajendra Cholan - 1 commenced his war expeditions in the Indian Mainland when he was yet a co-regent of his father, with the capture of Iddaithurai Naadu the central Karnataka, bordering Andhra Pradesh, Vanavaasi of west Karnataka, in one expedition in the year A.D.1012. He therafter directed his attention on Kollipaakkai of north Andhra Pradesh, and captured same in the year A.D.1013. The above two expeditions were carried our by Rajendra Chola - 1 on behalf of his father Rajaraja Chola - 1.

In the year A.D.1014 he lead an expedition against the Irrataipaadi Elaraillakam the north Karnataka & south Maharashtra, and captured its capital city the Mannaikadakkam the Maleked, also on behalf of his father, which met the reverse after its intial capture by Rajaraja Cholan in the year A.D.1006.

With the death of Rajaraja Cholan - 1 in the year A.D.1014, and with the accension of Rajendra Cholan - 1 in the same year as the next emperor of the Chola empire, there was a lapse of two years in the latter continuing with his war expeditions.

In the year A.D.1016 he first sent an expedition overseas to Elamandalam the Sri Lanka, and brought the entire island under his rule. This was followed by an expedition of Rajendra Cholan to east Kerala in the year A.D.1017 which captured the Kudamalai Nadu.

Rajendra Cholan's forces crossed seas again, in the year A.D.1018, and captured the Pal Palanthivam the many islands of Maldives & Lakshadweep. This was followed by the capture of Sandimaaththivu the Kavaratti island overseas west of Kerala, in the same year A.D.1018.

In the year A.D.1019 Rajendra Cholans sent another expedition against the Irrataipaadi Elaraiillakam the north Karnataka & south Maharashtra - now with its new capital at Kalyani, in the northmost Karnataka which the Cholas lost again but re-captured after a battle at Musangi of east Karnataka.

Rajendra Cholan - 1 with his capture of many regions in the Indian mainland after a lapse of two years he became more ambitious in conquering the northern and north-western regions of India.

He commenced his war expedition in this direction in the year A.D.1021 with his capture of Sakkarakkoattam the south Chhattisgarh.

From here he split his forces in to two and sent one in the direction of Ganges river in the north and the other in the north-western direction while he stationed himself at Sakkarakkoattam until the two expeditions were complete.

The first expedition went towards the north-west of India from Sakkarakkoattam direct to the Mathuramandalam crossing the Kalachuria, Chandella and Paramara kingdoms in between, enabled by the friendly ties the Cholas had with these countries. Chola forces thus captured the kingdoms of Mathuramandalam the west Uttar Pradesh, Namanaikkonam of north Haryana, Panchappalli of east Punjab (of Pakistan) Maasunidesam of north Punjab (of Pakistan) and Athinagar (the Purvadesam - Purva means ancient) of south Kashmir. The great Tamil Epic - Manimekalai specifically states that "Purvadesam - was in the Gandhara country" which encompassed the south Kashmir region. Further Al-Beruni states "....Udunpur in Purvadesa.....". Udunpur is undoubtedly the present Udhampur of south Jammu & Kashmir - a derivation from Udunpur to Udhumpur and then to Udhampur.

The latter three were the regions of Uttarapatham. Rajendra Cholan - 1 claims in one of his inscription from Kulampandal that he also won the "kings of Uttarapatham". Dharmasastra of Manu states Uttarapatham lies to the west of the place where river Sarawathi disappears. Great Indian Epic Mahabharata states ".....the Yavanas, Kambojas, Gandaras, Kiratas, and Barbarahs who were born in Uttarapatham......", which were all situated in north-western India. Nepali Manuscripts says "....Purushapuram territory in Uttarapatham.....". Purushapura is the present Peshawar in the upper Sind valley region of present Pakistan. Kaviya Mimansa states the Uttarapatha lay on the western side of Prthudaka. The Prthudaka was formerly situated north of present Delhi. The foregoing indicates to us somewhat accurately the regions covered by Uttarapatham, which was conquered by Rajendra Cholan - 1

This expedition of the forces of Rajendra Cholan - 1 towards the north-west of India, was most possibly to assist his ally Paramara Bhoja of Malawa of south Madya Pradesh to fight the invasion of Mahumad of Gazni of west Afghanistan, and also relieve the kingdoms that already fell victims to his invasions, namely the Kanyakubja, Mathura, Namanaikkonam, Panchappalli, Masunidesam and Athinagar.

The confedaracy that existed between the Bhoja king of Malawa and Rajendra Chola - 1 is 'confirmed' by an inscription from Balagamve in south Maharashtra which refers to Cholas "as the greatest of kings". Another inscription from Kulenur in Karnataka confirms this confederacy was not only between Bhoja of Malawa and Rajendra Chola, but also inclusive of Gangeya of Kalachuria.

The second expedition went towards towards river Ganges in the north from Sakkarakkoattam and captured the regions of Odda Vishayam of Orissa, Kosala Naadu the north Chhattisgarh, Thandabuththi in north Orissa , Thakkana Laadam in south Jharkhand, Vangala desam the Bangaladesh, Uttara Laadam of north Jharkhand and reached the great river Ganges.

The Chola Indian Mainland expedition ended in A.D.1022 and details of the countries conquered by his forces in this single expedition was included in his Meikeerthi's from the year A.D.1023

With the return of the of the Chola forces of Rajendra Cholan - 1 to Chola capital, from their victorius expedition to Uttarapatham and Gangetic region countries in A.D.1022, the Royal Guru of Rajendra Cholan - 1 the Isaana Pandithar built a temple at Kulampandel in Tamil Nadu named as Gangaikonda Cholaeswarer temple.

With his return Rajendra Cholan - 1 claimed a new title as "Gangaikondaan" and gave the title "Gangaikonda Cholan" (the Chola who captured Gangai) to his younger brother who lead the Gangetic expedition.

Rajendra Cholan - 1 commenced the construction of a new city named the "Gangaikonda Cholapuram", with a new Siva Temple named "Gangaikonda Cholaeswarem", and a big 'temple water tank' named the "Chola Gangam" where the holy water brought in from the Ganges River was mixed.

The Essalam Copper Plates of Rajendra Cholan - 1 specifically states that with the conquest of the Gangetic region, it was Rajendra Cholan - 1 who constructed the new city the Gangaikonda Cholapuram, the great Gangaikonda Choleswarer temple, and the sacred Cholagangam Tank at the Udaiyar Palaiyam region of Ariyalur district.

In this great temple "Gangaikonda Cholaeswarem" built by him, the presiding deity of the Karuvarai (Sanctum Sanctorium) was known as the "Gangaikonda Cholaeswarer" also known as "Peruvudaiyar" - the God Siva in the form of Lingam, the biggest Lingam among the Siva Temples both in India and Worldover, having a height of 13 ft and 20 ft in circumferance.

The "Vimanam" of this big temple goes to a height of 176 ft falling short in height to the Rajarajaeswarem temple of Rajaraja Chola-1, and the construction of this temple was completed and the Kumba-abishekam done, possibly around A.D.1028.

The Saivite Sage "Karuvur Thevar" of the period of Rajaraja Cholan - 1 and Rajendra Cholan - 1 has sung 'Thiruvisaippaa' (Hyms) on these two great Siva Temples, which have now been included in the nineth Thirumurai of the twelve - Tamil Saiva Thirumuraikal.

Three Video Websites on Gangaikonda Cholaeswarem Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram

The "Vijayamkonda Cholaeswarem" Siva temple - of Erumbur in Cuddalore district (present Kadambavanesvara temple near Erumbur) was built -$- in commemoration of the victory of the forces of Rajendra Chola - 1 over Sri Vijaya and many regions of Sumatra of Indonesia.

The "Kadaremkonda Cholaeswarem" Siva temple - of Kudimallur in Vellore district (present Bhumisvara temple near Kalavai) was built -$- in commemoration of the victory of the forces of Rajendra Chola - 1 over Kadarem and many regions of Malaysia.

His far overseas war expedition commenced in the year A.D.1023 with he sending a large fleet of ships with Chola warriors directed first to Sri Vijaya the Palembang of south Sumatra of Indonesia which was captured. Thereafter they captured the Malaiyur the Malaiyur of south Sumatra adjacent to Sri Vijaya.

From there they crossed seas and captured he Mevilibangham the Bangha Island adjacent to south Sumatra and then they moved to Pannai of east Sumatra in the mainland, followed by Ilamuridesam of north Sumatra.

The forces now crossed to Malaysia captured the Vallaipandur the of north-east Malaysia, followed by Kadarem of north-west and west Malaysia . From here they went further north and captured the Ilankasokam of south-east Thailand adjacent to Kadarem and followed by Mathamalingam of east Thailand, and Thalaitakkolam of south-west Thailand.

From here they went to on seas homeward, and on their way captured the Manakkavaarem the Andaman & Nicobar Islands

They further travelled by sea and capturd the Maapapaalam the sea-port city of the present south Miyanmar, and returned to the Chola country. The Chola south-east Asian expedition ended in A.D.1024 and details of the countries conquered by his forces in this single expedition was included in his Meikeerthi's from the year A.D.1025

With the victory of Rajendra Cholan - 1 over Sri Vijaya(m) of Sumatra, Indonesia in A.D.1023, built a Siva Temple at Erumbur in Tamil Nadu, and named it as Vijayamkonda Cholaeswarem.

With his triump over the Kadarem Rajendra Cholan - 1 assumed another new title as "Kadaremkondaan", and one of his grandson who lead the Kadarem expedition was given the title "Kadaremkonda Cholan", (the Chola who captured Kadarem), and a region of the present Kudimallur in Tamil Nadu was named as the "Kadaremkonda Cholapuram". There are villages in the present day Tamil Nadu still bearing names as Kadaramkondaan at Thiruvaarur and Ariyalur regions[present Gedaramkondan in Ariyalur), and as Kadaramkonda Cholapuram (present Narasingpuram). With the victories of Rajendra Cholan - 1 over Kadaram in Malaysia in A.D.1023, built a Siva Temple in north Tamil Nadu and named it as Kadaremkonda Cholaeswarem.

It was with their great triumphs in the wars in the Indian mainland, and near overseas, they built the former two "magnificient & gigantic temples completely out of Granite stone" as living monuments of their great valour and superior status in this region, which are included in the present day "UNESCO World Heritage Series. The latter two were built in commemoration of their triumps far overseas, and as monuments of their great achievements in South-East Asia and the superior status of the Medieval Chola Empire in the World History of that period (A.D.1025)


The Siva and Vishnu temples of the Chola period had tall "Vimanams" (tower over - "Karuvarai" i.e. Sanctum Sanctorium of the temples)[/u]. This could be seen in the temples namely Rajarajaeswarem (Birahatheeswarem) at Thanjavur, Gangaikonda Cholaeswarem at Udaiyar Paalayam (in Kumbakonam), Rajarajaeswarem (Airaavatheswarem) at Darasuram (Palaiyaarai) built by Rajaraja Cholan - 2 (A.D.1146-1163), Thiribhuvanaeswarem (Kampaheswarem) at Thiribhuvanam built by Kulothunga Cholan - 3(A.D.1178-1218), and others.

The names Birahatheeswarem, Airaavatheswarem, and Kampaheswarem were the subsequent names given to these Chola temples, with the ascendance of the "Naayakkar" rule over Thanjavur district.

It was only during the period of Pandiyan kings and Naayakkar kings the prominance was given to tall "Gopurams" (tower over the Main entrance to the temples) while "Vimanams" remained shorter like what are seen in the temples at Chithambaram, Thiruvannaamalai, Sri Rangam, Madurai others.

The events indicated above by the 'doller symbol' -$- are confirmed by the - "Meikeerthikal" (True Glories) of Rajaraja Cholan - 1 and Rajendra Cholan - 1, their Copper Plate Grants and Temple Inscriptions, contemporary period Historical and Literary Works and Archaeological Remains - in Tamil Nadu and other regions of India. They are further confirmed by the Inscriptions, and the local - Historical and Literary Works of these "far and near" Overseas Countries and the Archaeological Remains in some of them, and by the Chinese Historical writings of that era.

Video Website:

This Video provides the "Aerial Views" of both the Rajarajeswaram Temple Complex at Thanjavur, and the Gangaikonda Cholaeswarer Temple Complex at Gangaikonda Cholapuram, among the views of the other Temples.

The "Rajarajaeswarem" Siva temple - of Thanjavur district, the "Thanjai Periya Koyil" (also known as the "Birahatheeswarer Temple" after the Naayakkar occupation of Thanjavur), was built by the Tamil Emperor "Rajaraja Cholan - 1" (A.D.985-1014) - one among the two 'Greatest Rulers' of Tamil Nadu, -$- who conquered 3/5 of the Indian Mainland, northern half of Sri Lanka, and the Maldive Islands, during the period of his rule.

Rajaraja Cholan - 1 also had much political and trade relations with the Hindu-Buddhist Malaysia (the Kadaram, and others), the Buddhist Empire of Sumatra - Indonesia (the Sri Vijaya, and others), and the Southern Sung Empire of China of his period.

Rajaraja Chola - 1 commenced his war expedition in the Indian Mainland, with the capture of Pandiya Nadu of south Tamil Nadu, followed by his capture of Kandalursaalai and Vilignam a seaport city - both in south Kerala in the year A.D.994.

After a lapse of four years he turned his attention to Seetpulinaadu, Paaki Naadu of south Andhara Pradesh and the Vengi Mandalam in north-east Andhra Pradesh. After the capture of these regions he proceeded to the regions Gangapaadi in south Karnataka, Thadigaipaadi in also in south Karnataka, Nulambapaadi in central Karnataka and Tuluva Nadu in the northern tip along the west coast of Karanataka. He captured the regions of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in one single expedition in the year A.D.998.

He then he turned his attention to Kudamalainaadu in west Kerala, and sent an expedition in his A.D.999. It was in this same expedition he won over the Udagai in the west Tamilnadu bordering Kerala ruled by a Chera prince on-behalf of the Chera ruler in Kudamalainadu.

In the early part of the following year in A.D.1000 [/u] he sent an expedition and conquered the Kollam of Kerala. In the second part of this same year a separate expedition was sent to Kalinga of Orrisa state, in the north of earlier conquered region of Vengimandalam. It appears it was in this same expedition he captured Odda of Orissa and Magadha of Bihar, Vanga & Gauda of West Bengal.

In the year A.D.1001 he sent his forces which crossed the seas and captured the northern half of Elamandalam the Sri Lanka.

It appears in between the years A.D.1002 and A.D.1005, Emperor Chulamanivarman of Sri Vijaya Empire in Sumatra, Indonesia who was also the overlord king of Kadarem the Kedah & Perak regions of Malaysia, probably was assisted by a garrison of Chola Forces - stationed already at Kadrem to safeguard the interests of Chola Traders in this region - to suppress a revolt by the native king of Kadarem against their overlord the Chulamanivarman of Sri Vijaya in Sumatra, Indonesia. This possibly made Rajaraja - 1 to claim his victory over Katakas as seen in the "Essaalam Copper Plates".

In the year A.D.1006 he sent an expedition to Irrattaipaadi Elaraiillakkam the north Karnataka & south Maharashtra with its capital at Mannaikadakkam the Maleked, along with three other regions being the Konkanar in west Maharashtra, Saurashtra in Gujarat, Malava in north Maharashtra and south-west Madhya Pradesh, and the kings of Kurunaadu {in Haryaana ??}

After a further lapse of seven years in the year A.D.1013 Rajaraja Chola's forces crossed seas again, and captured the Munneer Palanthivu Panneeraayiram the Maldives islands.

The Essalam Copper Plates of Rajendra Chola - 1 states that his father Rajaraja Chola - 1".....By the wealth obtained through his conquests he erected at "Thanjapuri" a very great temple named "Rajarajaesvarem"……..

In this great temple "Rajarajaeswarem" built by him, the presiding deity of the Karuvarai (Sanctum Sanctorium) was known as the "Rajarajaeswaram Udaiyar" also known as "Peruvudaiyar' - the God Siva in the form of Lingam. This is the second biggest Lingam among the Siva Temples both in India and Worldover, having a height of 9 ft and 23.5 ft in circumferance.

The "Vimanam" over the Karuvarai of the big temple goes to a height of 216 ft, being the tallest building structure of India of that time, and the construction of the whole temple was completed and Kumba-abishekam done in the year A.D.1011. This is confirmed by one of Rajaraja Chola's own inscription at Rajarajaeswaram Temple dated the 26th year of his reign - in A.D.1011(985 + 26), which states "....(at) Thanjavur in Thanjavur Kootram the 'sacred granite-stone temple' (Thiru-Kat-trali) I got it erected, the Sri Rajarajeeswaram Udaiyar....."

The Karuvarai (sanctum sanctorium) is built on a square basement measuring 96 ft per side externally, with its four walls rising to a height of .....ft in two levels, from where the Vimanam rises tapering to a height of .....ft in fourteen tiers upto a truncated basement of the tapering Vimanam measuing approximately 5 ft per side externally. On this basement was laid a single spherical stone estimated to be of a weight of 80 tons, with a seppuk(copper) kalasam adorning it at it's crown.

Within the Vimanam above the Karuvarai there is an inner corridor running right round its perimeter, on the walls of which you find the Chola paintings of this period. One of these paintng shows Rajaraja Chola - 1 with Karuvur Thevar, another shows God Siva seated in Kailayamalai with Nandi and other Siva Ganas around while Apsaras are dancing in front of him, another shows Sundaramoorththy Naayanaar going forth to Kailayamalai on an elephant, while Cheraman Perumaal Naayanaar on a white horse going in front, God Siva as Aadavallaan (Nadarajah) in front of whom a valiant looking warrior, 'possibly' - the emperor Rajaraja Chola - 1 prostrating to him while three queens beside him on looking with two guardians beyond them, nd below them other officials and the men and women at their service.

Also in this temple in the bottom row of the interior - of the upper floor of Karuvarai, the 108 - Karnas of the Siva Tandava dance was intended to be carved out, but only left with 81 - Karnas fully sculptured while the 82nd partialy finished for some reason unknown.

This temple was designed by a group of Silpis (Perum Thatchchar) and the chief among the Silpis who was intrumental in the construction of this great temple was Viracholan Kunjajara Mallan alias Rajaraja Perum Thatchchan with his two assistants, and the expertise of two other Silpis namely the Kunavan Mathuranthahan alias Niththavinotha Perum Thatchchan and Ilaththi Sadaiyan alias Kandaraathiththa Perum Thatchchan.

Rajaraja Chola - 1 after the re-discovery of the Tamil Saiva 'Thirumuraikal' from the Chithambarem Temple, arranged for the first time to recite them during the times of worship at the Thanjai Rajarajaeswarem temple, and appointed fortyeight 'Pidararkal' to execute same.

He also settled 400 - '(Female) Temple Dancers' known as the "Thalikkooththikal" selected from various parts of his kingdom and settled them in the vicinity of Thanjai Rajarajaeswarem temple with all facilities for their residence, which was known as the "Thalichcheri".

There has been a 'dramatic composition' titled "Rasarasa Naatakam" - 'possibly a part of the life story of Rajaraja Chola - 1, known to have been enacted at the Thirupanthanai Nallur - Pasupathi Eswarer temple in the year A.D.995 by Kasian Vikkramaathiththan Acchan alias Rasarasa Naataka Periyan.

There has also been a 'dramatic composition' titled "Rajarajaeswara Naatakam" - 'probably' a story relating to the the construction of Thanjavur Rajarajaeswarem Temple by the emperor Rajaraja Chola - 1, which was enacted by the "Saanthik Kooththan" named Thiruvalan Thirumuthukuntran alias Vijayarajendra Achariyan and his troop at this temple, on the occasion of the big annual festival known as "Udaiyar (i.e.presiding deity) Vaikaasip Periya Thiruvilaa".

Further there has also been a 'literary composition' titled the "Rajaraja Vijayam" - 'probably' relating the glories acheived in the war expeditions by Rajaraja Chola - 1, which is known to have been read at the temple at Thirupoonthuruththi in Thanjavur, apparently on special festive days.

This great Tamil Emperor Rajaraja Cholan - 1 after a remarkable period of 29 years of rule, died in the year A.D.1014..


A medieval period bronze statue of the Emperor Rajaraja Cholan - 1 is presently seen on display at the Gujarat Museum.

Three Video Websites on Rajarajewaram Temple (Birahatheeswarem Temple) of Thanjavur.

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