If you think this is the Brihadeeswarar or the Big Temple of Thanjavur, well you're wrong. This is the Brihadisavara Temple of Ganagaikonda Cholapuram in Jayankondam. Located 247 kilometers from Chennai, Ganagaikonda Cholapuram was capital for the Chola Empire for close to 250 years, starting from Rajendra I, the son for Raja Raja Chola. Rajendra built this monument around 1035 AD, identical to that of his father's in Thanjavur, dedicating it to lord Shiva.
History suggests that this temple was built to commemorate the successful Chola campaign through India. Rajendra demanded the defeated kings of the North to send pots of water from the Ganges, which was poured in to the well here at Jayankondam. Hence the name, Gangaikonda Cholapuram was established, signifying that the Chola Empire conquered the Ganges/ North India. The Brihadisavara temple is smaller yet more refined than the Big Temple at Tanjore. More attention was given to the sculptures and the architecture of the monument. The vimana or the temple tower is 180 feet tall and is just 9.8 feet shorter than its Tanjore counterpart.
The magnificent stone sculpture of Shiva alongside Parvati, garlanding Ranjendra can be seen here. This temple was added to the list of The Great Living Chola Temples and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is believed that the Pandyas who defeated the Cholas, razed the city of Gangainkonda Cholapuram to the ground, but spared the Brihadisavara temple, which was left almost untouched and even renovated by later kings.
Jayankondam is well connected by road and by train from Chennai. Be sure to plan a visit to this historical marvel, to get a glimpse of Chola architecture and heritage. Don't forget your cameras, coz you won't get enough of how the photographs turn out!