UNESCO Great Living Chola Temples

The Great Chola Temples - Tourist Information

Brahadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur, the Temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram. UNESCO designated the Brahadeeswara Temple a World Heritage Site in 1987; the Temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram had been added as extensions to the Great Living Chola Temples World Heritage Site in 2004.


Sri Brahadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur is Known as Thanjai Big Temple (or) “Periya Koil” in Tamil. This temple was built in 1010 A.D Raja Raja Cholan I (985 - 1012) It’s Unique Architectural Excellence prompted UNESCO to declared as World Heritage Monument in 1987. It is located amidst fortified walls added during 16th century. The beautiful Chola Fresco Paintings on the inner walls are often matched with those of Ajanta Caves. The 14 tiered pyramid shaped tower above the sanctum, is 216 feet tall and Kumbam (or) Sikarama bulbous structure above the tower cut out of one rock weighs 80 tons. was rolled up to pinnacle with the help of Elephants, This process is a testimony to the engineering excellence skill of the Chola Architects and shadow does not fall on the ground. The God of Shiva lingam is 13 feet tall with a circumference of 54 feet, chiseled out of single rock. The Monolithic sacred bull mount is 12 ½ feet tall, 8 feet long, 5 feet wide and weighs 25 tons located in front of the sanctorum. 


The Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram near Kumbakonam was built by the Chola king Rajaraja II (1143-1173 CE) The front mandapa (hall) known in the inscriptions as Rajagambhiran tirumandapam, is unique as it was conceptualized as a chariot with wheels. The pillars of this mandapa are highly ornate. The elevation of all the units is elegant with sculptures dominating the architecture. A number of sculptures from this temple are the masterpieces of Chola art. The labelled miniature friezes extolling the events that happened to the 63 nayanmars (Saiva saints) are noteworthy and reflect the deep roots of Saivism in this region.


Brihadisvara Temple in Gangaikondacholapuram Completed in 1035 AD by Rajendra Chola I (1012 to 1044 A.D) the son of the great Raja Raja Chola-I,  Considered one of the greatest emperors and military leaders of India, established this temple after his great victorious march to Himalayan river Ganges in northern India. He defeated Mahipala, the Pala King of Bengal and Bihar and commemorate his victory he built a new city called Gangaikonda Cholapuram. The triumphant Chola armies brought back waters from the river Ganges in golden vessels to consecrate the new found land