GRANDLY TITLED Gangai- Ufkondacholapuram, “The City of the Chola who Took the Ganges”, this now modest village was the capital of the powerful Chola dynasty during the reign of Rajendra I (r.1012-44). A great military commander like his father Rajaraja I, Rajendra I was the first Tamil ruler to venture northwards. He built this city to commemorate his successful campaign across the Ganges. According to an inscription, he then ordered the defeated rulers to carry back pots of sacred Ganges water on their heads to fill the Chola-Ganga tank, a victory memorial.
Except for the magnificent Brihadishvara Temple, little remains of his capital city. Built as a replica of Thanjavur’s Brihadishvara Temple the towered sanctum of this granite Shiva temple is shorter than the one at Thanjavur. Adorning the lower walls, columns and niches are many remarkable sculptural friezes. One of the most outstanding is the panel depicting Shiva blessing Chandesha, a pious devotee sculpted to resemble Rajenclra I himself. The sculptures of the dikpalas (guardians of the eight directions), ekadasas (the 11 forms of Shiva), Saraswati, Kalyanasundara and Nataraja ( are also splendid examples of Chola art. Steps near the small Durga shrine in the courtyard lead past a sculpture of a seated lion to a well, believed to have been filled with Ganges water for daily rituals. The small Archaeological Museum, near the temple, exhibits Chola artifacts from neighbouring sites.