Temple Architecture of the Chola Empire

The Chola period saw the culmination of Dravida temple art resulting in the most sophisticated buildings of medieval India.  The Tamil Nadu temples were fully evolved in their style and design by the 8th century.

Special Features of the Chola Architecture

  • The dvarapalas, or guardian figures, at the entrance to the mandapa, or hall which started from the Palava period became a unique feature of the Chola Temples.
  • The Dravidian Style got fully developed after a transition from the rock cut structures of the Pallava Period.
  • Early Chola temples at the Bank of river Kaveri were smaller and brick made, in comparison to the colossus buildings of the Imperial Cholas.
  • The temples of the Imperial Cholas are covered with exquisite well composed sculptures and frescoes.
  • Largest and tallest of all Indian temples i.e. Siva Temple of Thanjore was built in Chola Period.
  • Ganas, among the sculptures at the temple, are the most memorable figures made in Chola temples


Vijayalaya Cholisvara Temple, Thanjore

Under Pallavas, some of the finest temples had been created at Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram. However, the largest and most impressive buildings were created under the Cholas post 850 AD, when Vijayalaya Chola took the control of Tanjore.  The earliest Chola Temple we find at Narthamalai, where Vijayalaya Chola commissioned a temple named “Vijayalaya Cholisvara” temple, dedicated to lord Shiva.

Koranganatha Temple, Srinivasanallur

Koranganatha Temple is located at Srinivasanallur, in Tiruchirapalli District, on the banks of river Cauvery. This temple was built by Parantaka Chola -I . The base of this temple has the sculpted mythical animals  ‘Yazhi’ . Yazhi is a recurring pattern and unique feature of Chola architecture.

Muvarkovil, Pudukkottai

“Muvarkovil” literally means temple of three. It was commissioned by Parantaka Chola -II or one of his feudatories. It has three shrines standing side by side, however, only two are extant now.

Tiruvalisvaram temple, Tiruneveli

Tiruvalisvaram temple is the first example where all features of the Chola temple architecture are seen. It is covered with well compsoed sculptures and friezes. Entire cornice of the temple has been ornated with creepers and foliage.

Brihadeeswarar Temple of Tanjore

Brihadeeswarar Temple or Peruvudaiyar Kovil or Rajrajeshwaram temple at Thanjavur is the world’s first complete “granite” temple. It was built by Rajraja Chola-I and is a part of UNESCO’s world Heritage sites. The Vimana or the temple tower (known as Raja Gopuram)  is 216 Feet in height and is one of the tallest buildings of its kind. The Nandi is carved out of a single rock. This temple has completed 1 millennium in 2010. It was dictated by lord Shiva to Rajraja Chola I, when he triumphed Ilam (Sri Lanka) Island.

Brihadisvara temple, Gangaikondacholapuram

Brihadisvara temple at Gangaikondacholapuram was made by King Rajaraja’s son Rajendra I, who assumed the title “Gangaikonda”.

1 Comment

  1. kishore

    March 12, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    my favourite empire is chola

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