7. Chennai: 2-Day Great Living Chola Temples Cultural Tour
Day 1 Following an early morning pickup from your hotel in Chennai, head in direction of Tanjore. At around 1:00 PM, you will arrive in Tanjore, the first capital of the Ancient Chola Empire. Visit the famous Brihadeeswara Temple located at the Great Living Chola Temples Trail and gaze in awe at one of the most imposing architectural structures in India. On this trail, you'll also visit the Thanjavur Big Temple, a more than a 1000-year-old temple with remains of the finest specimen of architecture, sculpture, bronze casting, and painting. Admire the excellent collection of frescoes that can be found on the walls around the sanctum and see the legendary tales of Lord Shiva depicted on the walls. Learn about the special material that was used to paint the murals and the secret they were able to last for so many centuries. Another highlight in Tanjore is the Grand Palace, built during the Nayak rule and repaired during the rule of the Marathas. Walk through the queen’s courtyard and witness divine scenes painted on the walls of the Durbar Hall. Then, search for the underground passage in this palace. There is also the Royal Museum, a gallery, and the Saraswati Mahal Library stationed within the palace complex. In the evening, stay overnight in Tanjore and continue your adventure the next morning. Day 2 Drive to Darasuram from Tanjore and visit the Airavateswar Temple, the second destination in the Great Living Chola Temples Trail. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple was built by Chola King Raja Raja II in the 12th century AD. Learn the history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site which is considered a treasure trove of art, carvings, and architecture. The final stop in the Great Living Chola Temples Trail is the city of Gangaikonda Cholapuram. Built in 1025 by Rajendra Chola, son of the famous Chola emperor Raja Raja, it was meant to commemorate his victory over the Pala Empire across the Ganges. Gangaikonda Cholapuram served as the capital of the mighty Chola Empire for 250 years and is most famous for its Shiva Temple. Visit other highlights of this lost city of Cholas including The Royal Palace made of burnt brick, a giant Nandi, and a magnificent lion figure next to the well where the King poured the Ganges water brought from his conquests. Following the final stop, return to Chennai from Gangaikonda Cholapuram where you'll be dropped off at your hotel at around 8:30 PM.