While on a tour of Tamil Nadu, everyone’s itinerary takes them to the major temples built by one of the most illustrious dynasties of Asia, The Cholas. Be it the Brihadeshwara or the Big Temple at Tanjore or the Darasuram or Gangaikondacholapuram, while on the way from Pondicherry to Tanjore. But on the 2-day Chola Trail with Sita, we do things a little differently. Keeping Tanjore as the base of our Trail, we trace the close to 500 years rule of the Chola dynasty. From 8C AD – 13C AD the Chola Kings built close to 5000 temples spread all over South India with a few temples in Sri Lanka, Sumatra and Java. Of these temples, around 250 still survive. We focus on five temples, each corresponding to one century of their rule – to map the rise and fall of the Chola Empire.
Beginning chronologically with the Vijayalayacholeswara temple of Narthamalai, the first templebuilt by this dynasty and ending with Kampahareswarar, the last temple built by a Chola king . The tour is conducted by a Chennai based friend of Sita, who has led tours for the British Museum to India. The highlight of the tour is the rare sculptures, especially in Gangaikondacholapuram where one can see the entire family of the Hindu Gods. During the tour some of the rituals done by the Chola Kings, thousands of years ago are re-enacted and one gets to see coins from the Chola period as well. We end the Trail with a Chola dinner- a 12th century vegetarian menu, but cooked in a 21st century kitchen in a Tanjore hotel which is yet another highlight.