Tamil Nadu

Chola palace remains unearthed at Gangaikondacholapuram

Substantial portions of brick structures of what are believed to be the remains of a Chola palace have been unearthed by archaeologists during the latest excavations at Maligaimedu near Gangaikondacholapuram in Ariyalur district.

The Tamil Nadu Department of Archaeology is set to wind up the excavation season at the site later this month after having exposed brick structures in 13 of the 17 quadrants. Roofing tiles and iron nails have also been recovered in large numbers. A Chola-period copper coin and an ivory object, glass beads and bangles, hopscotch markers, spouted knobs, terracotta pieces and ceramics such as red ware, black ware, decorated ware and Chinese ware, including celadon ware, were among the other finds during the excavations which started in February. The recovery of the Chinese ware is an obvious pointer to trade ties that had existed between the two countries then.

Established by King Rajendra Chola I (1012-1044 CE) after his victorious expedition up to the Gangetic plains, Gangaikondacholapuram was the capital of the Cholas for about 250 years from about 1025 CE. Maligaimedu (the mound of palace) lies about two km to the west of the Gangaikondacholeswarar Temple, built by Rajendra Chola and now a UNESCO World Heritage Monument.

It is widely believed that the palaces of Chola kings had existed there about 1,000 years ago. There are epigraphical references to three palaces that had existed there — Gangaikondacholan Maligai, Mudikonda Cholan Maligai and Cholakeralan Maligai. The palaces were believed to have been destroyed during the Pandya invasions or later. The structural evidence available also supports this view, officials say.

The Department of Archaeology had unearthed some parts of a palace during excavations in 1980 and a few seasons subsequently. The excavations then had unearthed brick structures, bases of granite pillars and other artefacts.

Significant portions of the medieval palace have been exposed this season close to the trench excavated earlier. Walls made of burnt bricks, measuring 27 x 13 x 5 cm and 30 x 15 x 8 cm, have been exposed. Brick structures were found at a depth of just from 12 cm and up to a depth of more than two metres. Four to 30 courses of bricks were found in various depths. Mortar of 2 cm thickness had been used as the binding material. However, no foundation was found. Most of the structures follow the north-west and south-east cardinal direction.

“These are significant finds — the structures found earlier were of 11 or 12 courses (of bricks). It is well established that there had been a palace there; we only have to find the functionality of the structures. We will be sending some of the material for thermoluminescence dating,” R. Sivanantham, Commissioner (in-charge), Department of Archaeology, told The Hindu.

It has been a satisfying season of digging for Excavation Director S. Nanthakumar and his team, comprising co-director K. Bakiyalakshmi, archaeological officers S.M. Umaiyal and S. Subalakshmi and a few research scholars. “This is an important find of the remains of a medieval palace in Tamil Nadu. Further excavation could lead to unearthing of more such structures,” Mr. Nanthakumar said.

Given the recent public interest in archaeological and historical sites in the State, Maligaimedu could emerge as a major attraction as the excavation is expected to continue next year. “The finds could also play an important role in realising the tourism potential of Ariyalur district,” Mr. Nanthakumar said.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 4:41:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/chola-palace-remains-unearthed-at-gangaikondacholapuram/article36660632.ece

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