Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Periya Koil Brihadeshvara at Thanjavur

Brihadeshvara Temple:-

 The Periya Koil or 'Big Temple' as Brihadeeswara temple is known turns 1000 years. Showcasing pure Dravidian architecture, the temple was built in the Chola capital of Tanjavur under the aegis of the Chola king Rajaraja Chola in 1010 A.D. Designed by Sama Varma, the architecture of Brihadeeswara temple is unique in that the temple casts no shadows on the ground at noon during any time of the year.
Thanjavur (British Tanjore) is located at the head of the Kaveri river delta, where it dominates the heartland of Tamil Nadu. The favored capital of the Cholas (10th - 12th century), Nayakas (16th century), and Marathas (17th - 18th century), Thanjavur contains over 90 temples.

Brihadeshvara, also called Rajarajeshvara after its founder (Rajaraja I, 985 - 1012), was built from 1003 to 1010. It is the greatest of Chola temples, and was one of the largest structures in the world at the time. Its thirteen-storied tower (all temple towers in India have an odd number of storeys) is about 66m (200ft) tall. The temple is dedicated to the worship of Shiva.
On the top of the apex of 63 metres high, a dome is said to be constructed from a single piece of granite, weighing an estimated 81 tones. The dome was hauled into place along a 6 km earthwork ramp in a manner similar to the one used by the Egyptian Pyramids. The temple has been the sense of continuous worship for over thousand years. Only Hindus are allowed inside.

 The 'Vimana' - or the temple tower - is 66 m high, the Kalash or 'Shikhara' (apex or the bulbous structure on the top) of the temple is of monolithic granite weighing 81.25 tons. There is a big statue of Nandi (sacred bull), carved out of a single rock, at the entrance measuring about 16 feet long and 13 feet high. The entire temple structure is made out of hard granite stones, a material sparsely available currently in Thanjavur area where the temple is located. The surrounding shrines has a number of Shivlingas. It is still a place of worship.
Brihadeeswara Temple TanjoreThe Brihadeswara temple is one of the most ancient and the most celebrated Hindu temple in the world. The temple is located in the city of Thanjavur that is also known as Tanjore, in the Indian province of Tamilnadu. The UNESCO has adjudged this thousand years old temple a "World Heritage Site".

History of Brihadeshvara Temple (built 11th century):-

Brihadeshvara temple was commissioned around the year 1000 by King Rajaraja "King of Kings" of the Chola kingdom (r. 985 - 1013), whose rule was based in Thanjavur. The temple is dedicated to Lord Brihadeshvara, a manefestation of Shiva. In many ways the temple is representative of the south Indian (a.k.a. Dravadian) style of architecture: Its main feature is a pyramid-shaped "vimanam", or tower, that consists of many horizontal layers of stone that taper closer to the top, forming the characteristic profile of Dravadian architecture. Vertically the vimanam is organized by pilasters that break up the facade of the base, creating spaces for niches and windows in between. However, the temple departs from southern Indian convention in one significant way: the vimanam is taller than the "gopuram" (gateways) of the temple's walls. Normally the gopuram are taller than the vimana.

A unique feature of this temple is its "shikhara". In Northern Indian architecture, the shikhara refers to the mass of superstructure that rises above the temple's base, but in the South, such as Thanjavur, the "shikhara" refers only to the finial of the superstructure (i.e., the capstones). Brihadeshvara's shikhara, which sits atop the vimanam, is carved out of a single large mass of stone weighing 81 tons. Legend says that the stone was brought from a site six kilometers away using a specially designed ramp.

The exterior of the temple is dominated by hundreds of stucco sculptures, most of which were probably painted originally. In the interior, the inner sanctum contains a massive Shiva lingam that is the object of devotion.

 Brihadeshvara Means:-

The name of the goddess is Brihannayaki and the deity of Jwaraharaeswara is said to control fever. It is believed that an offering to the deity when somebody has a chronic fever will release him of the sickness. The sandal paste given to apply over the body subsides the suffering. There is also a 55 foot high temples encloses within the premises of Lord Subramanya.


In the inner sanctum is the gigantic Maha-linga, 3.5 metres (10½ feet) high and 7½ m (25 ft) in circumference. It is said that when the linga was taken from the Narmada River, it kept increasing in size; which is why the linga is known as Brihadeeswara. There are over 250 lingas in the temple. There are fresco paintings on the ceiling and walls of the inner sanctum dated to the Chola period. These often cannot be viewed, but there are reproductions of the paintings in the museum.

Some major attractions of the temple are:-

    An Archaeological Museum in the inner courtyard of the temple.
    An idol of Nandi Bull guarding the gopuram.
    Rich carvings of the ancient times.
    A portrait of the king Rajaraja with his Guru, Karur Thevar.
    A picture of royal visit to Chidambaram, and lord Shiva riding a chariot drawn by Brahma.
    A huge Shiva lingam inside the sanctum.
    The inner mandapa, surrounded by massive walls that are divided into different levels by sharply cut sculptures and pilasters providing.


south Indian style of temple architecture: The basic structure of temples in India is a room or the Garbha Griha (sanctum sanctorum) where the idol of the main deity is kept. The temple is approached by a flight of steps and is often built on a platform. A porch covers the entrance to the temples, which is supported by carved pillars. A prominent roof called the shikhara surmounts the top of the Garbha Griha and dominates the surroundings. Gradually, with the passage of time, small temples grew into temple complexes.

Temple architecture in India is broadly divided into the northern and southern styles, classified by the form and shape of the shikhara and the distinctiveness of its decoration. The shikhara of the temples in south India tend to be made up of distinct horizontal levels that diminish to form a rough pyramid. Each level is decorated with miniature temple rooftops. Some south Indian temples also have tall shikharas over the elaborate gateways or gopurams, to add to the overall symmetry to the temple complex. The shikhara of the temples in north and central India, in contrast, resembles an upturned cone that is decorated with miniature conical shikharas.

The Brihadeeswarar temple has a tall sanctum tower (or the srivimana) and gopurams (elaborate gateways), which conform to the principles of the south Indian temple architecture.

BBrihadeshvara Temple:-

The origin of the magnificent Brihadeeswarar temple goes back to the late 10th and the early 11th century, when Rajaraja Chola, the great Chola ruler, ruled a kingdom that spread through a large part of peninsular India. Rajaraja Chola, like other Chola rulers, was a great patron of art and architecture. During the time of the Cholas, most of the magnificent temples as well as exquisite bronze sculptures in south India were created. The style and grace of these sculptures and temples, and an eye for the minutest of the details, till today, is without parallel.

Sama Varma was the chief architect of the Chola court and was commissioned by Rajaraja Chola to build the House of God. Sama Varma began his work diligently and took his work seriously. He began to design a structure, which was to stand on a 29 m square base and rise up to a height of about 65 m. Like all other Chola temples, the Brihadeeswarar temple is also a fully carved structure.

Brihadeeswarar temple stands within a huge compound, the walls of which rise above 15 m. Rajaraja Chola built only the inner sanctum sanctorum and the gopuram (tower) on top of it over a period of 12 years. He crowned its glory with 12.5 feet tall finial of 9.25 kg of copper plated with 800 g of gold. Subsequent rulers kept adding to the whole complex, but interestingly, one will not find any of the additions jarring or out of step with the whole.

On entering the temple complex, one will find himself in a huge rectangular enclosure paved with stones. The corridor is at once peaceful and welcoming and, unlike other temples, does not house shops. Moving ahead, one will find the stone Nandi[six meters long and three meters height] (the biggest of its own kind); (a bull, the mount of Lord Shiva). Before entering the sanctum sanctorum, one will come across two idols of the elephant-headed god Ganesha in the corridor. Upon tapping the first, one will feel sound traveling through stone, while in the other it feels as if sound is traveling through metal.

Another architectural wonder is seen in the tower on the right. At the top, one will find a huge dome or kalas, which makes the topmost tower. It is made of black granite and estimated to weigh 80 tons. Besides, the vimana or gopuram on which this dome rests is itself 216 feet high. It is a wonder as to how such a heavy monolith was raised and finally placed on top! The solution was ingenious. A long ramp, four miles long, was constructed from the top of the tower—that is, from a height of 216 feet. The ramp ran all the way to another village by the name of Sarapullam. The 80-ton dome was rolled up along this ramp and placed where it stands today!
Together, there are 250 Lingams (statue of lord Shiva) in the entire compound of the temple which is very impressive. Majority of the tourists are attracted because of these multiple Lingams and massive Nandi idol weighing 25 tons.

The temple stands in the middle of a large rectangular court partly occupied by other smaller shrines. It is enteres on the easy through two gateways. The square sanctuary, which is surrounded by a narrow passageway, adjoins an antechamber and a long columned mandapa on the east, approached through an open porch. The double-storey pilastered walls of the sanctuary are aised ona high basement. This is adorned with yalis and makaras (top moulding) and covered with inscriptions relating the origins, construction and endowments of the temple. A seated gana supporrts a spout emerging from the sanctuary basement (north). In the middle of each side of the walls is a doorway flanked by guardian figures with clubs. Thw wall projections have niches occupied by fully modelled images, mostly of Shiva. Among the fines figures are Bikshatanamurti (east end of south wall), dancing Shiva (west end of north wall), Harihara (south end of west wall) and Ardhanarishvara (west end of north wall). Other divinities are carved in the semicircular niche tops. Attendant figures flank pilasters in pots that stand in the recesses.

The steeply pyramidal stone tower rises to height of about 66m (217ft). Thirteen diminishing storeys, each with pilastered walls, an eave and parapet, ascend dramatically to octagonal dome-like roof. Rajaraja's pot finial is still in place at the apex. The projection on the front (east) is partly obscures by later additions.

The walls of the antechamber are triplestoreyed, with doorways on the north and south sides. the acess steps are flanked by balustrades with curved tops and miniature figural panels on the sides. The long mandapa that extends eastwards is only partly completed; the sculptures in the wall niches are mostly unfinished. The entrance porch with an overhanging eave is an addition of the Nayak period; the peripheral columns are fashioned as earing beasts. The mandapa doorway in the porch is guarded by large figures with clubs.

In the middle of the sanctuary is a solossal linga 3.66m(12ft)high, which is elevated on a circular pedestal. The surrounding passageway is divided into chambers; sculptures here include a large standing Shiva image (north wall). Paintings also adorn the walls and ceiling, but these are only partly visible, being overlaid by later Nayaka murals. Among the Chola fragments are delicately coloured scenes of Shiva seated on a lion-skin with dancers and misicians, a royal visit to the temple at Chidambaram (west wall) and Shiva riding in a chariot drawn by Brahma (north wall). Carved on to the basement of the upper passageway walls is a series of 108 miniature dancers in different postures.

A short distance to the east of the temple is a tall lamp-column and a monolithic Nandi image sheltered by a 16th century pavilion. The pavilion has slender columns with carvings of devotees on the shafts. Among the subsidiary buildings is the Chandeshvara shrine, which faces southwards towards the main temple. The sanctuary of this small building is crowned with an octogonal roof; the basement and wall details imitate those of the main temple but on a smaller scale.

Another shrine north-west of the main temple is dedecated to Subrahmanya. This finely finished monument dates from the 17th century. It has delicately carved basement mouldings and wall pilasters. The parapet and tower are executed in in pilaster covered brickwork. A mandapa in the north-east corner of the enclosure belongs to the same era.
 The 64.8 metre-tall, 14-tier and pyramid-shaped vimanam rises from a square base and is topped by a huge monolithic cupola weighing 81.3 tonnes. The shadow of the cupola never falls on the ground.

Till Date its the tallest temple:-

The temple was built at a fair clip, completed in mere 7 years, amounting to moving and placing almost 50 tons of rock each and every day, not to forget carving and aligning it. When the Brihadeeswara temple was completed in 1003 CE, it was the tallest temple in India by an order of magnitude of 10. A thousand years later, standing at 216 feet, it is still the tallest temple in India. Atop the soaring vimaana –the tower above the main temple and a word that translates to “airplane”– is a capstone that weighs 80 tons. The best thing in the chola temples is that the tower lies over the sanctums has more elevation as compared to the towers set over the gopuram (tower) that could be found at the entrance. After dusk, when the temple is been illuminated, its topmost light over the dome seems not less than another planet glowing and coming closer to the earth. This attraction is the tallest in its line that draw thousands of people to its area.

The long prakaram surrounds the great temple (500 feet/250 feet), and the walls surrounding the prakaram again go back to Raja Raja Cholan's period. The walls house long pillared corridors, which abound in murals, Shiva Lingams and Nandis. The Periya Nayaki temple within the temple is a later addition from the Pandya period, and so is the Subramanyar Temple sung later by the Saint poet Arunagirinathar.

Incidents from the lives of the Nayanmars, several of the 108 Bharata Natyam Dance postures, manifestations of Shiva (Aadalvallaan - Nataraja, Tripurantaka, Dakshinamurthi etc.) are depicted in sculptured panels or in exquisite Chola murals. Both the interior, and the exterior walls of the temple, are replete with images of the kind described above.

The sanctum, the ardhamandapam, the mukhamandapam and the Mahamandapam, although distinct, form a composite unit with an imposing appearance that awes visitors, forcing one to wonder how such timeless architectural feat was executed about a 1000 years ago. Entrances to the Mandapams and the towered entrances to the Prakarams are majestic. The grandeur of the architecture and the sculptural finesse speaks volumes of the skills of the Imperial Cholas.

Inscriptions refer to Shiva as Dakshina Meru Vitankar and Aadavallan. The Nandi, which dates back to the Nayak period, is housed in its own mandapam and it matches up to the grandeur and size of the temple. It is a monolithic Nandi weighing about 25 tonnes, and is about 12 feet high and 20 feet long.

On the south wall of the Pradaksina-Patha Shiva is depicted preaching under a sacred tree, on the north wall Shiva is shown exterminating demons residing in three cities, and on the west wall is Shiva welcomes a saint on Mt. Kailasa in the Himalayas. In one scene, Shiva with eight arms is on a chariot being lead by the god of creation, Brahma, and in another scene, he practices yoga on a tiger skin, wearing a serpent on his neck and upper arm.

Shadow Disappears at noon:-

The most intersting part of this temple is the shadow of the temple, which surprisingly never falls on the ground at noon. The Brihadeshwar Temple is one of the tallest temples in the world and is so designed that the viman does not cast a shadow at noon during any part of the year.

Musical pillars:-

At the entrance of sanctum sanctorum, one can see the two idols of Ganesha in the corridor. On taping the two, you will feel the sound traveling through stone in one idol and through metal on the other.  The main hall of the temple is said to have been used by the dancers and musicians performing in service of Shiva. There are some musical pillars producing different sounds when tapped.

Temple Deities:-

Shiva Lingam at the temple:-

The "moolavar" or prime deity of the Brihadeeswarar Temple is Shiva. All deities, particularly those placed in the niches of the outer wall (Koshta Moorthigal) like Dakshinamurthy, Surya, Chandra are of huge size. The Brihadiswarar temple is one of the rare temples which has idols for "Ashta-dikpaalakas" (Guardians of the directions) — Indra, Agni, Yama, Nirṛti, Varuṇa, Vāyu, Kubera, Īśāna – each of whom was originally represented by a life-sized statue, approximately 6 feet tall, enshrined in a separate temple located in the respective direction. (Only Agni, Varuṇa, Vāyu and Īśāna are preserved in situ.)

Dance of Devadasies for Brihadeshvara:-

When the Brihadishwara Temple dedicated to Shiva was completed in the capital of the Chola Empire in the early 11th century, its priests went around the country to seek unmarried pretty girls to make them ‘Devadasies,’ which means ‘God’s servants.’
They belonged to the temple with the role of dedicating dances to the main god Shiva, for the purpose of which they had to be virgin and come from a good family, for they would hold the matrimonial ceremony with the God after finishing their education.
These selected Devadasies entered this great temple before puberty, mastered dancing, and entertained the God by singing and dancing every evening, revering their future husband.


The day of the Ruling star, satabhishag is treated as a festival day every month as it symbolizes the ruling star at the time of birth of Rajaraja. The annual festival is held for 9 days in the month of Visaka or May according to the English calender. The deity is bathed with the water soaked with the fragrant Champaka flower.

Places to see:-


The Palace of Tanjore also makes an important tourist destination. The royal Palace near the massive Brihadeeswara temple is characterised by its vast corridors, large halls, shady courtyards and observation and arsenal towers. Built by the Nayaks in the mid-16th century, the Palace was completed by the Marathas. The Durbar Hall of the palace still retains the grandeur of the bygone era. The palace also functions as a Royal Museum housing a diverse collection of royal remnants, compilations of the early 19th century, the king’s slippers, head dresses and hunting tools.


Kumbakonam is another important site to include in your excursion itinerary. Located at a distance of 36 kilometres from Tanjore, Kumbakonam is famous for its four temples namely the Saragapani, Kumbeswarar, Nagaswara and the Ramaswamy. The place also gets mentioned for its Mahamaham festival celebrated once in twelve years.


Located at a distance of 32 kilometres from the main Tanjore city, Swamimalai is also one of the many important religious excursion sites. The place is famous for Arupadaivaadu, one of the six abodes of Lord Murugan (one of the two sons of Lord Shiva). The wonderful brass works of Swamimalai is also famous.


Located at a distance of about 10 kilometres from the main Tanjore, Thirukandiyur is an important religious tourist destination. Thirukandiyur is famous for the temples of Brahma Sri Kandeswarar and Harsha Vimochana. A visit to the temple will also give you the idea of the ancient form of Dravidian architecture.


Located 13 km from Tanjore, this is another important place to include in your excursion itinerary. Thiruvaiyaru is also famous for the saint Thyagaraja's annual celebrations. Saint Thyagaraja together with Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Sastri were the maestros of Carnatic music. Situated on the banks of the river Cauvery, this place is also an important religious destination for the follower of Hinduism. Thiruvaiyaru has an old Shiva temple dedicated to Lord Panchanatheeswar.


Thiruvarur is one of the important pilgrimage sites of Tamil Nadu. Located at a distance of 55 kilometres from Tanjore, it attracts number of religious tourists towards its Thiyagarajaswami Temple. This temple is the biggest chariot temple in Tamil Nadu. This place is also revered as the birth place of Saint Thiyagaraja, one of the musical trinity of south India.


Tirunallur is located at a distance of 95 kilometres from Tanjore. The town is famous for its Shivastalam, a Maadakkovil built at an elevation. According to the legends, Agasthyar is said to have been blessed with a vision of the marriage of Shiva here. Bhringi Muni and Narasimhar are also said to have worshipped in this place. The legend of the trial of strength between Vayu and Adisesha where the peak of Mt. Meru (Sundaragiri) fell at Nallur and formed a Shivalingam, is also related to this place. Tirunallur, referred to as Dakshina Kailasam is also famous for its Shivalingam that is believed to manifest itself in five different colours in a day.

Darasuram temple:-
Raja Raja Chola II built the Airateswara or Darasuram temple. It is an excellent example of 12th century Chola architecture and is well preserved to this day. The frontal columns of the temple have unique miniature sculptures.

During the 14th century the large stone statues surrounding the temple were replaced with brick and mortar statues similar to those found at the Big Temple in Thanjavur. The Archaeological Survey of India has restored the temple. This has been declared as a world Heritage Monument.


Papanasam (30 kms) There are two temples; The Pallaivanatha Swamy temple constructed by the Chola King and the other is the 108 Sivalayam temples. There are also a Granary (storehouse of paddy) which measure 86 feet in width and has a height of 36 feet with a capacity of 3,000 kalam which is a measure. The Nayaks between 1600-1634 constructed it. The State Archaeological Department declared it as a monument. One can see the 108 Sivalingams only in the temple in Papanasam.


 Sri DurgaiAmman Temple is situated at Patteeswaram, a village near Kumbakonam, Tamilnadu, India.
This Durga when worshipped by the Cholas was so very powerful that the Chola kings have left an indelible mark in the history of India by their constructional work. With the blessings of Goddess Durga, the Chola princes were able to construct 1000 Shivalinga. The Goddess is so powerful that since her arrival at this temple, the original temple has lost its prominence and people throng for blessings from her only.


Rajah Serfoji built this 8-storey victory town in 1814 to commemorate the victory of the British over Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo.

It is situated on the shore of Bay of Bengal in Sarabendrajanpathinam village about 20 km. South of Pattukottai Town, in Tanjore Dist. Manora is the grand and gregarious old town with lowerly architecture and surroundings. This ancient fort Monument is styled 'Manora' a derivation from "Minors" of North Indian architecture. This historical Monument majestically shooting up in thin air, 140 feet height. Manora is a pleasing blend of Roman pillar architecture a combination very serious and striking to artistic eyes. This hexogen shapped 10 storyed fort represents the 19th Century architectural taste of Maratha king serfoji of Thanjavur. The panosanic views foamler sea, the floating boats, breezy coconut trees, scattered fisherman houses taking different beautiful shaper at every story.

Siva Ganga Tank:-

This water tank lies beyond the North west compound of Brahadeeswarar Temple. It is surrounded by large walls and known for it’s sweet water.

How to Reach:-

» By Air :-
 The nearest airport is situated at Trichy which is 65-km from Thanjavur.

» By Rail :-
 The railway station at Thanjavur is well connected with Trichy, Chennai, Madurai and Nagore.

» By Road :-
 Thanjavur is well connected by road with all the major towns and cities in Tamil Nadu and also with Kochi, Ernakulam, and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Bangalore in Karnataka. There are regular bus services for visiting all the places of interest in and around Thanjavur.


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  2. Nice post. Brihadishwara Temple is one of the largest temples in India and is rightly called the 'Big Temple'. When it comes to Thanjavur, his city is home to Brahadeeswara Temple, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, built in the 11th Century AD. If you are planning a visit to the historical city, there are hotels in Thanjavur that provide accommodation in budget.

  3. Wonderful post!! thanks for this lovely post in this blog. Loved to read this blog. Well written about this place with more information. Make your trip to these place by booking your bus tickets in SRM Travels.

  4. The sanctuary is encompassed by gardens and the passageway to the sanctuary complex is free of cost.
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