Updated May 25, 2023
About Brihadisvara Temple
Thanjavur, historically Tanjore, a district in Tamilnadu, is a well-known city whose monuments reflect the culture of ancient India. This city, on the banks of the Kaveri River, displays the splendor of the imperial era. The Brihadisvara Temple, often referred to as Thanjai Periya Koil (Big Temple), is in the Thanjavur district and has always mystified tourists and archaeologists with its ornate architecture and incredible craftsmanship.
Thanjavur was an important location during the Vijayanagara, Maratha, and British eras and served as the first capital of the Chola empire from the ninth to the eleventh century. It is now a major tourist destination in Tamil Nadu, incorporating historically significant temples and locations.
History of Brihadisvara Temple
In 1010, the great Chola emperor Raja Raja Chola I built the Brihadisvara temple. The detailed inscriptions on the stones of this temple describe the tradition, rituals, and offerings of the time. People worship Lord Siva as the chief deity of this temple.
There are many tales addressing the Brihadisvara temple’s origins and history. According to a story, Raja Raja Chola dreamt of Lord Siva and this temple while visiting Ceylon (Sri Lanka), following which he built this temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The temple boasts a 1000-year-old history. One of the biggest and oldest Hindu temples, Brihadisvara Temple, is on the list of “Great Living Chola Temples” and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Significance of Architecture
Brihadishwara temple is a remarkable visual reflection of the architectural skill and richness of the Chola kingdom. The sculptures in the temple are explicit depictions of the holy rituals practiced at that time. Some paintings depict religious events associated with Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism, which were prevalent at the time.
The building style of this temple has adaptations to Davidian architecture. The temple and its surroundings comprise a magnificent structure that took 12 years to complete. It is a large temple built on an elevated hilltop, following the principles of geometry and symmetry. The temple complex measures 790 feet by 400 feet in size.
Sections of Brihadisvara Temple Complex
- Visitors can observe the Siva deity in the main block, at the Garbhagriha or Sanctum.
- The enormous Nandi statue (sacred bull), which represents the temple’s guard, is at the entrance to the sanctum in the Nandi hall. This Nandi statue weighs around 25 tons. Sculptures crafted this statue in a huge single stone.
- Two big halls in the temple are Mukha mandapam (community hall) and Maha mandapam (big hall for gatherings).
- Antrala is a pavilion connecting the Mukha mandapam and sanctum.
- Vimanam, a temple tower With a height of 208 feet, is the highest granite tower in southern India.
- The temple’s primary deity, the Siva Linga, is a massive monolithic statue in India that stands 29 feet tall in the temple’s sanctuary.
- The stones have lengthy notes called inscriptions on them. According to the descriptions, the principal architect of this temple is Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Perunthachan.
- Brihadisvara temple has sculptures of Ashta dikpalakas (guards of the directions). Only a few Indian temples include such statues.
- Apart from the main sanctum, the complex has Goddess Parvathi and Lord Karthikeya shrines.
- Walls in the hallway have murals and sculptures depicting Lord Shiva dancing.
Unique Engineering Marvels
The artistic marvels of Brihadisvara temple are one-of-a-kind. Those who constructed the temple employed over 130,000 tons of granite stones to build the main building. The enigma is that there are no nearby sources of granite. The interlocking granite slabs that run throughout the temple are another technical wonder. Today, people bind granite stones for such massive projects, and this type of construction is an example of rare architectural brilliance.
Granite is such a rigid material, and it is impossible to do any carving on it. Still, we can see thousands of Inscriptions in unique styles on the granite stones.
Several wars and invasions destroyed the temple’s architecture. However, the ruling kingdoms attempted to repair and reestablish it occasionally.
In September 2010, to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the establishment of the Brihadisvara temple, the Indian Postal Service issued a rupee stamp featuring the 216-foot tall Raja Gopuram (Vimana).
As part of the Shivratri celebrations, the temple also hosts festivals and dance performances that give visitors a delightful experience. Brihadisvara temple tells excellent stories about India’s enthralling history and the zenith of the Chola kingdom.
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