The Brihadeeswarar Temple which is also famous as Periya Kovil, Peruvudaiyar Kovil, Rajarajeswaram and RajaRajeshwara Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva that is located in the city of Thanjavur in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This temple is built by emperor Raja Raja Chola I and completed in 1010 AD. It is an important example of Tamil architecture achieved during the Chola dynasty. It is one of the largest temples in India and one of India's most prized architectural sites. It is also a part of UNESCO World Heritage Site as “Great Living Chola Temples”.
The Temple stands in middle of fortified walls added probably in sixteenth century. There is one temple tower, which people call as Vimana. It is 216 feet or 66 meters high. It is also one among tallest tower in whole world in its kind. Kumbam, Chikharam or Kalasha, which is bulbous, or apex structure on top of temple, people believe that it is made out of a single stone carving.
There is one statue of a sacred bull or Nandi at entrance of this temple measuring about thirteen feet high and sixteen feet long. It is result of a single rock carving. Entire structure of temple is made of granite, whose nearest source are near Tiruchchirapalli, which is nearly 60 kms to Thanjavur’s west, where temple is.
First rectangular wall surrounding main temple is 270 meters by 140 meters marks outer boundary. Main temple lies in center of spacious quadrangle, which composes of one sanctuary, one Nandi, one pillared hall, one assembly hall or mandapas and several sub-shrines. Most significant part of this temple is an inner mandapa. Massive walls surround it, which are divided with sharply cut pilasters and sculptures into levels providing deep recesses and bays. Sanctuary’s each side has one bay emphasizing main cult icons. Karuvarai is a Tamil word, which means interior of sanctum sanctorum. It is innermost sanctum and main focus of temple where resides one image of primary deity, Shiva. Inside is one big stone linga. Karuvarai is a Tamil word, means “womb chamber”. Karu is for foetus. Only priests can enter inner-most chamber.
In Dravida style, Karuvarai takes form of one miniature Vimana along with other many features, which are exclusive to temple architecture in southern India, such as inner wall along with outer wall creates one pradakshina around Garbhagriha for pradakshina or circumambulation. There is a high end decoration on entrance. Inside chamber housing an image of God is sanctum sanctorum or Garbhagriha. Garbhagriha is in shape of a square, sitting on one plinth. Its location as they calculate is one point of complete harmony and equilibrium, as its representative of one microcosm of universe. In center an image of deity found its place. A royal bathing-hall is to east of Irumudi-Soran hall, it is where Raja Raja the great used to give gifts.
In Garbhagriha, circumambulation wraps around massive lingam and repeats itself in one upper storey, which presents an idea that Empire of Cholas offers access to gods to all and not just for priests.
From inner mandapa a way leads out towards one rectangular mandapa further towards one 20-columned porch having 3 staircases leading downwards. Sharing similar stone plinth there is one small and open mandapa, which is dedicated towards Nandi a sacred bull of God Shiva.
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, Nirá¹›ti, Varuá¹‡a, VÄyu, Kubera, ÄªÅ›Äna – 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.
A widely held, though disputed, belief is that the shadow of the gopuram (pyramidal tower usually over the gateway of a temple) never falls on the ground. The temple is said to be made up of about 60,000 tons of sandstone and granite. The Kumbam itself, a 60-ton granite stone carved in one piece, on top of the main gopuram is believed to have been taken to the top by creating an inclined slope to the height of 66m to the top of the gopuram. Elephants might have been used to drag the stone up the slope.
People treat Day of Ruling star or satabhishag as one festival day in every month during a year, as it symbolizes a ruling star when Raja Raja was born.
In month of May or Visaka according to English calendar, an annual festival took place for nine days. Devotees bath their deity with Champaka flower fragrance soaked water.
The temple remains open every day from 6:00 AM to 8:30 PM
Time between October and March is perfect and ideal for visits by tourists and to temples.
Nearby Places to Visit:
- Manora Fort
- Thanjavur Palace
- Saraswathi Mahal Library
- Siva Ganga Garden
- Schwartz Church
City : Thanjavur
Dist. : Thanjavur
State : Tamil Nadu
Country : India
PIN : 431001
How to Reach:
The nearest Airport Tiruchirapalli (58 kms) and is connected by Indian Airlines. Indian Airlines also connects Trichy with Madurai and Chennai.
Tanjore. There are trains to Chennai (9 hr, 3 daily), Chidambaram (3 hr, 4 daily), Rameswaram, Madurai (6 hr, 2 daily), Villupuram (for Pondicherry) (6 hr, 190km), Tirupati, Kumbakonam (1 hr) and Tiruchirappalli (1½ hr, several).
Thanjavur is connected with all major cities.
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