Brihadeeshwara Temple of Shiva Membalam Road, , Balaganapathy Nagar, Thanjavur-613001

One of the most spectacular pieces of south indian temple architecture. Constructed by the Chola dynasty. Commonly called the "big temple". The 'Vimana' (the central tower of the temple) is visible from quite a distance away.

Temple Etiquette

  • Footwear not allowed inside

    Footwear not allowed inside
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    Footwear to be left outside the temple. In summer be careful of the hot paving stones.

  • Prasad and donation

    Prasad and donation
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    Use your right hand to accept prasad and give donations. The left hand is considered unclean in India.

  • Dress conservatively

    Dress conservatively
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    Avoid shorts, skirts, tanktops and do not expose legs.

  • Restricted entry

    Restricted entry
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    Entry is normally restricted to temple priests in the sanctum sanctorum. Some temples restrict the entry of non-Hindus

  • Avoid cellphones

    Avoid cellphones
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    Use of cell phones is restricted normally. Photography is restricted in some temples.

  • Circumambulation or pradakshina

    Circumambulation or pradakshina
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    Devotees are to walk around the sanctum sanctorum in a clockwise direction


About Brihadeeshwara Temple


The temple had its foundations laid out by the Tamil emperor Arulmozhivarman, popularly called Rajaraja Chola I, (Rājarāja Choļan) in 1002 CE, as the first of the great Tamil Chola building projects.

The Brihadeshwarar Temple was built to grace the throne of the Chola empire in compliance to a command given to him in his dream.
The scale and grandeur is in the Chola tradition. An axial and symmetrical geometry rules the temple layout.Temples from this period and the following two centuries are an expression of the Tamils (Chola) wealth, power and artistic expertise. The emergence of such features as the multifaceted columns with projecting square capitals signal the arrival of the new Chola style.

The Brihadeshwarar Temple was built to be the royal temple to display the emperor's vision of his power and his relationship to the universal order. 


The temple was the site of the major royal ceremonies such as anointing the emperor and linking him with its deity, Shiva, and the daily rituals of the deities were mirrored by those of the king. It is an architectural example showcasing the pure form of the Dravida type of temple architecture and representative of the Chola Empire ideology and the Tamil civilisation in Southern India. The temple "testify to the brilliant achievements of the Chola in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting.

Construction

The wish to build a mammoth temple like this is said to have occurred to Rajaraja while he stayed at Sri Lanka as an emperor.

The esteemed architect and engineer of the temple was Kunjara Mallan Rajaraja Perunthachan as stated in inscriptions found at the temple. The temple was built as per ancient texts called Vaastu Shastras and Agamas. The temple was built using a measure of 1 3/8-inch called an angula (24 units equalling 33 inches called a hasta, muzam, or kishku).

This temple is the first building fully built by granite and finished within 5 Yrs[1004AD – 1009AD]. The solid base of the temple raises about 5 metres (16 feet), above which stone deities and representatives of Shiva dance. The huge kalasam or Vimanam (top portion of the shrine) is believed to weigh 81.28 tonnes of single stone block and was raised to its present height by dragging on an inclined plane of 6.44 km. The big Nandi (bull), weighing about 20 tonnes is made of a single stone and is about 2 m in height, 6 m in length and 2.5 m in width. The presiding deity of lingam is 3.7m tall. The prakaram (outer precincts of the temple) measures 240m by 125m. The outer wall of the upper storey is carved with 81 dance karanas – postures of Bharathanatyam, the classical dance of Tamil Nadu.

The shrine of Goddess was added by Pandyas during the 13th century, Subramanya Shrine by Vijayanagara rulers and the Vinayaka shrine was renovated by Maratha rulers.

Temple complex

The temple complex sits on the banks of a river that was channelled to make a moat around the complex's outer walls, the walls being built like a fortress.
The complex is made up of many structures that are aligned axially. The complex can be entered either on one axis through a five-story gopuram or with a second access directly to the huge main quadrangle through a smaller free-standing gopuram. The massive size of the main Vimanam (Shikhara) is 60 meters high, with 16 elaborately articulated stories, and dominates the main quadrangle. Pilaster, piers, and attached columns are placed rhythmically covering every surface of the Vimanam.

The gopuram of the main entrance is 30 m high, smaller than the vimana. It is unusual in the dravidian architecture where the gopurams are generally the main towers and taller than the vimana.

Main temple

A first rectangular surrounding wall, 270 m by 140 m, marks the outer boundary. The main temple is in the center of the spacious quadrangle composed of a sanctuary, a Nandi, a pillared hall and an assembly hall (mandapas), and many sub-shrines. The most important part of the temple is the inner mandapa which is surrounded by massive walls that are divided into levels by sharply cut sculptures and pilasters providing deep bays and recesses. Each side of the sanctuary has a bay emphasising the principle cult icons.The karuvarai, a Tamil word meaning the interior of the sanctum sanctorum, is the inner most sanctum and focus of the temple where an image of the primary deity, Shiva, resides. Inside is a huge stone linga. The word Karuvarai means "womb chamber" from Tamil word karu for foetus. 


Only priests are allowed to enter this inner-most chamber.

In the Dravida style, the Karuvarai takes the form of a miniature vimana with other features exclusive to southern Indian temple architecture such as the inner wall together with the outer wall creating a pradakshina around the garbhagriha for circumambulation (pradakshina). The entrance is highly decorated. The inside chamber housing the image of the god is the sanctum sanctorum, the garbhagriha.The garbhagriha is square and sits on a plinth, its location calculated to be a point of total equilibrium and harmony as it is representative of a microcosm of the universe. In the center is placed the image of the deity. The royal bathing-hall where Rajaraja the great gave gifts is to the east of the hall of Irumudi-Soran.

The circumambulation winds around the massive lingam in the garbhagriha and is repeated in an upper story, presenting the idea that Chola Empire freely offered access to the gods.

The inner mandapa leads out to a rectangular mandapa and then to a twenty-columned porch with three staircases leading down.
Sharing the same stone plinth is a small open mandapa dedicated to Nandi, Shiva's sacred bull mount.

Temple Deities

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.


Surrounding the main temple are two walled enclosures. The outer wall is high, defining the temple complex area. Here is the massive gopuram or gateway mentioned above. Within this a portico, a barrel vaulted gorpuram with over 400 pillars, is enclosed by a high wall interspersed with huge gopurams axially lined up to the main temple.

Another widely held 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 130,000 tons of 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.

The prevailing belief is that a mud-slope, which starts at about three miles from the temple site, from Thirukoilore (birthplace of Raja raja's mother) near Sri Virateshvara swamy temple.


Elephants might have been used to drag the stone up the slope. This was claimed to be the only part of the gopuram, which does not cast a shadow that fall on the ground, at least not within the temple premises.

Millennium celebrations

A INR 5 Special Commemorative coin released by Reserve Bank of India to mark the millennium year celebrations of the famous Brihadeeswarar Temple built by the great Chola ruler Raja Raja Chola I

INR 1000 currency note released by Reserve Bank of India on 1 April 1954 to honour the historic Brihadeeswarar Temple, a UNESCO World heritage site

Built in the year 1010 CE by Raja Raja Chola in Thanjavur, Brihadeeswarar Temple popularly known as the 'Big Temple' turned 1000 years old in September 2010.
To celebrate the 1000th year of the grand structure, the state government and the town held many cultural events. It was to recall the 275th day of his 25th regal year (1010 CE) when Raja Raja Chola (985–1014 CE) handed over a gold-plated kalasam (copper pot or finial) for the final consecration to crown the vimana, the 59.82-metre tall tower above the sanctum.

 

Sivaganga Garden

Sivaganga Park Balaganapathy Nagar Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu 613007, Thanjavur, Thanjavur (Dist), Tamil Nadu

The garden features a large square tank, built in the 16th century, to provide water to the Thanjavur Palace. The garden as well as the tank was built by Sevappa Nayaka, the 16th century Nayak ruler of Thanjavur.

Thanjavur Royal Palace

Maratha Palace Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu , Thanjavur, Thanjavur (Dist), Tamil Nadu

Thanjavur Royal Palace is one of the most popular attractions of Thanjavur. Thanjavur Royal Palace, situated within the Vijaynagara Fort complex, was the residence of the Nayak Kings of Thanjavur. The royal palace, built in 16th century, later became the seat of the Maratha rulers of Thanjavur in the 17th century. Thanjavur Royal Palace offers Nayak Hall, Durbar Hall, Serfoji’s Saraswati Mahal Library and the arsenal tower for the tourists.

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