Tamil Nadu Brihadeeswarar Temple
|Location||Tanjore or Thanjavur, Tamilnadu|
|Built by||Raja Raja Chola I|
|Built in||11th century AD|
|Also known as||Brihadeeswarar Temple, Big Temple|
|Proper name||Peruvudaiyaar Temple|
|Primary deity||Lord Shiva|
|Important festivals||Maha Shivaratri|
|Architectural styles||Dravidian Architecture|
|Attraction||The Palace, Art Gallery, Hall of Music|
|Status||World Heritage Monument|
Peruvudaiyar Koyil is also called as Brihadeeswarar Temple as well as Rajarajeswaram, and is situated in the city of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu in India. It is a temple of hindu religion and the main deity is Lord Shiva, reflecting the important achievements of Tamil style of architecture, patronized by Chola dynasty. The temple is a refelection and a tribute forwarded to the power of one of the Chola kings, Raja Raja Chola. This is india’s biggest temple and an great example glorifying Indian architecture. The temple has been declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO as Great Living Chola Temples.
In terms of architectural magnificence, this temple is among india’s best. There are walls fortifying the temple, which were built probably during 16th century. The temple tower or vimana is about 216 ft high and could easily be the tallest of such structures in entire world. The apex structure in a bulbous form called as Kumbam or Chikharam or Kalash on top of the temple is made of a number of stones, contrary to belief of it being made from single stone. Nandi statue is made from a single stone, which is present in the entrance and measures about 13 feet high and 16 feet long. Hard rock of granite is used to make the whole of the temple, which was not easily found in area of Thanjavur where the temple is located. Raja Raja Chola built this temple in 1010 AD, which is also known by the name of Big Temple, complete 1000 years of existence in 2010
Brihadeeswarar Temple was started by the laying of its foundation by Arulmozhivarman, who was also known as Raja Raja Chola I in about 1000 CE, and it was the first of major building projects by Tamil Chola dynasty. Raja Raja Chola was among the greatest emperors in Tamil, belonging to Chola dynasty, who received the command to build the temple in his dreams. It is in tradition to Chola dynasty that the temple has such grandeur and scale. Temple has been laid out in a symmetrical and axial geometry. Starting from this era to following couple of centuries, temples were the way of expression of wealth artistic exposure and power of chola kings. As per the new style of chola architecture, the columns with multifacets and capitals with square projections were signaling the arrival of a new style. The temple of Brihadeeswarar was supposed to be the new temple for royal family, displaying the power and universal order relationship of the emperor. It was in this temple that many ceremonies of the royal family were conducted like that of the emperor’s anointing, whereby the king was linked with presiding deity, Lord Shiva and king’s daily rituals were done with the same scale as that of the deity. Dravida style of architecture of the temples was showcased in this temple, which also was a true representation of ideologies of Chola empire and much of the civilization of Tamils in Southern India. Aptly enough, the temples of this era were a statement dictating the achievements of kings of Chola dynasty in terms of paintings and art, sculpture and architecture
Axially aligned structures make up much of the temple. Entry point could be from one point through a gopuram of 5 stories or from another point into the large quadrangle from a small gopuram. A large shikhara of about 16 stories articulated together can also be found, with every surface having been covered by Pilaster, rhythmically attached columns as well as piers.
Main temple is located in the quadrangular space at the centre, where a sanctuary is present, along with assembly hall, a large hall with pillars and nandi with many other small shrines. Mandapa at the inner part is the most deepest of the temple, where huge walls surround, with divisions into various levels by means of pilasters and sculptures. There is a bay on each side of the sanctuary, which lays stress on chief icon. Dravidian architecture style is used to make the chamber which is innermost, which appears in the form of a small vimana along with features that resemble architecture style of many south Indian temples. There is a pradakshina surrounding a garbhagriha, which has been created by construction of an outer wall outside the inner wall. Square shaped garbhagriha surrounds the house where the deity is present. Towards the eastern side of the Irumudi Soran, there is the hall used for royal bathing.
Passing from the inner mandapa, one can reach the mandapa of rectangular shape and then enter into a porch with twenty columns, where 3 staircases are located which go downwards. Main temple is surrounded by two enclosures of high walls. A large gopuram is present in the outer wall and a portico surrounds the barrel shaped gopuram, inside which are 400 pillars surrounded by a high wall. Many other idols of deities located inside are quite hugely built such as those of Lord Surya, Dakshinamurthy and Chandra. 6 feet tall deities representing 8 directions are also present. A total of about 130,000 tons of stone of granite has gone into the making of this temple. In the whole of south India, the temple has the tallest vimana.
Chola empire’s ideology is clearly reflected in this temple and in terms of architecture and sculpture, the temples is one of the biggest achievements of Chola dynasty
How to Reach
Reaching Thanjavur is quite easy by rail, road and air.Frequent buses by state government of Tamil Nadu, travel from various nearby cities such as Chennai, Trichy, Pattukkottai, Pudukkottai, Kumbakonam, Karur, Tirunelveli, Coimbatore, Nagapattinam, Erode, Coimbatore as well as many other cities in Tamil Nadu. The national highway NH-45 from capital city of Chennai links the city with Mayavaram, Chidambaram, Thanjavur, Kumbakonam, Nagappatinam and Thiruvarur, giving easy access for tourists who are arriving in their trips to Thanjavur and other cities nearby. Even private buses are also operated in these routes.
Railway connections provided by Indian Railways are found from various cities all over india such as Erode, Coimbatore, Chennai, Madurai, Thirunelveli and nagore. Station giving access to Thanjavur is Thanjavur junction.
Nearest airport, at a distance of 65 kms is Tiruchirapalli airport
The temple structure, which is the main, is present in the middle of the large quadrangle space, and has a sanctuary, hall with pillars, small hall for assembly, nandi idol and many smaller shrines. Inner mandapa is the significant part of the large temple and has large walls surrounding it which is further divided into different levels by means of sculptures, and pilasters where various recesses and bays are formed. On either side of the sanctuary, there is a bay area, giving further importance to the important icons. Kuravarai is the inside of the sanctum sanctorum is considered to be innermost portion and is where the deity is placed. A linga can also be found inside this structure, which in tamil literature means womb chamber from foetus. Priests have permission to enter into this chamber.
As per the style of dravidan architecture, Karuvarai is found in the form of a small vimana, where other structural features found exclusively with architectural styles of south Indian temples can be seen, where outer wall surrounding the inner wall, forming a pradakshina surrounding a garbhagriha can be seen for going around in circles. Point of entrance has plenty of decorations. The inner chamber where the deity is found is called as the garbhgriha or inner sanctum sanctorum. Garbhagriha is square shaped and is perched on a plinth, and its situation has been calculated from a point which is having total equilibrium as well as harmony, as it brings a representation to the universal microcosm, at the centre of which is the presence of a deity. A place where gifts were given by Raja Raja, is the royal bathing hall, is located towards the eastern side of Irumudi Soran hall. It is around the lingam that the circumambulation goes in a circle within the garbhagriha and then into an upper level which was a reflection of the idea of Chola Empire providing access to superpowers.
From the inner mandapa, one can go into the rectangular mandapa, and then there is the path to reach the porch with twenty columns, where 3 staircases are present, going downwards. A small plinth made of stone is extended from the inner sanctum, which is the place for Shiva’s sacred ride of Nandi, the bull
Significance of the Temple
Thanjavur Brihadeeswara is another important temple among those which were built by Cholas, which was constructed by Raja Raja Chola, considered to be the greatest Chola king. This temple is dedicated to the ride of Lord Shiva, and is also another of the masterpieces of architecture of Cholas. The idol of Nandi, the bull mount of Shiva has been crafted from a single rock of granite.
Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple is another one of Chola rule’s masterpieces in architecture in South India and is considered to be having the highest tower at 216 ft above sanctum sanctorum, in contrast to other temples. Art was highly patronized by cholas and a number of magnificent temples were constructed during their rule, and also many icons made of bronze in South India. Sama Varma is considered to have designed the temple, where temple doesn’t cast any shadows at any time of the year. This is a justification of the strongly believed fact that the supreme is not there but still there. As far as architectural style of Dravidian is concerned, this temple has been the best contribution from the dynasty of the Cholas.
Brihadeeswara temple has been enlisted in the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in India, in the list of historical monuments and sites
Brihadeeswarar temple was constructed by Raja Raja Chola in the year 1010 CE and this big temple completed 1000 years in 2010. For the celebration of this occasion, a number of cultural functions were organized by the town authorities and b y state government. On this day, Raja Raja Chola commemorated the 275th day of his 25 years of rule by giving a Kalasam made with gold plating to be crowned over the vimana for final consecration over the sanctum having a 59.82 metre tall tower
State government made arrangements for the occasion by conducting Bharathanatyam Yajna, which was a grand dance show of the classical form of dance, under the lookout of famous dancer Padma Subramaniam. Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India along with Brhan Natyanjali Trust of Thanjavur organized this grand yajna. About 1000 dancers from various places like Mumbai, New Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Malaysia, Singapore, and US got together for a dance concert to mark the 1000th year of this temple, and a total of 11 verses were recorded on the music of Thiruvichaippa, which Karuvur Thevar had composed.
On this day, the town of Thanjavur became a hub of cultural function, lasting 2 days from September 26, 2010, with many dancers and performers coming together all over the town
Commemorative stamp and coin
On 26th September, which was the fifth day of Big Temple’s celebration of completing a millennium, a postage stamp of INR 5 was released by postal department where the Raja Gopuram of 216 feet height was features, so as to mark the contribution of the Big Temple towards architectural, cultural and epigraphical history in India.
Reserve Bank of India also contributed by the release of a coil of INR 5, to commemorate the occasion, wherein the temple model was embossed. Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Mr A Raja released the special stamp of Brihadeeswarar temple which G K Vasan, who was the Cabinet Minister of Shipping received.
A commemorative coin of Rs 1000 was also released with this particular picture present on Rs 5 coin. In the history of India’s coinage, this is the first of 1000 rupees coin. The coin was included under Non Circulative Legal Tender.
Reserve Bank of India had launched in 1954, a currency coin of Rs 1000, where the Brihadeeswarar temple was presented in a panoramic view showcasing the significance and cultural importance of the temple. Then in 1975, Indira Gandhi led government under her prime ministership had demonetized the INR 1000 notes to put stop to black money. Collectors have a special popularity for these coins.
M Karunanidhi, who was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, renamed a special type of high quality and productivity variant of paddy, Semmai Paddy as Raja Rajan-1000 in order to mark the completion of 1000 years of Raja Raja Chola, the builder of this Big Temple.
Timings and entry charges
6:30 am to 8:30 pm
Entry Charges & Fees
Entry charges are:
- Indians: None
- Foreigners: None
- Camera: None
- Camera: None
Weather and time to Visit
Temperatures in Thanjavur range from pleasant to hot
- Summer season extends from March to May, where the temperature can go from 25 deg C to 40 deg C, where the tourists prefer not to come to this place in April and May.
- From June to September extends the monsoon season, along with rains, during which time the region looks quite beautiful and is a relief from scorching summers.
- Winters extend from December to February with pleasant climate having temperatures from 20 to 30 deg C.
For visiting the temple, the best time is Satabhishag, which is the Ruling Star Day, and during which the festival day is held every month because it was the day of birth of Rajaraja. In the month of May or Visaka, for 9 days the annual festival is held as per the English calendar. During this time, deity is bathed in water and champaka flower with high fragrance is used to soak the deity.
Tamil Nadu Hotel, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu
Near Railway Station
Tamil Nadu, India
Tariff: Rs. 700 - 1200
Includes: only double rooms
93, Adraham Panditha Road
Tariff: Rs. 400 – 800
Includes: Only Double Room