The Brihadeeswarar Temple, also known as Rajarajesvaram or Peruvudaiyar Kovil, is a Hindu temple located in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India. It was built by Raja Raja Chola I between 1003 and 1010 AD, and is considered one of the greatest examples of Chola architecture. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and its name “Brihadeeswarar” means “the big or grand Lord of the Universe.”
One of the most striking features of the temple is its massive size. The temple stands at 216 feet (66 meters) tall, which makes it one of the tallest temples in South India. The temple’s main tower (vimana) is crowned by a monolithic cupola made of a single granite stone weighing around 80 tons, which was carried to the top of the tower using an elaborate pulley system. The cupola is one of the heaviest single stones used in any building in the world. The temple’s base is also impressive, measuring about 190 feet (58 meters) across, making it one of the largest temple bases in South India.
Another important feature of the temple is its intricate sculpture and carvings. The temple’s walls are adorned with many sculptures, including those of deities, dancers, and musicians. One of the most famous sculptures is the Nataraja, a representation of Lord Shiva as the cosmic dancer. The temple also has many inscriptions, which provide important historical and cultural information. The inscriptions include details about the temple’s construction, the reign of Raja Raja Chola I, and the donations given to the temple by various kings and chieftains.
The temple’s architecture also demonstrates the advanced engineering skills of the Chola builders. The temple is built on a platform that is elevated several feet above the surrounding area, which serves to enhance the temple’s grandeur. The temple’s inner sanctum (garbhagriha) is lined with granite, which helps to keep the temperature inside the temple cool even in the hot summer months. The temple also has an underground water storage system, which was used to store water for the temple’s daily rituals and for irrigation in the surrounding areas.
Overall, the Brihadeeswarar Temple is a magnificent example of Chola architecture and engineering, and it is also an important historical and cultural site. It is also recognized as UNESCO World Heritage site as a part of “Great Living Chola Temples”. The temple continues to be an active place of worship and a major tourist attraction in Thanjavur and Tamil Nadu.
It is an example of the architectural and engineering skills of the Chola Empire during the 11th century and also it is a testimony to the Chola’s power, artistic achievements, and wealth. It continues to inspire the architecture and engineering students and scholars worldwide.
How to visit Thanjavur
Thanjavur, also known as Tanjore, is a city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is known for its rich cultural heritage, particularly its temples and art. If you’re interested in visiting Thanjavur, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The nearest airport is located in Trichy (Tiruchirappalli), which is about 52 km from Thanjavur. From the airport, you can take a taxi or a bus to reach the city.
- Thanjavur is also well-connected by train. The city has its own railway station, which is located in the heart of the city.
- There are many state-run and private buses that connect Thanjavur with other major cities in Tamil Nadu.
- Once you reach Thanjavur, you can explore the city on foot or by hiring a bicycle. Taxis and auto-rickshaws are also readily available for transportation.
- Some of the main attractions in Thanjavur include the Brihadeeswarar Temple, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Sri Sarawathi Mahal Library which has the largest collection of palm leaf manuscripts in Asia.
- Thanjavur is also known for its traditional art forms such as Tanjore paintings and bronze sculptures. If you’re interested, you can visit some of the local art schools to learn more about these art forms.
- Temples like Sri Rangam and Srirangapatnam are also major temples around Thanjavur.
- You can also visit some of the palace nearby like the Thanjavur Maratha Palace and the Schwartz Church.
- Make sure you try the local cuisine, which includes dishes like idli, dosa, sambar, and rasam.
- And also try to explore the local markets which are known for their traditional handicrafts.