Brihadishwarar Temple, named Rajarajeshwaram in it’s earlier days, is a temple dedicated to lord Shiva, built by the king Rajaraja Chola I and his sister, princess Kundavai, between year 1003-1010 AD is one of the greatest examples of Tamil architecture. It is built of granite, around 60,000 tons of granite is said to be used to built the temple. According to the insriptions, that are to be seen at present day, the engineer and architect behind the temple was Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Perumthachan, a archari from that time, from Kerala. The interesting part is, that even the present successors of the achari still practice Vastu Sastra.
I was seriously verymuch thrilled the moment we entered Thanjavur/Tanjore, because my ancestors are originally from Thanjavur, and of noble origin – socalled Mudaliars – who moved to Jaffna, for political/power reasons. Seeing the temple itself was an indescribable experience. I really cannot describe the feelings I had, it was so special!
Here are some of the important fact about the temple 😉
The temple is one of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Monuments, and celebrated its millenial commemoration in 2010, which was also the year I went to India, and visited the temple too. The celebration was though held in september, with many cultural events, including a Bharathanatya Yajna.
The Dhwaja Stambha at the entrance, in front of the Big Nandi.
As mentioned, the temple was built in the 11th century, but has unfortunately undergone some damages during time, with some artwork missing now. Also, there were added some monuments and mandapams during the following centuries, including the fortified walls that were built in the 16th century AD. The original name of the was then Rajarajeshwaram and it was the Marathas that later named it Brihadishwarar Kovil, meaning “the Great Ishwarar”. The temple is also known as “Peruvudaiyar Kovil”.
The architecture of the temple and the incriptions is a fine representation of the ideology of Tamil civilization, and mainly the Chola empire. The temple is known to have an “Otrai Kal Nandi” (A Nandi made of one single granite stone), but this is not the Nandi seen in the entrance, but is kept next to the Praharam of the temple (the site path), while the big Nandi seen in the entrance is the one installed by the Maratha rulers. Nobody knows the reason for this change, as the Otrai Kal Nandi was the one originally installed in the entrance.
The Nandi seen in the picture below, is the “new” one at the entrance, installed by the Maratha rulers (17-19th century).
The Kumbam on the top of the tower weighs 80 tons. Also this tower is the world’s tallest temple tower. The Lingam inside the temple is 3,7 m tall. The temple also has a portrayal of Rajaraja Chola I payingrespect to lord Shiva.
The temple has numerous inscriptions in Tamil and Grantha, with custommade historical intro in Tamil and Sanskrit about the king, who authorized it. There is an inscription on the northern wall with personell, including over 600 names of persons, and detailed accounts of their eployments and supports. It includes names of washermen, lamp lighters, jewelers, tailoers, potters, carpenters, artists and many more.