Brihadeeswara Temple

brihadeeswarar temple


Peruvudaiyār Kōvil (original name) known locally as Thanjai Periya Kovil, also called as Brihadeeswara temple, Rajarajeswaram, is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva located on the south bank of the Cauvery River in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India. It is one of the largest South Indian Temples and an exemplary example of fully realized Tamil architecture. It is called Dakshina Meru (Southern Meru). Built by the Tamil king Raja Raja Chola I between 1003 and 1010 AD, the temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site known as the “Great Living Chola Temples”, along with the Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple of the Chola dynasty. and the Airavatesvara temple which are approximately 70 kilometers and 40 kilometers to the northeast respectively.

The original monuments of this 11th century temple were built around a moat. It included gopura, the main temple, its huge tower, inscriptions, frescoes and sculptures predominantly related to Shaivism, but also to the Hindu traditions of Vaishnavism and Shaktism. The temple suffered damage in its history and now some works of art are missing. In the following centuries mandapam and additional monuments were added. The temple now stands in the middle of fortified walls that were added after the 16th century.

Built of granite, the vimana tower above the shrine is one of the tallest in southern India. The temple has a prakara with massive columns and one of the largest Shiva lingas in India. It is also famous for the quality of its sculpture, as well as being the place that commissioned the bronze Nataraja – Shiva as the lord of dance, in the 11th century. The complex includes shrines for Nandi, Parvati, Kartikeya, Ganesha, Sabhapati, Dakshinamurti, Chandeshvara, Varahi, and others. The temple is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Tamil Nadu.




Statue of Rajaraja Chola I, who built the temple between 1003-1010 CE. A spectrum of Hindu temple styles continued to develop from the 5th to the 9th century during the rule of the Chalukya era as evidenced by Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal, and then with the Pallava era as attested in Mamallapuram and other monuments. Thereafter, between 850 and 1280 CE, the Cholas emerged as the dominant dynasty. The early Chola period saw a greater emphasis on securing its geopolitical boundaries and less emphasis on architecture. In the 10th century, features such as multifaceted columns with projecting square capitals emerged within the Chola empire. This, George Michell claims, marked the beginning of the new Chola style. This South Indian style is most fully realized in both scale and detail in the Brihadeshwara temple built between 1003 and 1010 by the Chola king Rajaraja.




The plan and development of the Brihadeeswara temple uses the rules of axial and symmetric geometry. It is classified as Perunkoil (also called Madakkoil), a large temple built on a higher platform of natural or man-made mounds. The temple complex is a rectangle that has almost two stacked squares, covering 240.79 meters (790.0 feet) from east to west and 121.92 meters (400.0 feet) from north to south. In this space there are five main sections: the sanctuary with the imposing superstructure , the Nandi hall in front (Nandi-mandapam) and among these the main hall of the community (mukhamandapam), the great meeting hall (mahamandapam) and the pavilion that connects the great hall with the sanctuary (ardhamandapam).

The temple complex integrates a large pillared gallery in its spacious courtyard, with a perimeter of approximately 450 meters (1,480 feet) for bypass. Outside of this pillared gallery are two enclosure walls, the exterior is defensive and was added in 1777 CE by French colonial forces with gun holes with the temple serving as an arsenal. They made the outer wall high, isolating the area of ​​the temple complex. At its eastern end is the original main gopuram or barrel-vaulted gateway. It is less than half the size of the main temple vimana. Additional structures were added to the original temple after the 11th century, such as a mandapa at its northeast corner and additional gopurams (gateways) at its perimeters to allow people to enter and exit multiple locations. Some of the shrines and structures were added during the Pandya, Nayaka, Vijayanagara, and Maratha era, before the colonial era began, and these builders respected the original plans and rules of symmetry. Within the courtyard of the original temple, along with the main shrine and Nandi-mandapam there are two main shrines, one for Kartikeya and one for Parvati. The complex has additional smaller shrines.

The Brihadeeswara  Temple temple continued the traditions of the Hindu temples of South India by adopting architectural and decorative elements, but its scale significantly exceeded the temples built before the 11th century. Chola-era architects and craftsmen innovated climbing and building expertise, particularly with heavy stone, to achieve the 63.4-meter (208-foot) tall vimana.

The temple faces east, and once had a moat of water around it. This has been filled. The fortified wall now runs around this moat. The two walls have ornate walkways called gopurams. These are made of stone and show entablature. The main entrance doors are on the east side. The first is called the tiruvasal of Keralantakan, which means “holy gate of Keralantakan”. The word Keralantakan was the surname of King Rajaraja who built it. About 100 meters (330 feet) ahead is the inner courtyard gopuram called Rajarajan tiruvasal. This is more decorated than the tiruvasal at Keralantakan, as with its adhishthanam relief work narrating scenes from the Puranas and other Hindu texts. The inner eastern gopuram leads to a vast courtyard, in which the shrines are all marked in cardinal east-west and north-west directions. The complex can be entered 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 gopuram at the main entrance is 30 m high, smaller than the vimana.

The main monuments related to the temple and the great tower are located in the middle of this courtyard. Around the main temple dedicated to Shiva, there are smaller shrines, most of which are axially aligned. These are dedicated to his consort Parvati, his sons Subrahmanya and Ganesha, Nandi, Varahi, Karuvur deva (the guru of Rajaraja Chola), Chandeshvara and Nataraja. The Nandi mandapam has a monolithic seated bull in front of the shrine. Between them are stairs that lead to a colonnaded porch and community gathering room, then an inner mandapa that connects to the pradakshina patha, or ring road. The Nandi in front of the mukh-mandapam weighs around 25 tons. It is made of a single stone and is about 2 m high, 6 m long and 2.5 m wide. Nandi’s image is monolithic and is one of the largest in the country.

Brihadeeswara Temple Timings

Membalam Rd, Balaganapathy Nagar, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu 61300

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