LOCATION: The world’s absolute granite temple dedicated to lord Shiva is ‘Brihadeeswarar temple’. It is built in Thanjavur of the South Indian state ‘Tamil Nadu’.

PRIME DEITY: Lord Shiva

OTHER FAMOUS NAMES

Brihadeewarar Temple or Rajarajeswaram or Rajarajeshwara Temple or Peruvudaiyar Kovil

HISTORY

The temple that is an example of exquisite craftsmanship is 1400 year old.

YEAR OF FOUNDATION

16th century in 1010 AD.

YEAR OF COMPLETION

The construction of this splendid temple took seven years for completion.

BUILT BY

The Cholas (Raja Raja Chola I)

CARETAKER

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)

BELIEF & SIGNIFICANCE

It is the Hindu pilgrimage where lord Shiva is housed in the form of gigantic ‘Shiva Lingam’.

RITES & RITUALS

Only main priest of the temple has right to enter in to the ‘karu’ or the womb in the inner sanctum sanctorum for performing puja.

INTERESTING FACTS

  • It is built in the ancient Tamil architectural style.
  • It is popularly known as ‘the Great Living Chola Temple’.
  • To everyone’s surprise, this Brihadeeswarar temple has an enormous Shiva Lingam. This Lingam is carved out of granite marble. 130,000 tons of granite is used to build it.
  • You edges of the eyes will go wide when you will witness the biggest Shiva Lingam of 12 feet high. And above this fact, this gigantic lingam casts ‘no shadow’ at noon on the ground; isn’t it shocking?
  • It is an old belief that this temple was built first and only after that, a town around it was established.
  • The tower of this temple is called ‘Viman’.
  • This Viman is 216 feet or 66 meters high.
  • This temple has Kumbam, Chikharam or Kalasha which is curved outward.
  • Better to call it ‘Big Temple’, this temple celebrated its 1000 years of establishment. It was an eve when 275th day of Raja Raja Chola’s 25th regal year was celebrated. A gold-plated Kalasam or a copper pot was handed over. It is the final consecration towards crowning Vimana. This Vimana is 59.82 meters tall that appears like a bulb at the top of sanctum.
  • The fifth day of this Big Temple’s millennium was celebrated in a cultural way. India post released a special five rupees postage stamp. This stamp had an image of giant 216 feet tall Raja Gopuram.
  • Even Reserve Bank of India issued a five rupees coin on which the image of this temple was encrusted.
  • Cabinet Minister of Communication and Information Technology has released stamp of this renowned temple.
  • A 1000 rupees coin and 5 rupees coins were released as ‘commemorative coins’ on this occasion.
  • The former prime minister of India ‘Indira Gandhi’ restricted commercial use of all 1000 rupees currency notes in 1975 to restrict the illegal act of collecting black money.

TEMPLE STRUCTURE

Architectural Style: Tamil Architectureor Dravidian architecture

Storey: 5-storey

Entrance: A statue of Nandi bull is erected at the entrance. This idol is thirteen feet high and sixteen feet long.  The idol of Nandi is carved out of a single rock.

Gopuram: It is an entrance directly to the main huge quadrangle. It is 30 meters high but smaller than the Viman.

Main Shikhara: It is a hollow inside but quite massive in size. Its height is 60 meters with 16 complicated adjoining storey. Piers, columns and pilasters are surfacing each part of Shikhara.

Main temple: It is a rectangular complex of the temple which is 270 meter by 140 meter by perimeter. The main temple is built in the centre of the spacious quadrangle. This main temple has one sanctuary, a Nandi idol, a pillared hall and an assembly hall (or mandapas).  An idol of deity Shiva is placed there in the inner sanctum sanctorum. It has a big Shivlinga.

Garbhagriha: The sanctum sanctorum is known as ‘Garbhagriha’. It is square in shape and is lying on a plinth. A circumambulation encompasses massive lingam. This symbolizes the ‘Cholas access to God’. It was not meant for the priests.

Bathing hall: An imperial bathing-hall is built in the east of Irumudi-Soran hall. It is the place where Raja Raja used to distribute gifts.

Mandapas: There is a rectangular mandapa that extends to  20-columed porch with 3 staircases that lead to downwards.

IDOLS: The prime deity of this temple is also known as ‘Moolavar’ who is lord Shiva. The outer wall has some other figures of deities as Surya, Dakshinamurthy and Chandra in gigantic shape. There are idols of ‘Ashtadikpaalakas’ or ‘Guardians of directions’ (as Indra, Agni, Nirrti, Varuna, Kubera, Isana, Yama & Vayu).

MURALS: These are the drawings on the wall of this temple which have mythological events painted on them. One has lord Shiva in many actions, another has one white elephant taking a devotee to heaven and dancing. Another episode is of Chera king and Saint Sundarar while one more shows the battle occurring between the gods and the demons.

But these have become foggy as continuous burning of camphor and incense sticks have collected a thick layer of coal over the surface of the wall.     

BEST WAY TO REACH: For reaching here through air, one would comfortably reach to the nearest airport from Thanjavur. It is at Trichy, i.e. 65 km away.

Through railways, It can be accessible through Thanjavur as it is linked to Chennai, Madiurai and Trichy.

AUSPICIOUS TIME TO VISIT: Mahashivratri  and From October to March