Peruvudaiyar Kovil, which is also famous as Brihadeeswarar Temple, Rajarajeswaram and RajaRajeshwara Temple, is located at Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu state of India. It is one Hindu temple, which they dedicate towards Lord Shiva. It is one luminous example of major heights, which Cholas achieves within Tamil architecture. This temple is one tribute and one reflection of power of its supporter Raja Raja Chola I. this temple remains as India’s largest and Indian architecture’s one of greatest glories. It is also a part of UNESCO World Heritage Site as “Great Living Chola Temples”.
This great temple is India’s one of most prized site for its architecture. It stands in middle of fortified walls added probably in sixteenth century. There is one temple tower, which people call as Vimana. It is 216 feet or 66 meters high. It is also one among tallest tower in whole world in its kind. Kumbam, Chikharam or Kalasha, which is bulbous, or apex structure on top of temple, people believe that it is made out of a single stone carving.
There is one statue of a sacred bull or Nandi at entrance of this temple measuring about thirteen feet high and sixteen feet long. It is result of a single rock carving.
Entire structure of temple is made of granite, whose nearest source are near Tiruchchirapalli, which is nearly 60 kms to Thanjavur’s west, where temple is.
Built by Raja Raja Chola I in 1010 AD in Thanjavur, Brihadeeswarar Temple is also popular by name of ‘Big Temple’ and it turns 1000 years in 2010.
Temple ComplexTemple complex lies on banks of one river from which a manmade canal comes out making one moat around this temple complex outside walls built like one fortress. There are several structures aligned axially that are built inside this temple complex. You can enter by one access through a 5-storey Gopuram or there is second access, which will take you directly to main huge quadrangle through one smaller and free-standing Gopuram. Main Shikhara’s massive size although it’s hollow on inside and is not required that one should occupy it is high up to 60 meters with 16 complicatedly articulated stories, which dominates main quadrangle. Piers, attached columns and pilasters are rhythmically in place covering each surface of shikhara.
Main entrance’s Gopuram is exactly 30 meters high and hence is smaller than Vimana. Under Dravidian architecture generally Gopurams are taller than Vimana and are main towers, which is not in case of this temple and hence it’s unusual.
First rectangular wall surrounding main temple is 270 meters by 140 meters marks outer boundary. Main temple lies in center of spacious quadrangle, which composes of one sanctuary, one Nandi, one pillared hall, one assembly hall or mandapas and several sub-shrines. Most significant part of this temple is an inner mandapa. Massive walls surround it, which are divided with sharply cut pilasters and sculptures into levels providing deep recesses and bays. Sanctuary’s each side has one bay emphasizing main cult icons. Karuvarai is a Tamil word, which means interior of sanctum sanctorum. It is innermost sanctum and main focus of temple where resides one image of primary deity, Shiva. Inside is one big stone linga. Karuvarai is a Tamil word, means “womb chamber”. Karu is for foetus. Only priests can enter inner-most chamber.
In Dravida style, Karuvarai takes form of one miniature Vimana along with other many features, which are exclusive to temple architecture in southern India, such as inner wall along with outer wall creates one pradakshina around Garbhagriha for pradakshina or circumambulation. There is a high end decoration on entrance. Inside chamber housing an image of God is sanctum sanctorum or Garbhagriha. Garbhagriha is in shape of a square, sitting on one plinth. Its location as they calculate is one point of complete harmony and equilibrium, as its representative of one microcosm of universe. In center an image of deity found its place. A royal bathing-hall is to east of Irumudi-Soran hall, it is where Raja Raja the great used to give gifts.
In Garbhagriha, circumambulation wraps around massive lingam and repeats itself in one upper storey, which presents an idea that Empire of Cholas offers access to gods to all and not just for priests.
From inner mandapa a way leads out towards one rectangular mandapa further towards one 20-columned porch having 3 staircases leading downwards. Sharing similar stone plinth there is one small and open mandapa, which is dedicated towards Nandi a sacred bull of God Shiva.
“Moolavar” or primary deity of Brihadeeswarar Temple is God Shiva. All other deities, particularly ones, which are on places in niches of outer wall or Koshta Moorthigal like Dakshinamurthy, Chandra and Surya, are in huge sizes. This temple is one among rare temples, which have statues of “Ashtadikpaalakas” or Guardians of directions – Indra, Agni, Nirrti, Varuna, Kubera, Isana, Yama, Vayu – each of these are here as they were in past originally and their representation they make by one life-sized statue, which is approximately six feet tall. All of these are enshrined in one separate temple with its location in respective direction. Only Agni, Vayu, Isana and Varuna are in situ preserved.
Surrounding main temple there are 2 walled enclosures. Outer wall of these two is high, defining complex area of temple. Massive gateway or Gopuram about which you have read above is here. Within this one portico, one barrel vaulted Gopuram having more than 400 pillars; one high wall encloses it with enormous Gopurams lined up axially towards main temple.
Myths & Features
In South of India, this temple’s Vimana is tallest at 60 meters. There is one European like figure as a carving on Vimana and it is a belief that it is one ancient warning for arrival of Europeans. Later after investigations by archaeologists they propose that claim like this may be one hoax.
People also widely believe that shadow of Gopuram, which is one pyramidal tower generally over temple’s gateway, never falls over ground. It is a saying that there is use of granite of about 130,000 tons for making this temple. A 60 ton stone of granite is there as Kumbam and is having a carving in a single piece and it lies on main Gopuram’s top. It is a belief that they took this stone to top after creating one inclined slope towards top of this Gopuram at a height of 66 meters. A belief that still prevails is that one mud-slope starting at nearly 3 miles from temple site Thirukoilore or Raja Raja mother’s birthplace near temple of Sri Virateshvara swamy. People claim this to be only portion of Gopuram, which do not cast its shadow falling on to ground, not at least within temple premises.
This temple has frescoes of Chola on its walls around sanctum sanctorum, which portrays God Shiva in many actions, such as destroying fiend forts, sending one white elephant for transporting one devotee towards heaven and dancing. In 1940s with discovery of these frescoes, people came to know about mythological episodes or incidents of journey of Chera King and Saint Sundarar to heaven and battle scene between Tripurantaka or God Shiva and Asuras or demons. Chola artists prove their mettle with portraying even Asura women having a sense for beauty. Some paintings on walls in passage and in sanctum sanctorum suffer from damage because of deposition of soot on them. Due to continuous exposure towards soot and smoke from camphor burning and from lamps in sanctum sanctorum for centuries, certain portions of Chola paintings lying on walls of circumambulatory passage are badly damaged. About 400 years in past, kings of Tanjore Nayak replaces these Chola paintings with few of themselves. Archaeological Survey of India for first time in history of world makes use of its original de-stucco process for restoring sixteen Nayak paintings as they were placed over a thousand years old Chola frescoes. Nayak paintings accumulate over boards of fiber glass and are on display at one separate pavilion.
Raja Raja Chola I consecrate this temple in year 1010 CE and in year 2010 one celebration commemorates thousandth anniversary of this temple. This temple maintains its staff of a thousand people in different capacities with four hundred of temple dancers. Besides Brahmin priests, these personnel includes record-keepers, scholars, craftsmen and musicians of every kind along with housekeeping staff. During those days of Cholas, this temple was one hub for business activities, such as flower, oil, ghee and milk merchants used to make continuous supply of their individual goods for temple’s poojas and festival seasons. Furthermore, as evidence from inscriptions found in this temple’s compound walls, this temple has always serve as one platform for dancers, who excel in Bharatnatyam’s traditional form of dance.
Facts About the Temple
|Facts about the Temple|
|Other names||RajaRajeshwara Temple|
|Proper name||Peruvudaiyaar Temple|
|Primary deity||Lord Shiva|
|Important festivals||Maha Shivaratri|
|Architectural styles||Dravidian Architecture|
|Date built||11th century AD|
|Creator||Raja Raja Chola I|