The Brihadeeswarar temple is an ancient Hindu temple built in 1010 CE and dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is located in the historically and culturally significant city of Thanjavur in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the largest temples in India and was built by Raja Raja Cholan and his sister Kundavai during the Chola regime. Today, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the ‘Great Living Chola Temples’ and a must-see location.
The temple tower is the highest in the world and stands at 60 meters; it is believed that the shadow of this tower never falls on the ground, especially within the premises of the temple. The dome atop the temple is believed to weigh about 80 tones of solid granite and the mind boggles at how ancient craftsmen achieved the feet of installing it! This great temple is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu and the city of Thanjavur is easily accessible by rail, road as well as by air. Numerous hotels are available in this area including the majestic Sangam hotel.
This temple was built to display the emperor’s power and vision and is a fine example of Dravidian architecture, mural paintings and scores of beautiful sculptures of dancing figures in various classical ‘Bharatnatyam’ dance poses. It’s best to see the temple in the early morning hours or around sunset when the 130,000 ton granite temple walls take on a golden hue that dazzles the mind.
What boggles the mind is that the nearest granite quarry was over 60km away which must have made transportation of the granite a really humongous task! At the entrance of the temple there is a huge statue of Nandi (sacred bull) measuring about 13 feet in height and 16 feet in length and weighing about 20 tones; it’s carved out of a single piece of granite and must have involved a lot of hardship for the movers a well as the craftsman.
The temple layout consists of an airy pillared hall and an assembly hall known as the ‘mandapam’; the inner mandapams are the most significant parts of the temple and are divided into different levels with the use of sculptures and pilasters. There is a huge idol of Shiva with three eyes in the inner mandapam; numerous sub-shrines present within the complex walls are assigned to other deities. About 250 lingams (representing Lord Shiva) are also spread within the temple walls. This temple is a beautiful treat for those interested in arts, culture and history.