What is Brihadeeswara Temple

Brihadeeswara Temple is a world-renowned Hindu temple located in Thanjavur of Tamil Nadu state. The temple is devoted to Lord Shiva. It is also known as Rajarajeshwara temple or Peruvudaiyar Kovil. The temple has a massive colonnaded prakara (corridor) and one of the largest Shiva lingas in India. Brihadeeswara Temple consists of Sri Vimana, Ardha Mandapa, Maha mandapa, Mukha mandapa, and a Nandi statue.

Brihadeeswara temple is one of the largest Hindu temples in India. It is one of the most visited temples in Tamil Nadu. The Brihadeeswara Temple glorifies the military victory of the Chola Dynasty. Rajaraja, who commissioned the temple, called it Rajarajeshvaram, literally “the temple of the god of Rajaraja”.

The Architecture of Brihadeeswarar Temple
The Brihadeeswara Temple depicts the beauty and elegance of Tamil architecture in the Chola Period. In 2010, the temple completed 1000 years. Brihadeeswara temple is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site called the “Great Living Chola Temples.”

The temple is famous for the uniqueness of its architecture. This beautiful temple is built over 30 square bases and is surrounded by moats on the sides.

The walls of the temple are decorated with beautiful paintings. The temple displays several frescos of the Chola dynasty with Lord Shiva in different actions such as dancing and talking to their devotees.

The temple is also famous for its inscriptions, paintings, and bronze idols. The architects of the Chola Dynasty built these structures which act as excellent examples of illusion caused by great heights.

The tower of the Brihadeeswara Temple is 66 feet high and is carved from a single stone. The entire structure of the building was constructed by interlocking the granite stones. Modern engineers consider it an engineering marvel and a proof of ancient Indian engineering capacities. The fact that the temple survived 6 earthquakes and extreme weather conditions prove its strength and stability as a structure.

Brihadeeswara Temple view
It’s still a mystery how the workers of the Chola dynasty have managed to lift and placed such big masses of rock in a particular location without leaving a small gap.

The temple is spacious as well as huge. The main temple along with its Gopurams is from the early 11th century. The temple witnessed many additions, renovations, and repairs in the past 1,000 years. The raids and wars, particularly between Muslim Sultans who controlled Madurai and Hindu kings who ruled Thanjavur, caused damage. The main temple-related monuments and the great tower is in the middle of this courtyard.

This huge temple was built with massive manpower and thousands of elephants. There was an application of asymmetrical and axial geometry rules layout for this beautiful temple. To cut the massive and big rocks, the workers used ancient engineering techniques.

The architecture is a true depiction of Dravida kind of architecture which represents the ideas and ideology of the Chola Empire and Tamil Civilisation.

The temple premises are so huge and impressive. Visitors and observers developed many fantastical theories about this place including aliens, magic, and the presence of Lord Shiva. More than 100 passage ways in the underground lead to the Palace of Raja and other places throughout the city.

The passages made it easy for royalty to visit temples on festival days without traffic or other disturbances.

Paintings on Brihadeeswara Temple
The temple has hundreds of elaborate paintings across the wall of the temples. All the paintings depict the glory of Lord Shiva. Their bright, vibrant colors come from herbs, colorful leaves, and flower petals, and stand out against the granite. They all look much brighter than other paintings from the era.

A 1000 Rupees Commemorative coin with a picture of the 5 rupees coin of Thanjavur Periya Kovil will be issued soon. This will be the first 1000 Rupees coin to be released in the Republic of India coinage.

The Brihadeeswara Temple truly describes a gallery of art and beauty from that era. Apart from the beautiful structure, the temple is decorated with authentic paintings dedicated to the Chola Dynasty. All the paintings involve various scenes and the life story of Lord Shiva and other deities.

Paintings on Brihadeeswara Temple
There are also some replicas of these paintings and sculptures that the king donated himself. The temple has a huge pillared veranda and a large courtyard with a perimeter of 450 meters. The veranda is enclosed by defensive walls serving as an arsenal of the temple. The Brihadeeswara Temple is an example of Hindu tradition and south Indian architecture before the 11th century.

The main monument of the temple is placed in the middle of the courtyard and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The sanctum is located at the center of the western square of the temple. It is surrounded by huge walls, divided into sculptures and pilasters. The interior of the sanctum has an image of Lord Shiva (Shiva Linga). This portion is called Karuvarai that means womb chamber in Tamil. Only the priest is allowed in this portion of the temple.

The Brihadeeswara Temple is filled with thousands of inscriptions in Tamil and Grantha scripts. During the Chola Dynasty, some devadasis used to sing and dance devotional hymns for the king. Frequent inscriptions related to them can be seen in the temple.

It provides daily meals to its devotees with a major charity intuition. On the occasion of any Hindu festival, these free meals become more elaborative and particularly fed by Brahmins.

History of Brihadeeswara Temple
The Brihadeeswara temple has a fortified wall that was constructed in the 16th century. The tower of the temple is 216ft high and it is the tallest tower in the world. The main apex on the top of the temple known as Kumbam is constructed by carving a single rock that weighs about 80 tons.

Also, it has a statue of Lord Nandi carved through a single rock of 16ft long and 13ft high. The entire temple is built of granite stone.

History of Brihadeeswara Temple
It was built during the rule of Raja Raja Cholan and signifies his power and strength. This temple also tells untold stories of the Chola Dynasty. The monument reflects the thinking and perspective of people at those times.

The temple construction was done from the 5th to 9th century. All the details were done personally by Raja Raja Chola. In 2010, the renovation work on the temple was done after it completed its 1000 years.

Deities in the temple
The main deity is Lord Shiva in Brihadeeswarar Temple. The other deities include Dakshinamurthy, Chandra, and Surya. This temple also has idols of Indra, Agni, Nirrti, Varuna, Kubera, Isana, Yama, and Vayu. All these statues are positioned in a separate temple as per their respective direction.

Sculptures of Deities are present in the Mandapam walls. The table below represents the deities present in the North and the Southside of the temple:

South of the Temple North of the Temple
Vishnu Mahishasura Mardini
Gajalakshmi Saraswati
Ganesha Bhairava
The main Mandapas are known as Maha-mandapas. They are axially aligned between the sanctum and the Nandi. There are six pillars on either side of the maha-mandapas, flanked by two huge verandas. These were built during the reign of Chola King Rajendra I.

Temple Administration
Temple Administration
This world-famous temple is managed and run by Babaji Bhonsle, head of the Tanjavur Maratha family. He also serves as a trustee of the temple. He continues to manage 88 Chola temples that include Brihadeeswara Temple.

Also, the Tamil Nadu government has contributed a lot to the renovation and maintenance of the temple. The donation received from the devotees is used for the temple’s working and maintenance. The trustees also donate in huge numbers for the temple.

How to reach Brihadeeswara Temple
You can reach this place by airways, railways, or through roadways. Brihadeeswara Temple is located in Thanjavur that is connected to many prominent cities through road and rail networks.

Thanjavur does not have an airport but the nearest airport is Tiruchirapalli from where flights to Indian and foreign cities are available. People who arrive at Tiruchirapalli can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach Thanjavur.

Thanjavur is well-connected to many cities of Tamil Nadu by road. National highways that pass through the city are NH 67, NH 45C, and NH 226. These highways connect the city to Tiruchirapalli, Coimbatore, Pudukottai, and many more. The entire city is well connected with other parts of the country.

Thanjavur is connected to nearby places through railways, but there are very few long-distance trains. Superfast and fast mail and express trains along with Jan Shatabdi have stoppages here. For long-distance trains, tourists can go to Tiruchirapalli where many long-distance trains arrive. Major cities have rails connected to Thanjavur. Railways are the best way to reach this temple.

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