Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu is one of the largest Hindu temples in India. Often cited as the finest examples of Dravidian architecture during the Chola period, the temple is identified as UNESCO World Heritage Site. The magnificent temple is dedicated to lord Shiva. The temple was originally known as RajaRajeswara Temple.
Brihadeeswarar Temple was built by Raja Raja Chola I in 1010 CE. The temple turned 1000 years old in 2010. It is known as one of the “Great Living Chola Temples”. The main architect and engineer of the temple was Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Perumthachan, the renowned master carpenter from Kerala. Many incredible structures and architecture that still stand are attributed to him. He is also considered as the ancestor of Vastu Vedas.
Temple Deity and Amazing Architecture
The primary deity of Brihadeeswarar Temple is Shiva in the form of a 12 feet tall Lingam. The temple also has a 16 ft. long and 13 ft. high statue of Nandi (sacred bull) at the entrance. The statue is carved out of a single rock. The behemoth granite temple boasts the distinction of being one among rare temples with statues of “Ashtadikpaalakas” or Guardians of directions – Indra, Agni, Nirrti, Varuna, Kubera, Isana, Yama and Vayu.
The temple features majestic ‘vimanams’ (towers). The 198 ft. high main tower is believed to be one of the tallest in the world in its kind. The ‘kumbam’ or the bulbous structure on the top weighs around 80 tons. It is still a mystery that how did the Cholas lift 80 tons to the top during those days when the modern equipment was not available. It is assumed that they did it by creating an inclined slope to the height.
The exterior wall of the temple is decorated with 108 carvings of various postures of Bharatanatyam, a major type of Indian classical dance that originated in the Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu and neighbouring regions. The temple is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Tamil Nadu.