Rajarājeśvaram or Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

This is Brihadishvara Temple dedicated to Shiva is located near Cauveri River delta in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India. Referred by many names - one of them being Rajarājeśvaram - it was built by the victorious Raja Raja Chola I between 1003 and 1010 AD.

The Brihadishvara temple is recogized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is one of the 'Great Living Chola Temples’. Other temples recognized by UNESCO in the same group are Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple (73 km) and Airavatesvara temple (37 km).

Brihadishvara is a Sanskrit composite word > Brihat/d = great or vast and Ishvara = Shiva or the supreme atman-soul - hence the name Brihadishvara Temple. An exemplary example of Dravidian architecture it is also called as Dakshina Meru for its majestic Vimana that symbolically represents Mount Meru. Brihadeshwara Temple in Tamil is called Peruvudaiyār Kōvil temple since located in Thanjavur is also referred to as Thanjai Periya Kovil [ Periya in Tamil means ‘great’]. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

Tag : Rajarajesvaram or Brihadisvara Temple | Content: gud2travel.com | Image: Anupam Mukherjee | Update: 16-Mar-2021

Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

The Brihadeshvara temple complex has a rectangular plan with five main sections including the Garbha Griha - innermost sanctum, a soaring Vimana, Ardhamandapa, Mukhyamandapa, Mahamandapa and the Nandi Mandapa. You have a large pillared prakara that offers an ornate pradakshina path to devotees.

Originally in the 11th century the Temple was enclosed by a moat - which was later replaced by a double defensive set of walls - What remains of the original 11th century Brihadisvara temple is the Gopuram (gateway) located at the east end (used to be the main entrance in the 11th century), the courtyard, the Nandi Mandapa and the Garbh Griha or the main sanctum with its massive towering Vimana, main deity or the Shivalinga and two major shrines - one for Parvati and another for Kartikeya + inscriptions, frescoes and sculptures. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

The Brihadishvara temple is recogized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is one of the 'Great Living Chola Temples’. Other temples recognized by UNESCO in the same group are Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple (73 km) and Airavatesvara temple (37 km).

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Ancient Painting of Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

Between the Chalukya's, Pallava's and Chola's India saw a spectrum of Hindu temples built in varied architectural styles between the 5th and the 13th century.

Few stellar examples of monuments from Chalukyan era are seen in Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal - Monuments at Mamallapuram spell the Pallava era;

Cholas being a dominant dynasty invariably stamped their monuments with 'chola style of architecture' which can be witnessed at Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple, Airavatesvara Temple and especially at the grandiose Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

Painting is by Marianne North (1830–1890) who travelled the globe painting flora, fauna and culture for almost 20 years. Her paintings were presented to Kew and still hang in that gallery. (Source: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/temple-of-tanjore-southern-india-88309)

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Subrahmanya Temple, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

The temple is referred as Murugan or Subrahmanya temple and is built on a raised platform that has intricately designed niches and wall carvings. It is a three-storeyed structure with a shikhara that is like its deity six-faced and its corners are adorned with peacocks.

The temple is dedicated to Subrahmanya in his Sanmukha form who is six-faced with twelve arms, seated on a peacock, flanked by his wives Valli and Devasena.

The Murugan temple’s ceiling is held by sculpted pillars - one such sculpture depicts Vishnu dancing like Nataraja. The temple has panels of Durga killing Mahisasura and Kali killing Nishumbha - plus Ganesha and standing four-armed Subrahmanya in its niches. The sculptures in the temple are carved in black granite a contrast to the temple being built of lighteror paler shade of granite. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

The Brihadishvara temple is recogized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is one of the 'Great Living Chola Temples’. Other temples recognized by UNESCO in the same group are Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple (73 km) and Airavatesvara temple (37 km).

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Chandeshvara Temple, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

Chandesa is one of the 63 Shiva Saints who holds a special place in a Shiva temple - and in a temple as large as Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur - he has his own separate shrine which is three-storeyed, located to the north of the main vimana of Brihadisvara temple. The temple has an octagonal shikhara that has four sculptures of a seated Chandikesvara and the corners are adorned by four Nandis.

Inside the Chandikeshwara (Chandesa ) temple - you will see 5 Chandikesvara images, two are seated images in the sanctum and three standing Chandikesvara in the niches, thus forming Pancha-Chandikesvara concept - the central one represents the Dhvani Chandesa, the second one in the sanctum represents Yamini Chandesa of Uma and the other three Chandesa are Tejas Chandesa, Kumbha Chandesa and Mitra Chandesa. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

Since Chandesa is believed to be associated with Dhvani or the primordial sound - whenever a devotee visits Chandesa temple - before leaving a temple - its a tradition to clap hands - to pay your respect to the sound deity.

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Chandesa Anugraha Murti, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

In this frame we see Shiva blessing Chandesa who is a Shaivite Saint. You will find Chandesa Anugraha Murti in many temples dedicated to Shiva. [Anugraha = divine blessing]. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

Whether you see the Chandesa-Anugraha-Murti at Thanjavur Bridadisvara Temple or at Gangaikonda Cholapuram - you will see three figures - Shiva with jewelry and his locks that seem like a crown - he would have Parvati on his left and both are seated with one leg folded up and the other pendent. Their devotee Chandesa is sitting below in an ‘Anjali mudra’ humbled by Shiva’s grace receiving his blessings in the form of garland.

In this particular frame at Brihadisvara Temple - Sculptor has followed the principle of hierarchical Shilpashatra where the sculpture of Shiva is the largest in size followed by Parvati and the smallest being Chandesa.

The Brihadishvara temple is recogized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is one of the 'Great Living Chola Temples’. Other temples recognized by UNESCO in the same group are Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple (73 km) and Airavatesvara temple (37 km).

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Saraswati, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

Elaborately bejeweled than usually seen, sculpture of four-armed seated Sarasvati, the goddess of learning, music, arts, literature and every aspect of creativity and culture at Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

Apart from hindus Saraswati is also reverred by the Buddhists and Jains.

The Brihadishvara temple is recogized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is one of the 'Great Living Chola Temples’. Other temples recognized by UNESCO in the same group are Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple (73 km) and Airavatesvara temple (37 km).

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Lakshmi, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

In any Chola temple you will find steps on the northern and southern sides as seen at Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur and both the sides are guarded by the dvarpalas.

In most temples the the garbha griha is symbolically considered as the goddess - whereas the main vimana is considered as the purusha.

You will find the image of Mahalakshmi on the southern side of the mandapa at the Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, and that of Saraswati on the northern side with steps leading to the central sanctum. The main sanctum is edged by image of Surya on the southern side and image of Chandra on the northern side. 

The Mahalinga Mahadeva in girbhagriha - is so designed that whe any you enter for darshan his third eye falls directly on you the devotee. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

The Brihadishvara temple is recogized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is one of the 'Great Living Chola Temples’. Other temples recognized by UNESCO in the same group are Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple (73 km) and Airavatesvara temple (37 km).

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Devi, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

The creative arts that one would witness around the Brihadisvara temple at Thanjavur is predominantly focussed on Shaivism or Shiva worship but you also see expression of Vaishnavism and Shaktism traditions. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

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Nataraja, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

Frame is of Nataraja at Brihidisvara Temple, Thanjavur.

You will find Shiva’s vivid dance postures and fluid movements on the first floor of the Brihadisvara temple around the sanctum. There are panels of 81 sculpted karanas (dance postures) - should have been actually 108 but the rest are uncarved.

An artistic interpretation is that the main image of the Brihadisvara temple is actually Nataraja, the Cosmic Dancer, and the space above the shivlinga is ‘akasha or his rangabhumi where he dances’ and that is why the dance postures or karanas are carved on the upper floor walls of the garbha griha.

Or in other words Bharata’s Natyashastra is found here in sculptural sequence and is the earliest magnificent acknowledgement of Bharata’s Natyashastra in visual form in India. 

The Brihadishvara temple is recogized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is one of the 'Great Living Chola Temples’. Other temples recognized by UNESCO in the same group are Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple (73 km) and Airavatesvara temple (37 km). How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

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BhoothGana, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

Holy 'Abhisheka' water pouring out via a decorative spout that is being supported by curious 'Boothagana' at Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

Abhiṣheka is a daily snaana ritual performed during pūjā. The linga is first worshipped with puṣhpa. Than the Archaka rubs oil and fresh fragrant ghee onto the liṅga and pīṭha - he then offers dhūpa - than the shivalinga is rubbed with a mixture of turmeric powder, rice powder and gram powder before pouring water slowly - the act pouring of water or milk is called Abhiṣheka.

Many perform three Abhiṣheka's which means next Archaka may offer - panchamarit > milk, curd, ghee, honey, sugar than performing Abhiṣheka with tender coconut water - followed by dhūpa and dīpa intermittently + offering of flowers, water mixed with precious stones or gold as the final Abhiṣheka.

Archaka may including gooseberries or sandalwood paste or do Abhiṣheka using warm water fragranced with sandal paste.

Murals, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

Raja Raja Chola I filled Brihadisvara temple at Thanjavur with paintings. These paintings depict Dakshinamurthi, Tripurantaka, Kalyansundara or narrate local legends including life of Saint Sundaramurthi and of the Raja Raja I himself visiting Chidambaram temple.

The paintings are more focussed on bhava or the inner expression of every character. There are paintings with dancers performing nritya also showcasing the importance of worshipping using multiple dance forms under his reign.

The paintings at Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur are not only classical but are finely executed, using predominantly natural colours including brown, black, yellow, red, blue, white and tones of green. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

The Brihadishvara temple is recogized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is one of the 'Great Living Chola Temples’. Other temples recognized by UNESCO in the same group are Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple (73 km) and Airavatesvara temple (37 km).

Tag : Rajarajesvaram or Brihadisvara Temple | Content: gud2travel.com | Image: Benjamín Preciado | Update: 16-Mar-2021

Gajalakshmi Painting, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

The Cholas passionately constructed majestic monuments and stone temples all across their empire and Rajarajesvaram is the grandiose of them all. Administrative reforms and patronage of arts are cornerstones of Raja Raja I’s legacy. 

Ancient Indian texts on paintings emphasize the aesthetic and auspicious values of the murals or as known in ancient times as ‘bhittichitra’ - they are believed to herald virtuous aspects.

So its not really surprisingly to find - even the dark pradakshina-path or the circumambulatory path at the Brihadisvara Temple decorated with ethereal murals. The theme of these murals is predominantly Shaivite as the king was a devout worshipper of Shiva - you would still find other deities - as this particularly frame that is of Gajalakshmi, a significant Ashtalakshmi aspect of goddess Lakshmi. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

The Brihadishvara temple is recogized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is one of the 'Great Living Chola Temples’. Other temples recognized by UNESCO in the same group are Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple (73 km) and Airavatesvara temple (37 km).

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Nataraja Painting, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

You will find Chola frescoes covering floor to ceiling on the sanctum walls along the pradakshina path pathway at the Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur. The Chola frescoes narrate hindu myths predominantly focussed on Shiva - and were painted using natural pigments which were infused into the wet limestone layer whilst it was setting in. Apart from Shaivite themes - some frescoes depict Vishnu, Durga and scenes of majestic Chola rule and day to day life. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

This dance posture or karana of Nataraja is termed as urdhvatāṇḍava.

As per legend Shiva and Kali had a dance duel which was judged by Vishnu. Both of them being competitive kept on out-performing each other. Than Shiva performed a difficult dance step where he lifted his left foot towards the sky in the Urdhva Tandava posture, this being a male gesture - and in accordance with the decorum of the natya sabha - Kali being a female couldn't display the same. This legend is also depicted in the Nritya Sabha, of the Chidambaram temple

The Brihadishvara temple is recogized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is one of the 'Great Living Chola Temples’. Other temples recognized by UNESCO in the same group are Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple (73 km) and Airavatesvara temple (37 km).

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Kaltali - Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

How does one conclude that a temple has a 'shudh type' of architecture?

There is an inscription or a declaration by the emperor ‘that he has built the SriVimana at Brihadisvara - Thanjai - out of stone or (Kaltali) or reiterating that it has been built by using only one type of material and that is the granite stone. The architecture style where one uses only a single material for constructing the entire Vimana is called shuddha or pure type of architecture according to shastras of temple building. [Temples from that era used multiple materials like stone mixed with wood or plaster that temple would be termed as mishra type of temple.]

The Brihadishvara temple is recogized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is one of the 'Great Living Chola Temples’. Other temples recognized by UNESCO in the same group are Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple (73 km) and Airavatesvara temple (37 km). How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

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Vimana of Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

The Tanjore Brihadishvara temple is a spectacular achievement of its era and scholars believe that the Cholas had literally and meticulously planned its every detail. Every aspect of the temple not just its architectural design and layout but the exact positions of its main shrine or shivlinga surrounding sculptures, images, inscriptions - secondary shrines and their positions and directions of bronze images, sub-shrines, everything was pre-planned.

There are inscriptions referring to the exact positions where each element ought to have been.

The Cholas managed to even build the sacred concept - that of Mount Meru as its Vimana. The main vimana has forms of Shiva - including Nataraja, Bhiksasana ,Chakradanamurti, Ardhanarisvara, Lingodbhava, Gangadhara depicted on its walls. You will also find Pancha Brahma at Brihadisvara Temple in Thanjai or the sculptures of  Tatpurusa, Aghora, Sadyojata, Vamadeva and Isana that are placed in specific positions in niches. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

The Brihadishvara temple is recogized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is one of the 'Great Living Chola Temples’. Other temples recognized by UNESCO in the same group are Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple (73 km) and Airavatesvara temple (37 km).

Tag : Rajarajesvaram or Brihadisvara Temple | Content: gud2travel.com | Image: Gughanbose | Update: 16-Mar-2021

Ornate Pillars, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur has sculpted deities that are worshipped and classical sculptures that are very artistic - add to the mix pure narrative sculptures that express myths from Shiva Purana and other sacred texts and stories leaping out of its array of ornate pillars. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

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Inscribed Records, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

What makes Raja Raja I unique is the lengths he went to - his concern was to preserve Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur for the present and beyond his lifetime - as a visionary he was aware that it would require hundreds with diverse and myraid capabilities to do so. Raja Raja I ensured that every person in his kingdom who wanted to serve the temple - was involved across hierarchies in the temple activities - or the ones appointed were responsible.

An apt example would be - Raja Raja I ensured that the smallest of detail was described, recorded and rules were adhered to - for example a bronze image would be described, its weight recorded, the cost incurred of its making plus its maintenance. A person was appointed for each and every image who looked after its safety as it had number of gems and ornaments on it as well as its worship.

Another example would be records of every gift be it from the emperors, his mother, his sister or his commanders was recorded including the smallest gold or silver spoon would be registered with its weight and cost. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

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Inscriptions, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

The emperor Rajaraja I was not only powerful but was also a visionary with exemplary administrative skills - as he not only recorded how the temple was built - or its regular structural maintenance -but he also recorded laborious details on forms of worship of primary and secondary deities - apart from the regular pooja rituals - nritta-geeta-vadya was an essential part of daily worship. The emperor had made provisions of material and manpower for the regular rituals of worship and its many festivals not just for the temples present requistes but also for its future.

400 dancers were enrolled for nritta worship and inscribed details include their form of expertise and accomplishments - they were paid in land and gold - 240 musicians supported the vadya form (instrumental) of worship - and their qualifications were also duly noted - the emperor also appointed 50 musicians to sing poems of the Shaiva saints who lived between the 6th and 10th centuries - especially from Thevaram of Thirupatigam.

Each department at the temple had supervision that was entrusted to commanders and commander-in-chiefs.

How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

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How to reach Brihadiswara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India?

Brihadeswara Temple is located in Thanjavur also known as Tanjore in Tamil Nadu, India. Thanjavur gained importance as the capital of the Chola empire for about 150 years towards the end of the first millennium.

How to reach Brihadeswara Temple, Thanjavur by air? Which is the nearest airport to Brihadeswara Temple, Thanjavur?
Tiruchirappalli International Airport is the nearest airport to Thanjavur and it is at a distance of about 61 km.
Distance between Tiruchirappalli International Airport and Brihadeswara Temple is about 60 km.

How to reach Brihadeswara Temple, Thanjavur by train? Which is the nearest railway station to Brihadeswara Temple, Thanjavur?
Brihadeswara Temple is located in the city of Thanjavur - and Thanjavur Junction is well connected to other cities by train.
Distance between Thanjavur Railway Station and Brihadeswara Temple is about 2.5 km.

The best time to visit Brihadeswara Temple is between November to February as the climate is much cooler.

Tag : Rajarajesvaram or Brihadisvara Temple | Content: gud2travel.com | Image: Gughanbose | Update: 16-Mar-2021

Relief, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

You will find array of sculpted forms and panels of Shiva reminding us of various myths from Shiv Puranas all over the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

Sanctum walls on the ground floor has sculptures of Lingodbhava, Pashupata-murti on the East wall.

The South wall depicts Nataraja, Dakshinamurti, Kalantaka, Virabhadra, and Bhikshatana.

The west wall has Harihara, Lingodbhava, Chandrashekhara with and without prabhavali.

The North wall showcases Ardhanarishvara, Gangadhara without Parvati, Pashupata-murti, Shiva-alingana-murti.

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Narasimha sculpture on Gopuram at Brihadishvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

Sculpture narrates the story of Narasimha - the ferocious avatar of God Vishnu - whose incarnation’s sole purpose was to restore dharma - by destroying evil in the form asura king Hiranyakashipu and end his religious persecution. How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

King Hiranyakashipu gains a vardaan or a boon from Brahma for his severe penance that he cannot be killed by a man or animal, during day or night, nor inside or outside, not by any weapon. Once he receives the power he believes that he is immortal and hence should be worshipped as god. He specifically persecutes all Vishnu devotees including his own son Prahlada as Vishnu had killed his brother Hiranyaksha.

Prahalad undeterred continues worshipping Vishnu. After numerous unsuccessful attempts by Hiranyakashipu of disciplining Prahlada, in absolute frustration he proclaims - where is your Vishnu!

Prahalad calmly mentions that Vishnu is present everywhere and in everything. In rage Hiranyakashipu hits a pillar in his own palace and says according to you Vishnu should be in this pillar too - Prahalad in absolute belief confirms Vishnu’s presence. And to Hiranyakashipu shock the pillar breaks and a ferocious Narasimha steps out.

Its a fatal moment - its twilight neither day or night - Narasimha is part Lion and part man - he places the asura king on the threshold on his thigh thus is neither inside or outside and lastly he tears open Hiranyakashipu with his claws not using any weapon in absolute accordance with the Brahma's boon.

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Kalpavriksha Sculpture on Gopuram, Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

Sculpture depicts Kalpavriksha also known as Kalpataru that emerged during the Samudra manthan or the 'churning of the ocean of milk or kshirsagar'.

Kalpavriksha is a wish fulfilling tree with a power of giving one any object that is wished for - Its an auspicious symbol and is found carved in many Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples in India.

How to reach Brihadiswara Temple in Thanjavur?

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