” The most innovative designers consciously reject the standard option box and cultivate an appetite for thinking wrong ” – Marty Neumeier.
If you are experiencing this blog for the first time, please read out the previous two parts and it will be nicer for you. Then only, you can enjoy this awesome journey about dravidian architecture from Mahabalipuram to Thanjavur. The links for the first two parts are given below, just click on them;
As mentioned earlier, the final location on our list was the ‘Big temple’ of Thanjavur. Traveling from Gangaikondam to Thanjavur (70 kms – two hour journey) was not an issue, as these routes are well connected by public transport system. The route via Kumbakonam is the easiest way to reach Thanjavur, considering the well developed state of transport facilities in Kumbakonam (38 kms from Thanjavur).
” Great Brihadeesvara Temple, Thanjavur “
Overlooking the delta of Cauvery at the point, where its distributaries span out, you can see this majestic sight of an extraordinary architectural marvel by Raja Raja Chola I, in the temple city of Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu (South India) – Brihadeesvara Temple or Rajarajeswaram. It was a successful experiment in dravidian architecture by Raja Raja Chola during the period, 995 – 1010 AD. This Big temple was commissioned in 1010 AD and dedicated to Lord Siva. Brihadeesvarais a Sanskrit composite word composed of Brihat which means “big, great, lofty, vast”, and eesvarameans “lord, Siva, supreme being, supreme atman (soul)”. The name means the “great lord, big Siva” temple. Locally, the temple is called the big temple, while in historic inscriptions it is also referred to as the Rajarajeswaram and Peruvudaiyar temple.
The Brihadeesvara Temple stands as a supreme example of Chola architecture. Built on a scale appropriate enough to house the presiding deity, Sri Brihadeesvara, or the Lord of the Universe, the temple continues to excite wonder at its many unique architectural features and living presence as a centre of Saiva devotion. During the period when Chola power was in the ascendant, (around 850-1350 AD) architecture in the Tamil country went through dramatic changes. Indeed before the time of the most famous Chola king, Rajaraja I, gopurams in temple complexes were not built on a very grand scale. During the reign of Rajaraja I, the temple at Tanjore was built not only as a monument to the sway of Chola power over many southern lands but as a living sign of Saiva concepts and beliefs. It was called ‘Dakshina Meru’ as a complement to the ‘Uttara Meru’ or the Sacred mount of Kailasa, thought of as the spine of the universe. The Dakshina Meru was thought to be a centre of divine power analogous to the northern centre of Sri Kailas.
For my video of Brihadeesvara temple, please click on the link below:
Being an exemplary example of a fully realized Dravidian architecture, Brihadeesvara is one of the biggest south indian temples. While the earlier granite temples built by the Cholas seldom had has many as three tiers, the Sri Vimana or the main sanctum tower of this temple rises up to 16 tiers with 216 ft height. This is 6 times higher than that of any temple built earlier in entire parts of India.Many inscriptions of Rajaraja I (A D 985-1012) reveal him to be a great warrior and an ardent devotee of Siva. It is this spirit of ardent devotion that visualizes the entire temple complex itself as a visible symbol of the divine presence. The architect and engineer of the temple was Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Rama Perunthachan as stated in inscriptions found at the temple.
Cholas had become the greatest power in South India by 10th century CE. They had
reached the borders of the Rashtrakuta kingdom in the north. Rows of temples were built on both the banks of the river Cauvery to mark their growing power. Cholas greatly made use of art to proclaim their power, used temples to make unequivocal statements about their political hegemony. Rajaraja I, crowned in 985, carved out an overseas empire by establishing a second capital at Pollonaruva in Sri Lanka. The Brihadisvara (995 – 1010), built by him at his capital Thanjavur, though he did not live to see it completed is a product of this success. Raja Raja Chola, then adopted the title Raja Raja Sivapadha Sekhara, which means ‘He who bears Siva’s feet as his crown’.The temple inscriptions make clear the triumphal nature of the edifice. Donations to the shrine came from far and wide. The numbers of architects, accountants, guards, functionaries, temple dancers, revenue records of land grants etc are engraved on the temple walls, thus establishing the importance of the temple as an institution of prime importance in Chola times.
Later dynasties, the Vijayanagara in 15th century, the Nayakas in the 16th – 17th centuries and the Maratthas in the 18th – 19th centuries, were renovated the buildings of Brihadeesvara and added their own. As practitioners and patrons of music and dance, they also did much to systematize the transmission of intangible cultural heritage, through their mural paintings, architecture, literature etc.
The temple recognized by the UNESCO as a World Heritage site, in 2004, is a living monument which draws to itself devotees, lovers of literature, music and other arts, scholars and historians. It completed a thousand years of existence in the year 2010, and this occasion was observed with great fanfare by the state with many artists and scholars gathering there to pay tribute to its magnificent presence.
On 26 September 2010 (Big Temple’s fifth day of millennium celebrations), as a recognition of Big Temple’s contribution to the country’s cultural, architectural, epigraphical history, a special ₹ 5 postage stamp featuring the 216-feet tall giant Sri Vimana was released by India Post. The Reserve Bank of India commemorated the event by releasing a ₹ 5 coin with the model of temple embossed on it. Mumbai Mint issued Rs 1000 Commemorative Coin with the same picture as on the Rs 5 coin. It was the first 1000 Rupees coin to be released in the Republic of India coinage. This coin was a Non Circulative Legal Tender (NCLT). On 1 April 1954, the Reserve Bank of India released a ₹ 1000 currency note featuring a panoramic view of the Brihadeesvara temple marking its cultural heritage and significance. In 1975, the then government led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhidemonetised all ₹ 1,000 currency notes in an effort to curtail black money.
Thanjavur Big temple has to be experienced and analyzed at many levels simultaneously. The symbolism of the architecture, the relations between the central Siva lingam and the sculptures of different aspects of Lord Siva on the side walls, mural paintings of songs and dances, that in different ways, unfolding the puranic stories of Gods and their devotees. As mentioned, temple is dedicated to Shiva in the form of linga, his abstract aniconic representation. It is 8.7 m (29 ft) high, occupying two storeys of the sanctum. It is one of the largest monolithic linga sculptures in India.
Before entering in to the main temple complex, one has to pass through an entrance leading towards a small fort and watchtowers, surrounded by the moat.
The next one is, actually the ancient (early 11th century ) major eastern gateway of the Brihadeeswara temple – ‘Keralanthakan Gopuram’ ….
Keralanthakan gopuram is constructed on the same architectural concept of Sri Vimana. Firstly, the load is distributed on two huge granite walls and the walls are merged into single structure as it approaches height. Secondly, the ball and lock of the huge granites lock themselves with neighboring rock, one can see the small projections evenly distributed on the base of the structure. Finally, the huge base platform distributes the load to the ground with minimum foundation depth.
In the rear side (West face) of this gopuram, one can see stucco images of Krishna leela, Mahavishnu in first stage, Narasimha (fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu) combating with Hiranyakasipu (A demon) in the northern side and Hiranya Samhara (Killing Hiranyakasipu) othe southern side. On the top stage Siva and Vishnu idols are seen.
Separate shrines for Dakshinamurthy and Brahma are located on the southern and northern sides, respectively in the first storey of Keralanthakan tower.
The next on the scene is “Sri Rajarajan Tiruvayil or Gopuram” ….
Now, we are entering into the inner courtyard of main temple complex…. And Sometimes exploring the surrounding nature will amaze us and here is an example for it……
Coming to the Brihadeesvara temple, here you gets the full view of its enormous structure, which was made out of 130,000 tonnes of granite. Wow!… That’s quite interesting, isn’t it?
Raja Raja Chola was reviving a design established by the early Pallavas in 8th CE. here, the Garbhagriha or inner sanctum is enshrined by a huge 8.7 m high, monolithic Siva Lingam, which is surrounded by an inner corridor, that opens to a vestibule and the mukhamandapa in inner courtyard. The symmetry of Brihadeesvara is exceptional. This walled compound is an unusually elongated rectangle, whose width is twice the height of Sri Vimana or superstructure and forms an almost perfect double square; where the midpoint of the sanctum (the point where main Siva Lingam is placed), corresponds to the midpoint of the first square and the midpoint of the pavilion of Nandi with that of second square. This how, the architecture express the cosmic expansion of temple, within enclosure to enclosure, with increasing height. Loot at the cloister halls to the south of this temple. How perfectly, they are arranged!
An inscription on this enclosure, dated 1011 CE, gives a detailed accounts of people employed and supported by the temple. The inscription gives their wages, roles and names. It includes over 600 names including those of priests, lamp lighters, washermen, tailors, jewelers, potters, carpenters, sacred parasol bearers, dance gurus, dancing girls, singers, male and female musicians, superintendents of performance artists, accountants among others. Their wages was in parcels of land, so their temple employment was likely part time.
Towards the eastern part of these cloister halls, you can find a Nandi statue of the Chola period….
But still, he watch over the main sanctum, which houses Lord Siva, His beloved master, to show his trusted loyalty….
The towering Vimana is built up with stones with bonding and notching, without the use of mortar. The topmost stone weighing about eighty tons is still a matter of discussion for engineers who are baffled as to how the builders lifted it to that height without the help of modern contrivances. A charming tale is told about a ramp being built from a village – Sarapallam- four miles away, from where the giant stone was pulled up by elephants! The details of the stone work of this imposing “Sri Vimana” are representative of the masterly craftsmanship of South Indian artisans. The ‘Shilpi’- sculptor, and the ‘Sthapathi’ – architect came together to create their fanciful abode for Lord Siva. Naturally, the shape had to echo mount Kailash itself….
Comparing the structural difference of this Srivimana with that of Rajendra Chola’s Brihadisvara temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram, the Thanjavur Srivimana is masculine as nature. While the one at Gangaikondam is feminine in nature. The main difference that is obvious is this Srivimana has 4 sided (Quadragonal) in structure and Gangaikondam Srivimana has 8 sided (Octagonal) in structure…..
Brihadeesvara Temple, Thanjavur
Brihadisvara Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram
Next, on the scene, is this huge, centrally placed, Nandi Mandapa – The shelter of the Master’s Loyal Servant…..
The ceilings of this sixteen pillared Nandi mandapa contains several mural paintings of Nayakas in the 16th century……
There is a decorated flag post of Chola period, made out of bronze, centrally placed in front of Nandi mandapa, facing the main sanctum….
Near to this Nandi Mandapa, on its northwest corner, a south facing Devi shrine is present …. The presiding deity of this shrine is known as ‘Brihanayaki or Ulagammudaiya Nacchiyar’ ….
The image of the presiding deity, “Brihanayaki or Goddess Parvathi”, measures up to more than seven feet and exudes serene majesty and grace. The goddess is standing with her two upper arms arms holding an arghhyamala and lotus and the two lower arms displaying the abhaya-varada mudras. Photography is restricted inside the main sanctum of this Amman shrine. But, there are some interesting reliefs in the mahamandapa, also….
Let’s get into the details of the northern side of Brihadeesvara temple complex. There are two other subsidiary shrines in the north side. One is a south facing Chandikesvarar shrine, similar to the Gangaikondam Brihadisvara, and the other is an east facing Karthikeya shrine, built during the Nayaka period.
Perhaps the oldest shrine in this complex is that of Sri Chandesvara in the north-central part of the compound. It is thought to have been built at the same time as the main temple…..
lets talk about the architecture of main sanctum complex which includes the Sri Vimana, also. The footing of pedestal (Upapitha) measuring 100 feet on each side rising to a height of 6 feet is divided into five bays which continue to the top. The gala has galapadas. The Padma – bandha adhisthana (basement) rising to a height of a 8 feet 3 inches is 90 feet 9 inches square on top. The vyala-friezes (leogriffs) are seen in the lower and upper courses. Above the vyala-frieze is the vedi supporting the foot (padas) of the wall.
This type of arrangement has given ample space for the sculptor to accommodate exquisite images of many divinities, which are noteworthy for their iconographic and aesthetic content.
Parallel course of the masonry over the second tala are stepped closer, using a system of corbelling and extending to the third tala. On this the base of the other 12 talas rest. The remainder of the superstructure including griva (neck) and sikhara is hollow following the Kadalika – karana method of construction. The square plan of the hollow interior becomes octagonal beyond half of the height. The corner slab acts further to brace the superstructure. The neck (griva) is octagonal capped by light ribbed, bulbous Kalasa. The height of the Sri Vimana is the eight times the base as the human body is conceived of as 8 spans of the land. With 16 talas (tiers) highest prescribed in texts – this Sri Vimana is considered to be Jativimana. Just compare this Sri Vimana with that of the Gangaikondam temple, and you can see the difference below….
Brihadeeswara temple, Thanjavur – North face
Brihadisvara temple, Gangaikonda cholapuram – North face
This part of Sri Vimana also has the niche figure of Alingana Murti or Gouri Prasada Murti. Siva is shown here with his left arm around Uma maheshvari’s shoulders. Both figures exude a languid and reposeful grace.
Now, look at the sculptures in the niches of the northern side of main temple complex…..
Did you notice the ancient inscriptions in Grantha script (Sanskrit) running along the plinth area of main sanctum complex (below the niches) ??? These inscriptions are called ” Chola Prasasrhi ” ….
Later on Chola kings had more than one prasasthi. Cholakings added a title alternatively as Rajakesari and Parakesari. Prasasthi’s start with auspicious saying such as Swasthi Sri etc., they give historical details, name of the king, his title, name of his queen, the regnal year, and later on about the donations, land details etc. During Pandya period, they used the titles as Maravarman and Sadayavarman.
Finally, we reached at the northern entrance, locally known as, ‘Anukkan Tiruvayil’….
You can see two other sculptures on the west and east side walls, near the 15 ft monolithic dvarapalas, of the Anukkan tiruvayil ….
Its time to explore the inner sanctum, ardhamandapa, mahamandapa and mukhamandapa of Brihadeeswara temple complex. Like any other temples, Photography is strictly restricted in these areas. So, let me explain the inner views in words….
The temple interiors were designed to be dark so the human eye is not distracted by the material world to let the mind enter the spiritual world of God. As seen in the Brihadeshvara Temple, natural light is introduced in a progressive light quality from brightness to darkness accommodating the ritual movement of the worshiper. It is interesting to note that the reduction level of light quality in the temple also contributes to the thermal comfort in the building. Thick walls, small windows, and reduced light maintain cool and dry conditions for better thermal comfort in the hot humid climate of Tamilnadu. Thus, the worshippers are not distracted visually or thermally enabling to focus one’s mind on God.
The garbagriha or main sanctum is 24 feet 9 inches square surrounded by an enclosed ambulatory passage. The inside extends for both the talas housing the biggest Siva Linga, having 8.7 m height, with enormous pitha (pedestal). The Siva linga itself is a very grand presence and is believed to house the powers of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in its three divisions respectively. The topmost division is further sub-divided into ascending tiers of energy beginning with Rudra, Mahesha, Sadashiva, Parabindu, Paranadam, Parashakti and Parasivam. And the name of presiding deity is, Dakshina Meru Vidanagar Paramasamy.
In the ambulatory passage, the two talas are separated by mezzanine – the lower tala has the paintings and the upper tala has dance panels. There are three colossal sculptures, respectively located in the south, west and north and representing Siva as holding a spear (Rudramurti); Siva with ten arms dancing in chatura pose as Lord Vishnu plays the drum and Parvathi Devi sits in Padmasana with a lotus-bud and rosary in her hands and seated Devi Manomani carrying a sword and trident are present in the passage surrounding the sanctum.
The entire wall-space and ceiling of the passage were originally covered with exquisite paintings, now obscured by a coat of the Nayaka period paintings in the 17th century. On the western side, the entire wall space is occupied by a huge panel in which Siva as Dakshinamurthi seated on a tiger-skin in a yogic pose is shown with yoga-pata across his waist and right knee under the banyan tree. Bhairava with dog and the Sanagathi munies, famous four disciples of Siva, are seen in the panel with animals and birds.
A complete imaging with better photographic equipment suggests that these historic interpretations were incorrect. It is actually a secular scene of a royal Guru meditating under a banyan tree. On the tree are shown peacocks, birds, monkeys, squirrels and owls, plus a cobra. The animals and birds are shown as worried of the cobra, the one’s closer to the snake are shown to be more worried.
Very interesting panel is the marriage scene of Sundara; Lord Siva appears in the guise of old man with documental evidence in his hand to establish his right to carry away Sundara on his marriage-day to his adobe at Tiruvennainallur. Still below this, the depiction of a lively scene of women cooking and food being served during the marriage ceremony is also noteworthy. The painting of two saints, Sundara and Cheraman rushing towards the Mount Kailas on elephant and horseback respectively shows the momentum in action. Two apsaras (celestial nymphs), ganas and other celestial musicians play the drums on, and other musical instruments, where in Vishnu along with Siva and Parvathi and Bhutaganas witness the scene with joy.
Beyond this, on the other side of the wall, is a large figure of Nataraja dancing in golden hall at Chidambaram with priests and other devotees on one side, Rajaraja and three of his queens with followers and other attendants seen on other side. A little further up is, Rajaraja shown worshipping the linga in Thanjavur temple.
The next panel in northwest corner depicts the scene of four disciples Sanga, Sanathana, Sananthana and sanathkumara, the ardent disciples of Lord Dakshinamurti are painted gracefully. The entire northern wall is covered by a scene of Tripurantaka on a chariot driven by Bramha, Karthikeya, Ganesha, Kali with their respective vahanas nandi, peacock, mouse and lion, etc. These paintings speaks itself the grandeur, rhythm and artistic skill of the Chola artists in the art of painting. You have to note the special technique used in these paintings – True fresco technique ( applying paint to the wet plaster), an uncommon one.
The upper storey corridor wall of the aditala is carved with 81 of the 108 dance karanas – postures of Natya Sastra. This text is the basis of the Bharathanatyam, the classical dance of Tamil Nadu. The 27 unrepresented karanas are blank blocks of stone, and it is unclear why these were not carved. The 81 postures carved suggest the significance of this classical Indian dance form by early 11th century.
Immediately in front of the sanctum are two large pillared halls (maha and mukha-mandapas). The former comprises of six transverse rows of six pillars each, forming three concentric squares. The four pillars in the south-west corner enclosed by a wall is Thyagaraja shrine. The pillars on the northern side are included for Utsava murtis (processional deities). And in the southwest corner of mahamandapa, highly decorated (with gold and diamond ornaments) bronze idols of Raja Raja Chola and his queen Ulagamadevi are present with some security. The later mandapa has a central nave bordered by two rows of ten pillars each, with shorter pillars raised on small platforms on either side. On western side are the steps to reach the terrace. In front of the mandapa is a wide platform reached by flight of steps on north and south.
Coming to the southern side of Brihadeesvara temple complex, the visual impact of Sri Vimana gets more clear….
lets compare this image with the southern face of Gangaikondam Brihadisvara….
South face of Brihadeesvara temple, Thanjavur.
South face of Brihadisvara temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram.
Now, have a closer look at the southwest corner of this Big temple….. you can see the devotees rushing in to the smaller shrine cell of Balaganapathy …..
I think this is the view that, everyone is looking for …. The view from the southwest corner of Great Brihadeesvara Temple….
And comparing it, with its feminine version, the one at Gangaikonda Cholapuram, built by Rajendra Chola I, the proud son of Raja Raja Chola I …. Which one looks better ??? Just, you decide….
Brihadeesvara Temple, Thanjavur.
Brihadisvara Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram.
Finally, to the last shots of this awesome morning session of exploration…..
With this shot, concludes the morning session and its time for having the traditional breakfast of Thanjavur. And after that, in the mid session, some indoor shots from the Thanjavur Marattha palace complex and Maharaja Sefroji’s Saraswathi Mahal library are displaying for you…..
Day 3 – Mid session (exploring the views around Thanjavur Marattha Palace)
Thanjavur Marattha Palace complex is situated, just 3 kms from the main town. Hardly, a half-an-hour walk towards the north. Thanjavur Marattha Palace Complex, known locally as Aranmanai, is the official residence of the Bhonsle family which ruled over the Thanjavur region from 1674 to 1855. Thanjavur Marattha palace was originally constructed by the rulers of Thanjavur Nayak kingdom. After the fall of the Thanjavur Nayak kingdom, it served as the official residence of the Thanjavur Marattha. When most of the Thanjavur Maratha kingdom was annexed to the British Empire in 1799, the Thanjavur Marathas continued to hold sway over the palace and the surrounding fort. The Bhonsle family continued to hold on to the palace even after the last king Shivaji II.
Palace complex consists of the Sadar Mahal Palace (not opens for the public), the queen’s courtyard and the Durbar Hall. The Royal Palace Museum contains a splendid collection of Cholla bronzes. The Raja Serfoji Memorial Hall and the Royal Palace Museum are situated in the Sadar Mahal Palace. There is also a small bell tower. The Saraswathi Mahal Library is situated with the Thanjavur palace complex. Our places of interest were the Bell tower, Marattha Durbar Hall and Saraswathi Mahal library …. (A 50 rupee ticket is all you needed, here.)
Next, to the Inner views of Marattha Durbar Hall….
You can also enjoy the beautifully coloured ceilings of this Durbar hall….
There are some exciting images sculpted and painted on the ceilings and pillars of Saraswathi Mahal library….
With this shot, concluded the mid session of Day 3 and Its Lunch time ….!!! Getting some refreshments after a long five hour expedition is something blissful, yeah!
Day 3 – Evening session (” The Conclusion “)
Evenings are always sweet and a perfect spot between the harshness of daylight and the infinite darkness of night. So, going back to Brihadeesvara temple, always a right choice and to explore the remaining views of that dravidian marvel. I think, you can agree to that, by enjoying the following scenes……
Its a popular question among the tourists that, whether the shadow of the temple falls? It is very much true that, in the morning and evening, the shadow of the Sri Vimana falls on the ground.
Now, zooming in to the heights of Great Sri Vimana…..
Here, comes the essential part of this architectural design. The supreme power associated within the the temple, which has no colour, no boundaries, came into existence by the hip of the Stupi or final on the top of Sri Vimana, acting as a ‘Dot’ in space. Once you put a dot in the space, there is no direction. That is, the 360 degree directions are brought in to existence, now operating on the top; which we called as “The Bindhu or Dot”. Lets compare this with the Brihadisvara temple of Gangaikondam…..
Shikhara of Thanjavur Brihadeesvara temple.
Shikhara of Gangaikondam Brihadisvara temple.
Coming back to the bottom segments of main sanctum complex….
Now moving on to, one of the remarkable shrines built within this temple complex. The shrine of Sri Subrahmanya, in the northwest corner by the Nayakas in the 17th century.
The shrine consist of a tower 55 feet high, raced on a base 45-sq-feet, covered with delicately carved figured, pillars and pilasters and carried on along a corridor 50 feet long, communicating with another Mandapam 50 feet sq. to the east. Flights of steps lead up to either side of the shrine but the principal entrance is to the east. The walls of the pillared mandapam are decorated with the portraits of the Marattha rulers.
You can see, two elegantly carved out figures of Kinnaras (Half man, Half horse) on the welcome pillars of the mukhamandapa of this Subrahmanya shrine….
Kinnaras of the Subrahmanya shrine, northwest corner of Brihadeesvara.
Kinnaras of the Subrahmanya shrine, northwest corner of Brihadeesvara.
The western side of complex, is the perfect place to get some serious shots in the evening, especially with the western sunlight…..
In the western courtyard a small shrine for Karuvur devar is present. He was a saint and said to be the preceptor of Rajaraja. A later erected shrine with modern era style construction. Karuvar devar is said to be one among the venerated Siddhas of the Tamil people. Now, coming to the west side details of Sri Vimana….
lets check it out…. (Another comparison of the west face of both Thanjavur Brihadeesvara and Gangaikondam Brihadisvara)
West face of Thanjavur Brihadeesvara temple.
West face of Gangaikondam Brihadisvara temple.
In the Southwest corner of the main temple complex, near the cloister halls, a subsidiary shrine of Lord Ganesha is present….
As we have seen the southern side of Brihadeesvara temple, earlier in the morning session….. Lets see it, once again in the evening and you can experience the difference of the two shots….
One last thing to explore in this main temple complex…… ” The Mural Paintings of Nayakas period inside the Northern Cloister Halls of Brihadeesvara” …… Only thirty percentage of these 400-years old paintings are survived from the damages incurred to them.
The above shown murals are some of the surviving paintings in those cloister halls. There is much more, almost 4 times of this…. It is time, for saying goodbye to this architectural beauty. Before that, i can share some of the last moments in this holy atmosphere…..
From the times of the Cholas the temple and its surrounding environs have been a cradle of music and dance traditions. The panels of karana sculptures in the first storey of the temple illustrate eighty one of the hundred and eight karanas codified in ancient texts such as the Natyashastra. These are thought to have been executed at the same time as the temple was built. The temple has various inscriptions which confirm that elaborate rituals including dance and music were part of its observances. Generous endowments were bestowed upon the artists for their ritual services. Through the centuries the temple has been a towering presence with its presiding deity inspiring many literary and musical compositions.
One can spend a whole day in the Big Temple, and still want to come back to marvel at every detail of its beauty. Many kings had built temples to Lord Siva on the banks of the Cauvery. Many saints have sung in praise of these deities. But there is only one temple to Brihadeeswara, and it stands tall a thousand years after a devotee-king climbed a ladder with a copper pot (kalasam) anointed with holy water from all the sacred rivers, to dedicate it to history. For me, this journey is all about understanding the ancient dravidian architecture of South India, which starts with Pallavas of 7th century and ends with Cholas of 11th century. Its time to remember my loving companions…..
Thanjavur temple represents, in every meaning of the term, the pinnacle of of Chola power, but also the importance of cultural development, that to place along with the economic and social integration, being done with the help of this temple as a major institution. That’s why it has an enduring importance in Indian history.
Actually, this is a tale of discovering the cultural significance of bringing together the spiritual world with the social life of South India. A journey to explore, how the ‘Divine culture’ is synced with the creative abilities of ordinary men. And it also shows the influence of ancient architectural science in various transformations of the Dravidian era. This expedition of mine, never ends as it is an ongoing process of discovering the epic tales of ancient India……Definitely, it will continue !!!
Day 3 – Itinerary
Starting Point : Jayakondam (70 kms from Thanjavur)
Mode of transportation : Public transport, Via Kumbakonam (38 kms from Thanjavur)
Travel Time : 2 hours in total.
Place of Stay : Ganesha Lodge, Thanjavur (near old Bus station). Above average facilities.
Rent Charges : Rs 500 per day for double rooms.
Places of Interest : Thanjavur Big temple, Marattha Palace and Saraswathi Mahal library.
Duration of Exploration : 10 hrs in total. (Morning & Evening)
Return Journey : By train (Thanjavur – Ernakulam express), in night.