The Peruvudaiyar Koyil (), also known as Brihadeeswarar Temple and Rajarajeswaram, at Thanjavur in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva and a brilliant example of the major heights achieved by Cholas in Tamil architecture. It is a tribute and a reflection of the power of its patron RajaRaja Chola I. It remains India's largest temple and is one of the greatest glories of Indian architecture. The temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Great Living Chola Temples".
This temple is one of India's most prized architectural sites. The temple stands amidst fortified walls that were probably added in the 16th century. The vimana — or the temple tower — is high and is among the tallest of its kind in the world. The Kumbam (or Kalash or Chikharam) (apex or the bulbous structure on the top) of the temple is carved out of a single stone as widely believed. There is a big statue of Nandi (sacred bull), carved out of a single rock, at the entrance measuring about 16 feet long and 13 feet high. The entire temple structure is made out of hard granite stones, a material sparsely available in Thanjavur area where the temple is. Built in 1010 AD by Raja Raja Chola in Thanjavur, Brihadishwara Temple, also popularly known as the Big Temple', turned 1000 years old in 2010.
Complete view of the temple covering the whole tower from the front side The temple had its foundations laid out by the Tamil emperor Arulmozhivarman, popularly called Rajaraja Chola I, () in 1002 CE, as the first of the great Tamil Chola building projects. The temple was built by Rajaraja Chola, one of the greatest Tamil emperors to grace the throne of the Chola empire in compliance of a command given to him in his dream. The scale and grandeur is in the Chola tradition. An axial and symmetrical geometry rules the temple layout. Temples from this period and the following two centuries are an expression of the Tamils (Chola) wealth, power and artistic expertise. The emergence of such features as the multifaceted columns with projecting square capitals signal the arrival of the new Chola style.
The Brihadeeswarar Temple was built to be the royal temple to display the emperor's vision of his power and his relationship to the universal order. The temple was the site of the major royal ceremonies such as anointing the emperor and linking him with its deity, Shiva, and the daily rituals of the deities were mirrored by those of the king. The temple maintained a staff of 600 people in various capacities. Besides the Brahmin priests, these included record-keepers, musicians, scholars, and craftsman of every type as well as housekeeping staff. In those days the temple was a hub of business activities for the flower, milk, oil, and ghee merchants, all of whom made a regular supply of their respective goods for the temple for its poojas and during festival seasons. Moreover as evidenced by the inscriptions that found in the compound wall of this temple, the temple had always been serving as a platform for the dancers who excelled in the traditional dance form of Bharatnatyam.It has been said that the temple's kalasam weighs 50 tons which has since been a mystery on how it may have been transported to the top.In addition,much confusion has remained between arechaeologists due to the fact that the temple has been built more than 1000 years ago and has never met construction failure because of the supposed weight of the kalasam. This displays the ancient Tamil's excellent knowledge in craftmanship and construction. Even today, the Brihadeeswarar Temple remains India's largest temple.
It is an architectural exemplar showcasing the pure form of the Dravida type of temple architecture and representative of the Chola Empire ideology and the Tamil civilisation in Southern India. The temples "testify to the brilliant achievements of the Chola in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting."
The temple was consecrated in 1010 CE by Raja Raja Chola I. In 2010 there was a celebration commemorating the temple's thousandth anniversary.
The temple complex sits on the banks of a river that was channeled to make a moat around the complex's outer walls, the walls being built like a fortress. The complex is made up of many structures that are aligned axially. The complex can be entered either on one axis through a five-story gopuram or with a second access directly to the huge main quadrangle through a smaller free-standing gopuram. The massive size of the main sikhara (although it is hollow on the inside and not meant to be occupied) is 63 meters high, with 16 severely articulated stories, and dominates the main quadrangle. Pilaster, piers, and attached columns are placed rhythmically covering every surface of the shikhara.
The main temple is in the center of the spacious quadrangle composed of a sanctuary, a Nandi, a pillared hall and an assembly hall (mandapas), and many sub-shrines. The most important part of the temple is the inner mandapa which is surrounded by massive walls that are divided into levels by sharply cut sculptures and pilasters providing deep bays and recesses. Each side of the sanctuary has a bay emphasizing the principle cult icons. The karuvarai, a Tamil word meaning the interior of the sanctum sanctorum, is the inner most sanctum and focus of the temple where an image of the primary deity, Shiva, resides. Inside is a huge stone linga. The word Karuvarai means "womb chamber" from Tamil word karu for foetus. Only priests are allowed to enter this inner-most chamber.
In the Dravida style, the Karuvarai takes the form of a miniature vimana with other features exclusive to southern Indian temple architecture such as the inner wall together with the outer wall creating a pradakshina around the garbhagriha for circumambulation (pradakshina). The entrance is highly decorated. The inside chamber housing the image of the god is the sanctum sanctorum, the garbhagriha. The garbhagriha is square and sits on a plinth, its location calculated to be a point of total equilibrium and harmony as it is representative of a microcosm of the universe. In the center is placed the image of the deity. The royal bathing-hall where Rajaraja the great gave gifts is to the east of the hall of Irumudi-Soran.
The circumambulation winds around the massive lingam in the garbhagriha and is repeated in an upper story, presenting the idea that Chola Empire freely offered access to the gods.
The inner mandapa leads out to a rectangular mandapa and then to a twenty-columned porch with three staircases leading down. Sharing the same stone plinth is a small open mandapa dedicated to Nandi, Shiva's sacred bull mount.
Shrine of Ganapathy Surrounding the main temple are two walled enclosures. The outer wall is high, defining the temple complex area. Here is the massive gopuram or gateway mentioned above. Within this a portico, a barrel vaulted gorpuram with over 400 pillars, is enclosed by a high wall interspersed with huge gopurams axially lined up to the main temple.
Origin of idea
The wish to build a mammoth temple like this is said to have occurred to Raja Raja while he stayed at Sri Lanka as an emperor.
Not only the temple and the "moolavar", (prime deity, Shiva) but all other deities (Koshta Moorthigal) like Dakshinamurthy, Suriyan (Sun), Chandran (Moon) are very huge sized. Especially, Brihadeeswar temple is one of the rare temples which has statues for "Ashta dik paalakas" (Lords of all Eight Directions) — Indra, Varuna, Agni, Eesana, Vayu, Niruthi, Yama, Kubera — each of which is a life-like status, i.e., approximately 6 feet tall.
Myths & Features
Shadow of the 'Kumbam'(Dome) The 60-metre tall Vimana is the tallest in South India. A European-like figure which is carved on the Vimana is believed to be an ancient warning of the arrival of the Europeans. Later investigations by archaeologists proposed that this claim may be a hoax.
Another widely believed that the shadow of the gopuram (pyramidal tower usually over the gateway of a temple) never falls on the ground. However, some scholars have dismissed this as a myth.
The temple is said to be made up of about 130,000 tons of granite. The Kumbam itself, a 60 ton granite stone carved in one piece, on top of the main gopuram is believed to have been taken to the top by creating a inclined slope to the height of 66m to the top of the gopuram. The prevailing belief is that a mud-slope, which starts at about three miles from the temple site, from Thirukoilore (birth place of Raja raja's mother) near Sri Virateshvara swamy temple. Elephants might have been used to drag the stone up the slope. This was claimed to be the only part of the gopuram, which does not cast a shadow that fall on the ground, at least not within the temple premises. But this is a myth too.
A view from the top Thanjavur can be reached easily by road, rail and air. Tamil Nadu state government runs frequent public buses from nearby Trichy, Chennai, Kumbakonam, Pudukkottai, Pattukkottai, Tirunelveli, Karur, Nagapattinam, Coimbatore,Erode and many other cities in the state. From the state capital Chennai, a National Highway (NH 45-A) linking Chennai with Chidambaram, Mayavaram, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur,Thiruvarur and Nagappatinam provides convenient access to tourists who come to visit Thanjavur and the adjoining towns. There are also several buses operated by private bus operators.
Rail services are run by Indian Railways from many cities across India including Chennai, Trichy, Coimbatore, Erode, Tirunelveli, Madurai and Nagore. The train station is Thanjavur Junction.
Tiruchirapalli Airport is the nearest airport, located 65 km away.
5 Commemorative postage stamp issued by India Post in 2010 as part of the millennium year celebrations A 5 Special Commemorative coin released by Reserve Bank of India to mark the millennium year celebrations of the famous Brihadeeswarar Temple built by the great Chola ruler Raja Raja Chola I 1000 currency note released by Reserve Bank of India on 01 April, 1954 to honor the historic Brahadeeswarar Temple, a UNESCO World heritage site
Built in the year 1052ce by Raja Raja Chola in Thanjavur, Brihadeeswarar Temple popularly known as the Big Temple turned 1000 years old in September 2010. To celebrate the 1000th year of the grand structure, the state government and the town held many cultural events. It was to recall the 275th day of his 25th regal year (1010 CE) when Raja Raja Chola (985 1014 CE) handed over a gold-plated kalasam (copper pot or finial) for the final consecration to crown the vimana, the 59.82 metre tall tower above the sanctum.
To mark the occasion, the state government organised a Bharathanatyam Yajna, classical dance show under noted dancer Padma Subramaniam. It was jointly organised by the Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India (ABHAI) and the Brhan Natyanjali Trust, Thanjavur. To mark the 1000th year anniversary of the building, 1000 dancers from New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Singapore, Malaysia and the U.S. danced in concert to the recorded 11 verses of divine music Thiruvichaippa (ninth of Thirumurai) composed by Karuvur Thevar (the guru of Raja Raja Chola) named Tiruvisaippa. The small town turned into a cultural hub for two days beginning September 26, 2010 as street performers and dancers performed throughout the town.
Commemorative stamp and coin
On September 26, 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 Raja Gopuram 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. A Raja, Cabinet Minister of Communications and Information Technology released the esteemed Brihadeeswarar Temple special stamp, the first of which was received by G K Vasan, Cabinet Minister of Shipping. On April 1, 1954, the Reserve Bank of India released a 1000 currency note featuring a panoramic view of the Brihadeeswara Temple marking its cultural heritage and significance. In 1975, the then government led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi demonetized all 1,000 currency notes in an effort to curtail black money. These notes are now popular among collectors.
Tamil Nadu chief minister, M Karunanidhi renamed Semmai Paddy, a special type of high productivity paddy variant, as Raja Rajan-1000 to mark the millennial year celebration of the Big Temple s builder, Raja Raja Cholan.
Brihadeeswarar Temple in historic novels
Balakumaran has written a novel Udaiyar themed on the life of Raja Raja Chola I and construction of the Brihadeeswarar temple. Before that Kalki written a famous novel "Ponniyin Selvan" based on the life of Raja Raja Chola I
File:Inscriptions around the temple.JPG|
Inscriptions around the temple
Temple at sunset
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Entrance to Dakshinamoorthi shrine
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Detail of gopuram (main tower)
Another deity in gopuram (main tower)
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The shrine of Sri Subramanya
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Detail of steps of the shrine of Sri Subramanya
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One of many stone deities found in the pillared cloister surrounding the courtyard
Several Lingam found in the pillared cloister
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Example of the frescos found in the pillared cloister
File:Big Temple-Bull.jpg|Nandi, on the way to sanctum sanctorum. File:Raraja detail.png|Raja Raja Chola File:Rajarajesvaram Temple 4-8a.jpg|Shiva Lingam File:Rajarajesvaram Temple 7-10a.jpg|Shiva
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