Thanjavur Brihadeeswara Temple, Darshan Timings, History, Architecture, Deities, Festivals, Attractions, How to Reach. About Thanjavur Brihadeeswara Temple, temple architecture, Deities of the Temple, Attractions near Brihadeeswarar Temple, Festivals, Best time to Visit, How to Reach, Accommodation.
About Thanjavur Brihadeeswara Temple
Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple is one of the most ancient temple, situated in the city of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, India. Thanjavur named after the legendry asura “Tanjan”, is one of the ancient temples in India. In ancient days, Thanjavur known as “The rice bowl of Tamil Nadu,” was an important city to the ancient Cholas. It was remade by the Cholas from a collection of villages into a major temple center 1000 years ago, with the construction of the Brihadisvara Temple in the center of the city, and the city then built up around it. Thanjavur had the distinction of being specifically constructed as a religious city with the temple centermost.
Brihadeeshwara temple or the Big temple in Tanjore is the best example of excellent workmanship, grandeur and it has stood the testimony of time with its magnificent central dome which is a great attraction for one and all. The Brihadeshwar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, was built by King Rajaraja I in the 11th century to celebrate a military victory. The temple is a tribute as well as a reflection of the power of RajaRaja Chola I. The temple is most famous due to its uniqueness as among the greatest glories of the Indian architecture. The complex that houses the main sanctum is known as the ‘Periya Kovil’. It is located amidst the fortified walls that were added to the building in the 16th century. This architectural masterpiece has been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple is built over 29 square base and is surrounded by moat on two sides and Grand Anaicut river on the other side. The walls of the complex are adorned by beautiful paintings belonging to the Chola and Nayak period.
The Siva Lingam here is gigantic, more than 12 feet tall. The Nandi facing the sanctum is also 12 feet in height and the dwarapalaks (the guardians deities of temple) and deities around the main shrine look elegant.. The main attraction here is the huge tower above the sanctum which is about 216 feet. The tower stands tall and one can see this fabulous structure even as one enters Tanjore.
The temple architecture marvel comprises of bundles of surpries:
1. Shadow Disappears at noon: The most intersting part of this temple is the shadow of the temple, which surprisingly never falls on the ground at noon. The Brihadeshwar Temple is one of the tallest temples in the world and is so designed that the viman does not cast a shadow at noon during any part of the year.
2. First All Granite Temple: Brihadeshwar Temple is the first complete granite temple in the world. Granite is not found in the surrounding areas. It is not known where this massive granite was brought from. The absence of a granite quarry within a 100km radius of the temple require logistics of epic proportions to get the stone to the construction site. As hard as it was to find, Granite is harder to carve. Yet the great Chola wanted a the temple to be covered with the most intricately designs; unlike the pyramid which possesses extraordinary dimensions but nary an artistry.
3. Till Date its the tallest temple: The temple was built at a fair clip, completed in mere 7 years, amounting to moving and placing almost 50 tons of rock each and every day, not to forget carving and aligning it. When the Brihadeeswara temple was completed in 1003 CE, it was the tallest temple in India by an order of magnitude of 10. A thousand years later, standing at 216 feet, it is still the tallest temple in India. Atop the soaring vimaana –the tower above the main temple and a word that translates to “airplane”– is a capstone that weighs 80 tons. The best thing in the chola temples is that the tower lies over the sanctums has more elevation as compared to the towers set over the gopuram (tower) that could be found at the entrance. After dusk, when the temple is been illuminated, its topmost light over the dome seems not less than another planet glowing and coming closer to the earth. This attraction is the tallest in its line that draw thousands of people to its area.
4. Musical pillars: At the entrance of sanctum sanctorum, one can see the two idols of Ganesha in the corridor. On taping the two, you will feel the sound traveling through stone in one idol and through metal on the other. The main hall of the temple is said to have been used by the dancers and musicians performing in service of Shiva. There are some musical pillars producing different sounds when tapped.
The Big Temple of Tanjavore is a stunning monument that speaks oodles about the architectural mastery of the Chola era. This 212 ft (64.8 meter) towering Shiva temple is home to one of the largest Shiva Lingas of the country. A majestic Nandhi (bull), measuring a gigantic 19.4 ‘ x 8.23’ x 12’ (5.94 x 2.51 x 3.66 in meters) stands guard over the temple. This is the second largest Nandhi in India and is carved out of a single stone. Everything about this temple is big, majestic. No wonder it is referred as The Big Temple.
The Big Temple was constructed by Raja Raja Chola I, the greatest king of the Chola dynasty between AD 985 and 1014. The Chola dynasty were Shaivites. Vijayalaya Chola who envisioned “The Chola Empire” ruled around AD 850. Raja Raja Chola I was the greatest warrior and administrator in the Chola dynasty. King Raja Raja Cholan was the most successfull in expanding their empire. The Big Temple was an expression of the success of Raja Raja Chola’s empire. This temple is also called as Brahadeeswara Temple or Peruvudaiyar Kovil or Rajarajeswaram. The temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site known as the “Great Living Chola Temples”.
King Raja Raja Cholan had the main temple built completely with granite. It is hard to imagine how, in that age, more than 130,000 tones of granite was brought to the temple site, especially given that there is no granite quarry within a hundred kilometers of the temple site. Another stunning architectural feat is the Vimana / Shikhara – the spire atop the temple. The beautiful lotus shaped stone of the Big Temple weighs a stunning 80 tons. We can but marvel at the engineering mastermind who managed to hoist an 80 ton carved rock up a 212 feet tower back in the 11th century.
The chief architect of the temple was Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Perunthachan. The layout of the temple is based on the principles of Vastu Shastra, the ancient Hindus science of architecture and construction and Agamas, the ancient scripts that define principles behind temple construction. The central temple site is surrounded by a rectangular boundary 885 ‘ x 450 ‘ (270 m by 140 m). The temple boundary holds many sub shrines besides the main temple and the Nandi.
The niches on three sides of the temple hold images of Shiva, Vishnu and Durga. The southern wall has sculptures of Ganesha, Vishnu with his consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi, Lakshmi, a pair of Dvarapalas, Vishnu anugraha murti, Bhikshatana, Virabhadra, Dakshinamurti, Kalanta and Nataraja. On the west side there are images of Harihara, Ardhanarishvara, a pair of dvarapalas and two Chandrasekharas, one with and the other without halo. On the north, in the lower series, the depiction of Adhanarisvara, Gangadhara, a pair of dvarapalas, Virabhadra (with a sword and a shield), Alingana Chandrasekhara, Siva holding a Sula (spear), a pair of dvarapalas, Sarasvati, Mahishasuramardini and Bhairava. The north series shows a number of Tripurantakas repeated in each niche. In the small circular space of the top niches are present the carvings of Ganesha, Vrishabavahana, Bhikshatana, Narasimha and Varaha.
Besides these, each wall of the temple and the surrounding architecture are filled to the brim with carvings and paintings depicting the rich history of art, culture, mythology and science of the era.
6.00 a.m. – 12.30 Noon, 4.00 p.m. – 8.30 p.m.
Temple Festivals: chitharai madham – pramorsavam – 18 days festival – on the day of sathaya natchathiram people raises the flag and During chithirai nathathiram theerthavari takes place.
Aipasi – Raja raja cholan birth day function – Grand function takes place during sathya natchathiram. On that day festival happens continueously,from morning 9.00 AM to 3.00 PM.on that day swamy roaring takes place.
During aipasi month god decoration happens with full of foods,it will take place as a grand function.
Special poojas will be contected During the days of Thiruvathirai,aadipuram,karthigai.
Every pradhosha days the number of people come to temple is very huge in number.
Special function takes place at the time of Deevali ,Pongal ,and New year.
Deities of the Temple
The main deity or Moolavar of Brihadeeswarar Temple is Lord Shiva. The other deities, known to be just one step lower are on Koshta Moorthigal (outer wall) are Dakshinamurthy, Chandra and Surya, with idols in huge sizes. This temple is one of the temples that have idols of Ashtadikpaalakas (Guardians of directions) – Indra, Agni, Nirrti, Varuna, Kubera, Isana, Yama, and Vayu. Each has two 6 feet tall statues-one in past form and the other, their representation. All these statues are positioned in a separate temple as per their respective direction.
The main temple is surrounded by 2 walled attachments wherein the outer wall is the higher one, marking complex area of the temple. Gopuram or a huge gateway is right here. In these two walls are 1 portico, 1 barrel vaulted Gopuram with 400 pillars; 1 high wall circles it with massive Gopurams lining up towards the main temple.
The walls around the sanctum sanctorum has several frescos of Chola, representing Lord Shiva in different actions like dancing, sending white-colored elephant for taking a devotee to heaven and terminating fiend forts. After these murals were discovered, the people came to known about the journey of Saint Sundarar and Chera King to the heaven and the battle scene between Lord Shiva (Tripurantaka) and the Asuras (demon). An amazing feature of these paintings by Chola artists show even the Asura women appearing to be beautiful.
The paintings on the passage walls and in the sanctum sanctorum have suffered damage due to deposit of dust on them because of consistent exposure to the smoke from camphor burning and maps that have been there for centuries. It was around 400 years ago that some of the Chola paintings were replaced by the rulers of Tanjore Nayak. It happened for the first time in history around the world that Archaeological Survey of India used the original de-stucco process for the restoration of 16 Nayak paintings that are now collected over fiber glass boards and are placed in a separate area.
Attractions near Brihadeeswarar Temple
Constructed by a number of Thanjavur rulers, Thanjavur Palace is positioned quite close to Brihadeeswarar Temple. According to the historians, the foundation of this temple was laid down by Nayaks that led to its construction in the year 1550 AD. Along with exploring the temple, one can also visit the museum and the art gallery to have a look at some of the best items from the times of the royalty such as royal robes, arms and weapons, utensils, granite and bronze statues and musical instruments.
Around 65 km from the city center, Manora Fort was constructed by a Maratha Ruler, Serfoji II. The reason behind the construction of the fort was to mark the British win over Napoleon Bonaparte the ‘Battle of Waterloo’. This 8-storey construction, hexagonal in shape, was constructed in 1814-15. From the top of the fort, one can enjoy some amazing views of the surroundings area. The tourism department has started boating in the region.
Saraswathi Mahal Library
Positioned inside the elegant Saraboji Palace, Saraswathi Mahal Library is that place where one can find several manuscripts in Tamil and Sanskrit. It is believed that these valuable documents are old world pieces, considered to be priceless by various historians for being a source of important information on the life of the past rulers and their works. This palace library also has a space for paintings illustrating several old cities that were in existence at the time of King Saraboji. For its wonderful collection of books and art works, this library is a must-visit.
Around 200 years old, Schwartz Church is an old cathedral that was constructed by Reverend Schwartz. Though the church does not have any distinct architecture but it offers a quite spot in spite of being located in a busy area. Today, the church is under CSI Trichy-Tanjore and organizes services early morning.
Siva Ganga Garden
Small but well-maintained Siva Ganga Garden is a popular landmark that is sandwiched between Schwartz Church and Brihadeeswarar Temple. Popular as picnic spot, the garden also comprises of a children’s play area, toy train and a pond where visitors can enjoy boating.
The day of Ruling star or Satabhishag, every month, is considered as a day of celebration by people as this is a symbol of ruling star, the time when Raja Raja was born. The temple also becomes the venue of its annual festival that is celebrated in the month of Visaka. During this 9-day festival, the devotees make their Lord take a bath with water made fragrant from Champaka flowers.
The timings of Brihadeeshwarar temple is from 6 AM to 8.30 PM. The devotees and visitor start flocking the temple complex in queues from as early as 5 AM. As the temples is extremely crowded on Sunday, one can buy a ticket of INR 5, for special darshan.
Noon when the shadow disappears
One of the most amazing features about the architecture is that this temple has the tallest Vimana in the world and it does not even cast a shadow in the afternoon hours, all throughout the year.
World’s first all granite temple
The Brihadeeswara temple is not only the world’s tallest temple but is also that first temple that is completely made of granite. Even the location where the temple is, shows no sign of all-granite structure, not somewhere in the nearby areas. The place from where the stone was brought is still unknown. There is no place within the radius of 100 km from where granite can brought in and thus huge logistic would have been used for moving the stone to the construction site. Not only finding granite was quite a task but also carving on granite was equally tough. Built by the Cholas rulers, the temple contains of stunning carvings.
Even today the tallest temple
The construction of the temple took around 7 years including the transportation of the stone to the temple site. It is believed the on a daily basis around 50 tons of rock was brought here, carved and then aligned for the temple’s construction. The construction was completed in 1003 CE. Even today, Brihadeeswara temple is the tallest temple in India with a height of 216 feet. The Vimana or the airplane on the temple’s top weighs around 80 tons. The temple’s prime attraction is that the temple’s tower on the altars have a high elevation in comparison to the towers that are placed on gourami at the temple’s entrance. During twilight, when the light on the temple’s top is lighted, it looks like a shining planet.
The altar at the temple’s entrance has 2 idols of Lord Ganesha. When a person taps on any of the idols, the sound thus produced travels to the other idol meandering through the stone that is at one end and metal, that is on the other. The royal musicians and dancers used to perform for Lord Shiva in the main hall. It has been noticed that the pillars of the temple produce musical sounds.
Best time to Visit
At the time of the Hindu month of Visakha or May month according to the English calendar when the annual festival of the temple is celebrated for a span of 9 days, starting from Satabhisha star day. This star is known to be the symbol of the birth star of RajaRaja and this this festival is celebrated every month on Satabhisha star day.
How to Reach
To visit all these tourist destinations in and around Tanjore, you need to know how to reach Tanjore. You can avail of the following transport options to reach Tanjore
By Air: The nearest airport is at Trichy (65 km).
By Rail: The railway junction in Tanjore is well-linked with Trichy, Chennai, Madurai and Nagore.
By Road: Tanjore is well-connected by a vast network of roads to all the prime towns and cities in Tamil Nadu and also to Kochi, Ernakulam, and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Bangalore in Karnataka. Customary bus services and tourist taxis are available for you to visit the tourist destinations in and around Tanjore.
If you are planning a tour to Thanjavur, you can browse through our list of hotels in Thanjavur, and pick one as per your budget and desired location. Also known as Tanjore, Thanjavur is one of the most popular religious and culturally important destinations of the Tamil Nadu. To accommodate the huge influx of visitors, Thanjavur hotels are very well-equipped and offer impeccable hospitality services. The city has hotels to fit in every pocket-size and preferences.