Check Out The Awe-Inspiring Brihadeeswarar Temple & Rajarajan Museum
It’s really amazing to think about the centuries of history and civilisation that you find in the corners of India. The Brihadeeswarar Temple, located in the city of Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu), is one such example of a years and years of history and architecture, being preserved in the most respectful and loving way.
It is a true testament of rich heritage of the Chola dynasty, which ruled the region of Tamil Nadu between 850 and 1280 CE. Today, the Brihadeeswarar Temple stands tall and glorious, emanating grandeur of the time, and reminiscent of the glamour the dynasty once enjoyed.
What instantly catches the eye as you first view the Brihadeeswarar Temple is the looming, powerful stature of the structure. The intricate detailing, the strong columns, the tall dome and the granite structure are all typical of the Chola architecture, during the time when the dynasty was at its most powerful, emanating strength from every stone. As you step into the temple complex, you instantly feel a sense of awe at the grand structures, and marvel at the pristine condition you find them in even today.
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The Great Brihadeeswarar Temple
This majestic structure is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is a fine example of Chola dynasty architecture in South India. Built by Raja Raja Chola I, this 16th century temple is one of the largest in India, is almost made entirely of granite. The grand temple is the 7th largest Hindu temple in the world, is also called Peruvudaiyaar Kovil. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Great Living Chola Temples. A visit to Tamil Nadu is incomplete without the temple, and a visitor must not leave without checking out these 5 elements:
1. The Dieties And Mudras
The Shiva inside the temple is in the form of a Linga, which is a symbolic form of the deity. One of the largest Monolithic Lingas in India, this majestic structure covers around 2 stories of the sanctum sanctorum, and is a real sight to see. Fun fact – you must have seen the dancing Nataraja design, which you’ll also see in many Indian homes. But not many know that it was first commissioned for the Brihadeeswarar Temple. You cannot miss it.
2. The Sansrit Inscriptions
The beauty of the Chola architecture is in the details. The walls and pillars are carved with beautiful inscription, which tell stories and mantras from the time of the powerful Chola dynasty. These wall carvings are written from the Tamil scriptures, and speak volumes of the knowledge and culture for the dynasty. These are interesting to decipher, and hold a world of information and learnings.
3. The Art And Murals
The stunning murals that you’ll find in the sanctum sanctorum are made out of natural colours, and depict beautiful scenes of the time. Artists took great care to paint Hindu mythology, including scenes not just about Shiva, but about Vishnu, Durga, as well as scenes about the chivalry of the Chola royalty. You can also notice some everyday scenes of the common people in the dynasty, which give you a great insight about lives and stories of people from that time period. Most importantly, these murals are stunning and give the temple an extra glamour and sheen.
4. The Brihadeeswarar Temple Architecture
The architecture of this great structure is stuff of textbooks! The carved, solid pillars, the multiple structural differences within the buildings, and the sturdiness with which it is all build is really worth studying closely. Just imagine, this temple was built more than a 1000 years ago, and still stands the test of time, and marvelously so!
5. The Sanctum Sanctorum
Home to the main temple diety, Shiva in the form of the linga, the sanctum sanctorum deserves some amount of time to really appreciate it’s beauty and grandness. The area is also allowed to be visited by priests, but one can see it, and it is a real sight to see. Outside, the structure is in the shape of a typical Vimana, a tall tower, and makes for a visual treat.
Before leaving Thanjavur, and to find out more about the great Chola Dynasty, do also stop by the Rajarajan Museum, a unique museum dedicated to the works of art and information from that period. A significant period of the history of the region, the Chola dynasty, specifically the Rajaraja period, there was a lot of emphasis on beautiful structures and culture. The relics and buildings from that time still trickle down to the history of modern day Tamil Nadu. The achievements of Rajaraja ensured that the dynasty enjoyed many years of splendour, and at the Rajarajan Museum, one can see the stories of these times in great details. This is a perfect complement to the Brihadeeswarar Temple, and must be visited!
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Neha Mathur loves to explore the stories behind places and people. She believes travel is the best form of education, and loses no opportunity to visit a new place. Neha writes to express stories that touch her heart or entice her mind. She’s a foodie and nothing gives her more happiness than delicious local food! She has a deep love for poetry and music, and swears by the artistic genius of Mirza Ghalib and R.D. Burman.