Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur(Tanjore) - Its Shadow Disappears at Noon
The Chola temple of ThanjavurThe most interesting 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.
Pride of India - Thanjavur Big Temple
At the entrance of sanctum sanctum, 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.
Thanjavur named after the legendary asura "Tanjan", is one of the ancient temples in India. In ancient days, Thanjavur was 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 architecutre marvel comprises of bundles of surpries:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Festival at Brihadeeshwara Temple:
The day of the Ruling star, satabhishag is treated as a festival day every month as it symbolizes the ruling star at the time of birth of Rajaraja.
The temple is also the venue of the annual festival that is celebrated here for the period of nine days in the month of Visaka according to the Hindu calendar. The deity is bathed with the water soaked with the fragrant Champaka flower.
The temple demonstrates the Dravidian style of architecture, which was immensely popular during that time. The frescoes that adorn the ceilings of the temple are simply amazing, ornamenting the interior as well as exterior of the temple with its beauty. Today, the temple is a great and unique place where people come and worship Lord Shiva.
Interesting Facts About the Brihadeeshwara Temple of Tanjore:
A study in Oriental architecture or history is certainly incomplete without a mention of the Tanjore Brihadeeshwara Temple or the Tanjore Periya Kovil (Big Temple). This imposing structure was built by Raja Raja Cholan and his sister Kundavai, both ardent devotees of Lord Shiva. It was constructed by the King at the height of the Chola reign to signify his power and strength. Here are a few facts not known about this Chola temple of Thanjavur:
a) The original name of the deity was Rajarajeshwar. It was the Marathas who gave it the name Brihadeeshwara or the Great Ishwara.
b) The main temple is entirely built of granite. More than 130,000 tons of granite is said to have been used to build it.
c) A long associated myth with this temple temple is that the shadow of the main structure does not fall on the ground. However, this has been proven wrong by scientists.
d) The statue of Nandi at the entrance of the temple is carved out of a single stone.
e) The main Vimanam, which is at about 200 feet is often called Dakshin Meru or Southern Meru.
f) The inspiration to build the temple came to Raja Raja Cholan during his visit to Sri Lanka and is a result of a dream he had.
g) The temple has a portrait of Raja Raja Cholan paying obeisance to Lord Natarajar. This is undoubtedly, the first ever instance of a royal portrait.
h) Inscriptions in the temple point towards Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Perunthachan as the chief architect of the temple. His successors survive to this day and practice the art of Vastu or Vastu Shastra.
i) Depictions of nartakis or dancers showing eighty one of hundred and eight karanas (synchronised movements of hands and feet) in Bharata Natyam are carved here. These karanas are a part of karanas mentioned in the Natya Shastra of Bharata Muni or Sage Bharata. There is also evidence that the temple was a platform for talented dancers to showcase their talent. These depictions are first of their kind.
j) The inscriptions also mention the different kinds of jewels used in the period. Each of these jewels are mentioned in detail. A total of twenty three different types of pearls, eleven varieties of diamonds and rubies are mentioned in these inscriptions.What astounds historians is that there was not a single granite quarry in about 100 km radius of the temple. This means that transporting these stones would have been a herculean task. But Raja Raja Cholan insisted on the use of these stones. All of these features make this Chola temple of Tanjore, a magnum opus of the Chola reign.
Brihadeeshwara Temple Architecture
The temple even survived 6 earthquakes.
There is a huge hollow in the temple which makes it even more magnificent as to how the load balancing happened.