Brihadeeswara Temple

What is Brihadeeswara Temple and Brihadeeswara Temple Facts

Brihadeeswara Temple is a world-renowned Hindu temple located in Thanjavur of Tamil Nadu state. The temple is devoted to Lord Shiva. It is also known as Rajarajeshwara temple or Peruvudaiyar Kovil. The temple has a massive colonnaded prakara (corridor) and one of the largest Shiva lingas in India. Brihadeeswara Temple consists of Sri Vimana, Ardha Mandapa, Maha mandapa, Mukha mandapa, and a Nandi statue. 

Brihadeeswara temple is one of the largest Hindu temples in India. It is one of the most visited temples in Tamil Nadu. The Brihadeeswara Temple glorifies the military victory of the Chola Dynasty. Rajaraja, who commissioned the temple, called it Rajarajeshvaram, literally “the temple of the god of Rajaraja”. 

Miscellaneous details:

  • Temple Darshan timings: 6 am to 12 pm and 4 pm to 9 pm
  • Best Time to visit: Hindu month of Visakha or May month
  • Special Darshan tickets: Cost Rs 5.00 per person
Brihadeeswara Temple

The Architecture of Brihadeeswarar Temple

The Brihadeeswara Temple depicts the beauty and elegance of Tamil architecture in the Chola Period. In 2010, the temple completed 1000 years. Brihadeeswara temple is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site called the “Great Living Chola Temples.”  

The temple is famous for the uniqueness of its architecture. This beautiful temple is built over 30 square bases and is surrounded by moats on the sides.

The walls of the temple are decorated with beautiful paintings. The temple displays several frescos of the Chola dynasty with Lord Shiva in different actions such as dancing and talking to their devotees.  

The temple is also famous for its inscriptions, paintings, and bronze idols. The architects of the Chola Dynasty built these structures which act as excellent examples of illusion caused by great heights. 

The tower of the Brihadeeswara Temple is 66 feet high and is carved from a single stone. The entire structure of the building was constructed by interlocking the granite stones. Modern engineers consider it an engineering marvel and a proof of ancient Indian engineering capacities. The fact that the temple survived 6 earthquakes and extreme weather conditions prove its strength and stability as a structure. 

Brihadeeswara Temple view

It’s still a mystery how the workers of the Chola dynasty have managed to lift and placed such big masses of rock in a particular location without leaving a small gap. 

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The temple is spacious as well as huge. The main temple along with its Gopurams is from the early 11th century. The temple witnessed many additions, renovations, and repairs in the past 1,000 years. The raids and wars, particularly between Muslim Sultans who controlled Madurai and Hindu kings who ruled Thanjavur, caused damage. The main temple-related monuments and the great tower is in the middle of this courtyard.

This huge temple was built with massive manpower and thousands of elephants. There was an application of asymmetrical and axial geometry rules layout for this beautiful temple. To cut the massive and big rocks, the workers used ancient engineering techniques. 

The architecture is a true depiction of Dravida kind of architecture which represents the ideas and ideology of the Chola Empire and Tamil Civilisation. 

The temple premises are so huge and impressive. Visitors and observers developed many fantastical theories about this place including aliens, magic, and the presence of Lord Shiva. More than 100 passage ways in the underground lead to the Palace of Raja and other places throughout the city. 

The passages made it easy for royalty to visit temples on festival days without traffic or other disturbances. 

Paintings on Brihadeeswara Temple

The temple has hundreds of elaborate paintings across the wall of the temples. All the paintings depict the glory of Lord Shiva. Their bright, vibrant colors come from herbs, colorful leaves, and flower petals, and stand out against the granite. They all look much brighter than other paintings from the era. 

A 1000 Rupees Commemorative coin with a picture of the 5 rupees coin of Thanjavur Periya Kovil will be issued soon. This will be the first 1000 Rupees coin to be released in the Republic of India coinage.

The Brihadeeswara Temple truly describes a gallery of art and beauty from that era. Apart from the beautiful structure, the temple is decorated with authentic paintings dedicated to the Chola Dynasty. All the paintings involve various scenes and the life story of Lord Shiva and other deities. 

Paintings on Brihadeeswara Temple

There are also some replicas of these paintings and sculptures that the king donated himself. The temple has a huge pillared veranda and a large courtyard with a perimeter of 450 meters. The veranda is enclosed by defensive walls serving as an arsenal of the temple. The Brihadeeswara Temple is an example of Hindu tradition and south Indian architecture before the 11th century.

The main monument of the temple is placed in the middle of the courtyard and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The sanctum is located at the center of the western square of the temple. It is surrounded by huge walls, divided into sculptures and pilasters. The interior of the sanctum has an image of Lord Shiva (Shiva Linga). This portion is called Karuvarai that means womb chamber in Tamil. Only the priest is allowed in this portion of the temple.

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Inscriptions

The Brihadeeswara Temple is filled with thousands of inscriptions in Tamil and Grantha scripts. During the Chola Dynasty, some devadasis used to sing and dance devotional hymns for the king. Frequent inscriptions related to them can be seen in the temple.

 It provides daily meals to its devotees with a major charity intuition. On the occasion of any Hindu festival, these free meals become more elaborative and particularly fed by Brahmins.

History of Brihadeeswara Temple

The Brihadeeswara temple has a fortified wall that was constructed in the 16th century. The tower of the temple is 216ft high and it is the tallest tower in the world. The main apex on the top of the temple known as Kumbam is constructed by carving a single rock that weighs about 80 tons.

Also, it has a statue of Lord Nandi carved through a single rock of 16ft long and 13ft high. The entire temple is built of granite stone.

History of Brihadeeswara Temple

It was built during the rule of Raja Raja Cholan and signifies his power and strength. This temple also tells untold stories of the Chola Dynasty. The monument reflects the thinking and perspective of people at those times.

The temple construction was done from the 5th to 9th century. All the details were done personally by Raja Raja Chola. In 2010, the renovation work on the temple was done after it completed its 1000 years.

Deities in the temple

The main deity is Lord Shiva in Brihadeeswarar Temple. The other deities include Dakshinamurthy, Chandra, and Surya. This temple also has idols of Indra, Agni, Nirrti, Varuna, Kubera, Isana, Yama, and Vayu. All these statues are positioned in a separate temple as per their respective direction.

Sculptures of Deities are present in the Mandapam walls. The table below represents the deities present in the North and the Southside of the temple:

South of the TempleNorth of the Temple
VishnuMahishasura Mardini
GajalakshmiSaraswati
GaneshaBhairava

The main Mandapas are known as Maha-mandapas. They are axially aligned between the sanctum and the Nandi. There are six pillars on either side of the maha-mandapas, flanked by two huge verandas. These were built during the reign of Chola King Rajendra I.

Temple Administration

Temple Administration

This world-famous temple is managed and run by Babaji Bhonsle, head of the Tanjavur Maratha family. He also serves as a trustee of the temple. He continues to manage 88 Chola temples that include Brihadeeswara Temple. 

Also, the Tamil Nadu government has contributed a lot to the renovation and maintenance of the temple. The donation received from the devotees is used for the temple’s working and maintenance. The trustees also donate in huge numbers for the temple.

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How to reach Brihadeeswara Temple

You can reach this place by airways, railways, or through roadways. Brihadeeswara Temple is located in Thanjavur that is connected to many prominent cities through road and rail networks. 

  • Airways

Thanjavur does not have an airport but the nearest airport is Tiruchirapalli from where flights to Indian and foreign cities are available. People who arrive at Tiruchirapalli can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach Thanjavur.

  • Roadways

Thanjavur is well-connected to many cities of Tamil Nadu by road. National highways that pass through the city are NH 67, NH 45C, and NH 226. These highways connect the city to Tiruchirapalli, Coimbatore, Pudukottai, and many more. The entire city is well connected with other parts of the country.

  • Railways

Thanjavur is connected to nearby places through railways, but there are very few long-distance trains. Superfast and fast mail and express trains along with Jan Shatabdi have stoppages here. For long-distance trains, tourists can go to Tiruchirapalli where many long-distance trains arrive. Major cities have rails connected to Thanjavur. Railways are the best way to reach this temple.

Facts about Brihadeeswara Temple

Some lesser-known facts regarding Brihadeeswara Temple mentioned below: –

  • The actual name of the deity present in the temple was Rajarajeshwar. Later, Marathas gave the name Brihadeeswara to it. Apart from Rajarajeshwar, other deities are also present in this temple.
  • 130,000 tons of granite stones were used to construct this temple. Many big stones are used while constructing this massive temple. The entire structure is stacked without any binding agent.
Temple Map in the premises
Temple Map in the premises
  • The Inscriptions in the temple towards Kunjara Mallam Raja Raja Perunthachan serves as the chief architect of the temple. The inscriptions are mainly in Tamil and Sanskrit.
  • The temple has depictions of Nartakis showing more than a hundred karanas in Bharatanatyam style. Brihadeeswara temple also has a platform that showcases dances of talented performers to showcase their talents.
  • There is no binding material used anywhere in the construction of the temple. The entire monument is built by only interlocking stone – something which is rarely found in tall buildings today. It is still a mystery how workers and architects of those times managed to do it.
  • The inscriptions also mention the different kinds of jewels used in the period. Each of these jewels is mentioned in detail. A total of twenty-three different types of pearls, eleven varieties of diamonds and rubies are mentioned in these inscriptions.
  • The temple doesn’t have a shadow. Its Vimana is larger than its pinnacle. So, at noon the shadow of the temple gets merged on itself.
  • At the entrance of sanctum sanctorum, one can see the two idols of Lord Ganesha in the corridor. On tapping the two, you will feel the sound traveling the stone in one idol and through metal on the other. 
  • The entire massive structure of Nandi is carved from a single stone. This structure is beautiful and worth exploring.

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  • The Vimana of the temple is 200 feet and is popularly known as Southern Meru. It is one of the tallest structures in the world.
  • The temple has a portrait of Raja Raja Chola of the Chola Dynasty posing as Nataraja. It marks the first instance of a royal portrait and depicts the lifestyle of people at that time.
  • This temple is believed to have more than a hundred underground passages that connect each floor and room of the temple. It is said that it was constructed so that kings and queens can reach different parts of the temple, especially during festivals, to avoid large crowds.
  • The Brihadeeswara Temple has a capstone on the top that weighs around 80 tonnes. The Shivalinga located in the Garbhagriha is said to generate electromagnetic energy. This cap channelizes the energy in the inner region of the temple and sustains the divinity of the temple.  

Millennium Commemoration

This temple recently completed its 1000 years in September 2010. To commemorate this big event, the government has organized many cultural events and performances. It was jointly organized by the Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India (ABHAI) and the Brian Natyanjali Trust, Thanjavur. To celebrate this auspicious event, thousands of dancers came from different parts of the world. 11 verses of music were composed by Karuvur deva. 

Related: World Renowned Chennai Music Festival 

The small-town Thanjavur turned into a cultural hub for two days beginning 26 September 2010 as street performers and dancers performed throughout the town. This event witnessed thousands of audiences across the world. This beautiful event was one of a kind.

Temple

Donation and Wealth of Brihadeeswara Temple

The inscription in the temple has 66 bronze idols of Raja Raja Chola, Kundavai, and his queens. These inscriptions are embedded with precious stones like diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and pearls. Raja Raja Chola donated many gold vessels to the temple.

Thanjavur Brihadeeswara is a treasure for Tamilnadu. The revenue that is generated by the devotees of the temple directly goes to the government and its prerogatives, and the money collected is used for the maintenance of the temple. Devotees usually donate large amounts during festivals and special occasions.

Brihadeeswara Temple

Shopping Near Brihadeeswarar Temple

There are many options for shopping near Brihadeeswarar Temple. Several joints are available for shopping that includes government and private stalls and shops. You can also find craftsmen who sell genuine and authentic artifacts and items at a reasonable price. 

The city is best known for its traditional and authentic artifacts by skilled artisans. The traditional craft of the Thanjavur is silk weaving. Tourists usually pick silk sarees weaved with broad borders from here. Tanjore is also famous for its beautiful paintings. 

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Other items for shopping include Tanjore plates, brass and bronze idols, and Thalaiyatti Bommai. The tastefully designed paintings of Tanjore, mostly of Hindu Gods, are also of great demand among the tourists who want to shop in Tanjore.

Tanjore is Tanjore plates (with sombu, coconut), brass and bronze idols, bowls and vessels, and the exclusive Thalaiyatti Bommai, which serve as great souvenirs of a tour to Tanjore. There is a lot to explore in Tanjore. Traditional Artefacts are the specialty of this place. It is also famous for its traditional outfits. 

People  in Temple

Tourist Places near Brihadeeswarar Temple

Thiruvanajozhi Temple

This temple is approximately 16 km from Kumbakonam. Lord Dakshinamurthy is worshipped here. It has a beautiful collection of art and shows that depict the tradition and culture of the Chola dynasty. The entire structure of the temple is worth exploring. However, it somehow resembles Tanjavur’s main temple and is a not to miss place.

Bangaru Kamakshi Temple

The temple is located on the main street in the city of Thanjavur. The word “Bangaru” in Telugu means gold. The name is because the deity of Goddess Kamakshi is made up of gold. The idol of the deity is brought from Kancheepuram during the time of the Muslim invasion in the city. 

Right next to it, Vijaya Rama Temple, Navaneetha Krishna Temple, and Pratapa Veera Anjaneya temple are also there. All these temples are pretty big and worth exploring.

The Serfoji Sarasvati Mahal Library 

It is one of the oldest libraries in Asia and was established during the 16th century. It displays a rare collection of manuscripts and paper written in Tamil, Sanskrit, and a few other foreign languages. The collection comprises well over 49,000 volumes. Only a tiny fraction of these are on display. The library has a complete catalog of holdings, which is being made available online. It serves as a haven for book lovers. It is one of the most visited libraries in India.

Thanjavur Royal Palace and Art Gallery 

This museum has antiques, clothing, artifacts, headgears, and many more of royals. The upper floor has a skeleton of 92 feet whale and was found in 1955. It is also famous for its art gallery that comprises paintings, books, and other memorabilia. The bronze sculptures of Hindu God and Goddess from the 9th century to the 19th century.

Swami Malai Temple

This temple is dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is located in Swamimalai which is 5 km from Kumbakonam. Situated on the banks of a tributary of river Kaveri in Thanjavur District, it is 250 km from Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu. This temple is the second abode of Murugan out of six.

Rajarajan Manimandapam

This temple is located in the Southern part of Thanjavur. It was constructed in the year 1991 in the style of the Chola Dynasty. The temple has a small and beautiful garden inside it that is suitable for children. It was built to commemorate the 1000 birth anniversary of Raja Raja Chola.

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Thiruvalanchuzi

This temple is situated in Thiruvalanchanchuzi village that is about four kilometers from Kumbakonam. The deity worshipped in the temple is Kapardiswarar with Ambaal Brihannayaki. This beautiful temple is worth exploring.

Ramaswamy Temple

This temple is dedicated to Lord Rama. It was constructed in the16th century. This is the only temple in India where you can witness Lord Ram along with his wife Sita, brothers Lakshman, and Bharatha. 

The temple celebrates Rama Navami with great joy and enthusiasm on the 9th day after the New Moon in March/April. It is one of the five temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu in India.

Sukkiran Temple

It is one of the famous pilgrimage sites for visitors located in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. This temple is dedicated to Sukran, one of the nine planets of the solar system. Its structure is magnificent. The deity in the temple is Lord Shiva which is worshipped in the form of Agneeswarar.

Schwartz Church

This Church is situated in Thanjavur, India. It was constructed by Friedrich Schwarz in 1779. John Flaxman, an Italian sculptor had sculpted the statue in 1807 at the request of King Serfoji II. This beautiful statue was installed in the year 1811. Within the precincts of the church is a 1797 sculpture of Schwartz on his death-bed with the Thanjavur Maratha King Serfoji II.

Happy Exploring!!!

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