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The World Heritage Brihadeshwara Temple

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  • Last Updated : 27 Sep, 2022
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Brihadeshwara temple is a Hindu Dravidian-style temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and located at the bank of the Cauvery river in Thanjavur, Tamilnadu. The temple was constructed by Rajaraja Chola-I who was one of the great emperors of the Chola dynasty and it was designed by “Kunjara Mallan Raja Rama Perunthachan” between 1003 and 1010 AD.

Brihadeshwara Temple

Brihadeshwara Temple

Historical Context of the Brihadeshwara Temple

Cholas dynasty ruled between 850 and 1280 CE. Securing geopolitical boundaries instead of architecture was the main focus during the early Chola period. In the 10th century, features like multifaceted columns with projecting square capitals came into appearance within the Chola empire. All this marked the initiation of the modern style by Cholas. The Brihadeshwara Temple is the greatest specimen of this South Indian style, especially with regard to scale and detail. 

Structure of the Temple:

At the entrance, a statue of the Nandi bull can be seen that weighs around 20 tonnes. The height of the Shiva linga inside the temple is 3.7m. There can be seen two entrances in the temple – a five-storey gopuram and a free-standing gopuram. Mandapas is the name given to the two halls (pillared and assembly hall) of the temple. In the womb chamber, only priests can enter. The vimana i.e. the structure over the inner sanctum is at a height of around 59.82 m above the ground. It’s called Dakshina Meru, named after Lord Shiva’s home on Mount Kailasa.

The temple consists of treasured Tamil inscriptions carved out in stone. Some of the inscriptions laid down the earliest records of the temple. The inscriptions were engraved only after orders were given by the King. Execution of the temple plan along with the list of the gifts that were given to the temple was also mentioned on these inscriptions. On one of the north walls of the temple enclosure, an inscription is there where the names and wages of all those who were employed and supported by the temple are written.

The Architecture of the Temple:

South Indian temple style also known as Dravidian architecture is there in the Brihadeshwara temple. Rock-cut architecture is used for the construction of the temple. The rocks used in the temple came from neighboring states. It took around 25 years to sculpt those rocks and more than 9 years to arrange them in order. The temple is not only famous for its spiritual importance but also as an art gallery and attraction to the community.
The temple has a lot of murals and paintings that portray Lord Shiva in varied dancing postures, killing demons, etc. The murals were created with the use of different techniques. Granite was used to construct the whole temple. On the stone, a smooth batter of limestone was applied and the paint was done by using fruit and vegetable juices. Natural colors were used. Mostly the murals are visible on the ceilings of the corridors and on the sub-shrines.

A. The dome of the Temple

The structure of this temple and the dome has been made in such a way that the sun moves around it but the shadow of its dome does not fall on the ground. It is made from a single stone weighing about 80 tonnes and a golden Kalash is placed on top of it. Meaning a 12 feet Kumbam has been placed on top of this dome.

B. Puzzle System Architecture

The stones here have not been glued to each other in any way, but the stones have been cut and fixed with each other in such a way that they can never be separated. This gigantic temple is built from about 130,000 tonnes of granite and neither glue nor lime or cement has been used to connect it. The temple is connected with a puzzle system.

C. Natural Color and Paintings of the Temple

Paintings at the Brihadeshwara temple are not made of pigmented color but actual stones are embedded in them.  There are many sculptures on the walls depicting scenes from various gods and goddesses and stories associated with them. A special type of painting is seen on the walls of the corridors around the Brihadisvara temple. This temple is an unmatched specimen of architecture, sculpture, painting, dance, music, jewellery, and engraving in stone and copper.

D. Giant Nandi in the temple

The statue of Nandi sitting on a giant platform is amazing. The roof of Nandi Mandap is of bright blue and golden yellow color. There is a pillar in front of this Mandap. On which the picture of the king has been made saluting Lord Shiva and his vehicle. The Nandi statue located here is the second largest statue of Nandi made by carving a single stone in India. It is 12 feet long, 12 feet high, and 19 feet wide. This idol, weighing 25 tons, was built in the 16th century during the Vijayanagara reign.

Historical Importance of the Brihadeshwara Temple

The significance of the Brihadeshwara temple is that it has a massive corridor and it has one of the largest Shiva linga in India. It was entitled a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987 as well. This temple signifies Chola’s brilliance in architecture, painting, bronze casting, and sculpture. 
The temple is fully made of granite and has no shadow at noon because of the interesting fact that the base of the vimana is bigger than its pinnacle and naturally temple tower or vimana disappears at noon because the base of the vimana is bigger.

Festivals Related to the Brihadeshwara Temple

A lot of festivals are celebrated in the temple and a special function is also organized during Diwali, New year, and Pongal. Some of the famous festivals celebrated here are- Pradosham once in a fortnight, Natyanjali, Shivratri February Maasi, Asada Navarathri for Varahi, Sathayavizha October Aippasi, etc. On the occasion of Hindu festivals, meals were provided free to the needy and Brahmins were also fed and the meals were made elaborate.

Related Frequently Asked Questions and Solutions:

Q1. Where is Brihadeshwara temple located?

Ans: Brihadeshwara temple is a Hindu Dravidian-style temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and located at the bank of the Cauvery river in Thanjavur, Tamilnadu.

Q2. Who built and designed the Brihadeshwara temple?

Ans: The temple was constructed by Rajaraja Chola who was one of the great emperors of the Chola dynasty and the temple was designed by “Kunjara Mallan Raja Rama Perunthachan” between 1003 and 1010 AD. 

Q3. Mention the architecture of the Brihadeshwara temple.

Ans: South Indian temple style also known as Dravidian architecture is there in the Brihadeshwara temple. Rock-cut architecture is used for the construction of the temple. The rocks used in the temple came from neighboring states. It took around 25 years to sculpt those rocks and more than 9 years to arrange them in order.  The temple is fully made of granite and has no shadow at noon because of the interesting fact that the base of the vimana is bigger than its pinnacle and naturally temple tower or vimana disappears at noon because the base of the vimana is bigger.

Q4. Why Brihadeshwara temple is so famous?

Ans: Brihadeshwara temple signifies Chola’s brilliance in architecture, painting, bronze casting, and sculpture. The temple consists of treasured Tamil inscriptions carved out in stone. Some of the inscriptions laid down the earliest records of the temple. The temple has one of the largest Shiva linga in India. It is also entitled a UNESCO heritage site as well. 

Q5. How many Entrances are there in the Temple?

Ans: There can be seen two entrances in the temple- a five-storey gopuram and a free-standing gopuram.

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