The “Great Living Chola Temples” refers to a group of three temples constructed by the imperial Cholas’ between the 11th and 12th century
The first of these is the Brihadisvara Temple built by Rajaraja I in Thanjavur. The second temple is the Brihadeeswara Temple of the same name built by his son Rajendra I at Gangaikonda Cholapuram and the third one is the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram built by Rajaraja II, the smallest of the temples.
Before knowing the characteristics of Brihadisvara Temple, those who built it, know the history of Rajaraja I. Rajaraja1 was also a great patron of art and architecture along with being a great warrior.
Brihadeshwara Temple Historical Background
The historical evidence of Cholas goes back to 300 BC. as mentioned in the Ashokan edicts. They were known as ‘Early Cholas’.But the reference to the ‘Great Chola Empire’ established Vijalaya in 850 AD
After Vijayalaya, the rulers made their contribution to the glorious Chola rule of 450 years. Under the able leadership of the first king Raja and his son Rajendra I, the Cholas became the first undisputed kingdoms of southern India and were thus called the ‘Royal Cholas’.
With a view to bringing Shiva devotion and Tamil culture to the zenith, he decided to build a temple in the name of the greatest god i.e. Brihadisvara Shiva. This temple was completed about a thousand years ago between 1003 AD and 1010 AD.
In the construction of this Thanjavur temple, we get to see the complete development of Dravidian architecture. And over time, the future rulers were also written in it, such as the heroines who made the statue of Nandi i.e. the bull in the temple premises, and the Marathas had made many paintings in the temple, which still fascinates the tourists.
Can you imagine that 16 stories high building made of only stone without any cement? Today, it can stand proudly even after a thousand years, due to its huge size, it is also called by the name of ‘Dakshina Meru’ i.e. Southern Mountain.
Brihadeshwara Temple Geography
Friends, Brihadeswarar temple is situated in the present-day city of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, which is located on the south bank of the river Kaveri. Two more temples of the Chola dynasty are also located near this temple, Brihadisvara Temple in Gangaikonda Chola Pooram and Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram. These three temples are located in the fertile Cauvery delta miles, also known as the “Rice Ball” of Tamil Nadu.
Brihadeshwara Temple Architecture
The chief architect of Brihadeshwara temple was Rajaraja Perunthachan, who was very famous for his craft at that time. This temple was built directly on the land without any strong foundation, which is a very strange thing in itself.
According to the calculations of some archaeologists and engineers, this temple is made up of one lakh 30 thousand granite blocks, which are simply placed one above the other without any cement. This technique is also called the puzzle technique. The cutting of these granite stones was done in such a way that they fit together like erect.
Even more interesting thing is that no granite mountain is seen in 60 km radius of the temple, due to which the source and transportation method of stones used in this temple remains a mystery even today.
The summit of this temple, which is called ‘Vimana’ in the South, is counted among the highest vimanas of South India. Its “Kumban” (Crown of the Temple) is about 80 tonnes. Keeping it above the temple must have been the result of wonderful planning and tremendous execution.
It is believed that a 6 km long ramp was built which went from the ground to the temple top. On this ramp, with the help of elephants and bulls, this heavy stone would have been carried to the top.
You will not find any pillar inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, it is just hollow from inside, which shows that its construction must have been done by placing one block on top of the other. This temple has 3 main entrances on which very beautiful carvings have been done.
One of these gates is Maratha Gate Lead in 1780 when Marathas rise. It was happening then he had made his reach till Thanjavur. Apart from this, many paintings were also made by the Marathas, which are still intact today. According to some historians, this temple was also used by the Marathas as a fort, whose evidence we get from the canon kept on the outer wall.
Brihadeshwara Temple Sculptures and Inscriptions
Many institutions have been found in the premises of Brihadisvara temple which tell about the Chola Empire of that time. Along with this, murals i.e. wall paintings of the time of Raja Raja I are also seen here.
In 1930, a local historian studied the murals here and found that these murals used to Belong to the Nayaka rulers. Among all these murals, there is also a mural of Lord Shiva, which is being run by Lord Brahma. Inside the temple, there are also images of Lord Buddha, which shows the presence of Buddhism in South India at that time and This also gives us an idea of the temple’s tolerance of patent rulers.
Outside the temple, there is a mono clerical statue of Lord Shiva’s vehicle Nandi which is about 12 feet high. The entry gate and artistic carving make it even more attractive. Inside it are statues of Bhairav, Durga, Saraswati, Ganesh, Vishnu, and many others.
Apart from all this, more than 100 postures of Bharata Natyam are also mentioned in the Brihadisvara temple, which was added by the later rulers. It is believed that the sculpture of Nataraja (Shiva as Lord of Dance) was also commissioned for the first time at this place. It was a matter of sculpture aspect.
Brihadeshwara Temple Mythological aspects and Mysteries
- Many interesting stories and interesting facts are associated with Brihadeshwara temple, such that many architects fall into the thought that despite being such a ‘Vimana’, why its shadow does not fall on the ground in the afternoon.
- The other interesting thing is that the number nine and its multiples have been used a lot in the table such as 108 lingers, 9 main pillars, 18 gatekeepers of 18 feet, etc.
- It is often seen that with time the multi-story building tilted on the ground, such as in the case of Brihadeshwara temple on “The Leaning Tower of Pisa” in Italy, a tilt of zero degrees has been found, which means that its structure is still quite straight.
Due to these characteristics, UNESCO gave the tag of UNESCO World Heritage Site to Brihadeswara Temple in Thanjavur and two temples along with it Brihadisvara Temple in Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram and collectively called them the “Great Living Chola Temple”.
These three temples are among the most visited historical places in Tamilnadu and are maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. The study city of this temple complex is undisputed.
This question must be arising in your mind that why they are called Living Temples. Friends, the main reason for calling them Living Temple is the continuity in the Temple Tradition. Even today the rituals and rituals of worship are maintained in these three temples. This tradition is definitely 1000 thousand years old, but it is an inseparable part of the people’s belief.
daily weekly and yearly celebrations that take place here serve to establish a bridge between man and God. Friends, it would not be wrong to say about the Greater Vishwa Temple in Thanjavur that “Whatever good things we build, end up building us”
Who built Brihadeshwara Temple?
The Brihadisvara temple was built by Rajaraja I in Thanjavur. The second temple is the Brihadeshwara temple of the same name which was built by his son Rajendra I at Gangaikonda Cholapuram and the third temple is the Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram built by Rajaraja II.
Why was the Brihadeshwara temple built?
With a view to bringing Shiva devotion and Tamil culture to its peak, Rajaraja I built the Brihadisvara temple in the name of the greatest deity i.e. Brihadisvara Shiva. This temple was completed about a thousand years ago between 1003 AD to 1010 AD.
How was the Brihadeshwara temple built?
According to the calculations of some archaeologists and engineers, the Brihadeeswarar temple was built from one lakh 30 thousand granite blocks, which are simply stacked one on top of the other without any cement. This technique is also called the puzzle technique. The cutting of these granite stones was done in such a way that it directly fits one stone with another stone.