We have heard many stories about the great Chola Dynasty and their valour. It was the Tamil dynasty of southern India which ruled over a maritime empire. The earliest known mentions of the Chola are from inscriptions written in the third century BCE, under the Mauryan empire’s rule by Ashoka. The Chola Dynasty was known for their contribution to art, music and literature and the Brihadishwara Temple in Tamil Nadu is one of their contributions!
Brihadishwara Temple: The 11 Century Marvel Of Thanjavur In Tamil Nadu
The Brihadishwara Temple, also called ‘Rajarajeswaram’, was commissioned by Rajaraja Chola. The Shivaite Hindu temple was built in Chola architecture on the banks of River Kaveri. Being one of the largest Hindu temples, it is also called ‘Dakshina Meru’. Along with the Airavatesvara and Gangaikonda Cholapuram temples from the Chola dynasty, the temple is a member of the “Great Living Chola Temples” UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This 11th-century temple’s original monuments were erected around a moat. It contained the main temple, known as the gopura, with its enormous tower, as well as sculptures, paintings, and inscriptions that were mostly associated with Shaivism but also with Vaishnavism and Shaktism. Throughout the temple’s history, damage has occurred, and some artwork has vanished. In the ages that followed, more mandapams and monuments were built. The temple is currently surrounded by walls that were constructed after the sixteenth century.
One of the highest in South India, the Vimana Tower rises above the shrine and was constructed from granite. One of the biggest Shiva lingas in India and a sizable colonnaded prakara (corridor) can be found at the temple. In addition to its reputation for fine sculpture, it was here that the brass Nataraja, Shiva as the lord of dance, was commissioned in the eleventh century. temples dedicated to Nandi, Parvati, Murugan, Ganesha, Sabhapati, Dakshinamurti, Varahi, Thiyagarajar of Thiruvarur, Siddhar Karuvoorar, and other deities can be found within the complex.
Architecture & Restoration Of The Structure
Within its expansive courtyard, the temple complex incorporates a sizable covered veranda (prakara) with pillars that allow visitors to walk around its almost 450-meter circumference. There are two walls of enclosure outside this pillared veranda. The outer wall is defensive and was constructed in 1777 by the French colonial forces. It has gun-holes, and the temple doubles as an armoury. They isolated the area of the temple complex by raising the outer wall.
The original principal gopuram, or barrel-vaulted gateway, is located on its eastern end. Its size is less than half that of the vimana of the main temple. After the 11th century, other buildings were constructed to the original temple. They include more gopurams (gateways) around the perimeter and a mandapa in the northeast corner.
As a World Heritage Site, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is responsible for the protection, preservation, and restoration of the temple and its grounds. With updated lighting, signs, and amenities for devotees and guests, the surrounding infrastructure now reflects the grandeur of this historic marvel.
The monument’s lighting is intended to bring out the natural colour of the stone and the sculptures that embellish every nook and cranny of the temple.
Cover Image Courtesy: Pixels
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