An enticing architectural spirit is one of the things that comes to mind when one thinks of the Cholas in Indian History, apart from their efficient local-self government and the military exploits of the royal father-son duo of Raja Raja I and Rajendra. The most recognizable aspect of this spirit is the Brihadeeswara Temple (RajaRaja Temple/Thanjai Periya Kovil dedicated to Lord Shiva, built by Raja Raja Chola I, c.1003-1010 CE) of Thajavur. And so, one fine afternoon, we visited the legendary and historical temple. Located near the Main Bus Stand (Old Bus stand), this temple is marked simply as ‘The Big Temple’ in various mile stones/sign boards in the city. As of June 2018, India houses 37 UNESCO World Heritage Sites & Brihadeeswara Temple is one such site, as a part of ‘The Great Living Chola Temples’. A few steps inside and anyone would know why the tag is justified!
|"Thanjai Periya Kovil" as seen sideways|
The first thing to notice is the sheer scale and size of this granite temple – the two welcoming Gopurams and the main Vimana of the Sanctum Sanctorum, surrounded by a moat (now dried) and a buffer grass /park area which are still intact. My brother remarked that this temple could be safer than the Thanjavur Palace and I couldn’t help but agree. Temples were not mere places of worship during Chola times, but also acted as cultural centres of learning & art, treasure houses of wealth and also as seats of true power.
|"The Big Temple" including Nandi|
|A Fresco/mural inside the temple depicting Lord Shiva|
A thousand years ago, when the temple was newly built, the Chola power was at it’s zenith – so much so that the adjacent seas were transformed merely into a large ‘Chola Lake’, Lanka was subjugated, South East Asian Kingdoms willingly paid tributes and merchant ships from as far as China kowtowed before the Cholas for protection from Pirates. Giant strides were made in Culture & Self-Governance as well. A thousand years later, the temple stands, pristine and untouched by the excitement of visitors and admirers.
|The Vimana of the Temple|
It was an amazing experience, one to cherish!
@ Brihadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur on 30eth of June, 2018