Brihadeeswara Temple or Rajarajesvaram Temple is a Hindu Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. It is one of the largest South Indian Temple and an exemplary feature of Dravidian Architecture. It is an 11th Century temple and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a 216 feet temple with an area of 44 acres.
It is built of interlocking stones without any binding material. It has a flawless structure and showcases excellent technology and engineering in the Vedic time and build during the Chola Empire. It is the only structure whose shadow does not fall on the ground but itself.
It has a Gopura, the main temple, massive towers, inscriptions, frescoes, and sculptures. It is built out of granite. It has a massive corridor and one of the largest Shiva Linga in India. Brihadeshwara means The Great Lord hence The Big Shiva Temple.
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It is 350km from South West of Chennai. It is Madakkoil or big temple built on a higher platform of natural or man-made mounds. The walls have ornate gateways called Gopurams. The main temple related to monuments and the great tower is in the middle of the Courtyard. There are smaller shrines dedicated to Goddess Parvati, their son Subrahmanya and Ganesh. It also has a monolithic seated statue of Nandi which weighs 25 tonnes.
The main Vimana(Shikhara) is a 16 storey tower of which 13 are tapering squares. Shiva linga is 29 feet high and occupies 2 storeys of the Sanctum. It is one of the largest monolithic linga sculptures in India. The temple has three stone sculptures that are intricately carved and has multiple mural paintings. All four walls have different sculptures.
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(1) East Wall – Lingodbham, standing Shiva, Pashupata murti
(2) South Wall – Bhikshatana, Virbhadra, Dakshina Murti, Kalantake, Nataraja
(3) West Wall – Harihara, Chandrashekhara
(4) North Wall – Ardhanarishavara, Gangadhara, Pashupata Murti, Shiva Alinga murti
Above the 13 storeys, there is a single square block of granite weighing 83 tonnes. On top of its corners, there are Nandi pairs of 6 feet 6 inched. Above this, there is a Sikhara and final Stupi, Stupi is 12.5 feet and originally covered with gold. Sikhara at the top is cupola shaped and weighs 25 tonnes.
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There are numerous inscriptions as well as mural paintings on Brihadeshwara Temple. These have texts in Sanskrit and Tamil. Temple is administered and managed by a head of the Thanjavur Maratha Royal Family. He is also the hereditary trustee of palace Devasthanam that manages 88 Chola temples. Brihadeshwara Temple should be on everyone’s list to visit at least once in their lifetime.