Thanjavur big templeThe Big Temple or Brahadeeswara Temple
Raja Raja Chola, the greatest of the Chola emperors, ordered his men to build a big temple for Lord Pragatheeswarar. The chief sculptors and architects of this temple were Kunjaramallan and Raja Raja Perunthachan. This temple is a typical example for the Indian sculpture, its architectures and its greatness. The temple is covered by a moat on both sides. The Anaikut River flows on the other side. This temple has the tallest tower over the shrine. The height of the tower is 216 feet. The tomb is made of Bronze. The walls are painted with portrayals of the Chola and the Nayak Kings, the deeds that they did during their supremacy over Thanjavur. These paintings on the walls are compared with those in the Ajanta Cave Paintings. The inner shrine of the temple has a Bull shaped statue which is quite big in size which guards the shrine. The measurement of the bull is 12 feet tall, nearly 20 feet long and 8 and a quarter feet wide.
This temple, the marvel of Dravidian art and architecture needs several days to go round and enjoy inch by inch, even then one would not go with complete satisfaction. It was built by the Great Rajaraja I the nonpareil of the later Chola dynasty. Begun in A.D. 1003 it was completed n 1010. He was a king of magnificence and his temple also stood magnificent, true to its name Dakshina Meru. Unlike other temples the vimanam (the tower over the Sanctum) soars higher than the usual gopuram or portal tower. It soars to the height of 64.8m (208ft). It rises from a square base and shaped like a pyramid with 14 tiers, on th top of which is a higher monolithic cupola carved out from a 81.3 tonne block of granite. It was perched there from the village, Saarappallam by rolling it along a ramp of earth six km along like the way in which the Egyptian pyramids were built. It is set on a spacious prakara of 240m by 125m. The Lingam in the sanctum is 3.70m high. The huge bull (Nandhi) in the outer courtyard is monolithic 3.70m high, 6m long, and 2.50m wide which is the handiwork not to Chola but added by the Vijayanagar rulers. It is the second largest in India, the first being the one at the Lepakshi temple in Andhra Pradesh.
The Dwarapalakas flanking the doorways are 5.50m in height. The complex is flanked with various mandapams. There are three gateways with gopurams to enter the temple. The basement is crowded with inscription telling the various grants and gifts offered to Brahadeeswara by innumerable kings, chieftains and nobles. The establishment of the temple had 1000 persons, 4000 of them were female dancers. The outer side of the exterior wall is divided into 2 storeys with niches filled with images of Saivate iconography. There are also Vaishnavite and Buddhist themes in sculptures. One difference here is that even the sculptors name is engraved.
While the outer wall is ornamented with stone images, the inner wall of the sanctum is covered with Chola murals. They were concealed by the superimposition of Vijayanagar Nayak paintings. It was only in 1930, the originals were brought to light by special chemical process. Sundaramurthy Nayanar, Cherman Perumal, Tiripuranthaga, Rajaraja, Karuvur Thevar and Dakshinamurthi were thus discovered to the world manifesting the marvel of Chola painting. With permission from the archaeological department one could see them dazzle in floodlight inside the inner corridor. The outer wall of the upper storey is carved with 81 dance poses of Bharatha Natyam, the classical dance of the Tamils. A look at the inside of the spiraling 14 tiers is quite amazing and the precision of the engineers of the Chold period makes one spellbound. Another wonder is that the shadow of the cupola never falls in the ground a testimony to the engineering skills of the Chola architecture.
The shrine for the Goddess was added by Pandian rulers in the 13th century A.D. The Subramania shrine was added by Vijayanagar rulers. Sambaji, the Maratha ruler of Thanjavur renovated the Vinayaka shrine.
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