Thanjavur, is the world's first complete granite temple and a brilliant example of the major heights achieved by Cholas in temple architecture. It is a tribute and a reflection of the power of its patron RajaRaja Chola I. It remains as one of the greatest glories of Indian architecture. The temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Great Living Chola Temples" and this temple is an ultimate testimonial for the Vishwakarmas architectural cognizance in planning and sculpting this temple.
This temple is one of India's most prized architectural sites. The temple stands amidst fortified walls that were probably added in the 16th century. The 'Vimana' - or the temple tower - is 216 ft (66 m) high (about 70 meters) and is among the tallest of its kind in the world. The Kalash or 'Shikhara' (apex or the bulbous structure on the top) of the temple is of monolithic granite weighing 81.25 tons. There is a big statue of Nandi (sacred bull), carved out of a single rock, at the entrance measuring about 16 feet long and 13 feet high. The entire temple structure is made out of hard granite stones, a material sparsely available currently in Thanjavur area where the temple is located.
he temple complex sits on the banks of a river that was channeled to make a moat around the complex's outer walls, the walls being built like a fortress. The complex is made up of many structures that are aligned axially. The complex can be entered either on one axis through a five-story gopuram or with a second access directly to the huge main quadrangle through a smaller free-standing gopuram. The massive size of the main sikhara (although it is hollow on the inside and not meant to be occupied), is 63 meters in height, with 16 severely articulated stories, and dominates the main quadrangle. Pilaster, piers, and attached columns are placed rhythmically covering every surface of the shikhara.
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