Darasuram is a small town close to Kumbakonam in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The town hosts the temple of Airavatesvara built by the Raja Raja Chola II during the 12th century. The temple is a UNESCO world heritage site along with other Chola temples built between 10th to 12th century AD. Unlike the Brihadeshwara and Gangaikonda Cholapuram temples, Airavatesvara Temple is a smaller in size and is a wonderful work of art and architecture. The temple has a lot of exquisite carving and was built associating the concept of Nitya Vinoda which means perpetual entertainment. The temples follows Dravidian architecture and has a pyramid like Vimana. There are lot of columns and pillars towards the Sanctum supporting the Mandapam. There is enough and more to see around the temple, you will be astonished to see the levels of detail each carving has. A Good guide will be essential to have a wonderful tour around the place.
The prime deity of the temple is Lord Siva. The legend states, Airavatesvara the white elephant of Indra, the kings of lords, was cursed by a Rishi and his color was changing. The white Elephant Airavata prayed at the temple in Darasuram to break free from his curse. That was how the temple got its name Airavatesvara Temple, the temple were Airavata worshiped. The temple has a lot more stories surrounding it. There are a lot of intricate carving which is well appreciated by many art lovers. The garden close to the temple is lovely and adds charm to the temple ambiance.
Close to the Temple of Darasuram, there is a colony of Silk weavers. There are around five thousand people working directly and indirectly in the weaving cottage industry here. We met a silk weaver here at the temple and he invited us to his cottage. He weaves and sells sarees at his home, he have a few traders who come down to his place, buy a lot of sarees and resells in other cities in the county. They weave the sarees in the traditional weaving machinery made of wood. he was explaining to us about silk and how silk is identified from other synthetic replicas. He continued explaining us about how silk was developed, dyed, made in to threads and yarns, and finally prepared to be weaved. The silk used here comes from Mysore, which another silk center in South India. When we entered his house, there was a saree half done and his wife was working on the weaving machine.
We were so excited to see the making of the saree, which millions of Indian women wear. He took us inside to a room where he showed us different forms and types of silk sarees. There were other silk strolls which one of us bought for ourselves. It was a nice experience to see the making of silk sarees, something which we usually don’t get to see. Apart from Kumbakonam, Kancheepuram is another place famous for the silk sarees in Tamil Nadu. Indian women specially in South India, are very fond of the Kancheepuram Silk Saree. If you are interested to visit the silk weaving colony, you could ask anyone at the Airavatesvara temple for directions.
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Written by Benjamin John