Anybody who visit the Temple town of Tanjore will not miss the large historic Shiva temple often called the Brihadeshwara Temple Tanjore. It is a fine example of Dravidian Art, Architecture, and Technology. This marvelous temple was constructed thousand years back during the era of the Chola Dynasty in South India. The Brihadeshwara Temple Tanjore is dedicated to lord Shiva, the decision of constructing such a large temple was as per the dream Raja Raja Chola I had. Today it stands as a land mark for Tanjore where large folks of devotees visit everyday, it is a way of life here in Tanjore.
The Temple is acknowledged as a World heritage site by the UNSECO and is a very important site, spiritually, architecturally, and historically. The temple was built with white granite and follows Dravidian architecture, and is symmetrically very precise. The granites are interlocked to perfection and the Temple have survived six earthquakes within this region. The temple is locally known as Periya kovil which means a large temple in the local language of Tamil, the temple is also known as Rajarajeshwara Temple. The Apex of the temple is carved out of single rock and weights around 80 tons. It is believed that these rocks were brought from Trichy, the nearby town of the present day Tamil Nadu, which was the nearest available source then. The temple is built as per the Vedic Vastu (Vedic building principles) and took almost six years to complete the construction. A river flows close by the temple, which is believed to be re-channelized to be a moat for the temple. A large Nandi (a large bull, the gatekeeper of Lord Shiva and Parvathy) is erected facing the entrance of the temple. The big Nandi is carved from a single rock under a Mandapam ( a cover to the statue) in the courtyard of the temple. There are a lot of murals inside the temple and inscriptions are written around the temple.
The temple is an architectural marvel and many visitors from around the world come down to Tanjore to visit the Brihadeshwara Temple. It is believed that the Hindu Temples of Angor Wat in Cambodia were built by the descendents of Raja Raja Chola I, who sailed across the oceans to Cambodia. Today there are a lot of ceremonies that happen at the temple, milk is poured over the Nandi which is considered as an offering the God. Many Dance students of Bharathanatyam come here to perform their first performance as an offering to the God, just as you see in the video here.
As years passed, many other kingdoms came up and many other rulers ruled over Tamil Nadu. There have been many additions to the temple since Raja Raja Chola built the temple. A fortified wall was built around the temple, probably during the 16th Century. Pandyas added shrines of Goddess in the temple complex, Vijayanagara kings added the shrine of Subramanian and the Marathas renovated the Shrine of Vinayaka. The Nayaks of Madurai made several additions to the temple. If you are planning to visit South India, the Temple at Tanjore is a must visit. Make sure you have a knowledgeable guide with you.
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