The Brihadeshwara Temple (Tamil:Peruvudaiyar Kovil) a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva located in Thanjavur in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is the world’s first complete granite temple and a brilliant example of the major heights achieved by Cholas kingdom.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 also a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the "Great Living Chola Temples", with the other two being the Brihadeeswarar Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Airavatesvara temple.
It is also known as Periya Kovil, RajaRajeswara Temple and Rajarajeswaram. Brihadeeshwar temple is the best example of excellent workmanship, grandeur and it has stood the testimony of time with its magnificent central dome which is a great attraction for one and all.
It is one of the largest temples in India and and one of the India’s most prized architectural sites of Dravidian architecture during the Chola period. Built by emperor Raja Raja Chola I in time span of just five years, that is between 1004 AD and 1009 AD, the temple turned 1000 years old in 2010.
The temple stands amidst fortified walls that were probably added in the 16th century. The vimanam (temple tower) is 216 ft (66 m) high and is the tallest of its kind in the world. The Kumbam (the apex or the bulbous structure on the top) of the temple is carved out of a single rock 80-ton piece of granite. There is a big statue of Nandi (sacred bull), carved out of a single rock measuring about 16 ft (4.9 m) long and 13 ft (4.0 m) high at the entrance. The entire temple structure is made out of hard granite stones, a material sparsely available currently in Thanjavur area where the temple is located.
The entire temple structure is made out of granite, the nearest sources of which are about 60 km to the west of temple. The temple is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Tamil Nadu.
The temple is most famous due to its unique architecture. The temple is said to be made up of about 1,30,000 tons of granite. Granite is not found in the surrounding areas. It is not known where this massive granite was brought from. The absence of a granite quarry within a 100 km radius of the temple requires logistics of epic proportions to get the stone to the construction site. As hard as it was to find, Granite is harder to carve. Yet the great Chola wanted a temple to be covered with the most intricate designs.
On 1st April 1954, Reserve Bank of India releases a 1000 Rupees currency note, which features Brihadeeshwar temple’s panoramic view marking its cultural significance and heritage. Now, these currency notes are popular among collectors.
However, as part of the millennium celebrations, a commemorative coin of 1000 Rupees was issued by the Government of India. The coin, weighing 35 gm, has 80 per cent silver and 20 per cent copper. On the obverse side, the coin bears the emblem of the Lion Pillar with the words ‘Satyameva Jayate’ in Hindi below it.The name of the country and denomination are spelt out in Hindi and English.
On the reverse side, figure of Raja Raja Chola-1 in a standing posture with folded hands with a figure of the temple and the words depicting the 1,000 years of the temple is written in Hindi and English.
The temple has Chola frescoes on the walls around the sanctum sanctorum portraying Shiva in action, destroying demonic forts, dancing and sending a white elephant to transport a devotee to heaven. The Archaeological Survey of India, for the first time in the world, used its unique de-stucco process to restore 16 Nayak paintings, which were superimposed on 1000-year-old Chola frescoes. Other significant feature is that the shadow of the gopuram (pyramidal tower usually over the gateway of a temple) never falls on the ground.
Having the world’s tallest temple tower, 1,30,000 tonnes of granite in the structure and being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Brihadeeshwar temple is a Marvel and a tribute to the South Indian Architecture.
Every month, the day on which the ruling star is Satabhisham is celebrated as a festival, as that was the birth star at the time of Raja Raja. The other festival is Krittika day in the month of Kartika. The annual festival for 9 days is celebrated in the month of Visakha (May), during which a drama on Raja Rajeswara is also enacted.
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