Day 2 – Great Living Chola Temples – Part 2


Date: 14-Aug-16

After visiting Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Darasuram temples, we headed towards our next destination, Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur. Of all the Chola marvels, this temple is the most popular one. Not only among the Chola temples, but also it is one of the most well-known and one of the biggest temples in India. The temple is dedicated to lord Shiva and is popularly called as the “Big Temple” because of its hugeness.

Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur

  • Timings: 6 AM to 12.30 PM and 4 PM to 8.30 PM

We reached Thanjavur at 4.45 PM and we were shocked to see the sea of vehicles near the temple. Though we knew that the temple is very popular, by looking at the less crowd in the other temples earlier in the day, we expected a lesser crowd here as well. Sadly, we were completely wrong. However, the temple complex is so gigantic that it held the large crowd inside its compound walls effortlessly and showed us how advanced our ancient generation was in planning, technology, and architecture compared to us. The temple is so beautifully carved in every corner that you cannot stop uttering “woww”.

Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur

Brihadeeswarar Temple was built by the most powerful king of Chola dynasty, Raja Raja Chola I. The temple turned 1000 years old in the year 2010 and it still stands firmly challenging the modern engineering. Few interesting facts about this temple are as follows (Reference: Wikipedia)

  • The architect and engineer of the temple, Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Perumthachan is known today as a father figure to all craftsmen in his homeland of present-day Central Kerala.
  • The entire temple structure is made out of granite, the nearest sources of which are about 60 km to the west of temple.
  • The massive size of the main Vimanam (Shikhara) is 216 ft (66 m) high, with 16 elaborately articulated stories, is the tallest in the world.
  • The Kumbam (the apex or the bulbous structure on the top) weighs around 80 tons.
  • There is a big statue of Nandi (sacred bull), carved out of a single rock measuring about 16ft (4.9m) long and 13ft (4.0m) high at the entrance. This is the second largest Nandi statue in India.
  • The gopuram of the main entrance is 30 m high, smaller than the vimana. It is unusual in the Dravidian architecture where the gopurams are generally the main towers and taller than the vimanam.
  • The 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.

Entrance of Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur

Building a 216 ft high Gopuram itself is hard to imagine for us. Placing 80 tons of Kumbham carved out of a single rock on top this Gopuram is indescribable. It is believed that 1,30,000 tons of granite is used for this architecture wonder’s construction and around 3,000 elephants were used to carry these granite rocks. There are various materials on the internet explaining how this temple might have been constructed, but the actual story is still a myth. The temple is the epitome of Dravidian architecture and it gives full justice to the fame Raja Raja Chola I had gained.

Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur

It is not just a plain big temple, but has beautiful carvings which make it the most magnificent architectural marvel. You can sit for hours together appreciating the incredible craftsmanship of our ancestors. The temple looks picture perfect from any angle. Do not miss to see the popular and the old Thanjavur paintings which are on the outer corridors.

Very Old Thanjavur Paintings

Since we were running short of time, we could spend only an hour’s time and we left at around 6.30 PM and then headed towards Rameshwaram via Thanjavur > Pattukottai > Pamban > Rameshwaram. We had our dinner en-route in a small hotel in Pattukottai and checked in to hotel Brindavan Residency in Rameshwaram at 11.50 PM. The hotel authorities allowed us to check-in to the hotel at such late hours without creating any issues. We are grateful to them.

Brihadeeswarar temple is a living example of mysterious historical architectural golden era of India. We would suggest you to read about Raja Raja Chola I and about the construction of the temple. The haunting historic stories will unquestionably force you to visit this temple at least once in life.

  • Route Traveled: Hotel Ram International, Pondicherry > Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church > Cuddalore > Gangai Konda Cholapuram > Kumbakonam > Airavateshwara Temple, Darasuram > Brihadeeshwara Temple, Thanjavur > Pattukkottai > Pamban Bridge > Rameshwaram > Hotel Brindavan Residency, Rameshwaram
  • Photos: Great Living Chola Temples Album

See also:

Route Map:

  1. Great Post.
    Thanjavur is high on my list .Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 2travellingsisters

    Beautiful architecture, the gopuras look very different from what we find in Karnataka!

    Liked by 1 person

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