Brihadisvara Temple

Brief
The Brihadeswara temple is one of the most ancient and the most celebrated Hindu temple in the world. The temple is located in the city of Thanjavur that is also known as Tanjore, in the Indian province of Tamilnadu. The UNESCO has adjudged this thousand years old temple a "World Heritage Site". The districts of Thanjavur boast of hundreds of ancient temples. The town of Thanjavur was the seat of the glorious Chola Empire of Tamilnadu, and was later on the seat of the Nayaks and the Marathas. True to art historian Fergusson, the Chola artists conceived like giants and finished like jewelers. One of the most famous temple here is the Brihadisvara Temple.

History
The great Temple of Tanjore (Thanjavur) was built between 1003 and 1010 in the reign of the great King Rajaraja, founder of the Chola Empire which stretched over all of South India and the neighbouring islands. Surrounded by two rectangular enclosures, the Brihadisvar is crowned with a pyramidal 13-storey tower, the vimana, standing 61 m high and topped with a bulb-shaped monolith. The walls of the temple are covered with rich sculptural decoration. The temple stands within a fort, whose walls are later additions built in the 16th century. The towering vimanam is about 200 feet in height and is referred to as Dakshina Meru.

Framework Of The Temple
The long prakaram surrounds the great temple (500 feet/250 feet), and the walls surrounding the prakaram again go back to Raja Raja Cholan's period. The walls house long pillared corridors, which abound in murals, Shiva Lingams and Nandis. The Periya Nayaki temple within the temple is a later addition from the Pandya period, and so is the Subramanyar Temple sung later by the Saint poet Arunagirinathar. The sanctum, the ardhamandapam, the mukhamandapam and the Mahamandapam, although distinct, form a composite unit with an imposing appearance that awes visitors, forcing one to wonder how such timeless architectural feat was executed about a 1000 years ago. Entrances to the Mandapams and the towered entrances to the Prakarams are majestic. The grandeur of the architecture and the sculptural finesse speaks volumes of the skills of the Imperial Cholas. Inscriptions refer to Shiva as Dakshina Meru Vitankar and Aadavallan. The Nandi, which dates back to the Nayak period, is housed in its own mandapam and it matches up to the grandeur and size of the temple. It is a monolithic Nandi weighing about 25 tonnes, and is about 12 feet high and 20 feet long.

The Temple    
This temple is an outstanding example of Dravidan style of architecture. It reflects the style and skill of the Chola rulers who ruled peninsular India during the early medieval period. The building that carries the main sanctum is known as the 'Periya Kovil' or the “big temple”. Completed in early 11th century by Rajaraja Chola I the temple is also known as Rajarajesvaram and is remarkable for its stupendous proportions yet simple designs. It is for this reason that the temple along with the other Chola temples in the area had the pride of being inducted into the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and a huge idol 23 feet in diameter and 9 feet in height is present inside. The 'Vimana' of the temple is about 70 meters and is among the tallest of its kind in the world. It is also built such that at no time does the shadow of the vimana fall outside itself. The 'Shikharam' (crown) of Brihadeeswara temple is itself very large and heavy (81.25 tons) and has been carved out of a single stone. It is believed that the stones were lifted onto the tower by using an incline that inched up from 6 km away. The temple occupies a sprawling area and is an important tourist attraction.