A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Brahadeeswarar Temple is unparalleled for its beauty and scale. Located at Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and is among the largest temples in the world.
Also called the ‘Rajarajeswara temple’, it was built by Chola king Raja Raja I between 985-1012 AD. It is said the king received commands to build the temple in his dreams.
The first temple to be built in granite, it boasts of one of the tallest vimanams (tower) in the world. The vimanam is 64.8 meters tall and it is believed to weigh 81.28 tonnes. The kalasham on top of the vimanam is carved out of a single stone. A six km long inclined plane was created to install the kalasham.
Lord Shiva is the main deity and manifests in the form of a 3.7 metre tall Linga. The temple houses idols of other gods and shrines to other gods too. It is one of the rare temples which has idols of Ashta-dikpaalakas or guardians of the eight directions. There are six feet statues of Lord Indra, Agni, Yama, Varuna, Nirrti, Vayu, Kubera and Isana.
The main temple consists of a statue of Nandi, a pillared hall, a mandapa and many sub-shrines. The prime architectural attraction of the temple is the inner mandapa. The statue of the Nandi is built of a single stone and it is considered to be the second largest monolithic statue of Nandi in India. The largest statue is in Lepakshi.
Visitors also can see Chola frescoes on the walls around the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, which were discovered in the 1940s. The frescoes portray Shiva dancing and sending a white elephant to transport a devotee to heaven. It also portrays the mythological episodes of the journey of Saint Sundarar and the Chera King to heaven, the battle scene of Tripurantaka (Lord Siva) with Asuras (demons). The outer wall of the upper storey of the temple is carved with 81 dance karanas – postures of Bharat Natyam.
There are three gopuras in the temple complex, namely the Rajarajan-tiruvasal, Keralantakan-tiruvasal and the outermost gateway. The Keralantakan-tiruvasal was built to honour the victory of Raja Raja I over the Cheras. The Keralantakan-tiruvasal is slightly larger than the Rajarajan-tiruvasal. Both the gateways are richly carved and decorated with sculptural depictions of various gods and goddesses and divinities.
WHERE TO STAY
There are no options of accommodation in the temple.
WHERE TO EAT
One can find many multi-cuisine restaurants near the temple complex. Being a temple town, the restaurants generally serve vegetarian fare.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit the temple is during the months of October to April, as during these months the climate remains pleasant.