Female deity: Brahan Nayagi Amman (Periyanayagi)
Sthala vriksham: Vanni Tree
Thanjavur Palace Devasthanam
No.1221, West Main Street,
Thanjavur – 613 009
Tamil Nadu, India.
Office : +91-4362 223384,
Fax : +91-4362 223387
The regnal period of Rajaraja Chola I (985 A.D. to 1014 A.D.), easily the greatest among the later Chola period kings, is defined by the majestic Brihadeeswarar Temple of Thanjavur.
An awe-inspiring temple, this reflects the onset of the golden period of the later Chola period. Declared a world heritage site by UNESCO, this temple completed 1000 years in 2010. When built, it was the tallest temple in the world, a master piece of grandeur, aesthetics and beauty.
With a massive 216 feet (65.8 meter) tower (vimana) above the garbhagriha or “karuvarai”, this temple makes its presence felt even as one enters the city of Thanjavur. It is as if the city has been built around the temple (which, of course, is true)!
The exterior of the temple resembles a fort, being surrounded by moats on two sides and the Grand Anaicut river on the third side. Records show that the outer walls, that give the temple a fort-like appearance, were built much later (around mid 16th century) by the Nayak dynasty rulers.
There are two gopurams on the eastern side, through which one enters the temple. However, even while entering, the visitor stands transfixed, astonished by the beauty of the hundreds of paintings on the exterior walls. While most of these paintings are dated back to the Chola king period, some of them are credited to the Tanjore Nayak kings, who superimposed them on the much older Chola paintings.
After this show of beauty, comes the show of strength! A massive 12-feet high, 19-feet (6 m) long Nandi, the official vehicle of Lord Shiva! Weighing around 25 tons (25,000 kgs!), this statue of Nandi was carved out of a single rock, 16 ft x 13 ft (4.9 m x 4 m)! Along with the Nandi, which is majestically seated in a beautifully sculpted “nayak mandapam”, the outer prakaram also has an assembly hall, a pillared hall and many sub-shrines, of which the Chandeshvara shrine, with an octagonal dome, is the oldest.
The main temple, housing the presiding deities, has a single massive dome, weighing 81 tons – that is more than 80,000 kgs! Wonder how they managed to lift up such a dome to such a height? They specially built a scaffold 6.4 kms (4 miles) long!
The vimana itself is 200 feet (60.96 m) high, and has 16 stories of amazingly intricate carvings and etchings of various images, including deities and gods!
Lord Brihadeeswara is in the form of Shivalingam, and at 12 feet (3.7 m) in height, and 23 feet (7 m) in circumference, is one of the largest ever, anywhere. In fact, every deity in this temple, such as Dakshinamurthy, Surya, Chandra and the ashta dikpaalakas (of which only four – Agni, Varuṇa, Vāyu and Īśāna – survive) are massively sized.
If you look closely, you can find some Maratha rulers carved in some of the temple pillars. The shrine of the presiding female deity, Brihan Nayagi amman, was added by a Pandya King in the 13th century, the Subramanya (Karthik) shrine was built by a Vijaynagara king approximately two hundred years later, and the Ganesha shrine is ascribed to the time of the Maratha king, Serfoji II.
The temple is entirely built of more than 130,000 tons of granite.
The temple compound has 250 types of Shivalingams (statue of lord Shiva) within, a prime tourist attraction.
Some interesting points
- No shadow at noon for the 200 feet tall vimana: It is widely held that the temple throws no shadow on the ground during noon time. But there apparently are pictures of the temple and its shadow at noon.
- This is considered to be the tallest temple structure ever constructed, without using any binding material. All granite blocks interlock with one another to form a 200 feet high vimana! Stability is ensured by using precise angle calculations!
- An all granite temple, using more than 60,000 tonnes of granite!
- One side of the exterior wall of the upper storey is embellished with the 108 Bharatanatyam dance karanas.
- Important festivals celebrated here – Mahashivaratri and Pradosha Pooja
- Chithirai Brahmmothsavam, April-May (Chithirai) – 18 Days
- Maha Shivaratri, February (Maasi) – 1 Day
- Navarathiri, September -October (Purattasi) – 9 Days
- Aarudra Darisanam, December-January (Margazhi) – 1 Day
- Sathayavizha, October (Aippasi) – 2 Days
- Pradosham, Fortnightnightly
- Panchami Abhishekam for Goddess Varahi, Every Panchami (fortnightly)
- Aasadha Navaratri for Varahi, June-July (Aadi) – 12 Days
- Ashtami Abhishekam for Lord Bairavar, Every Asthami (fortnightly)
- Girivalam, Every full Moon day
- Aadi pooram, June-July (Aadi)
- Chithirai Brahmmotsavam, April-May (Chithirai)
- Dhanurmadha Pooja, December-January (Margazhi)
6.00 A.M. -12.30 P.M.
4.00 P.M. – 8.30 P.M.
Best Time to Visit
Ideal time to visit Brihadeeswarar temple is between October and mid-March. The weather is pleasantly cool during this period.
How to Reach
Thanjavur is around 350 kms from Chennai, well connected via national highways with important cities such as Kumbakonam (34 kms), Tiruchirappalli (57 kms) and Madurai (190 kms).
By Rail Thanjavur Junction, an important transit point between Chennai and Tiruchi. 59 trains halt here, while 8 train runs originate from, and terminate, here
By Air The nearest airport is Tiruchirappalli International Airport at Tiruchy, 60 kms away.
By Road 6 to 6.5 hours by car, from Chennai. Well connected by government run and private buses to Kumbakonam, Tiruchy etc.