Brihadeeswarar temple · Peryakovil · Tanjavur · Heritage blog

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April 2nd 2020
Published: April 3rd 2020
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Brihadeeswarar temple – also known as “Dakshina Meru” (Meru of the South) was built between 1003 and 1010 AD by the king Raja Raja Chola I. Brihat means “big, great” and Eswara means “Lord, Shiva, Supreme” – thus the name “Great Lord Shiva”. The temple dedicated to Lord Shiva was built in Dravidian architecture and is located on the South bank of river Cauvery in Tanjavur district, Tamil Nadu.
The main Vimana tower above the sanctum is made of granite and is one of tallest in South India. The temple also has one of the largest Shiva lingas in India. Over the last 1000 years the temple has had several additions, destruction by the invading Mughals, renovations and repairs. The shrines of Goddess Parvati, Lord Murugan and Nandi are from the 16th century.
The temple complex is a rectangle that is covering 790.0 ft east to west and 400.0 ft north to south. In this space are five main sections: the main Vimana sanctum, the Nandi hall in front and in between these are the main community hall, the great gathering hall and the pavilion that connects the great hall with the sanctum. The temple complex integrates a large pillared and covered veranda, outside which there are two walls of enclosure, the outer one being defensive and added in 1700s by the French colonial forces with gun-holes with the temple serving as an arsenal. They made the outer wall high, isolating the temple complex area. On its east end is the original main gopuram which is less than half the size of the main temple's vimana. Shrines and structures were added during the Pandya, Nayaka, Vijayanagara and Maratha era, before the colonial era started.
There are 2 main gateways which are decorated with scenes from the Puranas and other Hindu texts.
The monolithic Nandi facing the mukh-mandapam is about 2 m in height, 6 m in length and 2.5 m in width and weighs about 25 tonnes. There are 81 dance postures from Natya Sastra carved on the outer wall of the upper storey corridor. This text is the basis of Bharathanatyam – the classicial dance of Tamil Nadu.
On the second floor, Shiva's Tripurantaka form in different postures is depicted corresponding to these sculptures. Above these floors, the sri-vimana towers above in thirteen storeys.
Above these storeys is a single square block of granite weight 80 tons, and 25.5 ft side. On top of this block, at its corners are Nandi pairs each about 6 ft 6 in by 5 ft 6 in in dimension. Above the center of this granite block rises the griva, the sikhara and the finial (stupi) of Tamil Hindu temple architecture.

The temple has an underneath layer of Chola frescoes on the sanctum walls and were restored in the 2000s. The frescoes narrate Hindu mythology.

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