Brihadeeshwara temple, also know as the Big temple is probably one of the best temples in the world. No wonder, it is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Membalam Rd, Balaganapathy Nagar, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu
6:00 am – 12:30 pm and 4:00 – 8:30 pm
Entry fees: Free
Note: Parking available on the opposite side of the temple (on the other side of the road)
We planned to see the temple in the late afternoon as that would allow us to see it in both daylight and night. As we proceeded towards the temple, we were welcomed by a huge arch. From the second arch onwards on has to walk barefoot, so either leave your shoes in your personal vehicle or at the shoe stand available at the temple for Rs 2. If you have any bag, there will be a checking at the second arch. Entry to the temple is free. Once we crossed the second arch, we could see the full view of the temple and its splendor. The arches were positioned such that one can see the Nandi sitting on a platform facing Lord Shiva. From here one has to climb a small platform on which the Nandi sat. From here some steps straight took us to the main sanctum. The elevated platform of the main temple and Nandi forms the center of the rectangle.
During day its hot but as the sun was setting the weather started to cool down. A gentle breeze started to blow all over the temple. We took a walk around the main temple exploring it. At dark a different view of the temple came alive and was a treat to the eyes. We sat on the nicely maintained grass lawn to enjoy the view around and thinking about the temple.
The construction of the temple was started by great Chola emperor Rajaraja I in 1003 AD and was completed in 1010 AD. The design of the temple is an engineering marvel and whoever has designed it was an architect per excellence. The temple was designed to represent a cosmic structure called the Mahameru. The temple is dedicated to lord Shiva represented by a 3.66 meter high linga. The area of the temple is a rectangle in shape. The vimana soars to a height of 60.96 meters and the stone Shikara (8 pieces) at the top weighs 81.284 tonnes. The inner scantum is a square and there is a circumambulatory passage around it like most south Indian temples. Along with the main temple, the complex has 5 sub shrines for Chandikeshava, Amman, Subhramanya, Ganesha and Karuvur devar – the royal priest. There are two mandapas for Nataraj and Nandi. The beautiful Nandi has been chessiled for a single granite rock. Two gopuras Rajarajan thiruvasal and Keralantaka are of the same period as the main temple and the arch is of the Maratha period. The walls have numerous inscriptions from the period of Chola, Pandaya, Vijaynagar, Nayaka and Maratha rulers. From the writings it can be seen that the temple was patronized by various rulers and received generous donations.
If anyone ask me to describe this temple, I would say – “It is a poetry written in stones”. Go there in leisure and you wont complain.