Brihadeeshwara Temple

About The Temple

The Brihadeeshwara Temple Is The Sacred Abode Of Lord Shiva

Situated at Tanjavur, in the state of Tamil Nadu, this temple of Lord Shiva reflects the strength and architectural mastery of the Chola kings. Also popular by the name of Peruvudaiyaar or the big temple, it is the constructional endeavor of the great Chola emperor Raja Raja Chola I. Historical sources trace the construction during the 11th century A.D, finally completed in 1010 A.D. The temple exists among the largest temples in the country.

Distinguished cultural significance

While visiting the Brihadeeshwara Temple, devotees and pilgrims are eligible to witness the unique Chola frescoes of the time. Almost the entire sanctorum contains beautiful mural paintings on the walls. Each of the paintings depicts various actions of Lord Shiva. In some, you may find the Lord destroying the abode of the demons, whereas, in some other, the famous postures of the Nataraja dance are depicted. Now, these paintings excite wonders in the hearts of pilgrims till this day, with the great skills of the Chola painters. The beauty of their art lies in their ethereal rendition of even the Asura women. Moreover, according to the inscriptions found on the walls of the temple, it was also the breeding ground for major cultural activities such as Bharatnatyam.

Principal deity of reverence

The presiding deity or the Moolavar of the temple is a divine manifestation of Lord Shiva. Lord Mahadev, the controller of worldly activities, resides in the tranquil ambiance of the temple. According to popular legends, establishment of the deity in this temple was a divine extension of his link with the ruler of the place. Pilgrims and devotees, arriving at the temple from all parts of the country, seek blessings of the Lord, for the eradication of major obstacles of life.

Detailed enumeration of the idol

Residing at a magnificent two storey Garbagriha, stands the iconic representation of the Lord. Represented in the form of a Lingam, other names of Lord Shiva, such as Rasjarajeshwaramudvya and Peruvudaiya are also prevalent. Beautiful garlands and other ornamental offerings from pilgrims adorn the Shiva Lingam. Apart from that, the sanctorum inner walls bear the relics of 108 karmas or indigenous dance postures of Lord Mahadev. The garbagriha, is also the exclusive abode of Lord Shiva, also popular as Karuvarai, meaning womb chamber, according to Tamil lexicon.

Other significant shrines

Dedicated devotees of Lord Shiva can also pay their holy tributes to the other shrines present in the region. Situated in the vicinity of the outer walls, the deities Dakshinamurthy, Chandra and Surya are present. Apart from that, the thanjavur brihadeeswarar temple is one of the rare possessors of the Ashta-dikpaalaka. Represented by 6 feet tall statues of Indra, Agni, Nir?ti, Yama, Varu?a, Isana, Vayu and Kubera, the ashta-dikpaalakas signify the divine guards of the eight directions.

Rituals of the temple

Vedic rituals and conventional worship procedures of Lord Shiva prevail in the region. Moreover, the temple inscriptions on the interior of the sanctorum bear testimony of the Vedic rituals and rites performed in those ages. Flower offerings are made to the deity. Apart from that, the performance of detailed rituals occurs during Satabhishag or the auspicious day of the Ruling star. Firstly, the rituals start by bathing the deity in the holy waters. As a significant part of the procedures, the priests offer champaka flowers to the deity. Moreover, the unique Champaka flowers are used to soak the moisture from the idol.

Celebration of Mahashivaratri

Celebrated in reverence of Lord Mahadev, the temple hosts the Mahashivaratri arrangements with great grandeur and pomp. Pilgrims and dedicated devotees of Lord Shiva flock in the temple premises during the Krishna Paksha Chaturdashi. The Mahashivaratri celebrations occur during this time, marking the union of two major divine forces; Shakti and Shiva. During the rituals of Mahashivratri, Bael leaves are offered to the deity. Apart from that, fasting and jagaran, or a vigil throughout the night of the celebration are also present. Moreover, this is the auspicious hour when the typical planetary positions and movement enhance the capability of an individual to ignite his inherent spiritualities.

Following the month calculation of Amavasya tithi, the celebrations occur during the Maagha month, as per the Hindu calendar. Whereas, according to the Gregorian calendar, the celebrations occur during the month of Phalguna. During the Mahashivratri celebrations, the entire temple complex reverberates with the powerful chants of the Maha Mrityunjay Mantra.

A distinguished pilgrimage destination

Dedicated followers of Lord Shiva make it a point to visit the temple during the Satabhishag. It is also popular for the sacred occurrence of the ruling star. On this auspicious day, the birth day celebrations of King Raja Raja Chola I occurs with great zeal and enthusiasm. Pilgrims and followers from all parts of the world seek the blessing of lord Shiva on this day.

Arriving at Tanjavur

Reaching the temple premises is not that tough, as Tanjavur offers lucid transportation connectivity throughout the state. Apart from that, local inhabitants and residents of the place can easily arrive at the region, through the efficient bus services, connecting the region with all the major cities of the state. Moreover, outstation visitors are also eligible to delve deep into the history of brihadeeswarar temple facts, through their arrival by the train or air route.

  • By road: In terms of road connectivity, Tanjavur offers great results, as it possesses lucid connectivity to all the major cities. Pilgrims and devotees can completely rely on the state bus services to arrive at the region from Tiruchirapalli, Pudukottai, Patukottai and Karaikudi. The region is also viable from Madurai.
  • By Rail: For outstation pilgrims, planning a visit to the temple, the region offers great connectivity through railways. The nearest railhead to the temple is the Kumbakonam railway station Junction, situated at a distance of 33 kilometers from the temple. Moreover, trains from other parts of the state operate on a regular basis, assisting pilgrims to experience a hassle-free journey to the temple. Reaching the temple from Madurai, takes about 9 hours, and there are three trains, operating on a regular basis. One can also arrive at the temple from Chidambaram, within three hours, as there are four trains operating daily.
  • By Air: For international devotees and pilgrims, reaching the temple is no longer a hassle. The closest Airport to the temple is Tiruchirapalli, located 58 kilometers from the temple. Other than that, Indian Airlines flights offer great connectivity of Trichy with Chennai and Madurai.

Nearby Places of Interest

The presence of brihadeeswarar temple thanjavur not only makes the region a holy ground for pilgrims and devotees throughout the country, but its rich heritage establishes itself as a paradise for prospective tourists. After paying their holy tributes to the temple, visitors and tourists can set out on a tour of Tanjavur.

  • Located at a distance of 65 kilometers from the city, the Manora Fort is an architectural endeavor of the great Maratha king, Serfoji II. Constructed around 1814-15, the temple boasts of a unique hexagonal shape. Moreover, the extent of the monument is till about 230 meters high, and it consists of eight storeys. The fact that adds to the beauty of the place is its proximity to the Bay of Bengal. Moreover, visiting the fort can also mean enjoying the exclusive boating rides available at the place.
  • Situated in proximity to the temple, stands the Thanjavur Palace. The constructional history of the palace dates back to 1550 A.D, with the Nayaks laying the foundation of the fortress. Moreover, the Fort offers detailed sneak-peeks into the rich historical artifacts of the past, as it houses a museum and art gallery. Paart from that, archaeologists visiting the region can also delve deep into the beauty of the graniyte and bronze statues.
  • Another worthy place of visit is the Saraswathi Mahal Library, situated in the interiors of the Saraboji Palace. The library bears the relics of the rich literary and administrational history of the ancient ages in Tanjavur. According to the local hearsay, the library contains significant documents in Tamil and Sanskrit, which are believed to divulge a lot of the past rulers of the region. Apart from that, art connoisseurs can have the time of their life at the library, by taking a look at the collection of beautiful paintings.

Historical significance of the temple

The brihadeeswarar temple in thanjavur excites great wonders at its unique historical significance. According to prevalent legends of the region, the temple is an existing testimony of the glories of Shaiva devotion. Historical accounts state that the period around 850 to 1350 A.D underwent a massive metamorphosis in Tamil architecture. Therefore, during the ascendance of the Chola dynasty, especially during the time of Rajaraja I, the significance of this temple was not limited to just architectural transformations. Complementing the nomenclature of Kailasa or Uttar Meru, this temple acquired the name of Dakshina Meru. Moreover, bearing an analogy to Kailasa, the focal centre of the universe, this temple is considered as the prime source of divine glory.

According to some other historical artifacts, Tanjavur, the region housing the temple is itself the bearer of an ancient legend. Legends associated with the nomenclature of the area state, which originally the name Tanjavur, was a derivation from the name of a demon Thanja. Haunting the local inhabitants, this fierce demon was a taught a lesson by Lord Vishnu. Prior to his death, the demon placed a request before the Lord, to name the city after him. Lord Vishnu granted consent and thus, the name Tanjavur, came into existence.

Also popular as Rajarajeswaram, the historical sources trace the origin of the temple as the reflection of immense power, strength and glory of the Chola kings. If some of the legends are to be followed, then this temple was a holy tribute of Raja Raja Chola I, to Lord Shiva. Greatly impressed and inspired by the magnificent Buddhist temples, the king dreamt of constructing this temple.