Brihadeeswarar (Thanjavur, India)

Brihadishwara Temple

Most commonly refereed to as simply  The Big Temple, Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur, India, is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Brihadeeswarar Temple (sometimes spelled Brihadishvara Temple, also called Rajarajesvaram or Peruvudaiyar Kovil) was built by Raja Raja Chola I in 1010 CE, and the more than a thousand year old temple is one of the largest and oldest Hindu structures in the world.  Along with two other nearby temples, the complex was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as The Great Living Chola Temples.

Brihadeeswarar is one of the best examples of Tamil architecture of the Chola Dynasty. The foundation of the temple was laid in 1002 and the short construction of the grand temple was done completely under the eye of Raja Raja Chola I.  He is said to have been commanded to build the temple in a dream and it was the first of the great Tamil Chola construction projects to be completed.  The walls surrounding the temple as a fortification were built many years later and while the exact date seems to be a bit of a mystery, it was most likely in the 16th century.

Brihadeeswarar Temple Facts

  • The three temples of the “Great Living Chola Temples” are Brihadeeswarar Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram, and Airavatesvara temple.
  • Brihadeeswarar Temple is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Tamil Nadu.
  • There is a 16 ft long, 13 ft high statue of the sacred bull Nandi carved out of a single piece of stone at the entrance of the temple
  • The temple structure is made out of granite which had to me moved a minimum of 37 miles (60km) from the nearest quarry.
  • It is the only temple of this type where the shadow of the Temple tower does not appear on the ground at noon.
  • It is also reported that the temple has more than hundred underground passages that connects to various other places.
  • The main temple tower or vimana is the tallest of its kind at 216 feet.