• Category : UNESCO
  • Period : 1010 A.D.
  • Credits : ASI


Virtual Tour of Brihadeeswara temple, Thanjavur - through our website you can walk-around the Brihadeeswara temple virtually and get feel of being there in the temple.


Brihadeeswara temple are attained prominence under the 9th-12th-century Chola rulers, who established one of their capitals here. the town maintained its importance in later times ans was a Nayaka strongholdin the 16th-17th centuries. The circilar fort surrounded by a moat dates from the 18th-century Maratha period. Within the fort stands the palace of the Nayakas, the celebrated Brihideeswara temple is situated to the south-west.


Monumnetal in concept, design and execution, this temple is the greatest architectural achievement of the Chola era. It was a royal foundation inaugurated by Rajaraja I (c.985-1012), who personaaly donated the glided pot final at the summit of the tower.

The temple stands in the middle of a large rectangular court partly occupied by other smaller shrines. It is enteres on the easy through two gateways. The square sanctuary, which is surrounded by a narrow passageway, adjoins an antechamber and a long columned mandapa on the east, approached through an open porch. The double-storey pilastered walls of the sanctuary are aised ona high basement. This is adorned with yalis and makaras (top moulding) and covered with inscriptions relating the origins, construction and endowments of the temple. A seated gana supporrts a spout emerging from the sanctuary basement (north). In the middle of each side of the walls is a doorway flanked by guardian figures with clubs. Thw wall projections have niches occupied by fully modelled images, mostly of Shiva. Among the fines figures are Bikshatanamurti (east end of south wall), dancing Shiva (west end of north wall), Harihara (south end of west wall) and Ardhanarishvara (west end of north wall). Other divinities are carved in the semicircular niche tops. Attendant figures flank pilasters in pots that stand in the recesses.

The steeply pyramidal stone tower rises to height of about 66m (217ft). Thirteen diminishing storeys, each with pilastered walls, an eave and parapet, ascend dramatically to octagonal dome-like roof. Rajaraja's pot finial is still in place at the apex. The projection on the front (east) is partly obscures by later additions.

The walls of the antechamber are triplestoreyed, with doorways on the north and south sides. the acess steps are flanked by balustrades with curved tops and miniature figural panels on the sides. The long mandapa that extends eastwards is only partly completed; the sculptures in the wall niches are mostly unfinished. The entrance porch with an overhanging eave is an addition of the Nayak period; the peripheral columns are fashioned as earing beasts. The mandapa doorway in the porch is guarded by large figures with clubs.

In the middle of the sanctuary is a solossal linga 3.66m(12ft)high, which is elevated on a circular pedestal. The surrounding passageway is divided into chambers; sculptures here include a large standing Shiva image (north wall). Paintings also adorn the walls and ceiling, but these are only partly visible, being overlaid by later Nayaka murals. Among the Chola fragments are delicately coloured scenes of Shiva seated on a lion-skin with dancers and misicians, a royal visit to the temple at Chidambaram (west wall) and Shiva riding in a chariot drawn by Brahma (north wall). Carved on to the basement of the upper passageway walls is a series of 108 miniature dancers in different postures.

A short distance to the east of the temple is a tall lamp-column and a monolithic Nandi image sheltered by a 16th century pavilion. The pavilion has slender columns with carvings of devotees on the shafts. Among the subsidiary buildings is the Chandeshvara shrine, which faces southwards towards the main temple. The sanctuary of this small building is crowned with an octogonal roof; the basement and wall details imitate those of the main temple but on a smaller scale.

Another shrine north-west of the main temple is dedecated to Subrahmanya. This finely finished monument dates from the 17th century. It has delicately carved basement mouldings and wall pilasters. The parapet and tower are executed in in pilaster covered brickwork. A mandapa in the north-east corner of the enclosure belongs to the same era.

A treasury, museum and library are also included within the courtyard. Lining the enclosure walls is a colonnade with shrines for images of the Dikpalas. the two gateways on the east date from the Chola period. These impressive rectangular structures are dominated by pyramidal towers with vaulted roofs (the outer gateway is higher); sculptures are preserved on the upper storeys. Enormous guardian figures protect the east entrance to the inner gateway. Small carvings on the basement beneath illustrate Shaiva legends, such as the marriage of Shiva Parvathi, and Shiva protecting Markandeya.


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