Brihadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur

Dec 29, 2022

We were staying at Trichy and our dear friends Sanjay and Seema Drabu said they were planning to drive down to Thanjavur on Dec 29th. What better way to see the Thanjai Big Temple, aka Brihadeeswara Temple than with like minded friends ? The plan was finalised and we were to meet outside the temple around 8.30 am.

Ever since I had read Kalki’s magnum opus Ponniyin Selvan, Book Review – Ponniyin Selvan #1 I have been on the Chola trail, specifically Raja Raja Chola. The greatest Chola emperor was succeeded by his illustrious son Rajendra Chola. We got to visit the magnificent temple Rajendra Chola built at Gangaikonda Cholapuram, but that is for another blog post.

I had goosebumps standing at the ticket counter of the Brihadeeswara temple …. this temple was built by the greatest Chola emperor Raja Raja Chola and he walked on these very grounds ! So many great emperors of the Chola dynasty have walked the same path that we were to walk that day. We got ourselves a guide who was certified by ASI. Mr. Ganesh was knowledgeable and was a huge help in understanding the history of the temple.

We entered through the Maratha Entrance. The walls of the first gate that you enter from contain the names of nearly 600 people. These are the people who have worked on the temple and details about their salaries etc are also mentioned.

The first thing you see is the massive Nandi Mandapam. Our guide told us that there was a smaller Nandi placed here which was later moved to the perimeter. This Nandi is 2 metres high and one of the largest Nandis in the world. Interestingly this Nandi was created during the 16th century by the Nayak rulers.

The Hindu Kings fought several battles and many violent wars – Pallavas, Marathas, Nayaks, Cholas, Pandyas, Cheras, Satavahanas, Pratiharas etc. But not a single temple was destroyed. Every new ruler just added or improved an existing temple. You can see that in Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai and here at the Brihadeeswara temple. That’s the difference in the Hindu culture….

We didn’t visit the Nandi Mandapam, instead we visited the Varahi Amman Temple which is on the left of the Nandi Mandapam. Apparently before every war/battle, the Chola emperors would pray at this temple.

Brihadeeswara Temple Varahi Amman

From there we went into a museum where several paintings are preserved. As the heat increased, we tried to stay in the shadows cast by the tall Gopuram. At the back perimeter wall we again get to see several sculptures and there is a gallery of 1008 lingas. For Raja Raja Chola the number 9 had a lot of significance. So for several sculptures, dimensions will add up to 9.

1008 lingas at Brihadeeswara Temple
1008 lingas

We then walked all the way around the main temple and entered the Garba Griha from the right hand entrance. The Shiva Linga inside is again one of the largest anywhere in the world. It’s 9 metres or 29 ft tall.

Shiva Linga Brihadeeswara Temple

We donated oil for the Shiva Linga Abhishekam and the lamps. Its an indescribable feeling of standing in front of this massive Shiva Linga knowing that Raja Raja Chola had prayed before the very same Linga a 1000 years back !

Please watch this short video that I have created about our visit to the Brihadeeswara temple. Please subscribe to my You Tube Channel for more of our travelogues.

Just as I started writing this blogpost a few days back, a Twitter thread popped up about the Big Temple :). Reposting it here –

Am still thinking of Dec 29th and reliving moments from our visit to the Thanjai Periya Kovil…. Spoke to the guide Mr. Ganesh today and told him we will be back for a visit soon.

Please do visit this Chola temple. Its Ponniyin Selvan aka Raja Raja Chola’s gift that keeps giving !

#CholaTemples #RajaRajaChola #PonniyinSelvan

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