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Tanjore Brihadeeswarar Temple

The Periya Koil or 'Big Temple' as Brihadeeswara temple is known turns 1000 years. Showcasing pure Dravidian architecture, the temple was built in the Chola capital of Tanjavur under the aegis of the Chola king Rajaraja Chola in 1010 A.D. Designed by Sama Varma, the architecture of Brihadeeswara temple is unique in that the temple casts no shadows on the ground at noon during any time of the year.

History of Brihadeeswarar Temple

The Brihadeeswarar Temple was built to display the emperor's vision of his power and his relationship to the universal order. On the 275th day of his 25th regal year (1010 A.D) Raja Raja Chola handed over a gold-plated kalasam (copper pot or finial) for the final consecration to crown the vimana. Located in the nerve centre of the Chola empire, the temple attracted musicians, scholars, craftsman and merchants. Most notably, it served as a platform for the dancers who excelled in the traditional dance form of Bharatha Natyam. The Cholas were ousted by the Pandyas. The Pandyas were followed by the Vijayanagara empire. In 1535, the Vijaynagar king installed a Nayak king, hence, the era of Tanjore Nayaks which lasted till mid-17th century. In 1674, the Marathas conquered Tanjore. Later, like the rest of the country, Thanjavur too fell into British hands. The inscriptions and frescoes on the walls of the temple record the rise and fall of the city's fortunes.


The Brihadeeshwara temple has over a 29 sq.m base. It has a soaring vimana (Srivimana) and a relatively short gopuram. The inner sanctum and the gopuram were constructed over a period of 12 years from a single piece of granite weighing around 80 tonnes. The dome was hauled into place along a 4-km earthwork ramp. The Srivimana or the central vimana has 16 tiers rising to a height of 216 ft, one of the tallest in the world. It symbolizes Mount Meru.

The presiding deity is Shiva in the form of a Lingam called Peruvudaiya, Rasjarajeshwaramudvya. The massive Lingam is housed in a huge 2-storey garbhagriha. The inner wall of the garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum has sculptures of 108 dance poses called karmas performed by Lord Shiva himself. A huge statue of Nandi measuring 6 m length and 3.7 m in height faces the inner sanctum. The statue of Nandi is a monolith and weighs 25 tonnes. It is, in fact, one of the largest Nandi statues in India.

Before you enter the sanctum sanctorum, you will see the two idols of Ganesha in the corridor. On tapping the two, you will feel the sound traveling through stone in one idol and through metal on the other.

There is a 16.5m (55ft) high temple dedicated to Lord Subrahmanya that is considered to have some of the best carvings in South India.

Note: The corridor is peaceful and welcoming and unlike other temples does not have shops.

The Brihadeeswara temple is one of the few great Indian monuments listed in UNESCO's World Heritage list of historical sites and monuments.

How to get to Tanjore?

Nearest Airport : The nearest Airport Tiruchirapalli (58 kms) and is connected by Indian Airlines. Indian Airlines also connects Trichy with Madurai and Chennai.

Nearest Railhead : Tanjore. There are trains to Chennai (9 hr, 3 daily), Chidambaram (3 hr, 4 daily), Rameswaram, Madurai (6 hr, 2 daily), Villupuram (for Pondicherry) (6 hr, 190km), Tirupati, Kumbakonam (1 hr) and Tiruchirappalli (1 hr, several).

By Road: Thanjavur is connected with all major cities.

View Bragatheeswarar Temple in a larger map

Places to Stay

Hotels In Tanjore :
  1. Hotel Tamil Nadu, (331421; fax 331970), Gandhiji Rd.
  2. Hotel Sangam (339451; fax 336695: Email:, Trichy Rd.
  3. Hotel Parisutham (331801; fax 330318: Email:, 55 Grand Anicut Canal Rd.

Other Places of Interest in Tanjore

  1. The Palace - The palace near the temple is a huge complex built partly by the Nayaks around 1550 AD and partly by the Marathas. The Sangitha Mahal (Hall of Music) on the first floor has a fine auditorium with excellent acoustics.

  2. Art Gallery - In the Palace there are a number of granite and bronze statues of the Chola period. Timings : 9.00 - 13.00 hrs. Wednesday Holiday.

  3. Schwartz Church ( In the Palace garden ) - Built in 1779 AD by Rajah Serfoji in token of his affection for the Rev. C.V Schwartz of the Danish mission.

Other temples near Tanjore

  1. Thirukandiyur (10 Kms) - Temples of Brahmasirekandeswarar and Harshavimochana Perumal.

  2. Kumbakonam (36 Kms) - Famous for Sarangapani, Kumbeswarar, Nageswarar, and the Ramaswamy temples. Mahamagam congregation takes place once in 12 years; last held in 1992.

  3. Swamimalai (32 Kms) - One of the six Abodes (Arupadaiveedu ) dedicated to Lord Subramanya.

  4. Darasuram (34 Kms) - This temple dedicated to Lord Siva, was built by Rajendra Chola.

  5. Thirubuvanam (45 Kms) - 13th Centuary Chola temple dedicated to Lord Siva.

  6. Thiruvaiyaru (13 Kms) - Where the famous Saint Thyagaraja lived and attained Samadhi. Music festival is held here every January in honour of the saint composer.

  7. Manora ( 65 Kms ) - The 8-Storey victory tower was built by Rajah Serfoji in 1814 to commemorate the victory of the British over Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo.

  8. Tiruvarur (55 Kms) - The Thyagarajaswami Temple here has the biggest temple chariot in Tamil Nadu. This is the birth place of Saint Thyagaraja - one of the musical Trinity. Arulmigu Thyagarajaswamy Car Festival is celebrated in March -April.

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