Friday, 1 February 2008

THANJAVUR'S BIG TEMPLE - and other temples

When we set out on this trip, I had nothing else in mind except the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur. For everything else, we left the decisions to our companions Dr. JB and Bhama. They are veterans at making trips to temples, and we felt we would be guided well by them. Two previous trips made in their company had already proved this to us.

Driving through the lush green districts of Thanjavur was a delight. For as far as the eye could see there were paddy fields, some rich green , and some golden, where the harvest had just been completed. On the roadside at several points there were villagers manually threshing the rice, and at other places we could see what I assume were threshing machines.

Upon reaching Thanjavur, our first visit was to the Brihadeeswarar Temple, locally known as Periya Koil. Built by Raja Raja Chozhan in the 10th century it took six years to be completed. The temple stands within a fort, surrounded by a moat, now of course dried out, and is vast. Unlike other temples where the towers at the gates are higher than the one over the shrine, here it is the central shrine that stands tall and high.

And what a tower - it can be seen from any part of the town.
It is unique, because it is a square tower, constructed in such a manner that its shadow never falls on the ground. Its sides are decorated with many beautiful sculptures, as are also the walls around the sanctum sanctora – all painstakingly sculpted. One could gaze on these marvels for ever and ever, I felt. Inside, the Siva lingam is a huge one. The Nandhi facing the deity is also one of the biggest I have seen.

This temple is a heritage temple - part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Renovations are ongoing. Many websites give the physical proportions of the temple, and have photographs.

But to describe the feeling of elation at seeing the temple is impossible – history has been chiselled in every stone here.

Our next stop that day was the Bangaru Kamakshi Temple, where Syama Sastri the composer used to worship. The idol is golden – hence Bangaru meaning gold. His ancestral family had been the priests of the Kamakshi Amman temple in Thanjavur.
Though I did not know it at the time, his descendants are still the priests at the temple.

More pictures of this temple and others can be seen at


My husband had read earlier this year that Sri Vasishteswarar Temple, very near Thanjavur, is the place to visit this year. And so we went there, too.
Sri Vasishteswarar Temple is a very ancient temple – the priest said it is 1800 years old. This temple is a Siva temple, and is also known as Guru Sthalam, because there is a special shrine for Guru. It is called Sri Vasishteswarar, because the sage Vasishta is said to have worshipped Siva here.

In the main shrine, the priest showed us that drops of water dripped from the ceiling at regular intervals – seemed like 45 seconds to me – on the shivalingam. He told us that this temple 'gopuram' was encrusted with a Soorya kantam stone and a Chandra kantam stone, under the kalasam, which attracted the moisture from the atmosphere, and allowed it to fall in drops over the deity, to keep it cool. I cannot find an appropriate translation for the stones. We saw the dollops of water dripping, and there was nary a cloud in sight that day!

The ceiling of the temple in front of the Amman sannidhi, had the 12 'rasi' symbols carved on it – and the ceiling too is made of karungallu. A beautiful water tank in front of the temple is filled to the brim. The people there told us that it never dries out, and it serves water to the little town where it is -Then kudi thittai

Another temple we visited on this trip was the Sikkal Singaravelan temple, where Lord Muruga is worshipped. At this temple every year during kanda sashti, when soora samharam is enacted, Devi Uma, called Vel Nedunkanni Ambal here , hands Lord Muruga the vel (spear) to kill the demon. At that moment, the deity perspires, said the priest there. He perspires all over, and outside his kavasam – and this happens only on the one day of the year. Doctor JB said that a friend of his has witnessed this phenomenon.


Gowri Mohanakrishnan said...

Wow - lovely. Makes me want to see it all! The tower, the Nandi - great descriptions. I'm glad you went ; I get to read about it!

Ramakrishnan said...

Good to see that you have been bit by the travel bug too !
Brihadeeswara is undoubtedly the numero Uno amongst temples in architectural terms.


Ramakrishnan said...

Connected with Sikkal are Enkann & Ettukudi temples. All three Murugan deities were made by the same sculptor ! He sculpted Ettukudi without his thumb & Enkann after losing his eyesight !



Thanks you, Ramu, for this additional info. I enjoy reading such matters. But how did he sculpt without his thumb! Your pictures are terrific too.

Swarna said...

Thanks, Raji
Armed with all this info and your perspectives, hereI am making plans for our Tanjore- Thiruvayyaru-Tiruvarur visit.
Prostrations to Brihadeeswara!

krishnamurthy said...

Nice information about Big Temple.
For more information about big temple and other tourists spots and temples in and around thanjavur

Shobha said...

Thittai temple the water drips on the Shivalingam every 24th minute. The Chandrakantha kallu absorbs moisture from the atmosphere & droplets fall on the lingam