The Brihadisvara temple in the city of Thanjavur, is a construction that is also known as Rajajeswaram, and is considered as a of the best creations of Tamil architecture. In fact, this work is considered one of the most important works of the Dynasty of the Chola, who ruled much of southern India between the 9th and 13th centuries.
And it was under that government that the so-called three living chola temples were built, this one in the city of Thanjavur, along with those of Gangaikoncholisvaramand the Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram. A complex built between the 11th and 12th centuries, and which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Of these three, the Brihasdivara temple that concerns us here is the so-called great living temple. A Hinduist construction in which Shiva is venerated, entirely made of granite and where its enormous vimana or tower that reaches 65 meters in height stands out. And if the height impresses, it makes it even more so knowing that the stone at its apex is a single rock that weighs 80 tons.
It was a work that consecrated the chola king Rajaraja I in the year 1010. That is a fact that, among other things, can be known from the hundreds of inscriptions in the temple and that tell us about the various donations that themonarch.
If we see the Brihadisvara temple in plan, we can appreciate that it is a complex building, since it is both a religious site and a defensive place, since everything is protected inside of a walled perimeter.
In this way inside there is a space to circumambulate the main temple, and as usual there are hundreds of chapels or lingan dedicated to Shiva. There are also gardens and even a pond in the perimeter area.
Though the highlight is the big building. In it there is a kind of vestibule in which a large figure of Nandi appears, the bull on which Shiva rides. It is a work of a single piece too, with an enormous weight. And covering it on the porch there are different mural paintings, which are among the most emblematic that have bequeathed us the times of the Chola empire.
On both sides of the central vimana there are two gorupas, which are two pyramid-shaped towers in which numerous reliefs with scenes of Indian dances can be seen. Some buildings that have no color like the main sanctuary, something that differentiates them from other constructions in this same Indian state of Tamil Nadu, with the Meenakshi Ammann temple in the city ofMadurai.
The work has been venerated since its very inauguration, and new subtemples were incorporated, but always respecting the original appearance in the new constructions, although none of them reaches the artistic category of the original, both from a point of view architectural view, norsculptural or pictorial.