Temples of South India are fascinating symbols of human passion, workmanship and endeavor, and of intricate art work and yet elaborate grandeur. One of my favorites is the Brihadeshwara Temple of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu state of India which i visited in the summer of 2012 with my wife.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this is the finest example of Indian architecture. It was built in the 11th century AD by the Chola kings, one of the longest ruling dynasties of South India whose territories extended till Maldives in the Indian Ocean and had influence up to East Asian countries as well.
This temple is also known as the Big Temple of Thanjavur and completed 1000 years of its existence in 2010. Vimana or the main temple tower stands at a height of 216 feet (equivalent to 13 storeys of a building) and is one of the tallest structure of its kind in the world. The interesting fact about the tower is that the topmost block of the tower weighs 80 tonne and is carved out of one single rock, with no joints of any kind in between. Must have excellent technology then? What do you think?
Archaeologists are amazed at this temple and say that this temple can survive for thousands of centuries as the complete temple is built of the hardest stone available in the world – granite. It is still not clear as to how the heavy stone was carried to the top of the temple and this temple was built, which makes it as intriguing as the Egypt pyramids. Something to marvel at when you visit this stupendous structure! One can just appreciate the techniques of the builders of that period, which in their quest to reach to the Gods, built such memorable and monumental stories, all in stone.
This immortal edifice in stone is part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Thanjavur temple is rich in iconography and has lot of inscriptions written in Tamil language on the temple walls. There are several frescoes on the ceilings of the temple and several deities are carved in stone around the temple walls. These sculptures and paintings are truly adorable and speak volumes about the artistic prowess of the bygone era.
Inside the temple complex, you will find a huge Nandi or bull of Lord Shiva, which is carved out of one stone. There are hundreds of small Shiva lingams inside the temple complex.
Visiting this temple was one of my long cherished wishes after having seen its photographs and reading more about it. It was a fantastic experience for us to be part of an architectural marvel in Thanjavur. When you are in South India, you must not miss visiting this temple, along with the great Meenakshi temple of Madurai.
Best Time to Travel to Thanjavur: Best time to travel to Thanjavur is during the winter and spring season when climate is milder and cooler. However, we could not resist the temptation to see this temple and hence, visited in hot and humid summer of South India. If you must travel in the summer, make sure to dress appropriately and protect your body from harsh sun rays. Make sure to drink plenty of water and splurge on the juicy fruits of the season to hydrate your body.
How to Reach Thanjavur Temple: You can reach Thanjavur by flight or by train. Thanjavur train station is well connected with several daily trains from most cities of South India and has weekly trains from other parts of the country as well. Closest airport is Tiruchirapalli or Trichy, which is well connected with daily flights from Chennai and elsewhere in India. Once in Trichy airport, you can reach Thanjavur temple (60 km away) by a road trip from Trichy. We flew from Hyderabad to Trichy and upon reaching Trichy airport, took a taxi to the Thanajvur temple, which was just an hour journey.
Entrance Fees: There is no entrance fees and its absolutely FREE. Yes, you read it right!
Temple Timings: Temple is open for visitors on all days from morning 6:00 am to 8:30 pm.
What to Buy: When you are in Thanjavur, you cannot miss buying the Thanjavur dancing dolls, which are so famous and unique in itself.
More photos of Weekly Photo Challenge – Intricate – here.