The One and Only Big Temple at Tanjore, an Architectural Wonder of the World! (Post No.3658)

Written by S NAGARAJAN


Date: 22 February 2017


Time uploaded in London:-  5-13 am



Post No.3658



Pictures are taken from different sources; thanks.




 by Nagarajan

Just start a discussion to know about an architectural wonder of the world. Immediately you will be informed about the Big Temple built at Tanjore, South India.

UNESCO has declared this temple as one of the important world heritage in 2004.


The temple was built by the great king Raja Raja Cholan. The Tamilnadu was ruled by three great dynasties namely Pandyas, Cholas and Cheras.

Raja Raja Cholan who ruled the Chola Land built this temple during 1003 – 1009 A.D. The great King Raja Raja Cholan was a great warrior. His real name was Arulmozhivarman. He was given the title Raja Rajan which means King of Kings.


Every stone in the temple will speak itself a great story. The sanctum tower has 13 tiers built using granite to an astonishing height of 212 feet.


The top most octagonal stone piece is made out of multiple stones. One would wonder how such a beautiful heavy stone was housed at the top. What was the technique used? Nobody knows. An inclined ramp might have been used. This ramp, considering the height of the tower, might have been started from a far off place.


The cubolic doom at the top weighs 80 tonnes. Above this, a 12 high kalasam is installed. The four sided Vimana ends at a square at the top which is 26 feet by 26 feet.

Four Nandis meaning Bulls are installed at the four corners.

The Lord is called as Brahadeeswara. The main Lingam is 13 feet high. 108 Bharatanatyam poses has been planned to be depicted in the pathway around the Vimana. But only 87 poses have been completed.


The main Nandi is a very big one. Made of a single stone this Nandi is 19.5 feet long and 8.5 Feet broad and 12 feet high. This was added later by Nayak kings in the sixteenth century.


The shadow of the temple Vimana would not fall on the ground.

The living monument of this great temple for 1000 years attracts thousands of visitors.

Scientists, Engineers, Researchers, Worshippers are visiting this temple for various reasons.


Archaeological Survey of India took the control of the temple since 1946.

It is to be noted that the Big Temple withstood earthquakes and foreign invasions.

The Bharatha Natyam dancers used to assemble here and perform spectacular show.



The customary renovation called as mahakumbabhishekam was performed by Maratha King Serfoji II in the year 1803. After 177 years, in 1980, renovation was again performed. In 1997 one more renovation was performed.

In the year 2010, to mark the 1000th year of the anniversary of the temple, the State Government celebrated it inviting 1000 dancers from all parts of the country.

Needless to say, you have to mark it as a ‘must see’ architectural marvel and a spiritual shrine if you plan to visit this part of the country. After all seeing is believing.


Dakshina Meru! 216 ft. Tall Brihadeeswarar Temple !!


Compiled by London swaminathan

Article No.1919; Dated 8 June 2015.

Uploaded at London time: 19-22

The Shiva temple in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu (South India) is full of wonders. It was built 1000 years ago by Raja Raja (985-1014 CE), one of the great Choza kings.

The name of god in the temple is Brihadeeswarar meaning Great Lord or Lord of the World. Raja Raja rightly named it as Dakshina Meru—the Meru Mountain of the South. It is also known as Big Temple.

The Brihadeeswara temple represents the climax of south Indian temple architecture. The pyramidal tower that rises above have 13 storeys that steadily diminish in size. The temple is built entirely with granite blocks, laid one upon another without any mortar!  The temple stands in the middle of a vast rectangular walled courtyard lined by colonnades accommodating smaller shrines.


Painting of Raja Raja and his spiritual Guru Karuvur Thevar

There are five wonders in the temple:

a)The tall tower

b)The colossal Shiva Lingam which is 13 foot tall  (Lingam means formless shape)

c)Colossal Bull (Nandi, Shiva’s Vehicle) 12 feet  tall

d)Top most stone weighing over 80 tonnes

e)Thousand year old paintings

Scholars have speculated about how the blocks were lifted to the upper storeys of the sanctuary tower. Some 9 miles North West of Thanjavur is a village called Sarapallam. Here they began a ramp supported on bamboo scaffolding that led to the summit of the sanctuary tower. Another theory postulates a spiral earthen ramp winding upwards around the tower, along which blocks were hauled.

The plaster work that ornaments the granite tower elements was added in 18th-19th centuries under the Maratha rule. Nayaks of the 17th century added the outer wall, Subrahmanya shrine, goddess shrine and some mandapas. But the greatest achievement rests with Raja Raja and his master architect.


Colossal Shiva Linga

The sculptures of men guarding the door to the main sanctum – the Dwarapalakas  – demonstrate the Choza sculptor’s versatility in creating masterpieces regardless of size. To emphasize their scale, the sculptor has used an innovative imagery, a serpent swallowing an elephant. The serpent, which then must have been of monstrous proportions, is curled around the mace of the Dwarapalaka/gatekeeper, like a small worm. For all this incredible size, the guardian is holding his hand in Vismaya Mudra, which suggests that still he is not the tallest amongst all that is within the temple. The sculpture is 12 feet high, but he indicates that the taller being was the deity in the sanctum of the temple!

There are some beautiful paintings from the Choza period.

Names of some of the dancers, found in inscriptions, who lived around the temple 1000 years ago: Cheran Mangai, Chozakula Sundari, Thillai Azaki, Ravikula Manikkam, Thennan Mahadevi, Thilaka Chudar, Aaraa Amuthu, Kamakoti, Mazalai Silambu, Chithira Valli, Sundara Chozi, Uttama Sundari, Kunjara Malli


Top of the temple


1)Height of the Tower – 216 feet tall

2)Unique feature – unlike other temples, tower is just over the sanctum sanctorum

3)Over 85 inscriptions starting from Raja Raja period are in the temple

4)Inscriptions give us the names of 600 staff with their salary details!

5)Four hundred of them are dancers! We have all the 400 names!

6)Over 50 singers were employed by the temple

7)Sanctuary tower 25 m sq. 60 m hig


8)Hemispherical roof 7 m diameter, 7 m high

9)Walled courtyard 241X 121 m

10)Materials – dry stone masonry of granite blocks

11)Decoration – carved granite covered with polychrome plaster work

12)Plinth of the central shrine – 45-72 sq.mts

13)Shikara – the top most circular stone weighs 81-284 tonnes!

14)Shivalinga – 4 mtrs high and 4-5 mts diameter (13 feet tall)

15)The Nandi/Bull is 3-66 mts tall (12 feet high), weight 12 tonnes!


Big temple paintings

16)Total volume of masonry work – 49000 m3

17)No mortar was used in the construction!

18)Sculptors – Kunjaramallan and Raja Raja Perunthchan

19)Spiritual force behind the temple – A saint by name Karuvur Thevar

20)Family inspiration for the temple – Kundavai, Raja Raja’s sister

21)Military force behind the Temple – Chief Commander Krishnan Raman

22)Renovations – 17th and 19th centuries.

birdseye view


The Seventy Architectural Wonders of Our World

Thanjavur – A Cultural History by Pradeep Charavarthy with phtos by Vikram sathynathan

Thanjavur Inscriptions by Dr R Nagasamy

Tamil Nadu, Madura welcome