Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tanjore Temple Paintings

Thanjavur is an important center
of South Indian art and architecture. Most of the Great Living Chola Temples, an UNESCO World Heritage Monument are located in an around Thanjavur. The foremost among the Great Living Chola temples, the Brihadeeswara Temple, is located in the center of the town. Thanjavur is also the home of the Tanjore painting, a painting style unique to the region. Thetown is an important agricultural center located at the heart of the region, known as the "rice bowl of Tamil Nadu". South Zone Culture Centre in Thanjavur is one of many regional cultural centres established by Indian Government to preserve and promote traditional cultural heritage of India.

Monday, September 27, 2010

About BigTemple

Introduction: Templenet focuses this week on the glorious temples attributedto the reign of Raja
Raja Chola and his successors in the Thanjavur Cauvery belt of South India.
Historically speaking, these temples are not as ancient as the 274 odd Saivite temples and the 108 Vaishnavite Shrines sung by the Nayanmars and Alwars of the 7th through the 9th centuries, however they stand out as towering monuments proclaiming the glory of the Chola regime and its committment to the arts and culture.

This issue zeroes in on the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur, Gangaikonda Choleeswarar Temple in Gangai Konda Cholapuram, the Airavateeswarar Temple in Darasuram and the Kambahareswarar temple at Tribhuvanam.

Thanjavur: The districts of Thanjavur, Kumbhakonam and Nagappattinam (constituting the erstwhile Thanjauvr district) boast of hundreds of ancient temples. The town of Thanjavur was the seat of the glorious Chola Empire of Tamilnadu, and was later on the seat of the Nayaks and the M
arathas. True to art historian Fergusson, the Chola artists conceived like giants and finished like jewellers.

Chola History: Raja Raja Chola I, was clearly the greatest of the Chola Monarchs. During his reign (985 - 1014 AD) he brought stability to the Chola Kingdom, and restored from obscurity the brilliant Tevaram hymns of the Saivite Nayanmars from obscurity. Raja Raja was a great builder, and the Peruvudaiyar Koyil or the Big Tmeple at Thanjavur was his creation. His son Rajendra Chola (1014 - 1044 AD) was a greater conqueror who marched all the way to the banks of the Ganges. This march was commemorated with a new capital Gangaikonda Cholapuram and another 'Periya Koyil'. Gangai Konda Cholapuram was the capital of the Cholas for about two centuries, although it is nothing more than a village now with this rather well maintained magnificient temple. 35 Kilometers from Thanjavur lies Darasuram, once
known as Rajarajapuram - a part of the Chola's secondary capital of Pazhaiyarai. Here is the Airavateeswarar Temple built by Raja Raja II (1146 - 1173). It was during the reign of Kulottunga III (1178 - 1218) that the Kambahareswarar temple at Tribhuvanam was built.

These four temples under discussion stand out from the others in Tamilnadu in that, it is only in these that the Vimanam towers over the entrance Gopurams. After these four temples, the Cholas went back to their traditional style of building temples with larger Gopurams and smaller central Vimanams. These temples are fitting memorials to the glory of the rulers that built them, as well as monuments of piety and a committment to art and architecture.

Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur: A 107 paragraph long inscription on the walls of the Vimanam records the contributions of Raja Raja Chola and his sister Kundavai to the Thanjavur temple. The temple stands within a fort, whose walls are later additions built in the 16th century. The towering vimanam is about 200 feet in height and is referred to as Dakshina Meru. The octogonal Shikharam rests on a single block of granite weighing 81 tons. It is believed that this block was carried up a specially built ramp built from a site 6 kilometeres away from here. Huge Nandis dot the corners of the Shikharam, and the Kalasam on top by itself is about 3.8 meteres in height. Hundreds of stucco figures bejewel the Vimanam, although it is possible that some of these may have been added on during the Maratha period. The Shivalingam - Peruvudaiyar, Rajarajeswaramudaiyar - is a huge one, set in a two storeyed sanctum, and the walls surrounding the sanctum delight visitors as a storehouse of murals and sculpture.

The long prakaram surrounds the great temple (500 feet/250 feet), and the walls surrounding the prakaram again go back to Raja Raja Cholan's period. The walls house long pillared corridors, which abound in murals, Shiva Lingams and Nandis. The Periya Nayaki temple within the temple is a later addition from the Pandya period, and so is the Subramanyar Temple sung later by the Saint poet Arunagirinathar.

Incidents from the lives of the Nayanmars, several of the 108 Bharata Natyam Dance postures, manifestations of Shiva (Aadalvallaan - Nataraja, Tripurantaka, Dakshinamurthi etc.) are depicted in sculptured panels or in exquisite Chola murals. Both the interior, and the exterior walls of the temple, are replete with images of the kind described above.

The sanctum, the ardhamandapam, the mukhamandapam and the Mahamandapam, although distinct, form a composite unit with an imposing appearance that awes visitors, forcing one to wonder how such timeless architectural feat was executed about a 1000 years ago. Entrances to the Mandapams and the towered entrances to the Prakarams are majestic. The grandeur of the architecture and the sculptural finesse speaks volumes of the skills of the Imperial Cholas.

Inscriptions refer to Shiva as Dakshina Meru Vitankar and Aadavallan. The Nandi, which dates back to the Nayak period, is housed in its own mandapam and it matches up to the grandeur and size of the temple. It is a monolithic Nandi weighing about 25 tonnes, and is about 12 feet high and 20 feet long.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Main Temple

The main temple is in the center of the spacious quadrangle composed

of a sanctuary, aNandi, a pillared hall and an assembly hall (m

andapas), and many sub-shrines. The most important part of the temple is the inner mandapa which is surrounded by massive walls that are divide

d into different levels by sharply cut sculptures and pilasters providing deep bays and recesses. Each side of the sanctuary has a bay emphasizing the principle cult icons.[8] The karuvarai, a Tamil word meaning the interior of the sanctum sanctorum, is the inner most sanctum and focus of the temple where an image of the primary deity, Shiva, resides. Inside is a huge stone linga Literally the word Karuvarai means "womb chamber" from Tamil word Karu for foetus. Only priests are allowed to enter this inner most chamber.[12] In the Dravidastyle, the Karuvarai takes the form of a miniature vimana with other features exclusive to southern Indian temple architecture such as the inner wall

together with the outer wall creating a pradakshina around the garbhagriha for circumambulation (pradakshina). The entrance is highly decorated. The inside chamber housing the image of the god is the sanctum sanctorum, the garbhagrih

a.[9] The garbhagriha is square and sits on a plinth, its location calculated to be a point of total equilibrium and harmony as it is representative of a microcosm of the universe. In the center is placed the image of the deity.[8] The circumambulation winds around the massive lingam in the garbhagriha and is repeated in an upper story, presenting the idea thatChola Empire freely offered access to the gods.[10]

The inner mandapa leads

out to a rectangular mandapa and then to a twenty-columned porch with three staircases leading down. Sharing the same stone plinth is a small open mandapa dedicated to Nandi, Shiva's sacred bull mount.[8]

Temple complex

The temple complex sits on the banks of a river that was channeled to make a moat around the complex's outer walls, the walls being built like a fortress. The complex is made up of many structures that are aligned axially. The complex can be entered either on one axis through a five-story gopuram or with a second access directly to the huge main quadrangle through a smaller free-standinggopuram. The massive size of the main sikhara (although it is hollow on the inside and not meant to be occupied), is 63 meters in height, with 16 severely articulated stories, and dominates the main quadrangle. Pilaster, piers, and attached columns are placed rhythmically covering every surface of the shikhara.[10]


The temple had its foundations laid out by the Tamil emperor Arulmozhivarman, popularly called Rajaraja Chola I,(Tamil: இராஜராஜ சோழன்,Rājarāja Choļan ?) in 1002 CE , as the first of the great Tamil Chola building projects.[7] According to tradition, the temple was built by the Chola king Rajar

aja in compliance of a command given to him in his dream.[6] The scale and grandeur is in the Chola tradition. An axial and symmetrical geometry rules the temple layout.[8] Temples from this period and the following two centuries are an expression of the Tamils (Chola) wealth, power and artistic expertise. The emergence of such features as the multifaceted columns with projecting square capitals signal the arrival of the new Chola style.[9]

The Brihadeeswarar Temple was built to be the royal temple to display the emperor's vision of his power and his relationship to the universal order. The temple was the site of the major royal ceremonies such as anointed the emperor and linking him with its deity, Shiva, and the daily rituals of the deities were mirrored by those of the king.

The temple maintained a staff of 600 people in various capacities[citation needed]. Besides the Brahmins priest, these included record-keepers, musicians, scholars, and craftsman of every type as well as housekeeping staff.In those days the temple remained a hub of business activities for the flower merchants,milk vendors, oil merchants, ghee merchants, all of whom made a regular supply of their respective goods for the temple for its pujas and during festival seasons.Moreover as evidenced by the inscriptions that found in the compound wall of this temple, the temple had always been serving as a platform for the dancers who excelled in the traditional dance form of Bharatha Natyam. Even today, the Brihadeeswarar Temple remains India's largest.[10]

The temple is also an architectural exemplar showcasing the pure form of the Dravida type of temple architecture and representative of the Chola Empire ideology and the Tamil civilisation in Southern India. The temples "testify to the brilliant achievements of the Chola in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting".[11] Built in 1010 AD by Raja Raja Chola in Thanjavur, Brahadishwara Temple also popularly known as the ‘Big Temple’ has turned 1000 years.

Brihadeeswarar Temple

Proper name:Brihadeeswarar Temple
Architecture and culture
Date built:11th century AD
Creator:Raja Raja Chola

The Peruvudaiyar Kovil or Brihadeeswarar Temple (Tamil: பெருவுடையார் கோவில், peruvuḍaiyār kōvil ?), also known asRajarajeswaram,[1] at Thanjavur in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is the world's first complete granite temple[2] and a brilliant example of the major heights achieved by Cholas kingdom Vishwakarmas in temple architecture. It is a tribute and a reflection of the power of its patron RajaRaja Chola I. It remains as one of the greatest glories of Indian architecture.[3] The temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Great Living Chola Temples".

This temple is one of India's most prized architectural sites. The temple stands amidst fortified walls that were probably added in the 16th century. The 'Vimana' - or the temple tower - is 216 ft (66 m) high [4][5] and is among the tallest of its kind in the world. The Kalash or 'Chikharam' (apex or the bulbous structure on the top) of the temple is not carved out of a single stone as widely believed. There is a big statue of Nandi (sacred bull), carved out of a single rock, at the entrance measuring about 16 feet long and 13 feet high[6]. The entire temple structure is made out of hard granite stones, a material sparsely available currently in Thanjavur area where the temple is located.Built in 1010 AD by Raja Raja Chola in Thanjavur, Brahadishwara Temple also popularly known as the ‘Big Temple’ has turned 1000 years