The world’s first all granite temple stands out to be an amazing site not only for devotees but also for those who wish to witness the magnificence of Indian culture, art, and architecture. Temples form a huge part in the culture and the history of India with the southern part of the country is the most renowned for the architecturally rich and marveling temples it holds.
One such beautiful structure and a sanctum for the majority of people in India is that of Brihadeeswarar located in Tamil Nadu. The Brihadeeswara temple dates back to more than a thousand years and is dedicated to ‘Natraj’ or the dancing pose of Lord Shiva. It is surrounded by high walls and the entrance resembles that of a fort to an extent that is surrounded by a moat or a deep ditch.
The structure is entirely built of granite and it took allegedly 1,30,000 tonnes of granite to built it. However, there are no traces of granite being found in the surrounding area, and hence the source of the stone remains unclear. Also known as Periya Kovil was built by Rajaraja Chola I with its architect being Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Perunthachan in Thanjavur.
Thanjavur was an important city during the Chola dynasty and is also often referred to as the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu. Initially, the temple was constructed and then a city was established surrounding it.
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It took seven years to complete the structure that is from 1003 to 1010 AD. One can trace the lineage of the architect to the current day. It was built to serve multiple purposes and one of them was being a symbol of power and tribute to its patron The symbolism power comes off very clearly considering how hard it is carved granite and yet the temple stands to be so intricately designed that leaves you enchanted with its beauty.
The temple also happens to be the only known temple in the world dedicated to Lord Shiva that has been built by interlocking stones and not binding them with an agent. Another fascinating feature that the sanctum holds is of disappearing shadows at the noon. As peculiar as it sounds it’s true, the structure has been constructed in such a manner that no matter what season it is the shadow of it shall never fall on the ground. The base has been made proportionate enough that it absorbs the shadow in itself.
Even the idols of Nandi and Shiva or also known as Shiva linga have been carved out of a single stone each. A theory exists according to which the 9 feet Shiva linga is said to be increasing in size because of which the name Brihadeeswara was granted.
The insides comprise of several shrines dedicated to Parvati, Nandi, Ganesha, Kartikeya, Sabhapati, Dakshinamurti, and other deities. The walls adorn paintings and the 64 divine Leelas of Lord Shiva along with an occasional feature of the holy cow Nandi.
The inscriptions kept inside the sanctum give great insight into the architect, Chola, Pandya, Vijayanagara, Nayak, and Maratha rulers. The inscriptions also mention the jewels that were used in those times. The inscription mentions of 23 different types of pearls along with 11 varieties of diamonds and rubies to be in use. The temple being the best example of the grandeur and excellent craftsmanship with a touch of history is a declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
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