Architectural history is incomplete without the studu of the very famous and the very big Tanjore Brihadeeswara Temple. Here are some interesting facts about this temple.
1. This imposing structure was built by Raja Raja Cholan and his sister Kundavai, both ardent devotees of Lord Shiva. It was constructed by the King at the height of the Chola reign to signify his power and strength.
2. The original name of the deity was Rajarajeshwar. It was the Marathas who gave it the name Brihadeeswara or the Great Ishwara.
3. The main temple is entirely built of granite. More than 130,000 tons of granite is said to have been used to build it. The cutting and carving of the granite stone is not an easy task even today. We can’t even imagine how this would have made possible in those days without any special equipment.
4. The statue of Nandi at the entrance of the temple is carved out of a single stone.
5. The main Vimanam, which is at about 200 feet is often called Dakshina Meru or Southern Meru.
6. The temple has a portrait of Raja Raja Cholan paying obeisance to Lord Natarajar. This is undoubtedly, the first ever instance of a royal portrait.
7. Inscriptions in the temple point towards Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Perunthachan as the chief architect of the temple. His successors survive to this day and practice the art of Vastu or Vastu Shastra.
8. Depictions of nartakis or dancers showing eighty one of hundred and eight karanas (synchronised movements of hands and feet) in Bharata Natyam are carved here. These karanas are a part of karanas mentioned in the Natya Shastra of Bharata Muni or Sage Bharata. There is also evidence that the temple was a platform for talented dancers to showcase their talent. These depictions are first of their kind.
9. The big Tanjore temple is said to have more than hundred underground passages that connects to various other places. Nowadays, most of the passages are sealed. In the earlier days, the passages were used by sages, Kings and Queens to roam about different temples and places, especially during auspicious festivals like Deepavali, Maha Shivarathri and Makar Sankranti.
10. The temple is said to have a huge cap stone on top of it, and the weight of the stone is said to be 80 tonnes. The Garbhagriha where the Shiva lingam is located is said to generate large amount of electromagnetic energy. The 80 tonne stone acts a repulsive force and channels the energy to the inner areas of the temple to sustain its piousness and divinity. The positive energy radiant within in the temple structure is said to have a calming, soothing effect both mentally and physically on the devotees.