Brihadishvara Temple is amongst the foremost religious sites in Thanjavur, known for its exemplary Dravidian architecture. The Brihadishvara, Gangaikonda, and Airavatesvara temples are together called the Great Living Chola Temples and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also called the Dhakshina Meru (Meru of the south), this temple was built by Raja Raja Chola I by 1010 AD.
Brihadishvarain Tamil means the ‘Big Lord’, and this temple is often also called the ‘Big Temple’. Brihadishvara incorporates the Hindu traditions of Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism. One of the largest South Indian temples, the complex has five sections – the sanctum and Vimana (tower), the Nandi hall, the assembly hall (mukhamandapam), the gathering hall (mahamandapam), and the prakara (pavilion). The Shiva lingam in the sanctum sanctorum is one of India’s largest such monolithic sculptures. The presiding deity is worshipped as Karuvarai, meaning ‘womb chamber’. Its 16-storeyed granite vimana is a landmark for the city, and one of the largest vimana in South India. Some significant and beautiful shrines are of Parvati, Murugan, Nandi, Ganesh, Dakshinamurti, Subrahmanyar, Sabhapati, Varahi, and Chandeshvara. The temple is also noted for being the site where the brass Nataraja idol was first commissioned in the 11th century. The temple walls, floors, and ceilings are adorned with magnificent sculptures, ornate inspirations, and striking murals.
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