Brihadeeswara Temple - Quick Guide
Brihadeeswara Temple - Overview
Brihadeeswara Temple was built by Rajaraja Chola in 10101AD. The temple is located in Thanjavur which is one of the largest cities in India and is located in Tamil Nadu. The height of the tower of the temple is 60m. The statue of Nandi, the bull, is situated at the entrance whose length is about 4.9m and height is about 4m. Granite stone was used to construct the temple.
Thanjavur is one of the big cities in India which glorified during the reign of Chola dynasty. After that the city came under the rule of Nayaks and Marathas. There are many temples and other monuments besides Brihadeeswara temple which the tourists can visit.
There is a legend which says that the city was named so due to a demon named Tanjan who was killed by Neelamegha Perumal, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. There is no historical evidences which tell about the foundation of the city but it is said that the city existed during the Sangam period in the 3rd century BC.
The temple is opened for the public from 6:00am to 12:30pm and 4:00pm to 8:30pm. It takes around 2-3 hours to visit the whole temple as the temple is very big. The temple is also opened on all days of the week including government holidays.
There is no entry fees and tourists can come and visit the temple any time during the visiting hours.
Best time to visit
Thanjavur can be visited during the period of October to March as the climate is pleasant. Tourists can also enjoy outdoor activities besides visiting the temple. In the rest of the months, the climate is very hot.
Where to Stay?
There are around 35 hotels in Thanjavur that range from inexpensive hotels to star hotels. Tourists can stay and enjoy the services of these hotels as each hotel provides good hospitality. Some of the hotels of the city are as follows −
Hotel Svatma located at Blake Higher Secondary Road
Lakshmi Hotel located at VOC Nagar, Trichy Main Road
Hotel Balaji Inn located near Bus Stand
Hotel Parisutham located at GA Canal Road
Hotel Gnanam located at Anna Salai
Hotel Sangam located at Trichy
Hotel Victoriyah located near Rohini Hospital
Budget Hotels or Two-Star Hotels
Hotel Abis Inn located at Pudukottai Main Road
Hotel Ramnath located near Bus Stand
Hotel KRA located at Anna Salai
Tanjore Hi Heritage Boutique Hotel located at East Main Street
Hotel Annamalai located near Bus Stand
PLA Residency located at Srinivasan Pillai Road
ASK Residency located at Annasalai
Hotel RAKS located at Trichy Road
Sri Karruna Residency located at East Main Street
Hotel Yagappa located at Trichy Road
Brihadeeswara Temple - History
Brihadeeswara Temple is located in Thanjavur that has a long history. Though the year of foundation of the city is not known but it is believed that the city existed during the Sangam period that was from 3rd century BC to 4th century AD.
It is also believed that in the Battle of Venni, Chola king Karikala fought with Cheras and Pandyas and also faced invasion by Mutharayars. Later on the city was ruled by Cholas.
Thanjavur under Chola Dynasty
Chola king Vijayalaya defeated Elango Mutharayar and conquered Thanjavur in 850AD. He worshipped Goddess Nisumbhasudani and so built a temple. Aditya succeeded Vijayalaya and ruled the city. King Rajaraja Chola constructed Brihadeeswara Temple in 985AD which was one of the great construction of the Cholas.
Thanjavur under Pandyas
Pandyas captured Thanjavur two times, first in the period of 1218-1219 and second in 1230. In 1230, Pandyas defeated Rajaraja III who was sent to exile. Rajaraja III sought help from Vira Narsimha II who belonged to Hoysala dynasty. After sometime Pandyas annexed whole of the Chola kingdom and ruled Thanjavur from 1279 to 1311.
Thanjavur under Delhi Sultanate
Malik Kafur annexed Thanjavur from Pandyas and ruled from 1296 till 1306. The sultanate also conquered the kingdom of Pandyas and ruled from 1311 to 1335. After this, Delhi Sultanate annexed Ma’bar Sultanate and ruled from 1335 to 1378. After this, Thanjavur was annexed by Vijayanagara empire that ruled from 1365 to 1674.
Thanjavur under Marathas
Ekoji of Bhonsle dynasty was the half-brother of Shivaji and conquered Thanjavur in 1674AD. This dynasty ruled Thanjavur till 1855. Maratha rulers were fond of Carnatic music. In 1787, Amar Singh usurped the kingdom from Serfoji, his nephew. But later Serfoji regained his throne with the help of the British. In 1855, British annexed Thanjavur after the death of Shivaji who didn’t have a male heir.
Rajaraja Chola I constructed the temple whose foundation was laid in 1002CE. The temple was based on the Chola style architecture which included multifaceted columns and square capital signals. Many religious events were conducted here which included daily rituals done by the king.
Brihadeeswara Temple - Architecture
Brihadeeswara temple was constructed by Rajaraja Chola I and was designed by Kunjara Mallan Raja Rama Perunthachan. The base of the temple has the pictures of dancing Shiva and stone deities. A 2m high, 6m long, and 2.5m wide statue of Nandi Bull weighing 20 tonnes can be found at the entrance.
The bull is made up of a single stone and is the second largest statue of Nandi. The Shiva Linga inside the temple has the height of 3.7m. The dynasties that ruled after Cholas also added the pictures of many deities.
The platform on which the temple was built has the height of 5m. The outer walls of the temple are built like fort having a deep moat surrounding it. There are two entrances to the temple.
The first is the five storey gopuram and the second is the free standing gopuram to which people reach through a quadrangle. Vimanam or the Shikhara of the temple is 60.96m high.
The centre of the temple has the statue of Nandi Bull. There are two halls in the temple also called mandapas. One of the hall is pillared while other is the assembly hall. Apart from these, there are many more shrines.
The primary deity worshipped here is Lord Shiva whose image is established on the inner sanctum. There is also a Shiva Linga inside. There is one more chamber called Karuvarai or womb chamber in which only priests can enter.
Pradakshina and Garbhagriha
The inner and the outer wall make Pradakshina for circumambulation. This Pradakshina is built around the Garbhagriha which is built on a platform and is square in shape. The image of a deity is placed in the center of the garbhagriha. Rajaraja Chola 1 used to give gift from the hall.
Deities of the Temple
Lord Shiva is the main deity of the temple and a Shiva linga is established here to worship him. The height of the Shiva linga is 8.7m. Other deities are placed in the outer wall also known as Koshtha Moorthigal.
These deities include Dakshinamurthy, Surya and Chandra. Other deities include Ashta Dikpaalakas, Agni, Yam, Nirrti, Varuna, Vayu, Kuber, and Isana. The statues of all these deities are six feet high.
Brihadeeswara Temple - How to Reach?
Brihadeeswara Temple is located in Thanjavur which is connected to many cities through road and rail network. Thanjavur does not have airport but tourists can reach Tiruchirapalli by air and then catch a taxi, bus or train to reach Thanjavur.
Distance of some of the nearby cities from Thanjavur is as follows −
Thanjavur to Tiruchirapalli
By rail – 50km
By road – 59km
Thanjavur to Chennai
By rail – 326km
By road – 341km
Thanjavur to Madurai
By rail – 210km
By road – 195km
Thanjavur to Tuticorin
By rail – 334km to 365km (depends on the route taken by train)
By road – 333km
Thanjavur to Rameshwaram
By rail – 314km
By road – 237km
Thanjavur to Tirupati
By rail – 452km
By road – 414km
Thanjavur does not have airport but the nearest airport is Tiruchirapalli from where flights to Indian and foreign cities can be caught. People who arrive at Tiruchirapalli can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach Thanjavur.
Thanjavur is connected to nearby places through railways but there are very few long distance trains. Superfast and fast mail and express trains along with Jan Shatabdi have stoppages here. For long distance trains, tourists can go to Tiruchirapalli where many long distance trains arrive.
Thanjavur is well-connected to many cities of Tamil Nadu by road. National highways that pass through the city are NH 67, NH 45C, and NH 226. These highways connect the city to Tiruchirapalli, Coimbatore, Pudukottai and many more.
The bus stations in the city are new bus stand, old bus stand, and Tiruvaiyaru bus stand.
Brihadeeswara Temple - Nearby Places
Besides visiting Brihadeeswara Temple, tourists can also visit many other places nearby. Some of these places are as follows −
Rajendra Chola I, son and successor of Rajaraja Chola I, constructed Gangaikonda Cholapuram. Cholas controlled the whole southern India. Rajendra Chola founded the city in order to remember his victory over the rulers of Pala dynasty.
Now this place exists as a village in Ariyalur district. He also constructed a temple having three storeys and a huge wall is constructed around it.
The Serfoji Saraswati Mahal Library
The Serfoji Saraswati Mahal Library is one of the oldest libraries of Asia. Tourists can find manuscripts written on palm leaves. The languages used in these manuscripts are Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, English, and many others. This library was made by kings of Nayak dynasty who ruled from 1535 to 1675.
The library was developed by the Marathas after 1675 when they captured Thanjavur. Serfoji was one of the Marathas who learnt many languages and was also fond of art and literature. He played the main role in developing the library as Sanskrit literature from many parts of North India was gathered during his reign and for this he employed Pandits.
Tirunallar Saniswaran Temple
Tirunallar Saniswaran temple is located in Karaikal district where lord Shiva is the main deity to be worshipped. The deity is made by using Dharba grass. Another deity is Saniswar who is worshipped before reaching the sanctum of Lord Shiva.
Thanjavur Royal Palace
Thanjavur Royal Palace is situated inside the Vijayanagara fort and was the residence of Nayak rulers. Later on it came under the Marathas. Tourists can visit Nayak Hall Darbar hall, Serfoji’s Saraswati Mahal Library.
Vijayanagara Fort was built by Vijaya Raghav who belonged to Nayak dynasty. Later on, Marathas completed the construction. Most part of the fort has now been ruined and tourists have permission to visit only a part of it.
The fort is around 2km away from the Brihadeeswara Temple. The fort is opened from 9:00am to 6:00pm on all days of the week.