Brihadeshwara Temple is one of the major granite temples in the world. This temple is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva located in the Thanjavur (formerly Tanjore) district of Tamil Nadu.

Brihadeshwara Temple

History of Brihadeshwara Temple

The Brihadishvara temple, called the Great Temple, is the most magnificent creation of the Cholas. The Cholas followed the Pallavas as the most powerful dynasty in the south and ruled from the 9th to the 14th century. The greatest Chola king, Rajaraja I built this temple in his capital city of Thanjavur in the 11th century. As a symbol of his great power, he built a shrine that was five times. taller than any temple existing at the time and one of the biggest structures in the country. Originally called the Rajarajeshvara temple, the Brihadishvara is dedicated to Shiva.

The Chola Empire not only stretched all across the Deccan peninsula but also into Sri Lanka. They had a flourishing trade with Burma, and Indonesia and even sent an envoy to the court of the emperor of China. The visit of the Chola ambassador mentioned in the chronicles of the royal Chinese court. The Chola kings built great temples at Kumbhakonam, Thiruvayur, Srirangan, Gangaikondacholapuram and Chidambaram but their greatest creation remains the Brihadishvara at Thanjavur.

Brihadeshwara Temple

Architecture of Brihadeshwara Temple

Brihadeeswara Temple or Rajarajeshwaram Temple built in the early 11th century. It also known as Peruvutiyar Kovil. The entire temple made of granite stone. It is the first and only temple of its kind in the world that made of granite. It attracts people with its grandeur, architecture, and central dome. There is a moat on two sides of the Brihadeshwar temple and the Anaikat river flows on one side. Unlike other temples, this temple has a large minaret above the sanctum, which is 216 feet high. This temple has been declared a World Heritage Site on the list of UNESCO.

Brihadeshwara Temple built between 1003-1010 AD by the Chola ruler Rajaraja Chola. It is also called Rajarajeshwara Temple after his name. Brihadeshwara Temple was counted among the largest structures in the world of its time. It is thirteen (13) a storeyed building (the number of stories is odd in all Hindu establishments) and is about 66 meters high. This temple dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva.

Brihadeshwara Temple

Matching the size of the temple, the deity in the garva griha is a giant lingam 3.5 metres high and 7.5 metres in circumference. The lingam brought from the Narmade river. Facing the main door sits a black granite Nandi bull that is the second largest in the country. The consort goddess named Brihannayaki and she has her own Shrine as does Subrahmanya, the warrior son of Shiva and Parvati. The temple has two tanks, Seppunaikan and Shivaganga.

Chola’s sculpture moved away from the profusion and intricacy of the Pallava work with a judicious use of figures between plain panels of stone. The Pallava lions vanished and only the traditional deities, the ashta-dikpalas, celestial creatures, and the Shaivite gods and goddesses find a  place on the walls of the temple. If Thanjavur became a center of the art sculpture, painting, music, and dance – the patronage of the king and this temple played a great part.

There is a square mandapa inside the gopuram upon entering the Brihadeeswarar temple. There Nandi ji seated on the stage. This statue of Nandi is 6 meters long, 2.6 meters wide, and 3.7 meters high and weighs 25 tonnes.

This is the second largest statue of Nandi made in a single stone in India. The Naya rulers built a pavilion to protect Nandi from the sun and rain. Mainly three festivals celebrated with great pomp in the Brihadeshwara temple – Shivaratri in Maasi (February-March month), Navratri in Purattasi (September-October month time), and Apsi (November-December month) Rajarajan festival celebrated.

Inscription on piler

Re-building and renovation of Brihadeshwara Temple

The Chola rulers named this temple as Rajarajeshwara but the Maratha rulers who attacked Tanjore named this temple Brihadeshwar. The deity of this temple is Lord Shiva. 12 feet high Shivling installed inside the main temple. It is an excellent example of Dravidian architecture. The main temple and the gopuram date back to the 11th century. Since then, the temple rebuilt, renovated and repaired several times.


The temple  damaged due to war and invasion and sabotage by the Mughal rulers. Later, when the Hindu kings reconquered the region, they repaired this temple and got some other constructions done. Later the kings repainted and beautified the old paintings on the walls of the temple.

The temple includes idols of Lord Kartikeya (Murugan Swamy), Mata Parvati (Amman), and Nandi built by the Nayak kings in the 16-17th century. Many inscriptions in the Sanskrit language and Tamil language also carved in the temple.

Lord Nandi


Wonderful Statue of Lord Nandi at Brihadeshwara Temple


The huge idol of Nandi installed in the gopuram inside the temple is also a unique wonder. This idol of Nandi is 16 feet long, 8.5 feet wide and 13 feet high and weighs 20,000 kg. The special thing is that the idol has only oneIt carved out of stone. It is the second largest statue of Nandi in India.

Brihadeshwara Temple

Brihadishvara Temple Facts

Brihadeshwara Temple is a wonderful piece of architecture. The temple built in such a way that the shadow of the dome does not fall on the ground. The Kumbam stone on its summit weighs 80,000 kg, and  made by cutting a single stone. One wonders how the 80-tonne stone would  carried to the top of the temple, which remains a mystery to date. It believed that a 1.6-kilometer-long ramp built on which extended inch by inch leading to the summit of the temple.

130,000 tonnes of stone used to build the Brihadisvarar temple. It took only a record 7 years to build such a big temple. After all, how many people engaged in this work, and what was the technology in that era that the construction work completed in such a short time which is not possible even in today’s time. This amazing temple has faced 6 major earthquakes so far, but it has not suffered any damage.

Brihadeshwara Temple

Most of the Brihadeshwara temple made of hard granite stone and the rest part made of sandstone rocks. The nearest source of granite stone is located at a distance of 100 km from the temple. Right now, no one has the answer as to how stones of such a large quantity and size brought to the temple construction site from such a long distance. There is also no mountain around the temple, from where there is a possibility to bring stones.

Granite rocks are so hard that special diamond-cutting tools to be used to cut them. It is a matter of great wonder how such beautiful, artistic sculptures could made by carving rocks in the temple without modern equipment in that period.

Brihadeshwara Temple

Arrangement of Brihadeshwara Temple

The King made lavish endowments of land and money, for the upkeep of the temple. Inscriptions on the walls mention 4 treasurers, 7 accountants, 143 watchmen, and 400 dancing girls employed by the temple. The names and even addresses of some of the devadasis are mentioned but nowhere does one find the names of the architects and craftsmen who built and decorated this temple.

The walls of the temple embellished with frescoes that lay hidden under later paintings done in the Nayaka period. In this century the top layer began to peel off revealing exquisitely beautiful paintings done in the style of Ajanta. The queens and noblemen donated metal icons to the temple which began the tradition of the Chola bronzes. The designs of the sumptuous gem-studded gold jewelry worn by the devadasis are emulated by Bharatanatyam dancers today.

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