Table of Contents
- What is Brihadeeswarar temple or Periya Kovil?
- How was the Brihadeeswarar temple built?
- What are the unique features of the temple?
- What is the statue in front of the temple?
- Why is the Nandi statue in the front of any Shiva temple?
- How big is the temple?
- How long did it take to build this temple?
- Who built the Brihadeeswara Temple?
- What is Gangaikonda Cholapuram?
- Who were the Cholas?
- Where can we see the influence of the Cholas?
- What other dynasties or kingdoms existed around at that time?
What is Brihadeeswarar temple or Periya Kovil?
Periya Kovil, also known as Brihadeeswara Temple, is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in the city of Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India. It was built in the 11th century by the Chola dynasty king Raja Raja Chola I and is considered a masterpiece of South Indian architecture.
The temple is famous for its massive tower, which stands at 216 feet tall and is one of the tallest temple towers in the world. The tower is decorated with intricate carvings and sculptures that depict Hindu epic stories.
One of the unique features of the temple is that it was designed in such a way that the main deity in the sanctum sanctorum does not cast a shadow at noon during any time of the year.
This is achieved through the placement of the tower and the position of the sun.
The temple also has a large Nandi (bull) statue made of a single stone, which is 16 feet long and 13 feet high, making it one of the largest Nandi statues in India.
Periya Kovil is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site and is visited by thousands of tourists and devotees every year. It is renowned for its architectural beauty, historical significance, and spiritual importance.
How was the Brihadeeswarar temple built?
There are several theories about how the Brihadeeswarar Temple was built, but the most widely accepted one is that it was built using a ramp system to raise the massive stone blocks into place.
It is believed that the stones were quarried from nearby locations and transported to the site using elephants and carts.
What are the unique features of the temple?
One of the most remarkable features of the temple is the round stone at the top of the tower, which weighs around 80 tons.
This stone is believed to have been brought to the site using a specially designed ramp and then raised to the top of the tower using a complex system of ropes and pulleys.
It is said that the stone was placed on top of the tower using a technique known as “kudakkal”, which involved placing a wooden frame around the stone and then removing the frame once it was in place.
What is the statue in front of the temple?
The Nandi statue that sits in front of the temple is made of a single stone and is 16 feet long and 13 feet high. It weighs around 25 tons and is one of the largest Nandi statues in India. The statue is said to have been carved from a single piece of rock and then transported to the site using elephants and carts.
Why is the Nandi statue in the front of any Shiva temple?
The bull, or Nandi, is a sacred animal in Hinduism and is also the vehicle or mount of Lord Shiva. Therefore, it is customary to have a statue of a bull in front of every Shiva temple.
In the Indian epics, Nandi is depicted as a divine being who is very loyal and obedient to Lord Shiva. He is said to have a profound knowledge of music and dance and is often associated with fertility and strength.
The statue of the bull in front of a Shiva temple is not just a decorative feature but also has a symbolic and religious significance.
It represents Nandi’s devotion to Lord Shiva and serves as a reminder of the devotee’s own devotion and loyalty to the deity.
In many Shiva temples, the statue of the bull is placed in such a way that it faces the entrance of the temple, indicating that Nandi is the gatekeeper of the temple and that he grants permission to enter the temple and seek the blessings of Lord Shiva.
The statue of the bull in front of every Shiva temple is an important symbol in Hinduism and represents the close bond between Lord Shiva and Nandi, as well as the devotion and loyalty that devotees should have towards their deity.
How big is the temple?
The temple itself is 216 feet tall, with the tower accounting for around 198 feet of its height. The base of the temple is around 96 feet square, while the sanctum sanctorum, or garbhagriha, is around 20 feet square.
The temple complex covers an area of around 30 acres and includes several other smaller temples and structures.
How long did it take to build this temple?
It is believed that the temple took around 7 years to build, from 1003 AD to 1010 AD, with over 60,000 workers and artisans involved in its construction.
The temple was built using a combination of granite and limestone, with the granite blocks used for the lower portions of the temple and the limestone used for the upper portions.
The temple has undergone several renovations and restorations over the centuries, but its original design and architecture have been largely preserved.
Who built the Brihadeeswara Temple?
The Brihadeeswara Temple at Tanjavur, also known as the Periya Kovil, was built by King Rajaraja Chola I, one of the greatest monarchs of the Chola dynasty, in the year 1010 AD.
Rajaraja Chola I was the third ruler of the Chola dynasty and is considered to be one of the greatest kings in Indian history. He was an accomplished military commander and administrator who led the Chola dynasty to new heights of power and prosperity. He expanded his kingdom through successful military campaigns and established a powerful naval fleet that controlled the seas around South India.
Under Rajaraja’s reign, the Chola dynasty reached its zenith and extended its influence across South India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia. He was known for his patronage of the arts, literature, and architecture, and his reign was marked by a period of cultural and economic growth.
The Brihadeeswara Temple is considered to be one of Rajaraja’s greatest contributions to Indian architecture. The temple is a masterpiece of South Indian architecture and is renowned for its towering vimana, or tower, which stands at over 200 feet tall. The temple is also famous for its massive Nandi statue, which is carved out of a single stone and weighs over 20 tonnes.
Rajaraja was also known for his successful trade relations with foreign kingdoms. He maintained close ties with the Srivijaya Empire in Southeast Asia and traded with the Arab world, China, and Europe.
The Chola navy played a crucial role in facilitating trade and commerce, and Rajaraja’s reign was marked by a period of economic growth and prosperity.
Overall, Rajaraja Chola I was an accomplished ruler who made significant contributions to the Chola dynasty’s military, administrative, and cultural achievements. The Brihadeeswara Temple at Tanjavur is a testament to his architectural prowess and his patronage of the arts.
What is Gangaikonda Cholapuram?
The name Gangaikonda refers to a title that was given to the Chola King Rajendra I, (the son of Raja Raja Chola who built the Brihadeeswara temple at Tanjavur, above) who ruled from 1012 to 1044 AD.
Gangaikonda literally means “the one who conquered the Ganges”, and it is believed that Rajendra I earned this title after he successfully led a military campaign to conquer several regions in northern India, including the Ganges basin.
According to historical accounts, Rajendra I led a massive army of over 200,000 soldiers on a campaign to expand the Chola empire. He conquered several kingdoms and regions, including the city of Kalinga, which was a major center of trade and commerce in ancient India. Rajendra I then continued his campaign further north and eventually reached the banks of the river Ganges.
At the time (it still is), the Ganges or the river Ganga as it is actually known in India, was considered one of the holiest rivers in India and was revered by Hindus as a symbol of purity and sanctity. Rajendra I’s conquest of the Ganges basin was therefore seen as a major achievement and a symbol of the Chola empire’s military might and dominance.
To commemorate his victory, Rajendra I built a new capital city called Gangaikonda Cholapuram, which means “the city of the Chola king who conquered the Ganga River”. The city was built around a grand temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, and it became a major center of trade, commerce, and culture in southern India.
Today, the Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is renowned for its architectural beauty and historical significance. It is a testament to the grandeur and power of the Chola dynasty and their achievements in the fields of art, culture, and military conquest.
Who were the Cholas?
The Cholas were a powerful dynasty that ruled over a large part of southern India from the 9th to the 13th century AD. They were known for their military conquests, their patronage of the arts and culture, and their contributions to trade and commerce in the region.
Under the rule of the Chola kings, the kingdom expanded to encompass large parts of present-day Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh, as well as parts of Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
At its peak, the Chola empire covered an area of over 200,000 square miles.
For context, the land area of the British Isles, including the area of modern Ireland, is approximately 121,684 square miles (315,134 square kilometers).
The British Isles includes Great Britain (which consists of England, Scotland, and Wales), Ireland (which consists of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland), and many smaller islands.
The Cholas were great patrons of the arts and culture, and they made significant contributions to the fields of literature, music, dance, and architecture.
They built several magnificent temples and monuments, many of which still stand today and are considered among the finest examples of South Indian architecture.
In addition to their cultural achievements, the Cholas were also known for their maritime trade and commerce. They had a well-developed navy and maintained trade links with several kingdoms and regions, including Southeast Asia, China, and the Middle East. The Chola kingdom was a major center of trade, and its ports were among the busiest and most prosperous in the region.
The Cholas also had a significant influence on the political and cultural landscape of the region. They established diplomatic and cultural ties with neighboring kingdoms and were known for their patronage of the arts and literature. They also played a significant role in the spread of Hinduism, and many of their cultural and religious practices continue to influence the region to this day.
Where can we see the influence of the Cholas?
During the reign of the Chola dynasty in southern India, they had significant influence in several kingdoms in Southeast Asia, including:
Srivijaya: An ancient Malay kingdom that was located on the island of Sumatra in present-day Indonesia. The Cholas had trade and diplomatic ties with Srivijaya, and Indian culture and religion had a significant influence on the kingdom.
Champa: A kingdom that was located in present-day Vietnam. The Cholas had trade links with Champa and played a role in spreading Indian culture and religion in the region.
Khmer Empire: An ancient kingdom that was located in present-day Cambodia. The Cholas had trade and diplomatic ties with the Khmer Empire, and Indian culture and religion played a significant role in the kingdom’s cultural and religious landscape.
The Cholas were known for their maritime trade, and their ships carried Indian merchants and scholars to these kingdoms.
The Cholas traded in spices, textiles, and precious stones, among other commodities, and their trade links helped establish cultural and religious ties between India and Southeast Asia.
Indian culture and religion, including Hinduism and Buddhism, spread to Southeast Asia through Indian traders, scholars. The Cholas played a significant role in this process, and many of the temples and monuments built by the Cholas in southern India exhibit clear influences on Southeast Asian architecture and art.
One of the most significant examples of Chola influence in Southeast Asia is the temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which was built by the Khmer Empire in the 12th century AD.
The temple’s architecture and layout show clear influences from Indian temple architecture, including the Dravidian style that was prominent in the Chola kingdom.
What other dynasties or kingdoms existed around at that time?
The Chola dynasty existed during a time of great political and cultural flourishing in southern India, between the 9th and 13th centuries AD. The Cholas were one of the most powerful and influential dynasties of this period, and their reign was marked by significant achievements in art, architecture, literature, and trade.
During the Chola period, other prominent dynasties also existed in southern India, including the Pallavas and the Pandya dynasties.
The Pallavas ruled the northern parts of present-day Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh from the 3rd to the 9th centuries AD, while the Pandya dynasty ruled the southern parts of present-day Tamil Nadu from the 6th to the 14th centuries AD.
The Pallavas were known for their patronage of art and architecture, and several significant temples and monuments were built during their reign, including the Shore Temple in Mamallapuram and the Kailasanatha Temple in Kanchipuram.
The Pallavas also had trade links with kingdoms in Southeast Asia, and Indian culture and religion had a significant influence on these kingdoms.
The Pandya dynasty was known for its maritime trade and had trade links with kingdoms in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. The Pandya rulers were also patrons of art and literature, and several significant temples and monuments were built during their reign, including the Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai and the Nellaiappar Temple in Tirunelveli.
The Chola dynasty, however, was the most influential and powerful dynasty of the three. The Cholas were known for their maritime trade, and their navy was one of the most powerful in the world during their reign. The Cholas also had a significant impact on Indian art, architecture, and literature, and several significant temples and monuments were built during their reign, including the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur, the Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram, and the Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple.
The Cholas’ trade links with kingdoms in Southeast Asia were also more extensive than those of the Pallavas and the Pandyas. The Cholas maintained diplomatic ties with several kingdoms in Southeast Asia and played a key role in spreading Indian culture and religion in the region. The temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia is one of the most significant examples of Chola influence in Southeast Asia.