Tanjore is well known for its great Chola Temples and therefore I decided to hit the Chola trail in one of my recent visits to the city. Some of its magnificent temples have a history that dates back to several centuries. A very important temple that left me speechless and awestruck is the Great Raja Raja Chola Big Temple, which was built during the 10th Century. The big Brihadeeshwara Temple in Tanjore is a splendid 216 feet tall structure that is much taller than the Gopuram built in the entrance.
A Day in Tanjore Palace
Before visiting the astounding Chola Temple, I visited the Tanjore Palace near the Chola Capital. The palace was built during the 16th century. It was the brain child of the Nayaks. As time passed, the palace was redesigned, maintained and renovated by the Marathas. As you walk through the palace, you will see the grandeur of Tanjore’s old deities – The Cholas and The Pandavas.
Walk through the Royal Museum
If you are fond of history and its intuitive facets, you must step foot into the Royal Museum at Tanjore. This is extremely close to the Tanjore Palace. The place is lit beautifully and decorated with wooden boxes, urns, drums, weapons, manuscripts and jewelry that once belonged to the old Marathas. Even paintings from the 17th century can be found in this exquisite museum. The entrance has the painting of an old Maratha King. On crossing this painting, you will enter into the Durbar Hall. The Durbar Hall has a bull and a huge canon. The interiors are dark and sturdy. Moving on, you will see an array of Chola and Pallava Paintings on either sides of the Museum. Next in line are the Chola and Pallava statues. These are huge structures that depict the craftsmanship and culture of the two eras. Lots of solace and work can be seen in this part of the museum. Additionally, the Royal Museum comprises an interesting collection of granite and bronze statues from the 7th to 17th century. These statues represent different Goddesses and Gods. The Nataraja, Ganesha and Vishnu statue in this part of the Museum will certainly leave you awestruck.
Step into the Brihadeeswara Temple
Once I completed the museum and palace, I headed towards the Brihadeeswara Temple . History states that the temple was built during in 1010 AD. This is 25 years after the Cholas rise to power. As mentioned previously, the structure looks majestic and much better than what is seen in photographs or the TV! The temple is surrounded by a walled fortress that will leave you astonished and awestruck. Archeologists consider the Brihadeeswara Temple as a living testimony of the great Chola Dynasty. The real scale of art and talent can be seen in the gigantic Lord Shiva Statue. The Shiva Linga is around 8.7 m tall. Meanwhile, legend believes that the Nandi statue keeps growing and its growth ceased when a nail was hit in its back! Currently, the Nandi statue is around 3.7 m high and 2.5 m broad. Scriptures state that Kundavi and the queens donated plenty of silver and gold coins to the magnificent temple. Also, the temple’s walls and pillars are adorned with inscriptions that would lure any historian. The scriptures are written in Thai, an unknown Asian Language and Tamil. These writings narrate the story of Shiva’s power and vigour. Unlike many other Tanjore temple, the Brihadeeswara Temple has a huge rood sanctum (vimana) that is 58 m tall. This makes the pyramidal towers in the entrance (Gopura) very small! Rajaraja Chola gifted the Vimana’s inscriptions.
Tanjore is a very interesting place, renowned for its exquisite temples and architectures. History and architecture of India will remain incomplete without the Tanjore Brihadeeshwara Temple. This is also known as the Tanjore Perriyaa Kovil. This is a stunning temple built by Rajaraja Cholan and Kundhavi. The great king was inspired to build a temple after his visit to Sri Lanka. Tanjore Brihadeeshwara Temple is devoted to the deity Lord Shiva. The temple is a real picture of Chola’s strength and power.