Tanjore or Thanjavoor (its Tamil name) was the capital of the
Chola empire between the 9th and 13th century. Rajaraja Chola I
who ruled between 985 and 1013 AD built the Brihadeeswarar
temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Brahadeeswarar and the
Goddess is called Brihanayaki. The deities are also known as
Peruvudaiyar and Periyanayaki
Tanjore is the district headquarters of Tanjore administrative
district in the state of Tamilnadu. It is easily accessible by
both rail and road. The nearest airport is in Trichi about 50 kms
The Brihatheeswarar temple, also known as Periya Koil, is a
fine specimen of the Dravidian architecture. Normally in the
Hindu temples of Tamilnadu the 'gopuram' or the entrance
tower is taller than the 'vimanam' (the tower above the
sanctum). In Tanjore temple the 'vimanam' above the
sanctum overshadows the entrance tower by rising to a height of
about 216 feet with 14 storeys. The 'vimanam' is 96 feet
square at the base. The stone at the top of the 'vimanam'
is a single block of stone weighing about 80 tons. It is said
that the shadow of the 'vimanam' does not fall on the
ground as the base is so large.
The King Rajaraja Chola built the Brihatheeswarar temple for
Lord Shiva. He brought a Sivalingam from
Narmadha River in North India to install in the temple. It is
said that when the Sivalingam was taken out of the water it grew
in size. This Sivalingam that is installed in this temple is huge
as is the 'nandhi' (the bull) installed in front of the
temple. The 'nandhi' is 12 feet tall, 19 feet long and 9
feet wide weighing about 25 tons. It is carved out of a single
A temple acquires its veneration and popularity due to its
location, association with miracles in Hindu mythology, or having
been visited by religious men of great virtue and been sung in
praise of the deities installed in them. This temple being
comparatively of recent (few centuries) origin has none of the
above characteristics. It is famous more for its architecture,
sculptures, paintings and its history than for its antiquity and
holiness. The inscriptions found on the wall of the temple are a
great source of information for historians to understand the
daily lives of the people of a bygone era.
There is also a shrine dedicated to Lord Subramanya in the
temple compound which also has very exquisite sculptures. The
Tanjore art gallery has very fine specimens of sculpture and
handiwork of the artists and sculptors of a bygone era.
Another place of fame in this town is the library at
Saraswathy Mahal which houses a large collection of original
manuscripts in Sanskrit and other South Indian languages.
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