Historically speaking, these temples are not as ancient as
the 274 odd Saivite temples and the 108 Vaishnavite Shrines
sung by the Nayanmars and Alwars of the 7th through the 9th
centuries, however they stand out as towering monuments proclaiming
the glory of the Chola regime and its committment to the arts
issue zeroes in on the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur, Gangaikonda
Choleeswarar Temple in Gangai Konda Cholapuram, the Airavateeswarar
Temple in Darasuram and the Kambahareswarar temple at Tribhuvanam.
Chola History: Raja Raja Chola I, was clearly
the greatest of the Chola Monarchs. During his reign (985 - 1014
AD) he brought stability to the Chola Kingdom, and restored from
obscurity the brilliant Tevaram hymns of the Saivite Nayanmars
from obscurity. Raja Raja was a great builder, and the Peruvudaiyar
Koyil or the Big Temple at Thanjavur was his creation. His son
Rajendra Chola (1014 - 1044 AD) was a greater conqueror who marched
all the way to the banks of the Ganges. This march was commemorated
with a new capital Gangaikonda Cholapuram and another 'Periya
Koyil'. Gangai Konda Cholapuram was the capital of the Cholas
for about two centuries, although it is nothing more than a village
now with this rather well maintained magnificient temple.
35 Kilometers from Thanjavur lies Darasuram, once known as Rajarajapuram
- a part of the Chola's secondary capital of Pazhaiyarai. Here
is the Airavateeswarar Temple built by Raja Raja II (1146 - 1173).
It was during the reign of Kulottunga III (1178 - 1218) that the
ambahareswarar temple at Tribhuvanam was built.These four temples
under discussion stand out from the others in Tamilnadu in that,
it is only in these that the Vimanam towers over the entrance
Gopurams. After these four temples, the Cholas went back to their
traditional style of building temples with larger Gopurams and
smaller central Vimanams. These temples are fitting memorials
to the glory of the rulers that built them, as well as monuments
of piety and a committment to art and architecture.Brihadeeswarar
Temple at Thanjavur.A 107 paragraph long inscription on the walls
of the Vimanam records the contributions of Raja Raja Chola and
his sister Kundavai to the Thanjavur temple.
The temple stands within a fort, whose walls
are later additions built in the 16th century. The towering vimanam
is about 200 feet in height and is referred to as Dakshina Meru.
The octogonal Shikharam rests on a single block of granite weighing
81 tons. It is believed that this block was carried up a specially
built ramp built from a site 6 kilometeres away from here. Huge
Nandis dot the corners of the Shikharam, and the Kalasam on top
by itself is about 3.8 meteres in height. Hundreds of stucco figures
bejewel the Vimanam, although it is possible that some of these
may have been added on during the Maratha period.
The Shivalingam - Peruvudaiyar, Rajarajeswaramudaiyar
- is a huge one, set in a two storeyed sanctum, and the walls
surrounding the sanctum delight visitors as a storehouse of murals
and sculpture.The long prakaram surrounds the great temple (500
feet/250 feet), and the walls surrounding the prakaram again go
back to Raja Raja Cholan's period. The walls house long pillared
corridors, which abound in murals, Shiva Lingams and Nandis. The
Periya Nayaki temple within the temple is a later addition from
the Pandya period, and so is the Subramanyar Temple sung later
by the Saint poet Arunagirinathar.Incidents from the lives of
the Nayanmars, several of the 108 Bharata Natyam Dance postures,
manifestations of Shiva (Aadalvallaan - Nataraja, Tripurantaka,
Dakshinamurthi etc.) are depicted in sculptured panels or in exquisite
Chola murals. Both the interior, and the exterior walls of the
temple, are replete with images of kind described above.The
sanctum, the ardhamandapam, the mukhamandapam and the Mahamandapam,
although distinct, form a composite unit with an imposing appearance
that awes visitors, forcing one to wonder how such timeless architectural
feat was executed about a 1000 years ago. Entrances to the Mandapams
and the towered entrances to the Prakarams are majestic. The grandeur
of the architecture and the sculptural finesse speaks volumes
of the skills.
Inscriptions refer to Shiva as Dakshina
Meru Vitankar and Aadavallan. The Nandi, which dates back to the
Nayak period, is housed in its own mandapam and it matches up
to the grandeur and size of the temple. It is a monolithic Nandi
weighing about 25 tonnes, and is about 12 feet high and 20 feet
Thanjavur was the royal city
of the Cholas, Nayaks and the Mahrattas. Thanjavur derives its
name from Tanjan-an asura (giant), who according to local legend
devastated the neighbourhood and was killed by Sri Anandavalli
Amman and Vishnu, Sri Neelamegapperumal. Tanjan's last request
that the city might be named after him was gra
The capital city of Chola was always changing.Thiruvarur
was the capital during Manuneethi Cholan. Kaveripoompattinam
was the capital after that and was an important harbour. Uraiyur,
Pazhaiyarai, Thanjavur and Gangaikonda Cholapuram used to be
the capitals of Chola Kingdom. Its been believed from the Epics
that many Chola kings were ruling from Thanjavur even before
Historian believe that Thanjavur was captured
by Vijayalaya Cholan (AD 846-880) from Perumpidugu Muttaraiyan.
From then till Rajaraja Cholan, Thanjavur was flourishing. Chola
kings were ruling till 13th Century AD with Thanjavur as their
capital. Rajendra Cholan, Rajarajan's son moved the Chola capital
to Gangaikonda Cholapuram. After that Chola Kingdom was declining
and the Pandya Kings captured Thanjavur.
Vijayanagar Kings captured in 14th Century
AD. Sevvappa Nayak (AD 1549-1572), an erstwhile viceroy of the
Vijayanager empire assumed independence and founded the dynasty
of the Thanjavur Nayaks. Thanjavur remained the capital of the
Nayaks for the next one hundred and twenty five years till Vijayaraghava
- the last prince of the line - perished in a tragic but a heroic
war with Chokkanatha of Madurai in 1662 AD. His General Alagiri
ruled for another fourteen years. The claim to the Nayak throne
through Sengamaladas, the infant son of Vijayaraghava brought
on the scene the Bijapur King and his general.
General Venkaji alias Ekoji, was the half brother
of Sivaji the Great. He defeated Alagiri and seized the throne
in 1676 because of the dissensions in Nayaks. Mahrattas kings
for one hundred and seventy-nine year ruled with Thanjavur as
the capital. The English first interfered in 1749 AD with a
view to the restoration of deposed King, Saiyaji.
In 1758 AD French attacked but was retaken
by British in 1773 AD. Thanjavur became a protected state under
the East India Company.
In 1799 AD Thanjavur became a British principality
and its ruler Sarafoji II was given the fort of Thanjavur and
an area outside it. Sivaji, his successor died in 1855 AD without
an heir and after him Thanjavur passed directly under British.
Its accquisition never costing the British the life of a single
soldier, in the same manner as the Mahrattas had taken the country
previously from the Nayaks.
Of the various rulers of Thanjavur, the Cholas
seem to have left in the Great temple of Sri Bragatheeswara
a striking relic of their genius. The temple stands tall within
the small fort, commonly called the Sivaganga Fort, ascribed
to the Sevvappa Nayak and the big fort which encircles the city
and the palace was built by Vijayaraghava the last. These two
forts could the renovations of the earlier chola fortifications.
Thanjavur was at height of its glory during
Rajaraja Cholan. Let us take Thanjavur back to its past glory
in the information age. Thanjavur is still the center of all
the classical arts and music. It has produced many classical
musicians and bharathanatyam dancers and is also well known
for its unique painting style called Tanjore Painting and Thavil,
a percussion instrument.
Here we have the ultimate
site for all the information about Thanjavur and its neighbourhood.
It is the capital of the Thanjavur district and its been the center
for learning Tamil during Chola and now with the establishment
of Tamil University by our late Chief Minister Dr. M.G. Ramachandran.
There are a lot of beautiful temples in Thanjavur region. Big
Temple stands tall with its beaming tower. It's one of the architectural
wonders of the world.