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ARTICLE 1 Brihadeeswarar Temple

The Peruvudaiyar Kovil, also known as Brihadeeswara Temple and Rajarajeswaram, at Thanjavur in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva and a brilliant example of the major heights achieved by Cholas in Tamil architecture. It is a tribute and a reflection of the power of its patron Raja Raja Chola I. [dubious discuss][2] [3] It remains India's largest temple and is one of the greatest glories of Indian architecture. The temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Great Living Chola Temples". This temple is one of India's most prized architectural sites. The temple stands amidst fortified walls that were probably added in the 16th century. The vimana or (temple tower) is 216 ft (66 m) high
[citation needed] [4] [1]

and is among the tallest of

its kind in the world. The Kumbam (Kalasha or Chikharam) (apex or the bulbous structure on the top) of the temple is not carved out of a single stone as widely believed .

There is a big statue of Nandi (sacred bull), carved out of a single rock, at the entrance measuring about 16 feet long and 13 feet high
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The entire temple structure is made out of granite, the nearest sources of which are close to Tiruchchirapalli, about 60 km to the west of Thanjavur, where the temple is. Built in 1010 AD by Raja Raja Chola I in Thanjavur, Brihadeeswarar Temple, also popularly known as the Big Temple', turned 1000 years old in 2010.

History
The temple had its foundations laid out by the Tamil emperor Arulmozhivarman, popularly called Rajaraja Chola I, (Tamil: , Rjarja Choan ?) in 1002 CE, as the first of the great Tamil Chola building projects . It was built to grace the throne of the Chola empire in compliance of a command given to him in his [5] dream. The scale and grandeur is in the Chola tradition. An axial and symmetrical geometry rules the temple [7] layout. Temples from this period and the following two centuries are an expression of the Tamils (Chola) wealth, power and artistic expertise. The emergence of such features as the multifaceted columns with projecting [8] square capitals signal the arrival of the new Chola style. The Brihadeeswarar Temple was built to be the royal temple to display the emperor's vision of his power and his relationship to the universal order. The temple was the site of the major royal ceremonies such as anointing the emperor and linking him with its deity, Shiva, and the daily rituals of the deities were mirrored by those of the king. It is an architectural exemplar showcasing the pure form of the Dravida type of temple architecture and representative of the Chola Empire ideology and the Tamil civilisation in Southern India. The temple "testify to the brilliant achievements of the Chola in architecture, sculpture, painting [9] and bronze casting."
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Construction
This temple is the first building fully built by granite and finished within 5yrs[1004AD - 1009AD]. The solid base of [3] the temple raises about 5 metres (16 feet), above which stone deities and representatives of Shiva dance. The innthe huge kalasam or Vimanam (top portion of the shrine) is believed to weigh 81.28 tonnes and was raised to its [10] present height by dragging on an inclined plane of 6.44 km. The big Nandi (bull), weighing about 20 tonnes is made of a single stone and is about 2 m in height, 6 m in length and 2.5 m in width - the temple is [10] [citation needed] a Vijayanagara addition. The presiding deity of lingam is 3.7m tall. Even today, the Brihadiswarar [dubious discuss][2] Temple remains India's largest temple . The prakaram (outer precincts of the temple) measures 240m

by 125m. The outer wall of the upper storey is carved with 81 dance karanas - postures of Bharathanatyam, the [10] classical dance of Tamils. The shrine of Goddess is added by Pandyas during the 13th century, Subramanya [10] Shrine by Vijayanagara rules and the Vinayaka shrine was renovated by Maratha rulers.

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Temple complex
The temple complex sits on the banks of a river that was channeled to make a moat around the complex's outer walls, the walls being built like a fortress. The complex is made up of many structures that are aligned axially. The complex can be entered either on one axis through a five-story gopuram or with a second access directly to the huge main quadrangle through a smaller free-standing gopuram. The massive size of the main Shikhara (although it is hollow on the inside and not meant to be occupied) is ca. 60 meters high, with 16 elaborately articulated stories, and dominates the main quadrangle. Pilaster, piers, and attached columns are [2] placed rhythmically covering every surface of the shikhara. The gopuram of the main entrance is 30 m high, so smaller than the vimana. It is unusual in the dravidian [11] architecture where the gopurams are generally the main towers and taller than the vimana.

Main temple
A first rectangular surrounding wall, 270 m by 140 m, marks the outer boundary. The main temple is in the center of the spacious quadrangle composed of a sanctuary, a Nandi, a pillared hall and an assembly hall (mandapas), and many sub-shrines. The most important part of the temple is the inner mandapa which is surrounded by massive walls that are divided into levels by sharply cut sculptures and pilasters providing deep bays and recesses. Each side of the sanctuary has a bay emphasizing the [7] principle cult icons. The karuvarai, a Tamil word meaning the interior of the sanctum sanctorum, is the inner most sanctum and focus of the temple where an image of the primary deity, Shiva, resides. Inside is a huge stone linga. The word Karuvarai means "womb chamber" from Tamil word karu for foetus. Only [12] priests are allowed to enter this inner-most chamber. In the Dravida style, the Karuvarai takes the form of a miniature vimana with other features exclusive to southern Indian temple architecture such as the inner wall together with the outer wall creating a pradakshina around the garbhagriha for circumambulation (pradakshina). The entrance is highly decorated. The inside chamber housing the [8] image of the god is the sanctum sanctorum, the garbhagriha. The garbhagriha is square and sits on a plinth, its location calculated to be a point of total equilibrium and harmony as it is representative of a [7] microcosm of the universe. In the center is placed the image of the deity. The royal bathing-hall where Rajaraja the great gave gifts is to the east of the hall of Irumudi-Soran.The circumambulation winds around the massive lingam in the garbhagriha and is repeated in an upper story, presenting the idea that Chola [2] Empire freely offered access to the gods. The inner mandapa leads out to a rectangular mandapa and then to a twenty-columned porch with three staircases leading down. Sharing the same stone plinth is a small open mandapa dedicated to Nandi, Shiva's sacred bull mount.
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Adjoining structures
Surrounding the main temple are two walled enclosures. The outer wall is high, defining the temple complex area. Here is the massive gopuram or gateway mentioned above. Within this aportico, a barrel vaulted gorpuram with over 400 pillars, is enclosed by a high wall interspersed with huge gopurams axially lined up to the main temple.

Other

Not only the temple and the "moolavar" (prime deity, Shiva), but all other deities, particularly those placed in the niches of the outer wall (Koshta Moorthigal) like Dakshinamurthy, Surya (Sun), Chandra (Moon) are of huge size. The Brihadiswarar temple is one of the rare temples which has statues for "Ashta-dikpaalakas" (Guardians of the directions) Indra, Agni, Yama, Nirti, Varua, Vyu, Kubera, na each of whom was originally represented by a life-sized statue, approximately 6 feet tall, enshrined in a separate temple located in the respective direction. (Only Agni, Varua, Vyu and na are preserved in situ.)

Murals
The temple has Chola frescoes on the walls around the sanctum sanctorum potryaing Shiva in action, destroying demonic forts, dancing and sending a white elephant to transport a devotee to heaven.
[14] [3]

These frescoes were

discovered in the 1940s and portray the mythological episodes of the journey of Saint Sundarar and the Chera King to heaven, the battle scene of Tripurantaka (Lord Siva) with Asuras (demons). their mettle by portraying even the Asura women with a sense of beauty.
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The Chola artists have proved

Some of the paintings in the sanctum

sanctorum and the walls in the passage had been damaged because of the soot that had deposited on them. Owing to the continuous exposure to smoke and soot from the lamps and burning of camphor in the sanctum sanctorum over a period of centuries certain parts of the Chola paintings on the circumambulatory passage walls had been badly damaged. ago.
[14] [14]

The Tanjore Nayak kings replaced them with a few paintings of their own, about 400 years
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The Archaeological Survey of India, for the first time in the world, used its unique de-stucco process to These 400-year-old
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restore 16 Nayak paintings, which were superimposed on 1000-year-old Chola frescoes. paintings have been mounted on fibre glass boards, displayed at a separate pavilion.

Millennium celebration
Built in the year 1010ce by Raja Raja Chola in Thanjavur, Brihadeeswarar Temple popularly known as the Big Temple turned 1000 years old in September 2010. To celebrate the 1000th year of the grand structure, the state government and the town held many cultural events. It was to recall the 275th day of his 25th regal year (1010 CE) when Raja Raja Chola (9851014 CE) handed over a gold-plated kalasam (copper pot or finial) for the final consecration to crown the vimana, the 59.82 metre tall tower above the sanctum.

Commemorative stamp and coinOn September 26, 2010 (Big Temples fifth day of millennium
celebrations), as a recognition of Big Temples contribution to the countrys cultural, architectural, epigraphical history, a special 5 postage stamp featuring the 216-feet tall giant Raja Gopuram was released by India Post.The Reserve Bank of India commemorated the event by releasing a 5 coin with the model of temple [20][21] embossed on it. A Raja, Cabinet Minister of Communications and Information Technology released the esteemed Brihadeeswarar Temple special stamp, the first of which was received by G K Vasan, Cabinet Minister of Shipping.A 1000 Rupees Commemorative Coin is also being released with the same picture as on the Rs 5 coin. This will be the first 1000 Rupees coin to be released in the Republic of India coinage. This coin will be a will be a Non Circulative Legal Tender (NCLT).On April 1, 1954, the Reserve Bank of India released a 1000 currency note featuring a panoramic view of the Brihadeeswarar Temple marking its cultural heritage and significance. In 1975, the then government led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi demonetized all 1,000 currency [22] notes in an effort to curtail black money. These notes are now popular among collectors. Tamil Nadu chief minister, M Karunanidhi renamed Semmai Paddy, a special type of high productivity paddy variant, as Raja Rajan-1000 to mark the millennial year celebration of the Big Temples builder, Raja Raja Cholan.

ARTICLE 2
HISTORY
Thanjavur attained prominence under the Chola rulers who were paramount in South India during 9th to 12th centuries. They were not only excellent rulers but also mighty builders, who erected a large number of exquisite temples in their empire, some of which constitute the finest specimens of architecture. Hence the district stands distinguished in the state even in its large number of temples, whose legends extend deep into early historic times. Many of these temples reflect the power, genius and architectural grandeurs of their authors displaying the unique and magnificent proficiency in sculpture, painting and wood carving. Art gallery the great Saraswathi Mahal library, the 'Sangeetha Mahal' (hall of music), the thriving of classical music and dance known as 'Bharathanatyam' and the celebration of grand annual music festival at Thiruvaiyaru, in honour of the great Saint Thiagaraja, all bear testimony to the cultural heritage. The period of Chola Kings was not only considered as epoch-making but also an era of the cultural renaissance. Thanjavur under the Chola rulers was the cradle of Tamil Culture. Literature and civilisation and the rare Tamil manuscripts in the Thanjavur library corroborate this fact. Another notable feature is that in spite of several alien invasions, onslaughts and internal conflicts, the ancient culture and civilisation have not suffered much devastation. The inhabitants have successfully concentrated their histrionic talents in the field of art, literature, drama, music and dancing and are known for their rich cultural and religious fervour. They live in close harmony as a well knit community and the three main religious groups viz., Hindus, Muslims, and Christians, celebrate their fairs and festivals with a sense of mutual respect. On festive occasion, the Hindu devotees out-number all other participants in the shrines belonging to other religions. Similarly, in the case of some Hindu festivals, the temples are thronged by a substantial number of persons belonging to other religious group as well, who have a staunch faith and come in full reverence to pay homage to the presiding deities. According to the known history dating back to Sangam age, the Cholas ruled over Thanjavur for about one thousand years. It was here that plans were formulated to extent the Chola supremacy by spreading their glory from Kanniyakumari in the south to Himalayas in the north. They also under their patronage cultivated fine arts, erected temples, constructed anaicuts, built ports and cities. Among the Chola Kings who found place Sangam literature, Karikala and Koccengan were the most prominent. The name ' Karikala' which in Tamil refers to a man with charred leg, was derived by this King from a fire accident. He was assailed imprisoned and deprived of his birth right by his enemies. He, however, managed to regain the throne and in the great battle at Venni he defeated Pandya and Chera rulers and secured for himself the hegemony over them. He crushed both the internal and external opposition and became complete master of his country. He renovated the capital of Uraiyur, built up the renowned port of Puhar (Kaveripoompattinam) and patronised liberal arts and letters. Karikala was succeeded by two rival kings- Nalangilli and Nedungilli who ruled from Puhar and Uraiyur respectively. The next Chola King Killivalavan from Uraiyur was a brave and able warrior, besides a patron of letters. Of the Chola of later Sangam age, Koccengan was more brilliant and illustrious in both war and peace. He showed equal zeal for both Saivism and Vaishnavism, built numerous saivite temples including the famous Jambukeswara Temple at Tirunaraiyur. After a brief set back in the Chola regime between the third century to ninth century A.D., the Cholas became the mighty race of rulers. Once again Vijayalaya (850-870) the founder of the new Chola dynasty, drove away the Muttaraiyar Chieftains from Thanjavur and assisted the Pallava King to stem the tide of

the Pandiyan overlordship. His son Aditya I (870-907) soon over-threw the Pallava King Aparajita and expelled him from his territory. After conquering the Kongu country and Pandyas, he further extended his kingdom. He was an ardent saivite like his father and built temples along the banks of cauvery from Sahyadri to the sea. Parantaka I (907-955) was more powerful and under his rule Cholas acquired a dominion which foreshadowed the great empires of Rajaraja and Kullottunga. With the rise of Rajaraja I (985-1014), the days dawned to bring about new and brilliant chapter in the history of Cholas. Both in war and peace Rajaraja and his son Rajendra proved themselves as the most outstanding personalities of their time. Rajaraja conquered Kerala (Chera country) the whole of the Pandya country and Malainadu (Coorg ) and extended his dominion. He also invaded ceylon and destroyed Anuradhapura, its capital. He was also a great statesman and administrator and endeavoured his best to establish his empire on a firm footing. He built the most magnificent temple of Rajarajeswara at Thanjavur, the fine specimen of Tamil architecture. Rajaraja was succeeded by his son Rajendra I (1014-1044). He had the advantage of possessing an empire which had already been organised on sound lines. He set about at once to improve its organisation and increase its glory. He undertook expedition to north in search of the Ganges and assumed the title of Gangai Konda Cholan. His most glorious expedition was to Kadaram which shows the great naval strength of the Cholas. Rajendra I was succeeded by four rulers Rajadhiraja, Rajendra II, Virarajendra and Adirajendras reign was brief and it became weak in his time and later the kingdom passed on to the Eastern Chalukyan. Rajendra Kulottunga (1070-1120) was a remarkable personality. He was more a statesman than a warrior. From 1120 to 1163, three Chola kings, viz, Vikrama Chola (11201135) Kulottunga II (1136-1150) and Rajaraja II (1151-1163) succeeded Kulottunga I and under all these rulers no wars or invasions distracted the country. During the reigns of Rajaraja III (1216-1246) and Rajendra III (1247-1279), the Pandyas in the south and Hoysalas in the north monopolised all the power. By the beginning of the 13th century, the Chola dynasty became extinct and it gave way to Pandyan supremacy. The Pandiyan regime was short lived. When the Pandiyan Kingdom was in the thrones of civil war, the muslim ruler Ala-Ud-Din Khiliji, the Sultan of Delhi, took advantage of it and over powered the Pandiyas. Thanjavur then came under the muslim rulers. Muslim dominations continued till the middle of the 14th century when Vijayanagar Kings ended the muslim rule. Thanjavur remained under the supremacy of the Vijayanagar Kings for a long period. The Nayak dynasty was established during this period and Sevappa, the founder of Nayak Kingdom of Thanjavur made his appearance on the scene (1532-1560). In 1560, Sevappa Nayak made over kingdom to his son Achuyutappa Nayak. His rules unlike that of his father was not one of unbroken peace. Shortly after getting old he abdicated the crown in favour of his son Ragunatha (1600-1630) During his reign, a Danish settlement was established at Tranquebar (1620). The Nayaks of Thanjavur were loyal to Vijayanagar after the battle of Talikotta and helped Vijayanagar in repulsing the attacks of the Nayak of Madurai and their temporary ally Golkonda, but the beginning of the 17th Century was the end of the Vijayanagar empire. Attempts were then made by the Nayaks of Madurai and the Sultan of Bijapur to capture Thanjavur. The Marattas also came to Thanjavur in the later half of the 17th century. Ekogi became the first Maratta ruler of Thanjavur (1676-1683). The Marattas ruled Thanjavur for some time but became later vassals of the Mughal Governor of Karnataka. Subsequently there were hostilities between the Arcot Nawab and the Maratta ruler of Thanjavur. The French and English also began interfering in the internal affairs of South India. The supremacy of the English was later established. Saraboji II the adopted son of Tuljaji, was made King of Thanjavur in 1798, after agreeing with all the conditions laid down by the British Government. A pact was signed between the Maratta ruler and the English by virtue of which the status of the Raja was reduced to a mere vassal. The administration of Thanjavur was given over to English fully under the Treaty of 1799. The ruler of the Thanjavur was allowed to retain the fort of Thanjavur only with limited power of administration. When the ruler died in 1841 without heir, the Thanjavur fort was also annexed by the British and it became part of the then Madras, Thanjavur remained under the British until 1947 when India attained freedom.

The architecture 1.
The Brihadeshvara Temple is devoted to Lord Brihadeshvara, an incarnation of Shiva. The temple is a magnificent manifestation of the south Indian (more specificallyDravadian) style of architecture. Its chief attribute is a pyramid like vimanam, or tower, whose horizontal part has many stones, Brihadeshvara Temple piled one over the other gradually tapering towards the top, forming the typical silhouette of Dravidian architecture. The Vimana or the temple tower is 216 ft (66 m) high (about 70 meters) and is among the tallest of its kind in the world. The Kalash or Shikhara (bulbous structure on the top) of the temple is itself very large and heavy (81.25 tons). There is a big statue of Nandi (sacred bull), carved out of a single rock, at the entrance measuring about 16 feet long and 13 feet high. The entire temple structure is made out of hard granite stones hardly available in Thanjavur area where the temple is located. The lower part of these gopuras is made of stone, while the roof which rests upon it is made of brick in order to reduce its weight; this innovation was adopted for the increasingly larger gopuras which followed in Southern India. The soaring central tower (shikara) represents the mountain (kailash) where the god lives. The small, dark and mostly undecorated inner sanctum (garbhagriha) represents his cave home. Priests, of the Brahmin class, guarantee the evocation, reception and entertainment of the god as a royal guest. The shikhara of the Brihadeshvara Temple, which is placed at the top of the vimanam, is engraved out of a single big mass of stone that has a weight of 81 tons. A legend goes that this massive stone was fetched from a place at a distance of six kilometres from the site of the temple, using a specially designed ramp

2. One of the most spectacular piece of South Indian architecture, with due respect
to the Vijayanagara and Pallava Kingdoms, is the Brihadeeswara Temple in Tanjavur. Looking at it, one has to redefine the normal notions of size'. The grandeur of the monument caught me off guard when I first saw it, about a few good kilometres away. The 'Vimana' (the central tower of the temple) is visible from quite a distance away. The temple took 12 years to complete, and King Raja Raja Chola - I, performed the Kumbhabhishekam (consecration ceremony) in 1011 AD. The temple was built in honour of his victorious reign, during when the Chola kingdom (10th to 14th centuries AD) extended till Ceylon and some parts of the Malaya archipelago. The Temple, like many others built during this period served many functions; the walls are very high and the entrance is built like a fort, along with a moat. On the inside, there are separate waiting areas for musicians, workers etc and the periphery served as a meeting place for the public. The eastern side of the temple has the yagnasala (place for special prayers), the kitchen, the storeroom and the dining hall. The western and the northern ends have a long corridor with 108 Shiva Lingams arranged along the inner side of the corridor. The walls are decorated with paintings of the 64 divine 'lilas' (plays) of Lord Shiva. The central attraction is the great Vimana built over the sanctum, which is 216 feet high. It has 14 storeys of intricate sculpting with pilasters and niches, and images of God. This is peculiar, because usually, the Gopurams (towers at the

entrance) are generally higher than the Vimana in most temples. This style of high Vimana has a feel of the Orissa Temples in Bhuvaneshwar. The main sanctum of the temple is a Mahalingam, a huge lingam that is 23 feet in circumference and 9 feet high. The Nandhi (the divine vehicle of Lord Shiva) is a monolith measuring 12 feet in height, 19.5 feet in length and 18.25 feet in width, it weighs about 25 tons. The Nandi is seated in an ornately sculpted mandapam called the Nayak Mandapam. According to local legend, the Nandhi was growing in size and people fearing that it might grow out of the mandapam, stuck a nail at its back and since then the growth has ceased. Also it houses many other sub shrines, which are later additions to the great complex. The Shrine of Sri Subramanya is a new addition. Built towards 600AD, the architecture is considered 'modern' in the scale of Dravidian architecture and is believed to have been built in the Nayak period. Some pillars in this corridor have carvings of Maratha rulers in them. The shrine of Goddess Sri Brihannayagi was built by a later Pandya King in the 13th century. The shrine of Lord Ganesha is said to belong to the time of King Sarfoji II, the legendary Maratha King. This temple has Ganesha statues in seven poses. The Nataraja shrine, and Saint Karuvurar's Shrine was built in honour of the Saint Karuvar who helped Raja Raja Chola consecrate the Mahalinga. The Sri Chandeeswara Shrine completes the list of sub shrines. These later additions provide us with a wonderful example of the progression of Dravidian architecture. An interesting note is the central stone of the Vimana, which weighed 235 lbs (plus 35 lbs of gold plating on it) and was carried to the top by a scaffold built especially for this purpose, which was 4 miles long. Another striking feature about the temple apart from the blown out size of almost anything here, are the colours. The fresco painting can be seen in the ceilings of the corridors and also in the ceilings of the many sub-shrines. They are an invention of the Cholas and the painting, which are about 1000 years old are still brightly colourful.

PAINTINGS
The specialty of all the ancient temples is the paintings that are present in the temples. There are many attractive paintings in the Tanjore big temple and the paintings tell lots of stories about the temple. Most of the temples that are present in Tamilnadu have paintings present in it. The painting in the temple is based on the fact that it tells all the type of stories about the temple. The basic concept of the reason for the temple development will be explained with the help of the painting that are present in the temple. Tanjore big temple consists of the internal construction which consists full of paintings. Each and every painting consists of a story behind it. In the olden days the information will not be shared with the help of the script and all. Most of the temple stories will be explained with the help of the paintings. There will

also be high quality painting that is drawn with the help of the high quality colors which are always available. These colors can also be told as the one that will not be vanished even though the painting becomes very old. Some of the internal secret of the Tanjore big temple will be explained with the help of the paintings. Raja Raja Cholan is clever enough to represent the thoughts to the external world with the help of the paintings. He chose the painting to be the best way to represent the thoughts to the external world. The research workers can provide the perfect information on what concept the particular painting is drawn in the Tanjore big temple. Even though after many hundred years, the paintings in the Tanjore big temple are still looking good and new. The colors that are used for the painting in the Tanjore big temple are the one that is constructed with the help of the plant extracts. The paints are made with the help of the plant extracts and some particular preservatives are also used to keep the painting very new even though after many hundred years. The paintings in the Tanjore temple also provide information about thefamily of the Chola Kingdom and also the greatness of the Chola kings. There are also some special paintings in the Tanjore big temple walls that are more complicated such that even the scholars are not familiar with the information that the painting provide. There are also very good paintings in the top of the Gopuram of Tanjore big temple. The paintings available in the outer walls of the Tanjore big temple are not very special when compared to the painting in the Gopuram top floor. All the people are not given permission to get to the top of the Gopuram to view the paintings in the top floor of the Tanjore big temple. And moreover the quality of the Paintings in the Top of the Gopuram is very high when compared to the other gopuram. There are also many special things to be noted about the painting in the Gopuram. Even though there are many painting available in the internal walls of the gopuram of Tanjore big temple there are paintings that was drawn by the Raja Raja CholaHimself. These prove that Raja Raja Chola was himself a good painter. This also proves that the kings in the ancient days are well versed in all the skills.

SCULPTURES
The details of the stone work of this imposing vimanam are representative of the masterly craftsmanship of South Indian artisans. The shilpi [sculptor] and the sthapathi [architect] came together to create their fanciful abode for Shiva. Naturally, the shape had to echo Mount Kailash itself. In its perfect geometry and distinct clarity of lines, this tower is unbeatable. The Srivimanama, or tower over the main shrine, of the Brihadeswarar temple is 61 metres tall. Imagine that being built in 1002 CE. The foundations for it are only 2 metres deep - it is constructed in such a way that the weight of the Vimanam is evenly distributed on itself. It is hollow inside and layered to allow access for the intrepid. The top the pyramid-shaped tower holds the Vimana - a monolithic huge rock spherical in shape, weighing approximately 81 tones. Above the Vimana the Kalasam made up of gold can just be seen - its height is 4m and it was originally presented by Rajaraja Chola 1.

On the flat roofed portions of the structure, you can see many Nandi statues. Each of the 16 or so layers of the tower contain intricate carvings. If you view this pic large (see link below), you can view some of them on the lower layers.

Every feature of the temple is larger than life the monolithic Nandi, the gigantic [12-feet high] Dwarapalakas [guardian deities] and the sculptures in the niches around the central shrine. They are distinguished by an elegant simplicity in lines and ornamentation. The faces of the figures like Dakshinamurthi and Yogalakshmi are beatitude in essence. Inside the vimanam, there is a hidden corridor surrounding the sanctum. Rarely open to visitors, this is a treasure trove of Chola painting and sculpture. The walls of this cave-like corridor were plastered with lime and used as a large canvas for the paintings. Perhaps the subjects chosen were dear to the great king's heart, for, he was a staunch Shaivite, a great warrior who took pride in his victories, and was responsible for the renaissance of the Bhakti movement through the spread of the songs

of the saints ( Thevaram). The paintings, which have survived time and a 17th century coat of paint, are exquisite in detail and colour, and proportion. The colours in the paintings are subdued, the lines are delicate and the expressions vivid and true to life. The most telling of all is the portraiture of Raja Raja with his Guru Karuvur Devar. It was Karuvur Devar, the administrator, who master-minded the building of the temple, and fittingly he has a special shrine dedicated to him in the outer courtyard of the temple. While thesculptures of Shiva in this corridor are imposing and colossal, the fine series of 81 karanas (dance poses) are superb illustrations of the Natya Sastra. These figures are much bigger than the dance figures in Chidambaram and other temples.

INSCRIPTIONS
The most exciting aspect of this temple is the vast number of inscriptions on its walls which record details of Raja Raja's reign as well as that of his successors. They reveal that Raja Raja endowed a large number of villages, money and cattle to the temple for its maintenance, daily worship, festivals, singing of devotional songs and dancing. He and his queens presented fantastic gold and gem set jewels to the temple. The king's donations, as well as those of his favourite queen Lokamahadevi, and his sister Kundavai are recorded on a slab close to the sanctum. Among the most noteworthy inscriptions is the one about the two streets given over to the occupation of the 400 Devadasis who were pressed into the service of the temple from many surrounding temples of the region. Their names, places of origin, the door numbers of the houses they occupied are also part of the details inscribed. From the inscriptions we gather that the king, his queens, and their relatives set the example followed by the nobility, the merchants and even soldiers, to return to the people what was collected by taxes etc., by erecting irrigation canals, hospitals, schools, granaries etc.

There are inscriptions on the walls of the temple complex detailing Raja Raja's reign as well as that of his

successors. They reveal that Raja Raja endowed a large number of villages, money and cattle to the temple for its maintenance, daily worship, festivals, singing of devotional songs and dancing. It even gives details of the 400 devadasis of the temple and their door numbers in the two streets near the temple. The administration setup and complete details are also available in the inscription.

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