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Splendour of the Brihadeshwar Temple in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu

By : Splendour of the Brihadeshwar Temple in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu

February 11, 2022

Waking up to the sight of Thanjavur's ancient buildings is like stepping back in time. With edifices that date back more than 1000 years, the city is a testament to the architectural genius of primordial India. A prime example is the Brihadeshwar Temple.

Inaugurated by Chola King, Rajaraja I in 1009-1010, the Brihadeshwar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and comprises a sanctum that is enclosed by a spacious rectangular courtyard extending from east to west and accessible by gateways. The sanctum’s ‘vimana’ (a pyramidal tower built on top of a temple’s central shrine) is ~59 meters above the ground. The vimana has 13 stories (as per the Vastu Shastras, any vimana with five or more stories/tiers was considered to be superior). Each tier is ornately decorated with images of gods. One of the most striking features of the temple is the ‘stupika’ a dome-shaped structure crowning the last tier of the vimana. It is carved out of a block of stone that weighs more than 80 tons. Raising such a weight about 200 feet above the ground without the use of modern technology and installing it in a manner that it is still standing strong after 1000 years is a testament to the ingenuity of the era.

The sanctum houses a linga, which is one of the biggest lingas in Tamil Nadu. The worship of the linga and associated rituals and philosophies were among the first orders of King Rajaraja I. 

Further, the walls of the temple are embellished with large and exquisite mural paintings, along with brilliant iconography. The inner walls are decorated with frescoes of gods and goddesses.

Presently, the Maha Shivratri festival is one of the most auspicious occasions celebrated at the Brihadeshwar Temple. The temple is richly decorated on this occasion each year to welcome devotees from all across the world. Pongal is also a key celebration at this temple.


A major tourist attraction of India, the Brihadeshwar Temple was designated by UNESCO as a ‘World Heritage Site’ in 1987.

It is under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) since 1922 and is jointly maintained and managed by ASI and the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments of the Government of Tamil Nadu.