A Masterpiece of Chola Architecture

Brihadisvara Mandir

Also known as the Rajarajesvaram or the Thanjavur Big Temple

-: UNESCO World Heritage Site :-

Abstract :

The Brihadisvara Temple, also known as the Rajarajesvaram or the Thanjavur Big Temple, is an architectural marvel and a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Tamil Nadu, India. Built by the Chola emperor Rajaraja I between 1003 and 1010 CE, this temple stands as a testament to the grandeur and artistic brilliance of the Chola dynasty. This research article delves into the historical significance, architectural features, cultural importance, and preservation efforts associated with this remarkable temple.

Introduction :

The Brihadisvara Temple, situated on the banks of the Cauvery River in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, is not merely a place of worship but a living testament to the architectural prowess and cultural heritage of ancient India. This temple, also referred to as Dakshina Meru, exemplifies the Dravidian style of architecture. Built by Rajaraja I, it is part of the “Great Living Chola Temples” and continues to be a revered pilgrimage site and a celebrated symbol of India’s rich history.

Historical Background

The Chola Dynasty :

The Brihadisvara Temple stands as a crowning achievement of the Chola dynasty, which emerged as a dominant power in South India between the 9th and 13th centuries. The Chola period witnessed a transformation in temple architecture, with a greater emphasis on grandeur and intricate details. Rajaraja I’s rule marked the beginning of the new Chola architectural style, characterized by multifaceted columns with projecting square capitals.

The Construction

Construction of the temple commenced in 1003 CE and was completed in 1010 CE, a remarkably short time frame for a temple of such immense scale and complexity. The project was an immense undertaking, involving skilled architects, artisans, and laborers. The result is a temple of unparalleled grandeur.

Architectural Features :

Vimana Tower

The most striking feature of the Brihadisvara Temple is its towering vimana, or shikhara, above the main shrine. At 216 feet, it is one of the tallest in South India and is a masterpiece of Chola architecture. The vimana has 16 storeys, each adorned with intricate carvings, pilasters, and columns. The stupi (finial) on top of the vimana, originally covered in gold, is a prominent landmark of the city.

Sanctum and Karuvarai

The sanctum, or garbhagriha, at the center of the temple houses a massive stone linga, which stands as a symbol of Lord Shiva. The sanctum’s walls are adorned with sculptures and iconography, depicting various aspects of Hindu mythology. Only priests are allowed to enter this innermost chamber.


The temple complex comprises two main mandapas: the maha-mandapa and the mukha-mandapa. These are spacious hall-like structures adorned with pillars and sculptures. The maha-mandapa houses sculptures such as the Vitankar and Rajaraja I bronze. It is linked to the mukha-mandapa by stairs.


The temple’s circumambulatory pathway walls are adorned with frescoes dating back to the Chola period. These paintings narrate Hindu mythology, and their restoration in the 2000s by the Archaeological Survey of India revealed their vibrant colors and rich details.

Deities and Cultural Significance :

The Brihadisvara Temple primarily venerates Lord Shiva in the form of a monolithic linga, but it also celebrates other major Hindu traditions. Shrines are dedicated to deities such as Parvati, Murugan, Ganesha, Nandi, and more. The temple complex is not only a place of worship but a hub for cultural events, attracting visitors and artists from around the world.

Preservation and Restoration :

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) oversees the preservation, restoration, and maintenance of the temple. The surrounding facilities have been upgraded to enhance the visitor experience. The unique de-stucco process was used to restore the Chola frescoes, ensuring the conservation of these invaluable artworks.

Millennium Commemoration :

The Brihadisvara Temple turned 1,000 years old in 2010. To celebrate this milestone, the state government organized cultural events, including a Bharathanatyam Yajna, a grand dance performance featuring 1,000 dancers. Commemorative stamps and coins were issued to mark the temple’s cultural and historical significance.

Cultural Events :

The Brihadisvara Temple hosts annual dance festivals and cultural events, showcasing classical Indian dance forms, especially during the Mahashivratri festival. These events attract artists and enthusiasts from across the globe, further emphasizing the temple’s cultural relevance.

Administration :

The temple is currently administered by Babaji Bhonsle, the head of the Thanjavur Maratha royal family. This administration has been a subject of debate, as some groups have petitioned the Tamil Nadu government to revoke these rights and entrust the temple to local management.

Conclusion :

The Brihadisvara Temple, or the Thanjavur Big Temple, is more than just an architectural marvel; it is a living testament to the rich history and cultural heritage of India. Its grandeur, intricate details, and historical significance make it a symbol of the artistic excellence achieved during the Chola dynasty. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it continues to inspire awe and admiration and serves as a hub for cultural celebrations, making it a true treasure of India.

Editor – Kaalchakra Team

[ Note – Before Concluding anything as a Finale, Please Go through Original Scriptures of Vaidik Literature Written in Sanskrit and Also with Meaning of That time of Language. Because English is a Limited language to Explaining the Deeper Knowledge of Vaidik Kaal. ]