EP-6 Shri Brihadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur | Places to visit in Thanjavur | Thanjavur Palace

EP-6 Shri Brihadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur | Places to visit in Thanjavur | Thanjavur Palace

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Suppose you reach Sri Brihadeeshwara Temple... ...without any information or pre-research. You spend 3-4 hours on a detailed visit of the temple. During this time, you observed the architecture closely. Then, you are asked a question. Thousands of years ago, how much time did it take the Chola king to build this temple? Your reply could be 30, 40 or 50 years! By the way, do you see all this granite? A question worth pondering is where did this granite come from because...

...there is no granite mine around here. You would be surprised to learn that the Chola King finished this temple in 6 years. Isn't that great! This temple is a good example of Chola architecture and execution. Today, we will show you the world-famous, UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will seek Munshi Ji's help to understand the temple architecture. He is the local tour guide.

Whenever we visit a temple, you see it has a boundary wall, like you see here. Yes! Usually, the temple boundary wall doesn't have mounting space for guns. Yes! So, why is it like this? This wall was built like this during the 18th century for the protection of the temple. After that, the British also made use of these gun mounts. Raja Serfo Ji was a Maratha king? Yes, he was a Maratha king and he ruled between 18th and 19th centuries here.

This wall was built during his reign. This is an entrance gate, not an entrance tower. Raja Serfo Ji got this built during the 18th century. This entrance gate is 300 years old.

This temple is 1013 years old. The Chola king required four materials to build this temple. Granite stone! But granite was and is unavailable in or around Thanjavur. I mean this whole area is a flatland. It is mainly used for farming. There is a village called Pudukottai, located 70 KM South from here.

There is a specific place there called 'Narthamalai' (cluster of small hills). 'Malai' means hills! You can see even today, that those are hills of granite. This granite was brought from there? From there, the Chola king brought the granite stones 1013 years ago. Just imagine, in that period, in the absence of automobiles, lorries, etc.... ...elephants were used to transport the granite. How many elephants must have been used to transport all this granite? 12,000 elephants! Really! 5,000 horses! 50,000 workers were involved in this project. That is how this temple was constructed in just 6 years.

Raja Chola started building this temple in 1004 and finished it in 1010. At one time, Raja Chola defeated another king. The name of that king was 'Chera'. He was a famous ruler in Kerala. Cheras were the rulers.

To celebrate his victory over Cheras, the Chola king named this entrance 'Keralathan." Its height is 25 meters. Till 12.5 meters, it is made of granite.

The rest of it is made of granite on the inside and outside it has quicklime. Beautiful! Very nice! You can see this is a single stone from ground level to the top. Oh God! Super beautiful! This single stone is 12.5 meters in height. Its weight is 12 tons. One ton is equal to a 1000 kilograms. That means it weighs 12,000 kilograms.

Once you enter through the Gopuram, you will find a cloakroom on your right. You can deposit your belongings in the cloakroom & keep your shoes on the shoe stand. This is the second entrance to the temple & its name is 'Raja Raja Tower.' Its height is 18 meters. You see these two statues in front of you? These are made of the same stone.

They are the security guards of the Shiva Temple, known as 'Dwarapalaka Bandhu." These carvings are unique in itself. Yes! It is unique! There were 5 ruling dynasties in Tamil Nadu.

Till 600-1000 A.D., it was the Pallava dynasty. Their mother tongue was Telugu and their capital was Kanchipuram. Including the area, which is modern-day Mahabalipuram and Chennai. From 11th to 13th century, the Chola dynasty ruled here.

Their capital was Thanjavur and their mother tongue was Tamil. From 1400-1500, the Pandyans were the rulers. Their capital was Madurai and mother tongue was Tamil. The Nayak dynasty ruled from 1600-1700 A.D.

Their mother tongue was Telugu. Their capital was Trichy. The last ruler of Thanjavur belonged to the Maratha dynasty.

His name was Serfoji. You told me about him a short while ago. He ruled from 1800s to 1900s. What you see in front of you is an example of common South Indian architecture... ...known as the Dravidian architecture. But out of all this, this temple is built according to the Chola architecture.

Now how is the Chola architecture different? The temple entrance would be lower in height than the inner sanctum building. In a normal temple, it is the opposite. That is called 'Garbhagudi' (inner sanctuary of the temple). Got it. Let us go inside now. What you see on the wall here is written in ancient Tamil script. Tamil means the local language of Tamil Nadu.

And this Tamil script was used 1000 years ago. The Tamil language taught in schools & colleges of Tamil Nadu is 100 years old. Both the scripts are different.

This Nandi here was established by Raja Chola. When the Cholas built this temple in the 11th century, a different Nandi was placed here. You see that Nandi? Hmm! That Nandi used to sit here earlier.

Alright! When the Nayak King took over the reign in Thanjavur during the 1600s... ...he found that the Nandi's size was smaller compared to the huge Shiva Temple. He removed it from here and kept it aside. In its place, the Nayak king built the second-largest Nandi statue in the world here.

The best part is that the Nandi statue has been carved out of a single stone. And you told me it weighs 25 tons! 25 tons and a single stone! That is awesome! What about these paintings on the roof? These paintings are 300 years old and were commissioned by the Marathi king. This statue is of the Nayak king. He is the one under whose reign the larger Nandi was built. What is it that the Nayak King is wearing on his head? This is a kind of special headgear.

This is a statue of the Pandyan King, who was the ruler before the Nayak King. They were the rulers of Thanjavur from 14th to 15th centuries. And from 16th to 17th centuries, it was the Nayak King. So, this temple has the contribution of three different dynasties. What you see in front of you is the main Shiva Temple. This is where the tourists come for darshan.

Let's go inside. Photography or videography is prohibited inside the temple. So, I will join you again in another 15-20 minutes. We had a very brief darshan inside. This temple closes at 12.30 PM. So, we had just 2 minutes for darshan before the temple was closed.

Now, the temple would reopen at 4 PM. Let me tell you about the darshan inside. Though the line wasn't long, it still took us 5 minutes to reach the darshan point.

Inside, we had the darshan of Bhagwan Shiv in the form of Shivlingam. Munshi Ji told me the height of the Shivlingam is 12 feet. And the weight, you told me is...

12 ton! Its weight is 12 ton! We had a very beautiful darshan inside. Since this temple is a thousand years old... ...it attracts tourists from not just India but also across the world. Once I came out of the temple after darshan, I noticed that... ...the 'Dwaarpal" (sentinel) outside has been carved out of a single stone. It is a great piece of architecture! Next to it, you can have the darshan of Bhagwan Ganpathi too. And you told me about another statue... Vishnudurga! Vishnudurga! I have found similar inscriptions here as you had shown on the Gopuram.

And on this side, you can see a whole line of stones with inscriptions. Yes! These two statues are of Raja Raja Chola, who built this temple. But his actual name was Arulmoli Thevar. Before the Shiva Temple was built here, this place was used for meditation purpose. About 1000 years ago, Jainism and Buddhism prevailed in this region.

When the Chola dynasty started its reign, they promoted Hinduism & Bhagwan Shiv. So, these two statues are... ...are of Raja Raja Chola. Both of these? Yes, these are of the king who built this temple.

You are saying these bricks... These were installed during the British era. However, those stones are the original ones.

These are 1000 years old? Yes! As you know, only stones were available 1000 years ago, not bricks. This is the original one! Is this granite? Yes, it is granite. These are the statues of various Shiva avatars (reincarnations). Look at the different colours on each statue. This means that 1000 years ago, this temple was colorful outside.

These are statues of 108 avatars of Bhagwan Shiva. Out of that, you see this smaller temple? Yes! It is dedicated to one of the various forms of Shiva. Here, you'll see Shiva in the form of a beggar.

He carries a begging bowl in his hand. Yes! This avatar is called Bhagwan Bhikshatana. So, these statues surround the temple? By 108 statues, I mean 109, including the main statue inside the inner sanctum. If you include the main Shivaling, the total number of avatars would become 109. 9 means 'Nava Graha.'

The temple is built in a way that it represents the nine Graha. Small villages surround the temple too. Munshi Ji told us that there are 108 statues of Bhagwan Shiv built outside the temple. Each statue in a different form! If you pay close attention, this first statue is called 'Harihar.' Here you will also see Bhagwan Vishnu on one side and Bhagwan Shiv on the other. Bhagwan Vishnu has Shankh (conch shell) in his hand, Bhagwan Shiv is on the other side.

And the statue on this side, let me highlight it for you... In this statue, you will see Bhagwan Shiv in the middle of a Shivling. This is something very unique.

You will have to look at each of these statues carefully. Then try to relate to this visual because you don't see such statues every day. I don't know for sure but one can spend 2 hours, 3 hours just watching these statues! It is a wonderful experience! Now, I am going to show you the figure of a European on this side of the temple exterior. Now who is this European? He is Marco Polo. He belonged to Italy. He was born in Venice.

He was a great traveller of that time. Between 14th and 15th centuries, he visited India as well as China. The Nayak dynasty ruled Thanjavur during the 16th century. The Nayak king came to know that Marco Polo had visited India in the past.

As a mark of respect, in the 1600s, the erstwhile king built statues of him... ... and his wife in an interlocking system. This is a depiction of 'Shiv Gana'. 'Gana' means chorus! These 'Ganas' accompany Shiva and here, they are holding 'glass' in their mouth. These are musicians! These are always in the company of Shiva and accompany him everywhere.

What you see in front of you right now is the joint statue of Bhagwan Shiv & Ma Parvati. And the buffalo you see beneath the statue is the demon Mahishasur. After a parikrama of the temple, we've now returned to the main entrance.

Here, you can see the Nandi in front of you. And this is the Shiva temple, where I was a while ago for darshan. While I was waiting for 15-20 minutes for Munshi Ji, I decided to go into the temple...

...and had the darshan of Ma Parvati. Darshan was open then, and now the temple is closed. The temple is open till 12.30 PM. I read here earlier, they have written some other name for Ma Parvati. Periyanayagi! In Tamil language, "Periya' means "Great.' "Nayagi" means 'Parvati.'

Amma Parvati! You can see here, this is elephant trunk. And the face above it is that of five animals. Imaginary! Teeth of a crocodile! Eyes of a cow! Ears of a horse! And the body of a lion! And the trunk of an elephant! And this sculpture is called 'Gajayani.'

'Gaja' is 'elephant.' You referred to the cow's eyes here! Why is it protruding like this? Could be creativity? To give it a scary appearance! Because this sculpture is built on the front portion of the temple! And not inside! People will be scared if they look at this scary sculpture. If you look at a security guard, he bears similar expressions on his face. This place, in front of Ma Parvati's temple, is called 'Mandapam.' On the ceiling of this Mandapam, you'll find paintings of 3 Hindu Gods. Brahma, Mahesh, Vishnu! In the middle of the painting is Bhagwan Shiva, performing the Tandav! On one side of it is Bhagwan Brahma with four faces.

And on the other side is Bhagwan Vishnu. This is the depiction of 'Trinity' - Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva. Creator, protector, destroyer! This painting was commissioned by Raja Serfoji about 300 years ago. Marathas! Marathas! I've to say this, even though these paintings are indoors, still,...

...they don't look 300 years old! No, these are maintained well. Maintenance! Archaeologists deserve credit! The paintings outside, obviously, due to rain and elements of nature... It is obvious that those paintings suffer due to rain, etc. Paintings inside are safer! So nice! It has been on my mind for many years now.

I wanted to visit the world heritage sites in Tamil Nadu while planning the Madurai tour. Though we did visit Thanjavur this time but... ..we couldn't visit 90% of the UNESCO World Heritage sites around Thanjavur... ...which most of the tourists prefer to visit. The reason behind this is that we've come to Tamil Nadu for a limited number of days. I am going to cite the names of the sites for your reference, pl correct me if I am wrong.

Gangaikonda Cholapuram! And Dharasuram! Yes! Both these temples are World Heritage sites within an 80 KM radius. In fact, Dharasuram is 40 KM from here. So, that is how I had to plan this tour.

But I want to tell you that if you visit Tamil Nadu... ...you must try and visit all temples within one circuit. After that, you can visit Madurai. Or you can go to Rameshwaram. It is completely up to you where you start your tour from.

The added advantage of visiting with you is that you're quite fluent in the Hindi language. That makes it easy to understand. So, special thanks to you for this. For your reference, he charges Rs 2000, which includes... ...a guided tour of one to one and a half hour. Rest, it depends on individual curiosity and interest. If you want to learn in more detail about this place, he won't hesitate to help you.

Like we also took a lot of his time but... ...he was completely cooperative. I want to thank you too, for giving me this opportunity to collaborate with you. Thank you so much! We will definitely meet again, God willing! Thank you! Thank you! After taking the exit from the temple, we travelled 200 meters. We've come to the Sri Krishna Bhawan Vegetarian Restaurant. Here, we've ordered meals for us.

This is a dish made with bananas. This dish has potatoes and coconut. This, they've told me, is made with Imli (tamarind). Basically Imli curry! Sambar....rasam! This is basically a sweet dish, made with Dalia (broken wheat).

And Chhaas (buttermilk). Wow! Let's taste the rasam first. Delicious! Very nice! This rasam is more sour than it is spicy! Usually, rasam is high in pepper flavour! Overall good! Sambar is highly simple but flavourful! Oh wow! You got me more sambar! Would you like some more chutney? No! This dish is amazing! Apart from coconut, does it also have potatoes in it? It has potatoes, coconut and milk.

This is a nice preparation. Please give me more of it. All this is part of the unlimited thali, right? It is unlimited. To sum it up, I liked this restaurant very much.

For Rs 120, you get to eat an unlimited thali Now, I will join you again once I reach the palace. The time right now is 4.15 PM. We will have to leave here at 4.30 PM. Because by 5.00 PM, they stop selling tickets to visitors. By 5.30 PM, the palace is closed. Palace entry tickets are for Rs 25 per person. We've bought our tickets.

The camera ticket is Rs 25. On the left-hand side, you have the "Saraswati Mahal Library." We will visit the library after we have visited the palace. The Nayak King built this temple not for a residential purpose. He wanted to use this place as an armory.

Today, this whole palace has been converted into a museum. On our right-hand side is a Bronze Museum, which we will visit later. The museum also displays ancient statues recovered during various excavations. Let me show you a 'Yali' (leogryph) here.

We visited a temple earlier today. There we saw the sculpture of an imaginary animal called 'Yali.' This is a similar sculpture on display and it was recovered during an excavation. Whatever I can understand from watching these statues & sculptures, I'll share with you. Lord Buddha! I didn't pay attention first, though the name is also written below it.

It also has information about where it was excavated from. And it is also informed that this statue belongs to the 8th century. It means this statue is 1200 years old. Take a look at it. This is what a 1200-year-old statue looks like.

Very nice! You are looking at a statue of Durga Mata, dating back to early late Chola period. It means this statue dates back to 10th or 11th century. A statue of Sun God. It shows Surya (Sun) Bhagwan riding a chariot.

This set of statues is really exclusive. My guess is that on this side, these are statues of goddesses or angels. And somebody told me that in the centre is the statue of Bhagwan Shiva. In the temple, we learned about the 108 avatars of Bhagwan Shiva.

One of those was that of a beggar. This is the same statue but with a Dumroo (musical instrument) in hand. We also noted another statue in the temple, that of a Shiva Gana! These are similar statues, and these Ganas can also be called musicians. Ardhanareshwar....10th century!

This is a statue of the combined form of Bhagwan Shiva and Ma Parvati. Its period is written here, 10th century. It was excavated from Thanjavur.

Now, I've entered a huge hall called 'Durbar Hall.' The king used to hold his durbar (royal court) here. You can see the statue of Raja Serfoji in front of you. It is beautiful, isn't it? It is made with Italian marble.

We discussed earlier that he was a Maratha king. In fact, the Maratha kingdom prevailed in Thanjavur for 150 years. There are families in Thanjavur even today, whose mother tongue is Marathi.

So beautiful! The Nayaks ruled Thanjavur for 200 years and built this palace, then it was Marathas. These paintings are as old as this palace, 500 years. All the paintings are made with natural colours, like... This beautiful art is made with colours extracted from flowers and vegetables. Most of the statues in this gallery are made of five metals combined & some of bronze. It is a good thing that every statue has a description under it.

It is written here - Sri Devi! 12th-13th century! So, we get the idea that this Bhagwan Vishnu statue belongs to the 12th or 13th century. Very nice! I just went inside the Saraswati Mahal Library. Photography or videography inside is prohibited. But I will tell you what I saw inside. One of the things I saw inside was scriptures written on palm leaves.

Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, and Marathi are some languages in which... ...these manuscripts are written and I've been told that such scripts are in thousands. Some scripts are here on display while some are in storage. In the museum, I also saw books in various European languages. Before we leave here, I want to show you one more thing.

For that, we will have to walk up to that point. This is a presentation about how the Tamil language has evolved over time. For example during the 3rd century B.C., this is how the language was written. Alright! By the 2nd century A.D., the language had changed to this form. I do not see much difference in the two, after a cursory glance.

The language passed through different centuries before reaching its present form. The present form of the Tamil language looks like this. I mean this is how the alphabets are written.

I have shared with you whatever I could understand during this visit. In fact, someone suggested to me that this is how I could understand it better. They also told me what this is, but I seem to have forgotten about that. Today's episode ends here. A while ago, I told you about a presentation outside the library,... ...which explains the development of Tamil language characters or alphabets. It was Mr. Sundaram who helped us with the library visit.

Sir, thank you so much! Kalyan Sundaram! Thank you so much! He is a member of the Palace staff. Good information! Thank you, Sir! Thanks, Bye! Tomorrow's journey will be from Thanjavur to Trichy. We will decide later whether we will spend a couple of hours in Thanjavur first. But tomorrow's night stay would be in Trichy. After spending a night in Trichy, we will leave for Madurai the next day.

For three of the coming four days, we would be staying in Madurai. Right! So, I will now say bye to you. We will meet again soon. Thanks for your time!

2024-03-01 21:52

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