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Brihadishwar Temple also known as Peruvudaiyar Kovil or Rajarajeshwaram, is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is located in Thanjavur (Tanjur) in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This magnificent temple is one of the largest surviving Chola temples and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The temple was built by Rajaraja Chola I, the Chola emperor, between 1003 and 1010 AD. It is considered one of the greatest achievements of Chola architecture.
The Brihadishwara temple is a classic example of Dravidian architecture, characterized by its long vimana (temple tower), intricate sculpture, and axial alignment. The architecture follows the principles of the Agama Shastra.
The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and there is a Lingam (Aniconic image of Lord Shiva) in the shrine. The presiding deity is known as Brihadeeswarar, meaning "the great Lord."
The most notable feature of the temple is its massive vimana, which is about 66 meters high. The vimana is often referred to as "Dakshina Meru" or the southern meru. The kalasha (crowning ornament) on top of the vimana is made of a single 80-tonne block of granite.
A huge Nandi (bull), the revered vehicle of Lord Shiva, stands gracefully in front of the shrine. The Nandi Mandapa is known for its one-of-a-kind architecture.
The temple is surrounded by a large colonnaded peristyle, featuring a corridor with massive pillars adorned with intricate carvings.
Originally, the temple had beautiful paintings on its walls, depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. Many of these have long since deteriorated, however, some remnants can still be seen.
The temple is decorated with magnificent sculptures depicting various deities, celestial beings and mythological scenes. The artwork and details are amazing.
The temple observes various Hindu festivals, with the Maha Shivaratri festival being one of the most significant.
The Brihadeeswara Temple, along with the Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram and the Gangai Konda Cholapuram, collectively form the "Great Living Chola Temples," designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Brihadishwar Temple is not only an important religious site but also a masterpiece of Indian architecture and a symbol of the cultural and artistic achievements of the Chola empire. It remains a major pilgrimage site and an inspiration for architects and art enthusiasts around the world.