Travel Writing · Uncategorized

Big Temple!

The star attaction of Tanjore (Thanjavur) is often described in cheap tourist brochures as ‘Tanjore big temple’. For a change, the cheap tourist brochures have got it right. It is really a big temple -everything about that temple is BIG (facts courtsey Lonely planet):
– a 4 meter high, 7 m circumference shiva lingam in the ‘garbha griha’.
– 66 meter high vimana (main tower). Surprisingly, contrary to other places in South India, the gopurum is not the highest structure in the complex.
– 80 tonne weight cupola on the top of the tower that was supposedly hauled up a 4 KM long earthwork ramp using the same methods as the one used for construction of the pyramids in Egypt.
– 250 (!!) shiva lingams (several about a meter high) that line the 1000 pillared corridors all around the temple.
– Scores of murals depcting several successive dynasties (including the marathas) along the walls of the corridors and the roof of smaller temples in the complex.
I could keep throwing the numbers – but they dont do justice to the beauty brought about by the proportions of many elements in this temple. Nor can they help recreate the atmosphere of the place. Despite the very heavy numbers on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, the place doesnt look crowded at all – another testimony to the sheer area and size of the temple.
The temple is a earthy brown color -that reflects a more golden hue when lit up at night (a great job done by ASI). The evening viewing also gives you a better chance to soak in the size and proportions of the place -though the lighting is not strong enough to help one appreciate the details.
The temple dates back to 11th century AD and was constructed by Rajaraja Chola – the size is perhaps a reflection of the ambitions of the Cholas. Several successive additions were made by later dynasties – the temple was either always a work in progress or was broken down by some other kings ? Am making this deduction from the way the temple’s Vimana abruptly ends and doesnt gradually ease all the way to the front of the temple with several other successive domes. This part is also finished with mortar (which looks like a later addition) and not in stone.
There are several statues / friezes on the main tower and the two gopurums that are superb examples of the chola art. The temple is one of the handful of monuments in India with a world heritage listing and overall, is well worth a visit.
It was terribly hot, so we didn’t visit the other notable temples of Gangakondacholapuram or Dharasuram. This one, of course, is the big daddy amongst the three.


2 thoughts on “Big Temple!

  1. @ Ripp, You’re welcome! I also visited Trichy – a short hop from Tanjore. The Srirangam complex there has a 70 odd meter high gopurum. The said gopurum can be seen from a couple of kilometers away – rising above coconut palms lining the banks of Cauvery. I just counted on the Unesco site and it turns out that am done with 9 out of 25 World heritage sites in India. Not bad , eh? Am suddenly pleased with myself !


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s