The Exquisite And The Unusual At Brihathiswara Temple, Thanjavoor (K2)

This living temple, most written about, most visited, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the largest Shiva temples (Brihat in Sanskrit means ‘large’) in the south, constructed by Raja Raja Chozha between 1003 and 1010 AD. Later day enhancements came from Pandya, Nayaka, Vijayanagara and Maratha era, before the colonial era kicked in

A spectrum of Hindu temple styles continued to develop from the 5th to the 9th century over the Chalukya era rule as evidenced in AiholeBadami and Pattadakal, and then with the Pallava era as witnessed at Mamallapuram and other monuments. Thereafter, between 850 and 1280 CE, Chozha emerged as the dominant dynasty [Wiki]. This temple is a proud showcase for Chozha’s engineering and artistic skills in terms of the structures they built embellished with sculptures, murals and frescoes.

Everything about this temple is big – two-story-high Shiva-Lingam (the main deity), 25-ton-monolithic Nandi (the bull), some 60-ton-heavy dome placed on top of the main gopuram (how did they manage to get it up there and hold it in place without the structure underneath collapsing??) that, owing to its special geometry,

throws its shadow on itself and not on the ground (!) at all times of the day, the huge circumambulatory structures…and so are its myths too.

Ours was a short visit of about 90 minutes . And in no way does justice to this treasure that must be pursued at a pace with no reference to the clock, savoring its beauty in every nibble. For us the shrines were closed either for repairs or it was off-hours. The impressions here are collected during a quick round of the peripheral structures.


A celestial being in reverential attendance – legs do not seem human like.

A richly caparisoned elephant. Zoom in to see the details including the chain girdle.

A four-armed devotee in this wall-painting, obviously a celestial being. Look, he has removed his crown while worshiping Shiva!

The beautiful bower motif, again. The damsel bending her leg back to strike a gracefully coquettish pose:

Here’s a dancer in an uncommon and vigorous arms-up pose:

You thought it’s someone licking off an a ice-cream cone? It’s a boothagana blowing a conch or some wind instrument:

Lord Muruga on his peacock mount with his two consorts – observe the sharpness of the lines in the rich details:

Here’s the vasthra-apaharana episode from the lore of Krishna – there are a few more Vaishnavite themed pieces in an essentially Shaivite temple:

Vishnu offering his sister in marriage to Shiva. Notice the plantain tree brought in for the auspicious occasion:

Amazing symmetry in placement and variety in design of the fluted columns:

What is this person doing up there?

Perhaps a marriage scene? Look at the rishi’s, the deva’s and the kings showering flower petals from above on Shiva (and his consort) – zoom in to see the details:

Here’s an elaborate floral pattern stretching seamlessly across more than one block of stone! For a moment, dont be distracted by the ugly cable running on one side:-((

At places, the blocks of stones are stacked up well without gaps or fillers despite their irregular edges that do not appear straight and horizontal or vertical!

And finally, contribution from visitors (the vandals) could not leave things alone:-((( They appear written over murals at number of places. May them rot in…


Damsels Showing Off At Srimushnam (K1)

At Bhu Varaha Swamy temple – referred to in Chola inscriptions of 11th century, later enhanced by kings of various dynasties of whom notable is Achuthappa Nayak (1560 – 1614 AD).

Wonder what is adorning her fore-arm! Quite unusually the dame does not seem to cover her modesty.

Look at her braids tied up by a kunjalam at the tip. Also her elaborate waist band!

The bower motif is a favorite of Nayak artists.


Musicians and dancers reveling:


On the way to Srimushnam:

Nice roads.

A typical village house, now a local office of some kind.

Another view of the quaint looking house.

And before us is…


This temple with its rituals and practices serves as a shining example of religious amity between communities – muslims welcomed and honored for their participation!.