Brhadiswara Temple, Tanjavur
The Brhadiswara Temple at Tanjavur is the first temple in the world to be built in granite. The sikhara is made from a single 80-tonne piece of granite. Also, this magnificent temple was built in just five years between 1004-1009 CE during the reign of Rajaraja Chola.
Tanjore or Tänjävur (its Tamil name) was the capital of the Chola empire between the 9th and 13th century. Rajaraja Chola I who ruled between 985-1013 CE built the Brhadiswara Temple, that is considered a symbol of the greatness of the Chola empire. The Temple is the finest contribution to Dravidian art by the Chola Dynasty. The construction is unique; the vimanam, known as Dakshina Meru soars high, while the gopuram remains stunted. The 64.8-metre-tall, 14 tier and pyramid shaped vimanam rises from a square base and is topped by a huge monolithic cupola weighing 81.3 tonnes.
The Temple is dedicated to Lord Brhadiswara and Goddess Brhannayaki. The deities are also known as Peruvudaiyar and Periyanayaki. Brhannayaki is in a separate shrine. The shrine of Lord Subramanya is an exquisite piece of decorative art, and looks like a miniature of the main temple.
Sama Varma, the chief architect began to design a structure, which stood on a square base of 29 m and rose to a height of about 65 m. The temple stands within a fort with a towering vimanam, about 200 feet high. The octagonal sikharam (crown) rests on a single block of granite weighing 81 tons. The size of the Nandi matches that of the huge lingam. The kalasam on top is about 3.8 m in height.
The Temple stands within a huge compound walls, rising above 15 m. Sama Varma crowned its glory with a 12.5 feet tall finial of 9.25 kgs of copper, plated with 800 kg of gold.
The lofty sanctum is enclosed by a rectangular corridor, consisting of two squares, with the main tower occupying the central part of the rear square. The central tower has 16 tiers up to a height of 200 feet. On the inner walls of the garbhagrha are sculpted 108 karanas (dance poses) performed by Lord Siva.
Legend goes that King Rajaraja Chola was suffering from black leprosy. He was advised that if he built a Temple for Lord Siva, then his illness would be cured. He was advised to bring a Sivalingam from Narmada River in north India to install in the Temple. It is said that when the Sivalingam was taken out of the river, it grew in size. This Sivalingam that is installed is gigantic (about 8.7 metres high). Equally massive is the Nandi (the Bull) installed at the portals of the Temple. The Nandi is 12 feet tall, 19 feet long and 9 feet wide, weighing about 25 tons. It is the second largest monolithic Nandi in the country, next only to the colossal Bull at the Lepakshi Virabhadra Temple in Andhra Pradesh.