Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Amazing Brahadeeswarar temple - Thanjavur, No indigenous rocks used

Thanjavur big temple.Image Source: www.everscoop.com/jranand
Thanjavur  Brahadeeswarar  temple  is  one  of India's  most  impressive  and  imposing  temples built  by  emperor  Raja Raja Chola - I in 1010 AD, as per  ancient  texts  on  Vaastu  Shastras  and  Agamas. It is one of the largest temples in India and one of India's most popular and prized architectural sites. The temple's smart architect and engineer  was  Kunjara  Mallan Raja  Raja  Perunthachan. It is a  heritage  temple  recognized  by  the UN. On 26, September, 2010 this historical temple completed 1000 years.

 Big temple,Thanjavur. main deity- ligam
Above image : The huge ligam Lingam - the main deity is symbolic representation of the formless Universe. It is a tall and huge sanctum- garbagraha /Srikovil.----

To  mark  the 1000th  year  anniversary  of  the building, 1000  dancers  from  various  countries including  the US  participated  in  a Natayanjali/ Bharatnatyam Yajna. The  participants  danced  to  the  divine  music - 11 devotional Tamil hymns - Thiruvichaippa (9th Thirumurai) composed  by  Karuvur  Thevar, a  siddhar and Guru/mentor of Sri Raja Raja.
1000 year old Hindu temple,Thanjavur big temple, European with a bowler hat
 This  is  the  first  tallest  temple (206 feet high) entirely  made  of  granite (about 130,000 tons)  and completed  in  a 10  year  plus  period (1004 AD – 1009 AD). A  unique  feature  is  that  the  builders  had  to bring the hard rocks - granite or related igneous rocks from the nearest sources viz close to Tiruchirappalli, about  60 km  to  the  west  of Thanjavur. There are no out-crops of igneous rocks or any other  rocks  whatsoever anywhere in the delta areas. The builders  intelligently  chose  mostly rigid  igneous  rocks  and  other rocks  that  belong to  the  granite  group, thus  avoiding  metamorphic rocks  that  would  react  easily  to  vagaries  of weather  conditions and tropical climate.
In  those days  transportation  of  huge  blocks  of rocks from  far-off  places  was  not that easy, not to speak  of  lack  of  well-paved  roads  and  numerous streams, rivers or nallas  they  had  to  pass  through. Very  careful  controlled  explosion  using  gun powder, it is believed, might  have  been  used  to slice the huge rock blocks according to sizes at the rock  quarries  and  then  they  were  taken to  the temple  site with the help of trained elephants.

Thanjavur city, location map, Tamil Nadu.Maps of India

Geologically  speaking  rocks  used  here  are  the oldest  ones  on  the  earth - formed about 3 billion plus  years  ago  called  Precambrian or ''Archean rocks'' which  are  available  in  plenty  in  Tamil Nadu. Such  old  rocks  made  of  igneous  and metamorphic rocks  form ''Shield'' areas  across the globe. Example: The Canadian  Shield  that  covers greater part of Canada.

Brahadeshwarar Temple - And the myth of huge Monolith Nandi:
 Thanjavur big temple. Stone image of a westerner with a bowler hat .“connectinc.in 
 The Big bull - Nandhi  made  of  hard  rock  at  the entrance  of  the  main  shrine  in  the  temple complex  is  a  major  attraction. It is one a very few biggest  bulls or  Nandhis  made  of  hard rock  in India; perhaps next to La Pakshi temple near Ananathapur.

It  weighs  about 20 tons (about 2 meters in height, 6 meters in length and 2.5 meters in width). It is installed in a separate huge mandabam (hall). On auspicious days the Nandhi is anointed with oil. There has been a myth going around for decades about the size of Nandhi and its gradual growth. Initially, It is believed, the Nandhi was small in size and it slowly started growing larger and larger over a long period of time due to the presence of a toad (Therrai in local parlance) inside the rock and the bull stopped growing  once  the  toad  was  taken  out of  the  rock.
Thanjavur big temple-bull (right),temple entrance (left).credit:img.com  thanjore3-95

There is a  small  crack or broken  chip  on  the  back of  the  Nandhi – purported to be the toad's exit. The crack is visible even today and, of course, one has to make a careful and close observation. Sometimes, it is  difficult to see the crack when part of Nandhi is covered with cloth. Common sense tells us that this speculation is  based  on mere conjecture and not on fact. Definitely the huge Nandhi is monolithic. That, how  did  the  builder  transport  the  huge monolithic block of hard rock about 50 to 60 km from the neighboring  district, crossing small rivers,  nallahs, flood plains etc  with no proper road at all through rugged country side, is a  riddle. It is just amazing.
Statue of Rajaraja Chola.en.wikipedia.org

The myth of huge monolithic rock dome on top of Sigara:
Thanjavur  big temple.80 tone dome.  symmetrical bulls. amazonnews.com

It is  explained  that  that the 60 to 80 ton rock dome  on  top  of  the  tower - Sigara is monolithic. Now, it is believed, that the huge dome may consist of 4 or 8 pieces of  huge rock of equal size , each taken atop the tower using specially laid, weight bearing ramp, probably compacted mud slope stretching a few kilo meters from the tower to the bottom of the ramp and all the pieces were put together one by one carefully. Again trained elephants might have been used to push them to the top, using the ramp.It is, indeed, a great feat. It is a myth how the builders managed the huge block of rock at higher levels, where the pull of gravitational forces would have been much higher!! 
Thanjavur big temple small stone carved image..shutterstock.com
The hard rock dome is beautifully carved with symmetrical images (each one on one side is the mirror image of the other) on all sides. Likewise, at top of the tower (base of the dome) there are four pairs of large bulls  symmetrically carved, each pair facing four corners. For the sculptors, it was a Herculean endeavor to  stand  carefully and  comfortably  for long hours  on  the high  wooden platform supported by scaffold roughly about 180  feet  from  the  ground  and  carry out the  laborious  and  intricate  carving  and sculpturing  work  with  precision, unmindful of scorching  sun  and  windy  conditions. Imagine normally the sculptors have to use both hands to hold  the  tools  comfortably  to  give  life  to a carved  image. That, how did  the  artisans  perch precariously  at such  a height  and  produce geometrically  symmetrical  stone  images  of  beauty, with  perfection  and  workmanship, that  too 1000 years ago,  will  definitely stagger  the  imagination  of  numerous  visitors - both foreigners and Indians who wonder  at  this  ancient  marvel built by the Hindu King,
the great  Raj  Raja  Chola.  

The  presence  of a  carved  image  of  the  head  of an  European with a skull cap  on  the   north side  of the  tower  roughly  above  120 feet  suggests possible  European  connections then.


Places to Visit in and around Thanjavur.

Tourist Guide to Tamil Nadu
Chennai: Tourist Guide to Tamil Nadu.
ISBN 978-81-7478-177-2.


                    (minor corrections made: July 21, 2015)