Saturday, 12 March 2016

Eleven myths of 1000 year old Big temple of Thanjavur, India

UNESCO heritage monument, Thanjavur Bragadeswar (Perudiyar)temple, Tamil nadu,
Thanjavur big temple, India

The  Brihadeswar Temple (Circa 1000 CE; Tamil:  Peruvudaiyar kovil), is one of India's most astonishing architectural achievements, a UNESCO heritage monument built 1000 plus years ago, at a time when science and engineering knowledge  was poorly developed. Located in the city of Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, perhaps, it is one a few Hindu  temples surrounded by fortified walls dotted with spaces to mount cannons (in case of war) and a big moat around it for protection from the enemy. The fortification was done in the 16th century. This temple of great beauty, it is believed, is the world's first "complete granite temple"  built during the heyday of the rich, pious Hindu rulers of Tamil region - Cholas. The temple,  also called  Rajarajeswaram,  was built by the great Chola ruler Sri RajaRaja Cholan I in  1010 AD. The temple's foundations were first laid  in 1002 CE. The architect and engineer of the temple was one "Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Rama Perunthachan."  The 'Vimana' - or the temple tower - is 216 ft (66 m) high and is among the tallest of its kind in the world. An axial and symmetrical geometry rules the temple layout that includes sanctum or Srikovil or Garbhagraha, shrines around it and the Prakararas. The cosmic energy of this temple flows down from the top of the Vimana or dome and falls within the boundaries  of the pyramidal layout, center point being atop the dome  or cupola right above the main deity Shiva Linga in the sanctum. The temple is an embodiment of Dravidian style of temple architecture and culture, besides ancient Tamil and religious tradition followed by the Tamil people and the rulers.

The following are the answers to the various prevailing myths that need further research:

Myth 01. The temple tower, etc is not made of hard rocks:

The entire tall tower (Gopuram), which is about 216 feet from the ground to the top, is not made of ordinary stone, but of granite and granite related rocks. The oldest rocks, geologically speaking, belong to the Archean group of rocks, roughly three billion years old and have been in existence since the formation of the Earth

Myth 02: Rocks used in the big temple were locally mined:

The granites used in the big temple are not in situ rocks - rocks available here. As a matter of fact, the entire Delta districts Thanjavur, Thiruvarur and Nagapatnam (once they formed the composite district of Tanjore or Thanjavur) do not have any  outcrops of hard rocks such as granite or Diorite and other related rocks. The delta region has a net work of various rivers that drain into the Bay of Bengal

Myth 03: Did the rocks come from far of places?

Granite used by the Chola ruler were mined most probably near   Thiruverambur or elsewhere in Tiruchirapally district about to 30 km west of Thanjavur .

Myth 04: If rocks were not available locally, how did the builders bring the huge granite blocks of different sizes from other far off places 1000 years ago?

Big temple, Thanjavur. Hard rocks with holes for splitting.
Hard rocks of different sizes were mined, sized according to requirements by partly using controlled explosions and transported to the temple sites,  using trained elephants.  The other explanation is that sizing was done by drilling holes with chisel, putting holes  into them and then pouring water into them. It is explained that after some time the rock block breaks. This method suggested here is 'rock weathering'  caused by alternating freezing and thawing of water  and  is not  tenable here. How

Big temple, a European head  with a hat on the tower?
could they size thousands of tons of rocks with this conventional method ? More than 130,000 tons of granite were used to build the temple. Huge strong cylindrical or rounded  logs of woods were used underneath the massive rock blocks that were pulled with sturdy tuskers. Or the rulers  might have specially made sturdy load-bearing carts to be pushed (from the rear) and pulled by tuskers (in front).

Hollow tower above sanctum, Brahadeshwar temple,Thanjavur,Tamil Nadu,
The corridor in big temple -

Thanjavur Big temple tower, hollow inner part narrowing upward
The Thanjavur big temple inner view of the tower,

Myth 05: What about mode of transportation?

The ingenious designers and builders, in all probability,  might have laid a  wide,  strong extremely well compacted (metaled?) roads that could withstand frequent transportation of heavy granite blocks.

Myth 06: The entire tower structure is solid and is made of granites of different sizes with a broad base.

The entire tower right from the foundation.
Building of Thanjavur big temple. Tranasportation of rock blocks.
to the top is not at all solid as many think of. Surprisingly inside the tower, it is hollow just  empty space. The secret here is  semi interlocking beautifully carved stones  laid successively inwardly in a cascading style from the base, thus narrowing towards the top. The builder used specially  well-ground lime-sand mortar, etc to bind the rock stones. This kind of design enables shifting of weight of the overlying rocks.

Myth 07: Is the dome atop the tall  temple tower  made of one  huge block of rock?
The Big Temple Dome. bulls  at (four) corners Tanjore,
That, the dome or Cupola atop the tower is monolithic,  is not true. Considering its weight, whopping  80 tons and the carved features, etc, it is impossible to take the huge stone atop the sigara that is about 200 feet tall through an inclined ramp because of the force of variable angular momentum. Actually the cupola is made of 4 pieces or parts and each one was taken to the top of the sigara one by one through a series of ramps and platforms and they were  put together carefully atop the tower in such a way the joint is not visible.

Myth 08: The stone carving of a European head with a  hat on the northern side of the temple tower near the eastern corner roughly 60 to 70 feet from the ground level!!

 The European stone image in the old temple positively implies the visit of a foreigner to this place 1000 years ago. In the records there is no mention of any foreigner, visiting during the Chola reign, particularly, when the big temple building work was on. A simple guess is it could be a Christian missionary from the neighboring region of the Malabar coast of present day Kerala. It was here Apostle St. Thomas built seven and half churches after his arrival here in the 2nd century AD. Later he began his travel across India to spread the Gospel of Christ. Perhaps, the European head, could be modeled after one of the missionaries who were the followers of Catholic mission established by St. Thomas.  The followers of St. Thomas, on missionary works, frequented places in Kanyakumari district in the southern tip of the Indian Peninsula. Perhaps, a few of them might have visited this part of Tamil region for spreading Christianity among the natives.

Myth 09: The huge sacred bull, Nandi, Easwara's mount is not carved out of one huge stone.  
Thanjavur Brihadeeswarar Temple Big Nandi Mantap.

Nandi, Bull,monolithic stone, Big temple.Thanajavur,

The huge  bull (Nandi), measuring about 16 feet long and 13 feet high  made of granite stone, is monolithic and is not made of different parts.  It is a tradition to place the Nandi in front of the main shrine, facing the presiding deity, Lord Shiva - huge lingam, measuring 3.7m tall. It is the largest stone bull, next to the big one in Veerabhadra temple  at  Lepakshi, in  the Anantapur District of Andhra Pradesh, India, 15 km (9.3 mi) east of Hindupur. 

Myth10: How did the builders bring the huge rock block from a far off place?

As mentioned earlier, the required  stone of particular size was mined from the granite quarry, most probably near the road side, using chisels and controlled explosions with the help of some kind of gun powder. Then it was  mounted on a huge sturdy cart drawn by one or a pair of elephants. At the construction site, the  Nandi was sculptured by expert sculptors,  using several chisels for delicate artistic work. If you look at the very young bull in the front, you can notice how carefully and in a realistic manner, the skilled workers chiseled the teeth and the series of small bells round the bull's neck.

Myth 11: Is it true that the temple tower does not cast a shadow on the ground?

The temple tower does throw the shadow, but it creates the impression that it is not. The reason being the cascading style of placing the successive layers of rock stones round the tower. The shadow of the top  structures, fall on the flat part of nest ones in succession  as a result it creates an illusion  that the temple tower does not cast shadows during the sunrise and sundown.



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