In search of Saneeswaran, something that i never ever thought of.. never in the wildest of my dreams… but i was there on 2nd of May 2009… Its so ironical that i had planned for ‘Thrissur Pooram’ for that weekend and finally i was there, a place called ‘Thirunellar’ in the state of Pondicheri..
An unexpected tour - as my friend wanted to visit Saneeswaran Kovil and being a weekend and being a long journey, i dropped my plans for Thrissur pooram an i was on my way to the Shrine of the God Sani.
Day 1 (rather night)
We started our trip (or pilgrimage) on April 30, 2009 from Ernakulum South Railway station by boarding the Trichi Express in the night..
We reached Trichi at 8 in the morning as per schedule and soon we found out that there is a passenger train to Tanjavur at 8.20 (as we decided that we will be taking the route through Trichi – Tanjavur – Nagur – Karakkal – Thirunellar). Its around 60 Kms to Tanjavur and it took 1.5 Hrs to reach Tanjavur. Around 9.45, we reached Tanjavur station and came to know that there is a train to Nagur at 6.30 PM and we decided to spend the day at Thanjavur.
We never had any idea about the places to visit in Tanjavur and we got some information from the Railway information center and started.. Our Destination was Brihadeeswarar Temple locally known as Periya Kovil.
The Brihadeeswarar Temple
This temple is one of the biggest temples in Tamil Nadu and its hardly 1 Km from the Railway station.
We met Mr. Kumar, he is a staff of this temple offered to talk about the history of this temple.. it was really worth listening to him…
This 1000 + year temple had its foundation laid by the ambitious emperor Chola king Rajaraja Chola I in 1004 and it was completed after 6 years of tremendous effort (in 11th Century.. some say that the construction was from 1003 - 1011). This is one of the greatest living example of the heights achieved by the Cholas in the area of Temple Architecture (pure form of Dravida Temple Architecture) . Rulers after Raja Raja Cholan has contributed to the temple structure and the temple complex that we see today is because of the contributions of 3 kingdoms – The Cholas, Chalukyan and Pallavas.
This is known to be the first complete granite Temple and it was amazing to know that Thanjavur is a place that does not have any hard granite Queries. All the granite were brought here from places like Trichi, Puthukottai and Narthamalai.
This still remains to be one of the biggest hard granite temples in India.
The main gate of the Temple
We reached at the temple complex around 11 AM and it was very hot there.
Second gate of the temple
The fortified walls were believed to have built in the 16th Century.
Chappals are not permitted after this gate and so we had to leave it there soon after the main gate. It was like walking on fire soon we left the chappals. and it became harder to walk after each step. We were literality jumping around and running rather than walking.
The view of the main Shrine soon after the second gate
The shrine of Lord Shiva (main Shrine).
Brihadeeswarar means God of the world (Brihad means World)
Inside the temple complex……
It was festival time (Brahmolsav that continues for 18 days) there and temple workers were polishing the silver statues. As per the local people, these are so heavy that it needs 20 or more people to carry them..
The Nandi ..
Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva is there in font of the mail shrine facing towards it. This huge single stone structure weighs around 25 tons, 16 feet long and 13 feet in height.
The main Shrine
The main entrance to the temple that we see in front of the temple is a new construction by the Indian Archeological department. The original entrance were on the left and right side of the current entrance. The new one was build around 40 years ago.
The old entrance on the right side of the temple
and see who are there on the wall near the steps..
Its Raja Raja Cholan on the right and Rajendra Cholan on the left…they are fully armed..
When you climb up through these steps to the main entrance, there is ....
Lord Ganesha on the left side and on the right side its Lord Vishnu Durga.
Near the entrance, you can see ….
Kala Bhairava (The guarding god of the temple) along with his vehicle Dog.
In older days, the priests used to lock the main entrance and keep the keys near his feet… but not now..
On the left and right side of the main entrance, there are Dwarapalakar..
This statue is 18 feet high and is made from a single stone..
watch closely what he is doing with his right foot…
He is trying to stop a snake from swallowing an elephant. This is symbolic to show the power of Lord Shiva..
Just imagine the size of a snake that can swallow an elephant and if this man can force the snake to vomit the elephant by pressing on the snake’s body with his foot, what must be his strength… and if he so strong, what must be his master Lord Shiva’s power ..!!
See the next Dwarapalakan..
Have a close look at his left leg.. its been reconstructed in 1952 by the Archeological department…
There were many invasions to the temple.. its evident from the broken parts and the broken designs on the pillars.
If you knock on the pillars, you will hear distinct sounds as the inside of the pillars are made hollow..each having holes in different diameter… and don’t forget that these pillars are made from a single piece of granite..
and then Mr. Kumar asked us to have a look at the ceiling…
This structure is also carved from a single stone and this ring was used as a light hanger. This is in the form of two snakes swallowing each others tail… these people must have been really imaginative and talented…!!
before going in, i had one more look towards the main gate..
Now the saddest thing…… Photography not allowed after the main entrance… i just managed to have a shot from outside the main entrance…
The Shiva Linga that represents Lord Shiva is there in the inner sanctum and its 13 feet high and 54 feet in circumference. The Shiva Linga is bigger than the Sanctum entrance.. so obviously the inner sanctum must have been built around the Linga.. Thats what we have been told..
We were lucky enough to have a ‘Darshan’ before the Shrine was closed at 1 PM.
Once we were out of this main shrine, it was again difficult to move around the temple complex as it was just like walking on fire.. It was so difficult that i had to avoid taking some snaps…
There were writings on the temple walls… can any one read these ?..
Once we were out of the temple, we were trying to have a full view of the temple.. and believe me.. we had to walk around 50 odd meters backwards to have the full view of the temple… Its so huge..
The main tower is 216 feet (66 meters) high..
and the Dome above the tower is made of a single stone and it weighs 81.25 Tons. It is said that in order to place the Dome on the top of the tower, a slope was made from 6 Km away and elephants are used to bring it to the top..
Watch the Dome closely..
On top of the Dome, there is a “Pancha Loha Kalasam” that measures 11 feet.
Its amazing to note that there is no pillars in the main tower. All the weight is being supported by the walls. The wall is composed of an outer wall of 13 feet thick and an inner wall of 12 feet thick. Both the walls are separated by 6 feet. Both these walls join together at the 3rd floor and there are no steps after the 3rd floor… no steps to reach from 3rd floor to the 13th floor….!!
Its been said that in the 1st floor, there are Chola paintings, in the 2nd floor contains statues of Dancing Girls and the 3rd floor is empty.
We decided to have a walk.. but we were not walking.. we were running.. so was the ground condition..
There were many small shrines around the compound wall.. and many contains mural paintings from the Chola era.
Also there were Shiva Lingas of various sizes and all together there are 250 of them in the temple complex.
1008 Nandi structures are there on the top of the compound wall..
And among the various worship places, there is a place for family issues too….
There is a small shrine for Siddhar Karuvurar. It is said that the Siddhar was the Chief architect for the Temple. (But i am not quite sure about this.. because some where..i have read that Siddhar Karuvurar was the Rajaguru and he who istalled the Kalasam on the Dome in the main tower.. but again.. i might be wrong… he might have been an architect too..).
Among the other Shrines, the Lord Muruga (Subrahmanya) Temple is the next big thing. Its made in the form of a Chariot…
The main tower in the behind..
There are some amazing stone works on the outer of this temple..
See the narrow gap.. you can slide your palm inside..
The green one is a stick suspended in the gap.. i mean small gap between the flowers.
Some views of the corridors and the stone carvings on the tower walls..
And it was around 2 PM and we decide to leave this place.. but before leaving, we have to visit Godess Brihadeeswari (Parvathi) also.. this shirine is located on the right side of the main shrine..
In side of the Shrine…
and finally it was time to leave this amazing place…. from our ancient rich heritage.. we had to go to the Thanjavur Palace also in the after noon.. Mr. Kumar, the temple staff, was simply amazing.. he knew lot of things about this temple..
While leaving from there, i was thinking that if possible i will come again..may be in early morning or in the evening (not in the noon).. during the 3 day festival that is celebrated in connection with Raja Raja Chola’s birth day. At that time, the temple will be fully lighted up with electric bulbs and it would be beautiful to see it.. this festival is celebrated in October-November time..