Brihadishwara Temple



If there is one place in south India that has to visited above all else then it is Tanjore with its Bridaseshwara temple. This building is the supreme glory of the Chola dynasty and represents religious architecture as its celestial summit.

I’d visited this temple when young but when I approached it yesterday after so many years it seemed born anew; reaching the precincts in the late afternoon when the declining sun’s rays began to tinge the building with a glorious honey-dew colour will remain with me forever as a truly exstatic moment of my life.

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In 2010 the temple celebrated its thousandth year of existence with an extensive cultural programme of dance and song.Although we missed that we arrived just at the right time for the temple doors to be opened and to admit the devotees, who had gathered from all parts of India, into the grihasta or sanctum sanctorum of this Shivaite shrine originally constructed for the performance of rituals to confirm the divine right of the chola kings.

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We passed down a crepuscular passageway marked by sculptures of gods and daemons before receiving ashes and a gold coloured chord from the chief brahmin priest. I felt particularly awed by the fact that the ceremonies performed at this shrine were older than those undertaken at ancient Greek temples and, unlike those, had been continuously observed into the present times. Truly a living history!

Tanjore also has a somewhat unkempt royal palace which houses, among other treasures, a precious collection of chola bronzes up to the standard of those in the Chennai museum.

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Tanjore and its great temple was the unforgettable climax of our exploration of India’s Hindu heartland of Tamilnad – a visit to cherish until we too join the mysterious domain of the gods…..

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2 thoughts on “Brihadishwara Temple

  1. Francis, there are a lot of my distant ancestors at peace with the Gods in Madras/Chennai, sadly now lying in the overgrown Old British Burial ground.
    – James Enright and Mary Ann – who travelled from Co Cork, Ireland in 1830 for a better life
    – William Hart (One of the first engine drivers on newly opened the Madras railway in the 1850’s).
    – Isabella Amelia Ann Enright my great, great grandmother, daugher of william Hart.
    – Charles Enright, one of the six sons of James Enright
    and so many others, some so very young.
    I hope one day I will travel to India, brave the snakes in the forgotten wilderness and lay marigold flowers. Jane X
    Thank you for taking me on your journey to India.

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