The Brihadeeshwara Temple, also known as Rajarajeswaram is situated in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. This magnificent holy shrine was built by the Chola King Rajaraja Chola I in eleventh century AD. It is a specimen of artistic and intricate work of Chola rulers. Architectural excellence reflected in this majestic temple is worth praising and is designed in such a way that the vimana never casts a shadow on the ground at noon. The temple is listed amongst tallest temples in the world and is recognised as World Heritage site by UNESCO.
The temple has been built in the south Indian style of architecture. The splendid beauty of well designed Garbha Griha and a tall sanctum tower (Srivimana) along with a gopurams mesmerizes the visitors. The tall finial measuring 12.5 ft high, made of 9.25 kg of copper and plated with 800 gm of gold adds charm to the temple.
The entire structure of temple is made up of granite stones. Vimana (temple tower) measures 216 ft high with 14 storey and the Shikahara of temple is built in accordance with Silpa Sastra, consisting of a single stone weighing 81.2 tons. Above of it is built an octagon shaped stupa and a Kalasam measuring 12 ft high. At the entrance a hug statue of Nandi measuring 16 ft long, carved out of a single rock is placed. The walls of temple is designed in fortress style of architecture.
Brihadeeswarar temples stands within a huge compound, walls of which rises 15 m high. The inner complex is in a rectangular shape, paved with stones. The corridor of the Sanctum is enhanced with two idols of the elephant-headed God Ganesha. The statue of Nandi ( a bull, the mount of Lord Shiva) is placed inside the sanctum. There are hundred of inscriptions related to practices of rites and rituals of Vedic era.
Lord Shiva is the presiding deity in this holy shrine. Visitors can also have glimpse of other deities idols such as Dakshinamurthy, Surya and Chandra. The shrine also houses 6 ft tall statues of “Ashta Dik Paalakas” (Lords of all eight directions – Indra, Varuna, Agni, Eesana, Vayu, Niruthi, Yama and Kubera). There are several mini shrines, Mandapams, Maha Mandapams, Prakarams dedicated to Vinayaka, Subramanya, Parvati and Dwarapalaka built inside the temple premises.