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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Big Temple, Thanjavur

5 March'2008 : We left Coimbatore early morning, crossed Air Force Base Sulur & Palladam & reached Karur around 9.00 am & stopped at Anandha Bhavan for breakfast. Our next halt was Mukkombu, a tourist get away spot around 18 Kms before Trichy. Here the Cauvery is the widest and is known as "Akhanda Cauvery". We then cross Trichy, and the magnificent Rock Fort temple came into glorious view in clear weather & I could not resist the temptation to stop and shoot. We then get onto the Thanjavur road,cross the sprawling BHEL campus on one side & their huge residential Colony - Kailasam Colony, drive past the National Institute of Technology (previously known as REC, Trichy), cross Tiruverumbur temple ( a thevara sthalam where Lord Erumbeswarar is situated atop a hill & visible from the road) & travel North 5 Kms, reach Thuvakkudi & turn left and travel around 4 Kms on a kuccha road to reach Tirunedungalam, a Thevara Sthalam.
The deity here - Nityasundareswarar or Nedungalanathar is East facing & Ambal Oppilanayaki is south facing. The two holy tirthams are - Agastya Tirtham & Sundara Tirtham. Vilvam is the Sthala Vriksham. Sambandhar has sung here. The"Panaka Neivedyam" ( Jaggery dissolved in water flavoured with cardamom & dry ginger plus a dash of lime) offerred to Karuppannaswamy at the Sundara Tirtham is believed to have curative powers. A unique feature is a bronze horse near the sanctum. An Oral (stone mortar) from Chozha times - is used for pounding turmeric paste for applying to Varahi. Another distinctive feature is that Surya has two wives here & all Navagrahas are facing Suryan & his consorts. Dakshina murthy is also in unique Yogic pose.
We reach Thanjavur around 1.30 pm & drive to the Circuit House where we check in to the cool comfort of an A/c suite. We hungrily wolf down molakapady laced idlies & thair satham with mor molagai & pickles.
Big Temple : Around 3.30 pm we visit the most important objective of our trip - the Brihadeeswara Temple also known as Peria Koil or Big Temple. The temple is surrounded by a strong fort wall with a moat on the outside. The majestic Vimanam is distinctly visible from a distance. Entry to the temple is through an imposing gateway on the east, on either side of which stand two small shrines dedicated to Ganapathi and Mururgan.We pass through another Gopuram 90 feet high which leads to the outer prakaram . Here we see the temple elephant Perianayaki feeding & the mahout besides her. A second and more magnificent Gopuram leads into the inner prakaram.You have suddenly entered into an amazing, awe inspiring & surreal world of immense indescribable beauty. You are transported back a thousand years into a bygone era when Raja Raja Chozhan ruled South India. The main sanctum where Iswara is installed is a tall & imposing edifice carrying a grand Vimanam which is perhaps one of the most magnificent works of art & architecture that man has ever created. To me it is a wonder of the world . The inner prakaram is a sprawling campus and there is a paved walkway around the temple measuring 250 ft wide & 500 ft long. As you enter through the gopuram you first see the great Big Nandi installed in a huge mandapam on a raised platform & a tall copper covered majestic dwaja sthamban in front of the temple. A flight of steps takes you into the sanctum of Brihadeeswara - a tall Shivalingam or Peruvudaiyar - set in a two storeyed sanctum. This is the greatest, biggest, tallest Shivalingam I have ever seen & perhaps the biggest in existence. You exit the sanctum from the South & immediately climb up a flight of stairs to pray at the shrine of Dakshinamurthy. As you circumambulate you see shrines of Vinayaka, Karuravar, Subrahmanya, Chandikeswarar and finally that of goddess Peria Nayaki or Brihannayaki. The skill & beauty of the architecture & sculptures at each shrine keeps you spellbound & wondrous. You pinch yourself to make sure you are on earth - you could well be in Indralogam. The perimeter of the inner prakaram houses long pillared corridors, which abound in murals, Shiva Lingams and Nandis. To the South of the Nandi Mandapam is a raised stone platform which is used for dance & music performances. In fact we have landed on a Sivaratri day - and abhishekam was being performed on the Grand Nandi. A good crowd had gathered to witness the same on the occasion of Pradosam. People sat and watched in a disciplined manner. There was no pushing or jostling for space. It was a grand & captivating spectacle & we were very fortunate to be present for this festive occasion.
We then left to tour some other local temples but returned again after dinner - to a well lit Vimanam & Nandi. Weather was cool,pleasant & breezy. A Natya Vizha was in progress - to last week long beginning Sivaratri. We located a bench & sat opposite the softly illuminated Vimanam - it looked magical & mystical. We gazed silently - completely hypnotised & mesmerised. The experience was simply awesome. Wow ! For picture gallery go to web album :http://picasaweb.google.com/ramakrishnan49/BigTemple
For more technical information, legends, historical facts & descriptions log onto :
http://www.thanjavur.com/bragathe.htm

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