Brahadeeswara Thanjavur

Brahadeeswara, Thanjavur

Saivite Temples, Thanjavur District


Brahadeeswara, facing east


Brahannayagi, facing south

Other Deities

Ganesha, Muruga, Karuvurar, Varahi, Hanuman, Nataraja, Surya, Chandran, Ashta-dikpaalakas, Indra, Agni, Yama, Nirrti, Varuṇa, Vayu, Kubera, Isana (some of these last idols were originally 6 ft tall)

Brahadeeswara Thanjavur Temple, also called the ‘Big Temple’, is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and known as one of the “Great Living Chola Temples”, the other two being the Shiva temples at Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Darasuram.

Brahadeeswara Thanjavur temple is considered as the first complete Granite one in the World. It reflects the unbelievable level of project planning, engineering, human resource management, logical planning and general management abilities of the Great King Rajaraja Chola and his team. 150,000 tonnes of granite stones had to be brought from about 60 Kilometers away. The80-tonne octagonal cupola on top of the Vimaana is a monolith. The vimaana is 13 tiered and 217 ft tall. Imagine how all this would have been moved gradually to the height of the temple. Imagine that this was more than 1000 years ago when science and technology as we know today was practically non-existent. More than 1000 elephants and 5000 horses apart from a huge army of people is believed to have been employed to construct this Ancient Wonder in just under 7 years. Though there are various references and theories, the exact construction methodologies are not historically established making all this even more of a Mystery.

The base (Aavudayar) of the Lingam has a 53 feet circumference and is 6 feet tall. The Lingam’s top portion is 13 ft tall and has a circumference of 23 feet. The inside of the Sanctum Sanctorum is hollow to the top. The Kalasam on top of the Vimaana is 6 feet tall. Depictions of dancers showing eighty-one of a hundred and eight Karanas (108 synchronized movements of hands and feet) in Bharatanatyam are carved here at Brahadeeswara Thanjavur.

The Prakaram has niches where 108 Shiva Lingams are installed. Each has a story and is depicted by a beautiful Mural behind it. Sadly, many of them are defaced. Here are some of the pictures.

Holy Water (Theertham) – No information

Sacred Tree (Sthala Vriksham) – No information


Brahadeeswara Thanjavur temple was conceptualized, built and was completed in 1010 CE by the famous King Rajaraja Chola in just 6 to 7 years. The architect and engineer of the temple was Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Rama Perunthachan as stated in inscriptions found at the temple. The shrine of the Goddess was added by Pandyas during the 13th Century CE, Subramanya Shrine by Vijayanagara rulers and the Vinayaka shrine was renovated by Maratha rulers. There were many additions by the Thanjavur Nayaks. Recently when the 17th century CE Maratha painting starting disintegrating below it was found Chola Frescoes! In those early days the temple maintained a staff of 1000 people in various capacities with 400 being temple dancers. Besides the priests, these included record-keepers, musicians, scholars, and craftsman of every type as well as housekeeping staff. As indicated by the inscriptions in those days the temple was a hub of business activities for the flower, milk, oil, and ghee merchants, all of whom made a regular supply of their respective goods to the temple for its poojas and during festival seasons. The temple had always served as a platform for Bharatnatyam Dancers. The inscriptions also mention the different kinds of jewels used in the period -a total of twenty three different types of pearls, eleven varieties of diamonds and rubies are mentioned in these inscriptions. It is also mentioned in some ancient literature that the 217 ft tall Vimaana was covered with gold plating which was later stolen by invaders. The huge Nandi was installed later by Nayaks and the original smaller Nandi is seen to the south now. There were many underground passages from the temple to various other places in and around Thanjavur which are now closed or have caved in.

Around the Prakaram are niches where 108 Lingams are installed. Each one is associated with a story and the key event of the story is depicted in the form of a Mural. Sadly many of these are defaced by the visitors. We have provided the pictures of the lingams and murals here:


There are several stories attached to the Brahadeeswara Thanjavur temple relating to the people who were part of this construction and so on.


Brahadeeswara Thanjavur Temple is in the middle of Thanjavur town and is visible from all around. Ample parking is available on the opposite side of the road.

Stay and Food

Thanjavur has many excellent Hotels and Restaurants.

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