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On the auspicious occasion of #MahaShivaratri, here's a thread on one of the grandest temples build for Lord Shiva. The Brihadeeshwara temple at Thanjavur.
Built in the early 10th century by the great Raja Raja Chola, the Rajarajeshwaram as it was then called set new architectural standards for Temples to emulate.

We can now say with certainty that its sheer size & grandeur remains unmatched after a 1000 years of its construction.
The Keralantakan Gopuram is one of the 2 Gopurams at the entrance of the Brihadeeshwara temple.

It was built by Raja Raja Chola after be brought a part of the Chera ruled Kerala under his realm.
The 2nd Gopuram also known as Rajarajan Thiruvasal leads to the main Temple complex. While the Gopuram is gigantic in size, it pales in comparison to the main Vimana.
The sheer size of the 16 storeys Vimana leaves one overawed. Standing at 216 feet it was the tallest Vimana of its time.
Apart from the Sri Vimana,the most eye catching structure in the Temple complex is the huge Nandi Mantapam,which houses the one of the largest monolitic Nandi in Bharat

The Nandi Mantapam was constructed during the Vijayanagara-Nayak era in the early 16th century #MahaShivaratri
Weighing in at around a massive 25,000 kilos, it is the heaviest monolitic Nandi in Bharat.

The celling of the Nandi Mantapam is adorned with fantastic Nayak/Maratha style murals. Sadly most of it is on the verge of fading away.

View of the towering Sri Vimana & the Dwajasthambam from the Nandi Mantapam. They all line up perfectly collinearly with the Shiva lingam inside the Garbagriha, an exemplification of the mathematical prowess of the Cholas & subsequent Hindu Nayaka & Maratha rulers #MahaShivaratri
The southern face of the Sri Vimana. The massive Dwarapalakas are also seen. They are 3 times the size of an average human. #MahaShivaratri
The western face of the Sri Vimana, when it becomes apparent, just the sheer size makes one feel over powered & insignificant.

The octagonal granite Shikhara at the very summit of the Vimana weighs in at around 80,000 kilos.

Over 3 times the weight of the Nandi below.
The Shikhara (brightened here) is made of a single block of granite. It weighs 80,000 kilos. It is worth mentioning here that Thanjavur lies in the vast plains of Kaveri basin, just 60m above sea level

There are no mountainous ranges anywhere in a 75 kms radius. Its just plains
The Cholas had to source the Granite required for construction from 100's of miles away.The engineering feat behind transportation of the material & finally scaling it all the way up onto the 200+ feet Vimana deserves a thread of its own.Seen here is the Vimana's northern face
A look at a few marvelous mural paintings from the Temple. Seen here is Goddess Gaja Lakshmi flanked on either side by elephants. #Mahashivratri
A mural painting of Uma-Maheshwara, seen on either side are Lord Shiva's attendants, the Ganas.
A painting of Lord Ganesha, on either side are Riddi & Siddi. Also seen is his Vahana, Mooshika. #MahaShivRatri
A painting of Lord Subramanya with his consorts, Valli & Devayani. Also painted is his Vahana, the peacock.
A fitting painting for the occasion. Lord Maha Vishnu performing Kanyadhana of his sister Goddess Parvathi to Lord Shiva. Also known as Meenakshi Sundereshwarar Kalyanam 🙏🏻 #MahaShivaratri
Goddess Durga as Mahisasuramardhini 🙏🏻🙏🏻 #MahaShivRatri
A marvelous mural painting of Goddess Saraswati playing the Veena. On her left his Sage Narada playing his instrument known as Mahati. On the right is Tumburu, the Gandharva & the best among all singers. #MahaShivaRatri
A fantastic depiction of Elephant Pushpadanta performing abhishekam to the Shiva Lingam below the Jambu Vriksha. This story is the whole basis of the Jambukeshwara temple at Srirangam. #MahaShivaratri
Another mural painting of Uma-Maheshwara showing a Chola couple seeking their blessings 🙏🏻 #MahaShivaratri
Lord Shiva as Nataraja with Apasamara at his feet. #MahaShivaratri
While am not completely sure about this, taking a guess based on whatever little Itihasa I know. The painting shows Goddess Meenakshi Amman emerging out of Agni. On the right side are her parents Maharaja Malayadhwajan & Queen Kanchanamala.

Again am not sure, correct me if wrong
This painting often mistaken as Yashodha feeding Krishna actually depicts Goddess Parvathi feeding the great Nayanar; Sambandar as a child. There is a whole temple dedicated to this story at Sirkazhi, not far from Thanjavur. Sambamdar is responsible for reviving Shaivism in TN.
Yet another mural depicting Uma-Maheshwara. #MahaShivaratri
A mural of the King of the Devas, Lord Indra worshiping the Shiva Lingam
Chola couple seeking the blessings of Lord Shiva #MahaShivaratri
Lord Shiva as Kalasamharamurthy also known as Kalantaka, seen here dancing in fury on Yamadharmaraja. This aspect of Lord Shiva depicts him as the ultimate one, the conqueror of time & death. He manifests in this form to save his great bhaktha, Markandeya from Lord Yama.
A highly faded mural of Chola subjects seeking the blessings of Goddess Parvati & Lord Shiva. Notice the galloping deer on Lord Shiva's extended left rear arm. #MahaShivaratri
More mural paintings. It was during the reign of King Vijaya Raghava Nayak in the mid 16th century that the restoration of the paintings were undertaken at the temple. While restoring existing centuries old Chola art, the Nayakas also added their own unique touch to the Murals.
The then Maratha king of Thanjavur, Maharaj Serfoji Bhonsle, a great patron of art & culture performed the sthapana of these 108 Lingams in the late 17th century.

He also renovated numerous Chola era temples in the Kaveri delta region. #MahaShivaratri
This is Lord Subramanya's gudi situated in the North-West corner of the Temple complex. Seen in the background is the Sri Vimana & the Vimana of Subramanya gudi.
Like all Shiva temples there is a seperate gudi for Chandeshwara in the north. He is one of the 63 Nayanars & the main guardian of temple wealth. The Sri Vimana dwarfs this shrine. #MahaShivaratri
Bhaktas after performing pradikshanam (parikrama) to Lord Shiva come to the Chandeshwara gudi & make some kind of noise, like snapping of fingers or a clap to wake him from deep meditative state to infrom him that they are leaving the temple empty handed.
The focus of this particular thread on The Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur was on mainly the mural paintings. I have written another detailed thread focusing on sculptures from another Chola Temple, The Airavateswara Temple At Darasuram. Do read.

The Brihadeeshwara Temple at Thanjavur, The Airavstesgwara Temple at Darasuram & the Brihadeeshwara temple at GangaiKonda Cholapuram complete the Three Great Living Chola Temples. Here's the thread on Gangaikonda. Do read
Though I've been to these 3 Temples on several occasions, I find myself learning something new & exciting everytime.

I'll conclude this thread with pictures of the Vimanas at Thanjavur, Gangaikonda Cholapuram & Darasuram respectively.

Thank you for reading 🙏🏻

Har Har Mahadeva!
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