The stone sculptures sang an ancient song… a bit worn out due to the exposure of over 1000 years to harsh climate, the paints from the outer walls stripped away completely and the beautiful murals and paintings in the interiors are nearly faded… yet these temples of South India sings songs of glory of bygone era, might of the Chola Empire, the magnificent artistic skills of the artisans & incredible architectural details.
Both Airavateswara Temple & Brihadeswara Temple are over 1000 year old and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rajaraja Chola II built Airavateswara Temple at Kumbakonum, Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur, Gangaikondacholisvaram Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram and together are referred to as the Great Living Chola Temples. They are called ‘Living Chola Temples’ as these temples are still used temples for prayers by Hindus.
The Airavatesvara Shiva temple has a water tank which has a connected channel that brings in Cauveri River water where Hindus gather annually to take a dip. Did I tell you that some of the steps of Airavatesvara temple are acoustic in nature and when you walk on them you can hear the ‘sargam’! We tried to hear the musical notes but due to the long period of usage we could hear only some of the notes and not the complete ‘sargam’. The ingenuity was amazing!
On the other hand, Brihadishvara Temple is one of the largest South Indian temples and built around a moat. It included gopura, the main temple, extensive corridors, a massive tower, amazing inscriptions, frescoes and sculptures. The granite vimana tower above the sanctum is one of the tallest in South India. This temple has one of the largest Shiva lingas in India.
1000 years of existence… something so difficult to comprehend, mainly when these amazing structures are still standing tall, proud and magnificent!
Someday I hope you take this trip to the ‘Great Living Chola Temples’ of India and feel the amazing spirituality, awe and reverence that I felt for the bygone era and its pulsating presence today within the sanctum sanatorium…
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