I Discovered ‘Magic’ In An Ancient Indian Temple

They said, “Lord Indra’s elephant worshipped Lord Shiva here!” I said (indulgently with a smile), “Yeah, right.”  They said, “The steps will sing when you step on them!” I said (with eyes rolling), “Oh Yeah.” We were standing in front of the stunning architecture of one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Airavateswara Temple’. This temple along with 2 other temple, Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur and the Gangaikondacholisvaram Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram are collectively known as the Great Living Chola Temples. For further read on them, click here.

History In Brief

History of any place is important to know it better and understand its uniqueness, however, I personally don’t enjoy too long history lessons and therefore, here’s a short history about the temple! The temple was built by king Rajaraja Chola II more than 1000 years ago! This temple was known as Ayirattali temple during ancient time and later on became to be known as Airavateswara temple. Originally it was a huge temple complex with seven streets and seven courts, however, now only one court remains with the main temple. The other ruins can be seen scattered around this temple.

temple outside2
Airavateswara Temple, Darasurum, India

Legends, Myths And Folklores

Why am I telling you legends, myths and folklores about this temple? Well, there is always some truth behind all legends, myths and folklores about an ancient place. So, you deserve to know it and decide on your own whether it is true or not!

Stories goes that Lord Shiva was worshipped here by Lord Indra’s elephant named Airavata, and hence the name of the temple is ‘Airavateswara’! Airavat had trunks and four tusks, and therefore, the original temple was created that way. Apparently, Airavat was cursed by sage Durvasa for disrespecting him and therefore, Airavata turned into a discoloured elephant. Only after Airavat took a dip in the sacred waters of the temple he was freed from the curse!

Another story says that Lord Yama (King of Death) was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and when he was cursed by a sage with a inflamed body, he took a dip in the sacred tank of the temple and was freed from the curse!

The ‘Magic’ In The Temple

So, coming to the main point, why did I say I discovered magic in this temple? The moment I entered the temple complex I was awe-stuck by the intricate work that was done in the stone walls of the temple, the sculptures, the ceilings… how can human hand with just a chisel make such unblemished, symmetrical artistic wonder on hard stone? Isn’t that magic?

temple outside
Absolutely stunning work in stone can be seen in the tall Gopuram, walls and base relief

For more than 1000 years this temple has been continuously in use by Hindu devotees as place of prayer for Lord Shiva. That is why Airavateswara Temple along with the other two temples are called ‘Living’ Chola Temples. Even I entered the temple and offered by prayers  and received tilak and prasads from the pujari!  A religious place has stayed the same for over 1000 years and have followed the same practices despite passage of time… Isn’t it magic?

temple prayer area1
Sanctum of the temple where devotes regulars prays and ‘yagya’ are done.

Once upon a time this temple’s walls were colourful and painted with deities, flora and fauna. Today many of those painted walls are bare, and yet, you get glimpses of those amazing paintings and murals in several places in the walls and ceiling. How is it that more then 10 centuries couldn’t erase the glory of this temple totally? How is it that this paintings and murals still survived? Isn’t that magic?

temple mural
The ancient wall-arts and ceiling decorations can still be seen in many parts of the temple

This temple is over 1000s years old and has seen so many dynasties rise and fall around it. It has seen the invasion from neighbouring princely states and also by the armies of Delhi Sultanate led by the Muslim commander Malik Kafur, Khusrau Khan and Muhammad bin Tughlaq, who destroyed everything remotely connected to Hindu religion, and yet, this temple survived every such raid, destruction and also the ravage of time for more than 1000 years… Isn’t that magic?

temple outside1
Walking in the ’Singing Steps’

Do you know what I found magic of all? The Singing Steps! Oh yes, the steps actually sings when you step on them! The ornately carved steps go from east to west and when stepped upon them they produce a musical note. Its intriguing how the ancient artisans managed to make this hard rocks resonate music, and that also in such synchrony! Isn’t that magic!

temple singing steps
Yes, we actually did test the steps to check whether it does ’sing’! We are happy to report back that this amazing ’Singing Step’ are true! A little out-of-tune due to over 1000 years of continuous use, but it still sings!

How To Reach

The temple is located in the district of in Tamil Nadu in India at a small artisan town called Darasuram. It is only 30km from the large town Kumbakonam, which his very well connected to the nearby cities by road and rail.  building your travel scrapbook

Put Airavateswara Temple in your Travel Bucket List for 2019 and believe me, you will not be disappointed when you visit this amazing temple of India. Its magic can only be felt and is very difficult to truly describe in words or picture. You will thank me that I introduced you to one of the most amazing place in India which is very little known to not only foreign travellers but also Indians! Do let us know how was your visit!

20 Comments Add yours

  1. Mayurponkhi Baruah says:

    Very informative.


  2. Kirankumar says:

    For all the times you have asked the question…yes…it is magic. Indeed it is!
    Very well written…thanks very much.


  3. Healthdosedaily says:

    It was really a good experience in reading your post about the Indian temple and this magic you discovered. Great work and yet informative!


  4. That building is in great shape for being over 1000 years old. I love all the detail in it.


  5. Amber says:

    So beautiful. I would love to check out a temple one day. They are amazing.


  6. successunscrambled says:

    Super stunning, I wonder how long it took them to build it? The finished work is indeed an intricate piece so it is good to know that it is a heritage site.


  7. Tina Basu says:

    wow this looks so beautiful. some Indian temples have such amazing architecture and design.


  8. Indian temples have this aura around them which is surely magical and you rightly said it’s fascinating the intricate designs using hands and chisels!


  9. Wow, These temples really do look magical. To think of all that they have seen over the years is mind blowing.


  10. This is a stunningly beautiful temple. I think there is something very magical about ancient Indian temples, and their beauty alone is something amazing to see.


  11. Mommy Sigrid says:

    There is so much to explore in India. It’s such a big country that spending a month-long holiday would not be enough to explore the culture and the historical places. This is a very nice and big temple to visit.


  12. Visiting this temple must have been such a great experience. So much history there! and the architecture is spectacular!


  13. I do not believe in magic at all but what are The Singing Steps? What are they made out of?


  14. I love old architecture and being able to see them in person. It makes you totally appreciate the perseverance of the structure and how much attention to detail was put in


  15. anythingrad says:

    Wow this looks so beautiful!! I haven’t gone to an Indian Temple, but the deatisl of the temple is really intricately done. Such a eautiful piece of work.. I’m always impressed with places with rich history.


  16. toastycritic says:

    Looks like it was such an amazing experience at that Temple. I know I would have loved to have gone. And just learning all the history and background here behind it is so great. I Can see why you discovered magic.


  17. Pradnya says:

    Saving this article. Will definitely visit this place. Can’t believe that I have heard of so many temples here except this one.


  18. Bindu Thomas says:

    Wow..these looks like an amazing and peaceful temple. Indian temples are like magical.


  19. tfrett6 says:

    I would love to visit there one day!!


  20. India has an ancient civilization, and one of my dreams is to visit india and enjoy it’s cultures.


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