Tanjavur Brhadisvara Temple

The Brhadisvara temple built by Rajaraja Cola in 1010 CE, is acclaimed as the finest achievement of Cola art and architecture. On account of its distinct form and beauty it has been inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Monument. Its artistic excellence lies in the perfect balance of the parts and the whole, the architecture, sculpture, painting, the stone and the bronze images, the idols within, the reliefs without. The inscriptions on the walls of the temple provide a vast corpus of information at the level of economic, social, cultural, organizational and administrative patterns and structures. The temple has attracted the attention of archaeologists, epigraphists, literary critics, musicians, dancers, craft specialists, sociologists and anthropologists. Despite this interest and excellent work done by the individual scholars and institutions, most of the studies have so far been unidimensional, focusing attention on one particular fragment or part and not the whole.The Centre presents the Brhadisvara temple as a monument but more as a living tradition. The symbiosis of experts from the subjects extending from the archaeology, architecture, epigraphy, Sanskrit, temple rituals, photography and computer science on one platform, was the greatest challenge of the project. This DVD presents the content exploration systems on the Brhadisvara temple to intensify cultural learning and visualisation.Through this DVD users can access the sections of the architectural layout, both horizontally and vertically with respective images and little description about each section. The temple of Brhadisvara includes a great number of iconographic representations. The most important icon in the temple is the huge Linga, the main symbolic object of worship. Distribution of sculptures on the ground and upper floors of the Vimana with description of each of these icons, their reference in the text(s) (through Dhyana sloka) and voiceover of the Dhyana sloka in some cases has been integrated for a better understanding. On the upper floor of the Central sanctum, sculptures are carved on the outside of the inner wall of the Vimana in a clock-wise direction. They represent the dance-karanas as described in the Bharata’s Natyasastra. 108 stone blocks were left to carve all the dance-karanas as per the text but, the work stopped after the 81st dance-karana. These images can be explored in the DVD with relevant sloka in the Natyasastra. bt_dvd01 The paintings in the passageway of the garbhagrha of the temple are the only remaining examples of Cola paintings that we have today. Panels of the Cola paintings are linked through the storyline, to understand these paintings in their context. They are also grouped in different sections for easy navigation by users.

On the base of the main tower, the front great hall, the subsidiary shrines and the enclosure are remarkable documents that record several aspects of the temple: its construction, maintenance and management, land grants. These have been integrated linking their location on the temple plan with translation published by ASI, for easy navigation by users. The light these records throw on the rituals and festivals conducted in the Brhadisvara Temple is also significant. Daily and periodical worships (including kumbhabhisekam) has been documented by the IGNCA and is integrated in this DVD. We have attempted to capture the change in the attitude towards the temple – through the interviews of the hereditary Trustee Babaji Raja Bhonsle and Kittappa Pillai, an eminent musician and Nattuvanar belonged to the 8th generation of lineage of artists at Tanjavur, in this DVD.

Several alterations and additions in structures, do reflect the growth, with time, and this has been shown with the timeline in this DVD. Recent techniques and tools have been utilized to integrate the information available in different art forms in an interactive manner for easy navigation by the users. 360 degree panoramic views of the temple from selected locations, are provided for the users.

Finally, this is the first time, such a project has been conceptualised and fulfilled, to make the ancient knowledge and achievements accessible through a sophisticated multimedia platform, for the understanding of our past. DSC_0182 Release of Interactive Multimedia DVD by Shri Jairam Ramesh, Hon’ble Union Minister for Rural Development,on 6th December 2013 This project couldn’t have been conceived by anyone else except for a scholar like Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, who is known internationally for her multi-disciplinary work through her writings, organization of exhibitions and others. Over these decades she has coordinated and supervised the execution of this project with meticulous care and commitment. Path breaking exhibitions were held in India and abroad, not to speak of first at IGNCA i.e. Concept of Space, Concept of Time, Akara and others.

Dr. R. Nagaswamy, former Director, Department of Archaeology, Government of Tamil Nadu is the Chief Coordinator of the Brhadisvara documentation project. He is recognized today as the most outstanding scholar of Tamil architecture, epigraphy, sculptures (specially Cola Bronzes), paintings, dance, besides masterly command related to textual sources. He is known for richness of content and also his mode of communication.

Exhibition titled Brhadisvara: The Monument and the Living Tradition” at New Delhi SPECIAL Lecture titled “Making of Interactive Multimedia DVD on Tanjavur Brhadisvara Temple” by Dr. R. Nagaswamy, former Director, Department of Archaeology, Govt. of Tamil Nadu and Former Vice-Chancellor, Kancheepuram University. The Lecture chaired by Dr. (Mrs.) Kapila Vatsyayan, Trustee, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts Trust on 6th December 2013

View Special Lecture (video)Exhibition titled Brhadisvara: The Monument and the Living Tradition” was organized by IGNCAfrom 7th December 2013 to 5th January 2014View

Invitation of Inauguration | Lecture | Poster | Details on Facebook Ms. Dipali Khanna, Member secretary, IGNCA, felicitating Hon’ble Minister of Culture Ms. Chandresh Kumari Katoch. View Photographs @ Facebook PRESS CLIPPING Not just another temple view JPG / PDF (published in The Hindu – December 13, 2013 (Friday Review) Page 3)

Thanjavur’s Brhadisvara Temple in photographs, view JPG / PDF (published in Deccan Herald on Monday 16 December 2013 )

Exhibition titled Brhadisvara: The Monument and the Living Tradition” at ChennaiBrhadisvara:The Monument and the Living Tradition inauguration of exhibition by Shri N. Gopalaswami, former Chief Election Commissioner of India 19th March 2014, at: 6:30PM View Photographs of Inauguration of Exhibition | View Photographs of Exhibition Venue: Dr. Preetha Reddy Auditorium, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 18, 20, East Mada Street, Mylapore, Chennai – 600 004

Exhibition was open for public from 20 -31 March 2014 10:00AM to 07:00PM One day seminar covering various aspects of Brhadisvara Temple is scheduled on 20th March 2014 between 10:00AM – 04:30PM View Photographs of Seminar View Invitation TH19_BIG_TEMPLE_1798084f A 11-day exhibition will have on display over 200 photographs of paintings, sculptures and sketches touching upon the finer aspects of the world-renowned temple. Photo: R. Ragu The Hindu Exhibition was open for public from 20 -31 March 2014 10:00AM to 07:00PM NEWS: This month, explore the Big Temple JPG (The Hindu, Chennai, March 20, 2014) | This month, explore the Big Temple – SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (The Hindu, Chennai, March 20, 2014) Big Temple – up close – DR. CHITHRA MADHAVAN (The Hindu, Chennai, March 27, 2014) Dinamalar (Tamil) March 20, 2014

Exhibition titled Brhadisvara: The Monument and the Living Tradition” ” from 13th – 22nd June 2014 Venue: Bengaluru

Exhibition titled ‘Tanjavur Brhadisvara: the Monument and the Living Tradition’ 13th November – 13th December 2014 Venue: Valladolid, Spain

Exhibition titled “Brhadisvara: The Monument and the living Tradition” 15th November – 23rd November 2014 Venue: Coimbatore.

Exhibition titled “Brhadisvara: The Monument and the living Tradition” 25th December – 29th December 2014 Venue: Swatantrata Bhawan, Kashi Hindu Vishvavidhalaya, Varanasi.

Exhibition titled “Brhadisvara: The Monument and the living Tradition” 1st January – 31st January 2015 Venue: Manmandir Observatory, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Varanasi

Exhibition titled “Brhadisvara: The Monument and the living Tradition” 19th January – 24th January 2015 The Big Temple Redux Standing tall and majestic in the bustling city of Thanj avur, the Brihadeeswarar Temple is more often than not visited for many religious ceremonie….Press update: Deccan Chronicle, 19/1/2015 Inauguration on 18th January 2015 by N. Gopalaswami, former Chief Election Commissioner of India at 6.30 PM at the city’s TAG Centre, 96, TTK Road, Alwarpet, Chennai – 600 028. LECTURES by Southern Regional Centre

  • 7:00-7.50 PM: Lecture by Ms. Chitra Madhavan regarding the Temple and inscriptions.
  • 7:50-8.40 PM: Lecture by Mr. Pradeep Chakravarthy regarding Paintings and Old British Photographs of the Temple.

Exhibition titled “Brhadisvara: The Monument and the living Tradition” 9th December – 31st December 2015 Venue: Allahabad Museum, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh

Exhibition titled “Brhadisvara: The Monument and the living Tradition” 20th January – 8th March 2016 Venue: Lucknow State Museum, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

Timing: 10 am to 4.30 pm. (Mondays and other National Holidays shall be closed)

The IGNCA organized an exhibition (between 24th September to 3rd October 2010), on the occasion of the celebration of 1000th years of the construction of the Periya Kovil, the great Brahadisvara Temple at Tanjore, where blow ups of architectural drawings, selected paintings from Chola period and paper impressions of the inscriptions (epigraphical records) were displayed. Two computer kiosks were installed for preview of the multimedia project on Brihadisvara Temple, under development.Photographs of Exhibition

Other Links

  • bt_dvd_01sISBN No. : 978-93-80935-03-4
    Year : 2013

    A set of seven audio-visual DVDs on Brhadisvara Temple was published by the IGNCA

  • bt_dvd_02s
    Tanjavur Brhadisvara – A UNESCO World Heritage Monument
  • bt_dvd_03s
    Brhadisvara – Lingabhisekam
  • bt_dvd_04s
    Brhadisvara – Kumbhabhisekam (Part I)
  • bt_dvd_05s
    Brhadisvara – Kumbhabhisekam (Part II)
  • bt_dvd_06s
    Brhadisvara – Annual Festivals (Nandi Abhisekam and Dhvajarohana)
  • bt_dvd_07s
    An Interview with Kittappa Pillai by Dr. R. Kaushalya, and
  • bt_dvd_08s
    An Interview with Babaji Raja Bhonsle by Dr. R. Nagaswamy
    Price : Rs. 400/- for General Users
    Rs. 200/- for Students

View documentary on Making of Interactive Multimedia DVD on Bṛhadīśvara temple (by Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan). Film boradcaseted on DD National and DD Bharti (on 12th April 2014)


Image Collection

Books published


Tanjavur Bṛhadīśvara : An Architectural Study


Bṛhadīśvara Temple: Form and Meaning


The Iconography of The Bṛhadīśvara Temple

Feedback / Comments of Visitors received in Exhibitions