Brhadīsvara Temple Form and Meaning


The great temple at Tañjāvur is a visual representation of cosmic power on earth that remains, according to the pious wish of the builder, so long as the sun and moon lasts. The God who inhabits this abode is said to be seated with his consort on the summit of the metaphysical mountain surrounded by a circle of peaks in which the divine power descends in diminishing potency as it comes down gradually and takes his abode at the peak of the circle, appropriate to his direction and also the relative importance in the hierarchy. So each peak is a virtual temple. This metaphysical mountain is called the great meru-Mahameru, which forms the basic concept of the Bṛhadīśvara Temple of Tanjore.

The Bṛhadīśvara Temple locates for the first time in Indian history, the 108forms of nṛtta karaṇas on the upper storey around the sanctum wall in sculptural form and reflects the concept of cosmic space in which Śiva’s dance takes place. The available karaṇas are discussed in this volume for the first time in the light of Abhinavagupta’s commentary and also the views of modem scholars.

Every structure in the temple is dated with the help of inscriptions. The story is taken through the centuries and its change in meaning and ritual are brought out in this volume which points out what a Hindu temple mean when in full form and through the centuries. The personality of the builder, the role of rājaguru in planning and guidance and also the names of architects who designed and carved the sculptures and executed the lovely paintings are also furnished in this volume which makes it an invaluable work on the temple.