Sunday, 16 August 2015

The World Heritage place of Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram in Tamilnadu

Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram:-
It is one of the The Great Living Chola Temples built between 10th and 12th centuries CE. The other two temples are at Thanjavur and Gangaikonda Cholapuram and have a lot of similarities. The legend is that Airavata, the white elephant of Indra, worshipped Lord Siva in this temple; so did also the King of Death, Yama. Tradition has it that the presiding deity Airavateswarar cured Yama himself (the God of Death) who was suffering under a Rishi’s curse from a burning sensation all over the body. Yama took a bath in the sacred tank and was rid of the burning sensation. Since then the tank is known as Yamateertham.

Lord Siva is known as Airavatesvara in this temple. It is said that Airavata, , the white elephant of the king of gods, Indra, worshipped Lord Shiva to get cured while suffering from a change of colour curse from Sage Durvasa. Airavata got its colour back by bathing in the sacred waters of this temple. From this event, the temple and the presiding deity derived its name.

This temple is the finest example of Dravidian Architecture. That has got a lot of decorated pillars and walls which are adorned with the images of NagaRaja, The King of snakes and Dhakshinamurthy (The Lord facing south) and Lord Shiva with exquisite details. Airavatesvara Temple is an archetypal pattern of Cholas Art and Architectures.

 The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has declared the Brihadisvara Temple of Gangaikondacholapuram in Perambalur district and the Airavatesvara Temple of Darasuram in Thanjavur district "world heritage monuments," two examples of grandeur and excellence of Chola architecture and sculpture.

This was announced on Friday at the ongoing session of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee at Suzhou, China, according to the UN body's web site.

Three all stone temples, built by the Chola Kings, which are architectural marvels, exist at Thanjavur, Darasuram near Kumbakonam and Gangaikondacholapuram in Perambalur district. The uniqueness of all these three temples is that they are similar in architecture, style and are replete with sculptures and epigraphs.

The Big temple at Thanjavur was built by Raja Raja Cholan. It is big in all aspects with a 212 feet vimana, a big nandhi at the entrance, big linga, and a big Goddess Periyanayagi statue.

The temple is full of rare sculptures, chola period paintings, epigraphs that give details about the history of Raja Raja Cholan. His son Rajendra Cholan built the Big temple at Gangaikondacholapuram. The Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram near Kumbakonam was built by Raja Raja II (1150 A.D.).

Out of the three, Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram stands out for its intricate, beautiful sculptures. The temple in the form of a chariot being pulled by an elephant and horse with a fleet of steps is no doubt a repository of our art and culture.




The biggest highlight of the Darasuram temple is one of the set of steps next to the first structure. These steps when tapped make amazing musical sound. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is a World Heritage Monument and was constructed by Raja raja II in the 12th century. Reflecting the rich heritage of art and architecture of Tamil Nadu, the temple is located at a distance of 3 km from Kumbakonam town. Its history dates back to the rein of the Cholas. The shrine houses a linga named Airavatesvarar. The legend goes that the Linga was worshipped by the Devendra's elephant named Airavathan and hence the temple derived its name from them. This stone architecture boasts of several beautiful and graceful sculptures. The temple has a tank whose waters  believed to have curative powers. Make sure you take a bath in the tank on your visit to the temple.

The presiding deity here is Airavateeswara (Siva) and His consort is Periyanayaki. The legend is that the deity here was worshipped by Airavata (elephant), the mount of Indra. There are also shrines dedicated to Sarabeshwarar

The Nandi found outside the temple is huge and there are a few steps near it which produces musical notes when tapped. It is protected with a mesh presently.

Great care is being taken to maintain the exterior as well as the interior . Lush green lawns stands apart with fine contrast to the pink sand stone temple.

Deities:-

The main deity's consort Periya Nayaki Amman temple is a detached temple situated to the north of the Airavateshvarar temple. This might have been a part of the main temple when the outer courts were complete. At present, it stands alone as a detached temple with the shrine of the Goddess standing in a single large court.


Legend:-



The legend is that Airavata, the white elephant of Indra, worshipped Lord Siva in this temple; so did also the King of Death, Yama. Tradition has it that the presiding deity Airavateswarar cured Yama himself (the God of Death) who was suffering under a Rishi’s curse from a burning sensation all over the body. Yama took a bath in the sacred tank and was rid of the burning sensation. Since then the tank is known as Yamateertham. It gets its supply of fresh water from the river Kaveri and is 228 feet in width. Pilgrims make a point to bathe in the tank. In the recent past Raja Raja Chola and Karikala Chola worshipped the Siva Lingam in this temple. Volume II of the South Indian Temple Inscriptions deals with a number of endowments of the Pandya Kings also (see pages 556 to 562). On the temple walls these inscriptions are given, from which it is seen that the temple was known in those days as Raja Rajeswararn and Raja Rajapuram. Two such inscriptions are copied here.
Inscription No. 563 at page 557. No. 23 of 1908 on the inner Gopura of the temple, right of entrance. Record dated in the 10th Year, Tai 11, of the reign of the Pandya King Maravarman alias Tribhuvana Chakravartin Srivallabhadeva registering the provision made for repairs and for celebrating festivals in the temple of XXXI Ra (ja) ra (ja) isuram Udaiyanayanar, by the residents of Uttattur-nadu, a sub-division of Kulottunga-valanadu.
Inscription No. 564 at page 558. Record dated in the 31st Year, Makara, Ba. Dvitiya, Uttarashada (probably a mistake for Uttaraphalguna) of the reign of the Chola king Tribhuvana Ghakravartin Sri RAJARAJADEVA registering the grant of land (Irandu Ma mukkani araikkani) 23/160 of a veli to meet the expenses of worship, offerings, etc., to the God by a native of Peruchchalipuram, a village in Kilar-kurram, a sub-division of Pandyakulapati-valanadu.

As originally Airavata worshipped the Lingam, the Lingam is named after him as Airavateswara. The Goddess in this temple is known as Deva Nayaki. Whatever remains of the sculptural part of the temple is on the inside wall of the outer prakaram, about a foot from floor level. ‘The carvings contain different poses of gymnastic feats seen in the modern circus, shown by females keeping their head at the centre and legs interwoven in such a skillful way as to form the circumference of a circle. It may be a depiction of the present-day gypsy tribe entertaining villagers with gymnastic shows and dancing poses. Such gypsies are still to be seen visiting the interior villages of the country. Very many styles of physical feats shown by both men and women have been carved in the stone.



With heavily ornamented pillars accurate in detail and richly sculpted walls, the Airavateswara temple at Darasuram is a classic example of Chola art and architecture.
The main mantapa is called Raja Gambira as the elephant draws the chariot. The wheels were put back by the ASI at a later date. The ceiling has a beautiful carving of Shiva and Parvathi inside an open lotus. All the dancing poses of Bharatanatyam are carved in the stone. They are referred to as the Sodasa Upasaras. There is a carving showing the village womenfolk helping in the delivery of another female, who has both her hands on the shoulders of the two ladies, who are pressing their hands and the abdomen of the lady to help her deliver. ‘These are very skillful and artistic works of superb style. This may give a glimpse into the social conditions of the past. The stone image of Ravana carrying Kailas is a fine specimen of workmanship.
One finds sculptures of Buddha, Bhikshatana, Saraswathi without her Venna, and a sculpture of Ardhanarishwara Brahma and Surya.

It was during this time that Shaivism took a very drastic step and lord Sarabeshwara would seem to have come into existence. Many reasons have been cited for this incarnation of Lord Shiva. Saraba has the face of a lion and the body of a bird and has placed on his lap the mighty Lord Narasimha. A mantapa has been specially built for lord Saraba, and thereafter has been installed in temples.



The paintings on the walls have been repainted during the Nayak periods.
At the very entrance to the temple two Dwarapalakas, Sankhanidhi and Padmanidhi, are imposing figures, giving vivid anatomical expressions of the exuberance of youth. In front of the temple, there is a small mandapa, which can be reached by three steps in the form of a ladder. The steps are stones, which give different musical sounds when tapped. All the seven swaras can be had at different points.

Construction of Temple:-





The temple was bilt by Rajaraja II. The temple is called Rajarajesvara in inscriptions of 12th century AD. Later inscriptions, of the 14th and end of the 15th century, give it the name Irarasuram. The name c does not appear before the drafting of the sthala purana, in the 15th or 16th century. It is not known exactly when the site began to be called Darasuram. At the time of the construction of the temple by Rajaraja II, the locality was called Rajaraja vilagam, and then, during the occupation of the region by the Pandhyas, Rajasuram, derived from Rajarajesvaram, which later gave Darasuram.

Airavatesvara temple is generally considered as one of the four great Cola temples because of its imposing dimensions, characteristic too of the Brihaddesvara temple of Tanjavur (built by Rajaraja I, 985-1014) and of Gangaikondacolapuram (built by Rajendra I, 1012-1044) as well as of Kampaharesvara of Tribhuvanam (Kulottunga III, son of Rajaraja II, 1178-1218). It is more specifically considered to be the model of the temple of Tribhuvanam.

The earliest inscription of the Airavatesvara indicates that it was finished by 1167 AD. The site of the construction was obviously not chosen for its religious prestige or for its antiquity but rather for its situation near Palaiyarai, the capital. This temple, founded by the royal dynasty, has not known any intense religious life but is still active.

Medieval Colas ruled from the mid-9th ti the 13th centuries AD. Many temples were built under their patronage. The portraits of kings and queens in stone or metal are found in temples of this period. Colas worshiped their royal ancestors and built temples and mandapas in their honor. Thus, the concept of "royal shrines" became common during their age. Those royal shrines were located in or near the royal capitals and were built under personal care and supervision of the ruler. The king and the members of royal families regularly worshipped in those temples. The temple was regarded as the symbol of royal power and prestige.

The first royal shrive is Vijayalayacola Isvara temple at Narthamalai near Pudukkottai. It was built by Vijayalaya, the first king of Medieval Cola dynasty, in the middle of 9th century. The second major Cola royal shrine is Brihaddesvara temple of Rajaraja I. The next royal shrine was built at Gangaikondaicolapuram By Rajendra I, the son of Rajaraja I.

Airatesvara temple at Darasuram erected by Rajaraja II (1150-1173 AD) and Kumpaharesvara temple at Tribhuvanam built by Kulottunga III (1178-1218) are the other royal Cola shrines.

The very name of each temple testifies elevation of the kingship to divinity. These temples and chief deities therein have been named after their respective builder-kings. The deity in Vijayalayas temple is Vijayalayacola Isvara (the God of Vijayalaya Cola). Similarly, the main Sivalinga in Rajendras temple is Gangaikondacola Isvara (the Lord of Gangaikindacola, i.e. Cola who conquered the Ganga; this title was given to Rajendra after his conquest of Northern kingdoms on the banks of Ganga).

Chief deity of Airavatesvara temple of Darasuram is (among the other names) is called as Rajarajesvara, after its builder Rajaraja II. Kampaharesvara temple in Tribhuvanam is also known as Tribhunaviresvaram after its builder who assumed the title Tribhuvana Vira Devar (the bold ruler of the three worlds) after he won the Pandhyas of Madurai in three successive wars.

The practice of erecting a separate sub-shrine for Candesa or Candikesvara, close to the main shrine of Siva, became common since the days of Rajaraja I. The placement of Candesa shrine close to pranala (pipe that drains out water after abhisheka, pouring water or milk on the idol) from Siva shrine is significant because Candesa is entitled to all the offerings made to God Siva. This mirrors identification of Cola ruler with Candesa, who as the dearest devotee of Siva deserves a place as close as possible to his Lord.

Architecture of Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram:-


As originally Airavata worshipped the Lingam, the Lingam is named after him as Airavateswara. The Goddess in this temple is known as Deva Nayaki. Whatever remains of the sculptural part of the temple is on the inside wall of the outer prakaram, about a foot from the floor level. 'The carvings contain different poses of gymnastic feats we see in modern circus, shown by females keeping their head at the centre and legs interwoven in such a skilful way as to form the circumference of a circle. It may be a depiction of the present-day gypsy tribe entertaining villagers with skilful gymnastic shows and dancing poses. Such gypsies are still to be seen visiting the interior villages of the country. Very many styles of physical feats shown by both men and "men have been carved an stone.



The main mantapa is called Raja Gambira as the elephant draws the chariot. The wheels were put back by the ASI at a later date. The ceiling has a beautiful carving of Shiva and Parvathi inside an open lotus. All the dancing poses of Bharatanatyam are carved in the stone. They are referred to as the Sodasa Upasaras. There is a carving showing the village womenfolk helping in the delivery of another female, who has both her hands on the shoulders of the two ladies, who are pressing their hands and the abdomen of the lady to help her deliver. 'These are very skillful and artistic works of superb style. This may give a glimpse into the social conditions of the past. The stone image of Ravana carrying Kailas is a fine specimen of workmanship. One finds sculptures of Buddha, Bhikshatana, Saraswathi without her Venna, and a sculpture of Ardhanarishwara Brahma and Surya.




All the dancing poses of Bharatanatyam are carved an stone. There is a carving showing the village womenfolk helping in delivery of another female, who has put both her hands on the shoulders of the two ladies, who are pressing their hands an the abdomen of the lady to help her deliver. 'These are very skilful and artistic works of superb style. This may give a glimpse into the social conditions of the past. The stone image of Ravana carrying Kailas is a fine specimen of workmanship.


At the very entrance to the temple two Dwarapalakas, Sankhanidhi and Padmanidhi, are imposing figures, giving vivid anatomical expressions of the exuberance of youth. In front of the temple, there is a small mandapa, which can be reached by 3 steps in the form of a ladder. The steps are made of stones, which give different musical sounds when tapped All the seven swaras can be had at different points. If proper care is not taken the village children will spoil the stones soon.



It is feared that if proper care is not taken soon, village children will damage the stones. Now these stone steps have been completely covered with metal grills to save them from deterioration. Meanwhile Archeology department has taken many steps to prevent this monument from public viewers and local villagers.

Yama:-

 It is said that the King of Death,Yama also worshiped Shiva here. Tradition has it Yama, who was suffering under a Rishi's curse from a burning sensation all over the body, was cured by the presiding deity Airavatesvarar. Yama took bath in the sacred tank and got rid of the burning sensation. Since then the tank has been known as Yamatheertham.
his temple is a storehouse of art and architecture and has some exquisite stone carvings. The Vimanam (tower) is 24 m (80 ft) high The south side of the front mandapam (pillared hall) is in the form of a huge chariot with large stone wheels drawn by horses.The pictures speak volumes about the temple and the exquisite amazing & awesome art & architecture of this temple.

How to Reach:-

By Road:-

Thanjavur has good road links to all the major cities in Tamilnadu and neighboring states.

By Rail:-

Trichy Junction is the nearest railhead to Thanjavur(58km). Tiruchy Junction is an important railway station in Trivandrum

By Air:-

The nearest airport to Thanjavur is Trichy international airport ataround 58 km away.

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