Airavatesvara Temple is a Hindu temple of Dravidian architecture located in the town of Darasuram, near Kumbakonam in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This temple, built by Rajaraja Chola II in the 12th century CE is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur, the Gangaikondacholisvaram Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram that are referred to as the Great Living Chola Temples.
This temple is a storehouse of art and architecture and has some exquisite stone carvings. Although this temple is much smaller than the Brihadeesvara Temple or the Gangaikondacholapuram Temple, it is more exquisite in detail. This is because this temple is said to have been built with nitya-vinoda, "perpetual entertainment", in mind. The temple starts with a mahadwara, main entrance on the eastern side.The vimana is 24 m high. The temple consists of a sanctum without a circumambulation path and axial mandapas. The front mandapa knew in the inscriptions as Rajagambhiran tirumandapam. The south side of the front mandapam is in the form of a huge chariot with large stone wheels drawn by horses.The pillars of this mandapa are highly ornate. The elevation of all the units is elegant with sculptures dominating the architecture. To the east of the inner court lies a group of well-carved buildings, one of which is the Balipita. The pedestal of the Balipita adjoins a small shrine which contains an image of Ganesha. The pedestal has a set of 3 finely carved set of steps on the south side. Striking the steps produce different musical sounds. In the south-west corner of the court is a mandapam having 4 shrines. One of these has an image of Yama. Adjoining this shrine are large stone slabs sculptured with images of the sapthamathas. The construction of a separate temple for Devi, slightly later than the main temple, indicates the emergence of the Amman shrine as an essential component of the South Indian temple complex.
Airavatesvara Temple Darasuram
The Airavatesvara temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Shiva is here known as Airavateshvara, because he was worshipped at this temple by Airavata, the white elephant of the king of the gods, Indra. Legend has it that Airavata, while suffering from a change of colour curse from Sage Durvasa, had its colours restored by bathing in the sacred waters of this temple. This legend is commemorated by an image of Airavata with Indra seated in an inner shrine.The temple and the presiding deity derive its name from this incident. It is said that the King of Death, Yama also worshipped Shiva here. Tradition has it Yama, who was suffering under a Rishi's curse to form 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 Yamateertham.