Brihadeeswarar Temple locally known as "Thanjai Periya Kovil is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in Thanjavur in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is also known as RajaRajeswara Temple Rajarajeswaram and Brihadeshwara Temple.It is one of the largest temples in India and is an example of Tamil architecture during the Chola period.Built by Raja Raja Chola I and completed in 1010 CE, the temple turned 1000 years old. The temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the "Great Living Chola Temples", with the other two being the Brihadeeswarar Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Airavatesvara temple.
The Brihadeeswarar Temple was built to grace the throne of the Chola empire by the Tamil emperor Arulmozhivarman, popularly called Rajaraja Chola I, in compliance with a command given to him in a dream. One of the first great Tamil Chola building projects, the temple's foundations were laid out in 1002 CE.An axial and symmetrical geometry rules the temple layout.Temples from this period and the following two centuries are an expression of the Tamilars wealth, power and artistic expertise. The emergence of such features as the multifaceted columns with projecting square capitals signal the arrival of the new Chola style.
Intended to display the emperor's vision of his power and his relationship to the universal order, the temple was the site of the major royal ceremonies such as anointing the emperor and linking him with its deity, Shiva, and the daily rituals of the deities were mirrored by those of the king. It is an architectural example showcasing the pure form of the Dravida type of temple architecture and representative of the Chola Empire ideology and the Tamil civilisation in Southern India. The temple "testifies the brilliant achievements of the Chola in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting.
The architect and engineer of the temple were Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Rama Perunthachan as stated in inscriptions found at the temple. The solid base of the temple raises about 5 metres, above which stone deities and representatives of Shiva dance.The big Nandi, weighing about 20 tonnes is made of a single stone and is about 2 m in height, 6 m in length and 2.5 m in width.The presiding deity of lingam is 3.7m tall. The prakaram measures 240m by 125m.The outer wall of the upper storey is carved with 108 dance karanas – postures of Bharathanatyam, the classical dance of Tamil Nadu.The shrine of Goddess was added by Pandyas during the 13th century, Subramanya Shrine by Vijayanagara rulers and the Vinayaka shrine was renovated by Maratha rulers.There were significant additions from the Thanjavur Nayaks.