This stunning monument, the Sri Brihadeeswara Temple also known as Thanjai Periyakoil, was constructed by the greatest king of the Chola dynasty, emperor Raja Raja Cholan I, between 985 and 1014 AD. The temple celebrated the 1000th year of its existence in 2010.
The architectural mastery of this temple is instantly visible by its imposing 5 tiered pyramid shaped tower that raises 216 feet skywards; and its Vimana or Shikaram, the spire on top, cut out of a single rock, weighs almost 80 tons and was rolled to the top with the help of elephants through an incline from 6 kms away – its shadow never touches the ground. What’s hard to imagine is how more than 130,000 tonnes of granite were transported to build it, when there’s no quarry in sight for hundreds of kilometres.
The lingam in this temple, chiselled out of a single rock is 13 feet tall, with a circumference of 54 feet, making it one of the largest ever. At the entrance is the sacred bull, Nandi, 12.5 feet tall, 8 feet long, 5 feet wide, made of a single rock weighing 25 tonnes. The Chief Architect of the temple was Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Peruntachan. The temple has been built on the principles of Vastu Shastra, and holds the images of Shiva, Vishnu and Durga on three sides.
UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Monument in 1987.