THANJAVUR (Inde) : Brihadeeswara temple turns 1000


India’s biggest temple turns 1000

B Sivakumar | Source: The Times of India [September 19, 2010]

The historic town of Thanjavur is getting ready for festivities as its world-famous Big Temple, an edifice of the great Chola kingdom, turns 1000.

The Tamil Nadu government is planning many cultural events to mark the 1000th year of existence of the grand structure, also known as Brihadeeswara Temple, which is now part of Unesco's Great Living Chola Temples.

To mark the occasion, the state government will organise a dance show under noted danseuse Padma Subramaniam in which 1000 dancers will enthrall the audience.

The small town will turn into a cultural hub for two days starting September 26 as street performers and dancers will be performing all over the town.


While the majestic Brihadeeswara temple in Thanjavur was built 1,000 years ago, it was only in 1956 that 81 exquisite sculptures depicting the karanas' or transitional movements intrinsic of Bharatanatyam and other classical Indian dances, were discovered in the first tier of the 66-metre tall structure that serves as a symbol of Chola period architecture.

Delivering a lecture at a function organised by the C P Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation to commemorate 1000 years of the temple on Saturday, danseuse Padma Subramanyam recalled that more than five decades ago, an assistant staff working for the Archaeological Survey of India was cleaning inside the Big temple, clearing cobwebs and dusting the place, when he discovered bat excreta piled up in a mound several feet high and blocking a passage way.

"It had hardened so much that they had to cut through it to enter the area. It required several men to clear the passage and many fell sick," she said.

But the effort was worth it as the passage opened up to reveal the 81 graceful figurines depicting the various karanas'. Said Padma Subramanyam, "the karanas' in the Big Temple were serialised as mentioned in the Natya Shasthra (an ancient treatise on performing arts). It is unfortunate that only 81 (of the 108) karanas were found in the temple and there are blank spaces for the rest," she said. A dance show involving 1,000 dancers to commemorate the millennium of the Big Temple would be a "fitting tribute" to the temple and Raja Raja Chola I who helped create it, she said.

Talking on the occasion, principal secretary and commissioner, department of archeology and museums, T S Sridhar said the project to copy the ancient inscriptions in temples across the state and store them in digital format was almost complete, Work in the temples of Tiruvannamalai and Ramanathapuram were yet to be completed, he said, adding that the details of the inscriptions would be released in a year's time.

Praising Raja Raja Chola I (985 - 1023 AD) for his contribution to arts and culture, Sridhar said: "The Chola king not only recorded his name in the list of donors for construction of the Big Temple, he ensured that the names of even small contributors were mentioned."

Honorary director of the C P Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation Nandita Krishna urged the government and the archaeology department to open the paintings and karanas present in the Big Temple gopuram for public viewing.