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Airavatesvara Temple – Dharasuram Temple

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Airavatesvara Temple also known as Dharasuram Temple is a Lord Shiva temple of Dravidian architecture located in Kumbakonam city of Thanjavur District, Tamil Nadu, India. This temple, built in the 12th century CE by Chola emperor Rajaraja II, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Airavatesvara Temple is located in Kumbakonam, 310 kilometres southwest of Chennai and 90 kilometres north of Chidambaram.

The Airavatesvarar temple is one of eighteen large medieval-era Hindu temples in the Kumbakonam area of Thanjavur District. It also reverently displays Hinduism’s Vaishnavism and Shaktism traditions, as well as legends associated with Nayanmars – the Bhakti movement saints of Shaivism.

Overview of Airavatesvara Temple

The stone temple features major Vedic and Puranic deities such as Indra, Agni, Varuna, Vayu, Brahma, Surya, Vishnu, Saptamatrikas, Durga, Saraswati, Sri Devi (Lakshmi), Ganga, Yamuna, Subrahmanya, Ganesha, Kama, Rati, and others. The Periya Nayaki Amman temple is dedicated to Shiva’s consort. This is a separate temple located north of the Airavateshvarar temple. This could have been a part of the main temple when the outer courts were finished.

Airavatesvara Temple - Dharasuram Temple

Currently, parts of the temple, such as the gopuram, are in ruins, and the main temple and associated shrines stand alone. It has two sundials, one in the morning and one in the evening, which can be seen as chariot wheels. Every year during Magha, the temple attracts large crowds of Hindu pilgrims, and some of the images, such as those of Durga and Shiva, are used in special pujas.

Legend Related to Airavatesvara Temple

According to legend, Airavata, Indra’s white elephant, worshipped Lord Shiva in this temple. According to legend, Airavat was cursed by the sage Durvasa for disrespecting the hermit. The curse continued to discolour the elephant’s pearly white skin. Airavat regained his colour by bathing in the water tank of Lord Shiva’s Temple. That is the origin of the temple’s name. This story is also carved in stone in the shrine’s inner chambers.

Airavatesvara Temple - Dharasuram Temple

History of Airavatesvara Temple

The temple was built by King Rajaraja Chola II. Between 1146 and 1172 CE, he ruled the Chola Empire. His predecessors’ established capital was Gangapuri, also known in some inscriptions as Gangaikonda Cholapuram, named after the king who brought water from the holy Ganges River by defeating all other kings who opposed him. Rajaraja II, on the other hand, spent the majority of his time in Ayirattali, also known as Pazhaiyarai and Rajarajapuri.

Airavatesvara Temple - Dharasuram Temple

Darasuram, the location of Kumbakonam’s Airavatesvara Temple, was part of this urban complex. Instead of the enhancements and expansions supported by his father and grandfather, he was a patron of Tamil literature and sponsored new Hindu temples throughout the empire.

Airavatesvara Temple - Dharasuram Temple

The Airavatesvara temple used to be much bigger than it is now. According to the inscriptions, it had sapta veedhis (seven streets) and seven courts, similar to the Srirangam temple. All but one court, with the main temple remaining, have vanished. There are gopuram ruins and some structures some distance from the current visitor premises, confirming that the site, like other major Chola-era temples and various Chola cities including the capital Gangaikonda Cholapuram, was badly damaged at some point.

The Architecture of Airavatesvara Temple

The Airavatesvara temple is another square-plan structure completed in 1166 CE. The surviving inner courtyard consists of nearly six stacked squares of 35 metres (115 ft) side, measuring approximately 107 metres (351 ft) by 70 metres (230 ft). The Nandi mandapa and the stambha are located outside of the main temple courtyard and are aligned with the east-west axis of the main temple.

Airavatesvara Temple - Dharasuram Temple

It is classified as a Karakkoil temple, which is modelled after temple chariots that are paraded around the temple during festivals. The temple sanctum is a 12-metre (39-foot) square with thick walls and a vimana superstructure that rises to a height of 24 m (79 ft). This hall is designed in the shape of a chariot, complete with stone horses and wheels. The design is similar to the Nritta-sabha (community dance hall) of the Chidambaram temple and the Konark Sun Temple near Puri, Odisha.

Airavatesvara Temple - Dharasuram Temple

This temple is a treasure trove of art and architecture, with exquisite stone carvings. Although much smaller than the Brihadeesvara Temple or the Gangaikondacholapuram Temple, it is more detailed. All of the units have elegant elevations and proportions, with sculptures dominating the architecture. There are five sculpture niches on each side of the main sanctum, with the middle one being larger than the others. They depict various Hindu deities, with the middle one on each side depicting Shiva in various forms.

Airavatesvara Temple - Dharasuram Temple

A mandapam with four shrines is located in the court’s southwest corner. Yama is depicted on one of these. Large stone slabs with images of the sapthamathas (seven celestial nymphs) flank this shrine. The construction of a separate temple for Devi, slightly later than the main temple, demonstrates the Amman shrine’s emergence as an essential component of the South Indian temple complex.

Important Facts About Airavatesvara Temple

  • Airavatesvara Temple, located in the town of Darasuram near Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu, is a revered Hindu temple and a UNESCO world heritage site.
  • The temple was built by King Rajaraja Chola II. Between 1146 and 1172 CE, he ruled the Chola Empire.
  • Three architectural marvels built by the Chola Kings are located in Thanjavur, Darasuram near Kumbakonam, and Gangaikondacholapuram in Perambalur district.
  • Airavatesvara temple in Darasuram stands out for its intricate and beautiful sculptures. The temple, which is shaped like a chariot drawn by an elephant and a horse and has a fleet of steps, is undoubtedly a repository of our art and culture.
  • The Archaeological Survey of India has designated this temple as a national monument.
  • The consort of the main deity, Periya Nayaki Amman temple, is located next to Airavateshwarar temple.
  • Smaller shrines honour Indra, Agni, Varuna, Vayu, Brahma, Surya, Vishnu, Saptamtrikas, Durga, Saraswati, Sri Devi (Lakshmi), Ganga, Yamuna, Subrahmanya, Ganesha, Kama, Rati, and other Vedic and Puranic deities.
  • The Thanjavur Art Gallery now houses many sculptures from this temple, including the complete set of Bhikshatana with rishi patnis in various moods.
  • The temple contains numerous inscriptions. One of these documents is Kulottunga Chola III’s renovation of the shrines.
  • There are statues of river goddesses such as the Cauvery, Ganges, Yamuna, Godavari, and Narmada.
  • The inscriptions are also useful in identifying sculptures that were once part of various ruined monuments.

Best Time to Visit Airavatesvara Temple

This place is very heavenly and spiritual, and you can visit it all year. However, the best time to visit this temple is during the monsoon and winter seasons. During the monsoon season, this location receives moderate to heavy rainfall, making it appear heavenly with its greenery and bringing freshness elsewhere.

Famous Festivals In Airavatesvara Temple

  • Shravana: For happiness and wealth, many fasts, offerings, and mantras are performed during the fifth month of the Hindu calendar, known as Shravana.
  • Mahashivaratri is a fasting ritual in the last week of February – March Begining. It is reminiscent of Lord Shiva bringing Goddess Parvati with him. Priests and the temple committee arrange a Grand Celebration.

How to Reach Airavatesvara Temple

The Airavatesvara Temple is an ancient Hindu temple located at Kumbakonam in the Thanjavur District, Tamil Nadu.

By Air: The nearest airport with regular services is Tiruchirappalli International Airport about 90 kilometres away.

By Rail: Kumbakonam Railway Station is the nearest railway station which is 5 Km away.

By Road: The temple is located on Highway 22, which connects Tiruchirappalli, and Highway 36, which connects it to Thanjavur. The nearby cities of Tiruchirapalli and Chidambaram are linked to other major cities daily by the Tamil Nadu bus services.

Also Read – Chennakeshava Temple Belur

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Open Now

Sunday 8 AM - 8 PM
Saturday 8 AM - 8 PM
Monday 8 AM - 8 PM
Tuesday 8 AM - 8 PM
Wednesday 8 AM - 8 PM
Thursday 8 AM - 8 PM
Friday 8 AM - 8 PM
Address: Dharasuram Temple, Gurunathan Pillai Colony, Dharasuram, Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India
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Open Now

Sunday 8 AM - 8 PM
Saturday 8 AM - 8 PM
Monday 8 AM - 8 PM
Tuesday 8 AM - 8 PM
Wednesday 8 AM - 8 PM
Thursday 8 AM - 8 PM
Friday 8 AM - 8 PM
Address: Dharasuram Temple, Gurunathan Pillai Colony, Dharasuram, Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India