Airavatesvara Temple is the Lord Shiva temple located in Darasuram,near Kumbakonam,Thanjavur.It is a UNESCO world heritage site and it is referred to as “Great Living Chola Temples” along with Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholisvaram Temple at Gangai Konda Cholapuram.
UNESCO World Heritage SiteAiravatesvara Temple is a Hindu temple of Tamil 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.
The Airavatesvarar temple is one among a cluster of eighteen medieval era large Hindu temples in the Kumbakonam area. The temple is dedicated to Shiva. It also reverentially displays Vaishnavism and Shaktismtraditions of Hinduism, along with the legends associated with Nayanars – the Bhakti movement saints of Shaivism.
The stone temple incorporates a chariot structure, and includes major Vedic and Puranic deities such as Indra, Agni, Varuna, Vayu, Brahma, Surya, Vishnu, Saptamtrikas, Durga, Saraswati, Sri devi (Lakshmi), Ganga, Yamuna, Subrahmanya, Ganesha, Kama, Rati and others. Shiva’s consort has a dedicated shrine called the Periya Nayaki Amman temple. This is a detached temple situated to the north of the Airavateshvarar temple. This might have been a part of the main temple when the outer courts were complete. At present, parts of the temple such as the gopuram is in ruins, and the main temple and associated shrines stand alone. The temple continues to attract large gatherings of Hindu pilgrims every year during Magha, while some of the images such as those of Durga and Shiva are part of special pujas
-The Cholas built hundreds of Hindu temples across their empire. Of these four were vast complexes with all stone vimanas
. The Airavatesvara temple is one of these four. The other three are the temples found in Thanjavur
built by Rajaraja I, in Gangaikonda Cholapuram
built by Rajendra I, and in Tribuvanam
by the later era Chola king Kulottunga II.
The Airavatesvara temple is another square plan structure completed in 1166 CE.
The surviving[note 1]
inner courtyard is almost six stacked squares of 35 metres (115 ft) side, measuring a total of about 107 metres (351 ft) by 70 metres (230 ft). The Nandi mandapa and the stambha are found outside of this main temple courtyard and they are aligned with the main temple’s east-west axis.
The chariot-shaped agra-mandapam, with pillars and Nandi on top.
The chariot wheel, the horse’s head and body is ruined.
The temple sanctum is a 12 metres (39 ft) sided square, have thick walls on which the vimana superstructure rises to a height of 24 metres (79 ft). The circumambulatory path is not provided immediately around the sanctum, as is found in the Thanjuvur big temple and the Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple. Rather, this path is outside in the courtyard. The sanctum garbha griya is connected to the mukha-mandapa through the ardha-mandapasupported on pillars and flanked by two massive dvarapalas. The maha-mandapa is a rectangle of about 24 metres (79 ft) by 18 metres (59 ft), with six rows of right pillars (forty eight total). These have reliefs and intricate carvings. Towards the east of the maha-mandapa is the agra-mandapa also called the Rajagambhiran-tiru-mandapam after the king. This hall is shaped like a chariot, provided 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