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Tanjavur Brhadisvara (An Architectural Study)
Tanjavur Brhadisvara (An Architectural Study)
Description
Foreword

A few years ago the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts launched two projects under the general rubric of Ksetra Sampada. These were envisaged as case studies which posed the question ‘what constitutes a Socio-Cultural, Political area in the India context?”

Can the notion of a ksetra (field, region or area) be defined through the yardstick of territory or political history, language or a particularly social sub-group? Do particular monuments hold it together? What invests particular areas with special power as pilgrimage places, or centres of intra-regional and inter-region dialogue?

In India over the course of history certain regions/areas, have developed into cultural centres, places of pilgrimage (tirtha) attracting people from all parts of India. They have become places of convergence and radiation, centrifugal and centripetal forces have been in evidence. They have served as centre, place, provided space and motivated mobility an interaction. Often a temple, a Dargah is the physical or notional centre. So far these have been studied either from the point of view of chronology, history, religion or economics as a linear phenomenon and not as a totality from which emanates a multiplicity of creative artistic activity. The Ksetra Sampada projects therefore attempted not only a study of a specific place or a temple and its units but its impact on the culture of the people surrounding it, of the entire interlocking of the devotional, artistic, geographic, social, political and economic aspects of a particular centre, and what factors act as the instrumentalities of its continuous renewal and continuity.

The two obvious areas for such integrated studies were Tanjavur in the South and Vrindavana in North India. Each has served as centre of many politico-socio-cultural and spiritual movements over a period of many centuries. Each has manifested the twin paradoxical phenomenon of assiduously guarding a tradition on the one hand and being in a constant process of change, affecting those who enter the region and being effected by them. The history of the dialogue between the Mughals and Rjputs is explicit in Vrindavana and specially in a temple like Govindadeva. The history of Tanjavur as a stronghold of Tamil culture at its best and most refined and yet serving as a centre which had a vast and extensive dialogue with other regions of India and Asia holds a key to the understanding of the dynamics of Indian culture with its concurrent movements of orthodoxy and openness, conservative and liberal tendencies. The adherence to certain perennial principles, more tenets of a world view and life-style and an equal receptiveness to innovation and change, is in evidence. The history of the region spans a period of nearly thousand years.

The Brhadisvara temple or the Big Temple stands with elegant and monument dignity as the centre of the region. Indeed it is the Daksina Meru in more senses than one.

The Brhadisvara temple also known as the Rajarajesvara temple built by Raja Raja I in 1010 A.D. has been acclaimed as the finest achievement of Chola art. The perfection of its architectural plan, its impeccable balance, the sculptural reliefs and murals and the bronzes have been commented upon by art historians. Some inscriptions have been studied as invaluable sources for evidence of the administrative machinery of the Cholas.

Each of these facets emerge from an integral vision where each part is related to the whole. In its totality, it is not a more architectural monument, instead it is a living bio-organism which has served as a centre of social, economic and political life in many succeeding centuries.

Movements traveled to it and in turn its influence permeated many others parts both far and near. During the Vijayanagar period, it had very active dialogue with Andhra and Karnataka; during the Maratha regime with North India and Western India. The significance of the temple and its patterns is not at the level of archaeology alone, it is exceedingly important as a centre of the region which provides milieu for interaction with other parts of India as also South East Asia.

Its artistic excellence lies in the perfect balance of the parts and the whole, the architecture, sculpture, painting, the stone and the bronze images, the idols within, the reliefs without.

The inscriptions on the walls of the temple provide a vast corpus of information at the level of economic, social, cultural, organizational and administrative patterns and structures.

The temple continues to serve as the Centre of the area of Tanjavur with its clearly laid out city plans, its organization of urban spaces and its mechanism for sustaining diverse communities as mutually dependent and complementary.

The Chola monuments, the Brhadisvara temple at Tanjavur in particular alone with the Gangaikonda-cholapuram temple, have attracted the attention of archaeologists, epigraphists, literary critics, musicians, dancers, craft specialists, sociologists and anthropologists.

Despite this interest and the excellent work done by individual scholars and national institutions, most of the studies have so far been unidimensional, focusing attention on one particular fragment or part and not the whole.

As in the case of most other projects in the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, we began with the preparation of a bibliography. A multi-lingual bibliography of secondary sources was an essential pre-requisite before launching on the next fundamental step of a comprehensive bibliography of primary sources published and unpublished. As is well known, there is a vast body of literature on the temple in several language and a vaster body of unpublished manuscripts lying in several libraries, most important being the Tanjavur Sarasvati Mahal Library. Alongside has been the task to gather the full corpus of epigraphic evidence. Stampages of inscriptions so far not studied have been prepared.

Concurrently, the Centre d’Histoire et d’ Archeologie of the Ecoloe Francaise d’Extreme-Orient,, Pondicherry, surveyed the area and made architectural drawings of the temple. With the cooperation of the Archaeological Survey of India and other eminent scholars who have already worked on the temple, the total architectural programme of the temple ranging from scale-drawings of plans and elevations, internal architecture, scheme of sculpture, paintings have been prepared. A complete photographic documentation in black and white and colour, including slides, microfiche has been undertaken and a photogram metric survey in 2D and 3D my follow.

Further, the temple is enlivened and given presence through a well defined system of worship and ritual, daily, monthly and annual. Vedic as also Agamic sources of the tradition need to be systematically identified. The ritual and worship is a well laid out structure, which runs parallel to the architectural programme. The one to one relationship between the frozen architectural programme (silpa and vastu) and the sequential carefully designed programme of the worship with the help of Agamic texts has been undertaken. The ritual inside the garbhagraha, the Tevaram hymns sung on the threshold, the Yajna held in the ardhamandapa, the dance performance in the main mandapa, the playing of the music both inside the prakara and outside the prakara are a living orchestration which enliven the frozen architectural programme.

The dance, sculptures at varying levels of the temples and the karanas in the vimana occupy physical and psychical space of the temple. The Tanjavur school of Bharatanatyam is the living counterpart of arrested movement in stone.

On account of its comparatively excellent state of preservation and the continuities of the tradition of arts, crafts, music, dance, making of chariots, vahanas, the Brhadisvara provides an excellent opportunity to reconstruct the multi-dimensional, multi-layered ad multi-structured programme of the Indian world view at the conceptual and concrete levels.

As part of work in progress, IGNCA presented an Exhibition entitled ‘Dialogue in Stone’ on the architectural drawings documentation of sculptures, murals and inscriptions of the temple. A very stimulating seminar entitled ‘The Monument and the Living Presence’ where archaeologist historians and the traditional diksitaras, musicians and dancers participated, was held in 1993 in Madras. The proceedings of the Seminar are under publication.

The present volume on the Architecture of the Brhadisvara temple is the first of technical monographs as a result of the project. It is only appropriate that the architectural plan of the monument should precede the other studies relating to inscriptions, sculptural programme on inner and outer wall, murals in the garbhagrha, karanas, on the upper storeys, inscriptions and much else. A standard code has been devised so that all subsequent studies will follow the same code. It is the monument which provides centrality to the region and constitute the steel frame for further studies on other aspects.

I am happy that Dr. P. Pichard who has been engaged in the study of Gangaikondacholapuram and Tiruvannamalai has made a detailed study of the architecture of the temple. He has analyzed structural details of the monument with great precision and thought always contextualizing the particular monument in the overall growth of Chola art. Pichard introduces the subject his torically taking into account various factors responsible for the emergence of the imperial architecture of Cholas reflected in some of the moderate sized temples of Pre-Rajaraja period; the style, however, reached its climax in the Brhadisvara, Tanjavur and in the Rajendracholisvara (also called Brhadisvara) at Gangaikondacholapuram. The latter was built nearly two decades after the construction of Brhadisvara, by Parakesari Rajendra I, the successor of Rajaraja in his new capital at Gangaikondacholapuram almost on the model of the historic monument of his father at Tanjavur with some modifications. Keeping in view the constructional significance of two outstanding examples of Chola architecture at Tanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram and their generic relationship, Pichard compares their structural features bringing out similarities and diversities of treatment in an interesting manner. An important observation made by him is that the builders of the Tanjavur temple, despite little experience of raising high vimanas, could successfully develop the technical expertise to achieve solutions enlarging the dimensions of the tower to a gigantic scale and judiciously manipulating the complicated structural formations. A significant point is raised about the presence of two gopuras pre-supposing in the author’s opinion the scheme of double prakaras of the complex – an idea which subsequently evolves as multiple temple enclosures in South India within a well devised plan. Drawing our attention to 18 inclination of the Brhadisvara Complex in relation to the cardinal points, he feels that it was perhaps deliberate conditioned, most likely by the position of the rising sun on the day of the ritual foundation. The suggestion assumes meaning in the light of recent studies undertaken in respect of shrines in Vijayanagar, etc.,

Pichard carefully analyses the contents of the design and form and tries to trace the genesis of various vertical and horizontal structural components of the temple. Resultantly, the monograph becomes a valuable source of reference for wider art-historical studies pertaining to South India. Perhaps this volume contains, for the first time, an analysis of the technique of the construction of Brhadisvara temple offering explanations wherever necessary in regard to its proportions, dimensions and other structural qualities. Visualizing the process of construction of soaring Brhadisvara, Pichard remarks that the intense building activity here needed inventiveness everywhere and at each stage different solution had to be discussed, examined, rejected and approved. On this account as his opinion much attention could not be paid to details initially. At the finishing stage, however, great attention was paid to the sheer aesthetic beauty of the temple. Pichard is also of the view that the designers of the towering structure of Brhadisvara appear to have drawn inspiration in respect of its elevational form some structural example outside Tamil Nadu but in the Rajendracolisavara at Gangaikonda-cholapuram, he detects a trend to revert back to the original architectural traditions of the Cholas.

The monograph sheds illuminating light on the various parts of the shrine like the sanctuary tower, gateways and subsidiary shrines in the compound besides two capital sites of the Cholas, viz. Tanjavur and Gangaikon-dacholapuram.

Pichard gives a brief but important account of the studies undertaken and illustrations made by different scholars on Brhadisvara temple from 1792 onwards till recent times. This is something of vital archival value for future researches. The detailed bibliography is fairly exhaustive and a large number of architectural illustrations include drawings, most of which have not been published before.

We are grateful to Dr. R. Nagaswamy, the Coordinator of the project and to Dr. Pichard for having undertaken this study, with the cooperation of Anup Dave. This monograph is first in the series of studies of Brhadisvara but is also a third publication in IGNCA publications on South Indian Architecture. The other two being Vasundhara Filliozat’s “The Temple of Muktesvara at Caudadanapura” and Adam Hardy’s “Indian Temple Architecture – Form and Transformation”. IGNCA is thus endeavouring to conduct not only in depth and multidimensional studies on a particular area or monument but is also placing material for comparative study of particular aspects in adjacent regions, in this case architecture.

Each of these studies raises questions of function, form and essence. Both A.K. Coomaraswami and Stella Kramrisch had initiated discussions on the intrinsic relationship between vision, experience, expression and essence. In his essays on the Symbolism of the Dome and Kandariga Mahadeo Khajuraho, Coomaraswami draws attention to the metaphor in stone of the journey from death to immortality, the roof plate the amalaka representing that final ascent. The motifs of centre, the nave, the womb, the tree, the axle and cosmic pillar are pervasive north or south. The Brhadisvara temple no doubt is an imperial monument, in essence it is a re-statement of the perennial principle as Daksina Meru, the cosmic mountain, the abode of the Lord Siva. The formal elements of the architecture, the outer and inner prakara, the intermediary shrines and mandapas, the sculptures all lead to the monumental linga who commands in still and silence. Above, rises the vast pyramidical vimana, with its multiple storeys each representing a ladder or rope suggesting a movement from the world of matter to spirit from bhutakasa to paramakasa. The unmanifest is manifested in a variety of form. If the linga is stasis, the karanas in the inner walls of the vimana are eternal dynamism of the ceaseless movement of the Lord of the dance in the ever recurring cycle of his activities (pancakrtyas) of srsti (creation), sthiti (preservation), samhara (destruction), tirobhava (veiling embodiment) and anugraha (grace and salvation). The monument articulates in stone the Tamil text Unmai Vilakkam which celebrates the Lord as “Our Lord is the dancer, who like the heat latent in firewood diffuses His power in mind and matter and makes them dance in their turn”. Brhadisvara through its monumental form makes us take the journey from form to “essence” from matter, mind to spirit.

The monograph it is hoped will facilitate the comprehension of the process of this transformation of vision and experiences to form which in turn enables are-avocation of the experience of essence.

Back of the Book

The Brhadisvara temple also known as the Rajarajesvara temple built by Raja Raja I in 1010 A.D. has been acclaimed as the finest achievement of Chola art. The perfection of its architectural plan, its impeccable balance, the sculptural reliefs and murals and the bronzes have been commented upon by art historians. Some inscriptions have been studied as invaluable sources for evidence of the administrative machinery of the Cholas.

Each of these facets emerge from an integral vision where each part is related to the whole. In its totality, it is not a mere architectural monument, instead it is a living bio-organism which has served as a centre of social, economic and political life in many succeeding centuries.

Movements traveled to it and in turn its influence permeated many other parts both far and near. During the Vijayanagar period, it had very active dialogue with Andhra and Karnataka; during the Maratha regime with North India and Western India. The significance of the temple and its patterns is not at the level of archaeology alone, it is exceedingly important as a centre of the region which provides milieu for interaction with other parts of India as also South East Asia.

Its artistic excellence lies in the perfect balance of the parts and the whole, the architecture, sculpture, painting, the stone and the bronze images, the idols within, the reliefs without.

The inscriptions on the walls of the temple provide a vast corpus of information at the level of economic, social, cultural, organizational and administrative patterns and structures.

The Chola monuments, the Brhadisvara temple at Tanjavur in particular along with the Gangaikondacholapuram temple, have attracted the attention of archaeologists, epigraphists, literary critics, musicians, dancers, craft specialists, sociologists and anthropologists.

The present volume on the Architecture of the Brhadisvara temple is the first of technical monographs as a result of the project. It is only appropriate that the architectural plan of the monument should precede the other studies relating to inscriptions, sculptural programme on inner and outer wall, murals in the garbhagrha, karanas on the upper storeys, inscriptions and much else. A standard code has been devised so that all subsequent studies will follow the same code. It is the monument which provides centrality to the region and constitute the steel frame for further studies on other aspects.

Contents

Foreword: Kapila Vatsyayan9
Introduction 13
1 Design and Construction 23
Overall Design of the Temple Complex 23
Construction Techniques 30
2 The Main Shrine 35
The Sanctuary-tower 45
The sanctum and its Linga 48
The Cirmcumambulatory Carridors 52
The Vestibules 57
The Pillared Halls 61
3 The Elevation of the Main Shrine63
The Socle and the Base 63
The Main Body 69
The Superstructures 84
The Square, the Octagon and the Circle 93
4 The Subsidiary Shrines97
The Candikesvara Shrine 94
The Amman Shrine 99
The Subrahmanya Shrine 99
The Ganapati Shrine 100
The Nataraja Mandapa 101
The Karuvur Devar Shrine 101
5 The Enclosure 103
The Gallery, the Peripheral Subshrines and the Enclosure Wall103
6 The Capital City 113
Gangai: a Fragmented Urbanism 114
Destiny of a Capital: from Human Desert to Urban Desert 117
Conclusion 121
Plates 123
Photographs 171
Bibliography 229
Index 235
List of Figures 238
List of Plates 239
List of Photographs 240

Tanjavur Brhadisvara (An Architectural Study)

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Foreword

A few years ago the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts launched two projects under the general rubric of Ksetra Sampada. These were envisaged as case studies which posed the question ‘what constitutes a Socio-Cultural, Political area in the India context?”

Can the notion of a ksetra (field, region or area) be defined through the yardstick of territory or political history, language or a particularly social sub-group? Do particular monuments hold it together? What invests particular areas with special power as pilgrimage places, or centres of intra-regional and inter-region dialogue?

In India over the course of history certain regions/areas, have developed into cultural centres, places of pilgrimage (tirtha) attracting people from all parts of India. They have become places of convergence and radiation, centrifugal and centripetal forces have been in evidence. They have served as centre, place, provided space and motivated mobility an interaction. Often a temple, a Dargah is the physical or notional centre. So far these have been studied either from the point of view of chronology, history, religion or economics as a linear phenomenon and not as a totality from which emanates a multiplicity of creative artistic activity. The Ksetra Sampada projects therefore attempted not only a study of a specific place or a temple and its units but its impact on the culture of the people surrounding it, of the entire interlocking of the devotional, artistic, geographic, social, political and economic aspects of a particular centre, and what factors act as the instrumentalities of its continuous renewal and continuity.

The two obvious areas for such integrated studies were Tanjavur in the South and Vrindavana in North India. Each has served as centre of many politico-socio-cultural and spiritual movements over a period of many centuries. Each has manifested the twin paradoxical phenomenon of assiduously guarding a tradition on the one hand and being in a constant process of change, affecting those who enter the region and being effected by them. The history of the dialogue between the Mughals and Rjputs is explicit in Vrindavana and specially in a temple like Govindadeva. The history of Tanjavur as a stronghold of Tamil culture at its best and most refined and yet serving as a centre which had a vast and extensive dialogue with other regions of India and Asia holds a key to the understanding of the dynamics of Indian culture with its concurrent movements of orthodoxy and openness, conservative and liberal tendencies. The adherence to certain perennial principles, more tenets of a world view and life-style and an equal receptiveness to innovation and change, is in evidence. The history of the region spans a period of nearly thousand years.

The Brhadisvara temple or the Big Temple stands with elegant and monument dignity as the centre of the region. Indeed it is the Daksina Meru in more senses than one.

The Brhadisvara temple also known as the Rajarajesvara temple built by Raja Raja I in 1010 A.D. has been acclaimed as the finest achievement of Chola art. The perfection of its architectural plan, its impeccable balance, the sculptural reliefs and murals and the bronzes have been commented upon by art historians. Some inscriptions have been studied as invaluable sources for evidence of the administrative machinery of the Cholas.

Each of these facets emerge from an integral vision where each part is related to the whole. In its totality, it is not a more architectural monument, instead it is a living bio-organism which has served as a centre of social, economic and political life in many succeeding centuries.

Movements traveled to it and in turn its influence permeated many others parts both far and near. During the Vijayanagar period, it had very active dialogue with Andhra and Karnataka; during the Maratha regime with North India and Western India. The significance of the temple and its patterns is not at the level of archaeology alone, it is exceedingly important as a centre of the region which provides milieu for interaction with other parts of India as also South East Asia.

Its artistic excellence lies in the perfect balance of the parts and the whole, the architecture, sculpture, painting, the stone and the bronze images, the idols within, the reliefs without.

The inscriptions on the walls of the temple provide a vast corpus of information at the level of economic, social, cultural, organizational and administrative patterns and structures.

The temple continues to serve as the Centre of the area of Tanjavur with its clearly laid out city plans, its organization of urban spaces and its mechanism for sustaining diverse communities as mutually dependent and complementary.

The Chola monuments, the Brhadisvara temple at Tanjavur in particular alone with the Gangaikonda-cholapuram temple, have attracted the attention of archaeologists, epigraphists, literary critics, musicians, dancers, craft specialists, sociologists and anthropologists.

Despite this interest and the excellent work done by individual scholars and national institutions, most of the studies have so far been unidimensional, focusing attention on one particular fragment or part and not the whole.

As in the case of most other projects in the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, we began with the preparation of a bibliography. A multi-lingual bibliography of secondary sources was an essential pre-requisite before launching on the next fundamental step of a comprehensive bibliography of primary sources published and unpublished. As is well known, there is a vast body of literature on the temple in several language and a vaster body of unpublished manuscripts lying in several libraries, most important being the Tanjavur Sarasvati Mahal Library. Alongside has been the task to gather the full corpus of epigraphic evidence. Stampages of inscriptions so far not studied have been prepared.

Concurrently, the Centre d’Histoire et d’ Archeologie of the Ecoloe Francaise d’Extreme-Orient,, Pondicherry, surveyed the area and made architectural drawings of the temple. With the cooperation of the Archaeological Survey of India and other eminent scholars who have already worked on the temple, the total architectural programme of the temple ranging from scale-drawings of plans and elevations, internal architecture, scheme of sculpture, paintings have been prepared. A complete photographic documentation in black and white and colour, including slides, microfiche has been undertaken and a photogram metric survey in 2D and 3D my follow.

Further, the temple is enlivened and given presence through a well defined system of worship and ritual, daily, monthly and annual. Vedic as also Agamic sources of the tradition need to be systematically identified. The ritual and worship is a well laid out structure, which runs parallel to the architectural programme. The one to one relationship between the frozen architectural programme (silpa and vastu) and the sequential carefully designed programme of the worship with the help of Agamic texts has been undertaken. The ritual inside the garbhagraha, the Tevaram hymns sung on the threshold, the Yajna held in the ardhamandapa, the dance performance in the main mandapa, the playing of the music both inside the prakara and outside the prakara are a living orchestration which enliven the frozen architectural programme.

The dance, sculptures at varying levels of the temples and the karanas in the vimana occupy physical and psychical space of the temple. The Tanjavur school of Bharatanatyam is the living counterpart of arrested movement in stone.

On account of its comparatively excellent state of preservation and the continuities of the tradition of arts, crafts, music, dance, making of chariots, vahanas, the Brhadisvara provides an excellent opportunity to reconstruct the multi-dimensional, multi-layered ad multi-structured programme of the Indian world view at the conceptual and concrete levels.

As part of work in progress, IGNCA presented an Exhibition entitled ‘Dialogue in Stone’ on the architectural drawings documentation of sculptures, murals and inscriptions of the temple. A very stimulating seminar entitled ‘The Monument and the Living Presence’ where archaeologist historians and the traditional diksitaras, musicians and dancers participated, was held in 1993 in Madras. The proceedings of the Seminar are under publication.

The present volume on the Architecture of the Brhadisvara temple is the first of technical monographs as a result of the project. It is only appropriate that the architectural plan of the monument should precede the other studies relating to inscriptions, sculptural programme on inner and outer wall, murals in the garbhagrha, karanas, on the upper storeys, inscriptions and much else. A standard code has been devised so that all subsequent studies will follow the same code. It is the monument which provides centrality to the region and constitute the steel frame for further studies on other aspects.

I am happy that Dr. P. Pichard who has been engaged in the study of Gangaikondacholapuram and Tiruvannamalai has made a detailed study of the architecture of the temple. He has analyzed structural details of the monument with great precision and thought always contextualizing the particular monument in the overall growth of Chola art. Pichard introduces the subject his torically taking into account various factors responsible for the emergence of the imperial architecture of Cholas reflected in some of the moderate sized temples of Pre-Rajaraja period; the style, however, reached its climax in the Brhadisvara, Tanjavur and in the Rajendracholisvara (also called Brhadisvara) at Gangaikondacholapuram. The latter was built nearly two decades after the construction of Brhadisvara, by Parakesari Rajendra I, the successor of Rajaraja in his new capital at Gangaikondacholapuram almost on the model of the historic monument of his father at Tanjavur with some modifications. Keeping in view the constructional significance of two outstanding examples of Chola architecture at Tanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram and their generic relationship, Pichard compares their structural features bringing out similarities and diversities of treatment in an interesting manner. An important observation made by him is that the builders of the Tanjavur temple, despite little experience of raising high vimanas, could successfully develop the technical expertise to achieve solutions enlarging the dimensions of the tower to a gigantic scale and judiciously manipulating the complicated structural formations. A significant point is raised about the presence of two gopuras pre-supposing in the author’s opinion the scheme of double prakaras of the complex – an idea which subsequently evolves as multiple temple enclosures in South India within a well devised plan. Drawing our attention to 18 inclination of the Brhadisvara Complex in relation to the cardinal points, he feels that it was perhaps deliberate conditioned, most likely by the position of the rising sun on the day of the ritual foundation. The suggestion assumes meaning in the light of recent studies undertaken in respect of shrines in Vijayanagar, etc.,

Pichard carefully analyses the contents of the design and form and tries to trace the genesis of various vertical and horizontal structural components of the temple. Resultantly, the monograph becomes a valuable source of reference for wider art-historical studies pertaining to South India. Perhaps this volume contains, for the first time, an analysis of the technique of the construction of Brhadisvara temple offering explanations wherever necessary in regard to its proportions, dimensions and other structural qualities. Visualizing the process of construction of soaring Brhadisvara, Pichard remarks that the intense building activity here needed inventiveness everywhere and at each stage different solution had to be discussed, examined, rejected and approved. On this account as his opinion much attention could not be paid to details initially. At the finishing stage, however, great attention was paid to the sheer aesthetic beauty of the temple. Pichard is also of the view that the designers of the towering structure of Brhadisvara appear to have drawn inspiration in respect of its elevational form some structural example outside Tamil Nadu but in the Rajendracolisavara at Gangaikonda-cholapuram, he detects a trend to revert back to the original architectural traditions of the Cholas.

The monograph sheds illuminating light on the various parts of the shrine like the sanctuary tower, gateways and subsidiary shrines in the compound besides two capital sites of the Cholas, viz. Tanjavur and Gangaikon-dacholapuram.

Pichard gives a brief but important account of the studies undertaken and illustrations made by different scholars on Brhadisvara temple from 1792 onwards till recent times. This is something of vital archival value for future researches. The detailed bibliography is fairly exhaustive and a large number of architectural illustrations include drawings, most of which have not been published before.

We are grateful to Dr. R. Nagaswamy, the Coordinator of the project and to Dr. Pichard for having undertaken this study, with the cooperation of Anup Dave. This monograph is first in the series of studies of Brhadisvara but is also a third publication in IGNCA publications on South Indian Architecture. The other two being Vasundhara Filliozat’s “The Temple of Muktesvara at Caudadanapura” and Adam Hardy’s “Indian Temple Architecture – Form and Transformation”. IGNCA is thus endeavouring to conduct not only in depth and multidimensional studies on a particular area or monument but is also placing material for comparative study of particular aspects in adjacent regions, in this case architecture.

Each of these studies raises questions of function, form and essence. Both A.K. Coomaraswami and Stella Kramrisch had initiated discussions on the intrinsic relationship between vision, experience, expression and essence. In his essays on the Symbolism of the Dome and Kandariga Mahadeo Khajuraho, Coomaraswami draws attention to the metaphor in stone of the journey from death to immortality, the roof plate the amalaka representing that final ascent. The motifs of centre, the nave, the womb, the tree, the axle and cosmic pillar are pervasive north or south. The Brhadisvara temple no doubt is an imperial monument, in essence it is a re-statement of the perennial principle as Daksina Meru, the cosmic mountain, the abode of the Lord Siva. The formal elements of the architecture, the outer and inner prakara, the intermediary shrines and mandapas, the sculptures all lead to the monumental linga who commands in still and silence. Above, rises the vast pyramidical vimana, with its multiple storeys each representing a ladder or rope suggesting a movement from the world of matter to spirit from bhutakasa to paramakasa. The unmanifest is manifested in a variety of form. If the linga is stasis, the karanas in the inner walls of the vimana are eternal dynamism of the ceaseless movement of the Lord of the dance in the ever recurring cycle of his activities (pancakrtyas) of srsti (creation), sthiti (preservation), samhara (destruction), tirobhava (veiling embodiment) and anugraha (grace and salvation). The monument articulates in stone the Tamil text Unmai Vilakkam which celebrates the Lord as “Our Lord is the dancer, who like the heat latent in firewood diffuses His power in mind and matter and makes them dance in their turn”. Brhadisvara through its monumental form makes us take the journey from form to “essence” from matter, mind to spirit.

The monograph it is hoped will facilitate the comprehension of the process of this transformation of vision and experiences to form which in turn enables are-avocation of the experience of essence.

Back of the Book

The Brhadisvara temple also known as the Rajarajesvara temple built by Raja Raja I in 1010 A.D. has been acclaimed as the finest achievement of Chola art. The perfection of its architectural plan, its impeccable balance, the sculptural reliefs and murals and the bronzes have been commented upon by art historians. Some inscriptions have been studied as invaluable sources for evidence of the administrative machinery of the Cholas.

Each of these facets emerge from an integral vision where each part is related to the whole. In its totality, it is not a mere architectural monument, instead it is a living bio-organism which has served as a centre of social, economic and political life in many succeeding centuries.

Movements traveled to it and in turn its influence permeated many other parts both far and near. During the Vijayanagar period, it had very active dialogue with Andhra and Karnataka; during the Maratha regime with North India and Western India. The significance of the temple and its patterns is not at the level of archaeology alone, it is exceedingly important as a centre of the region which provides milieu for interaction with other parts of India as also South East Asia.

Its artistic excellence lies in the perfect balance of the parts and the whole, the architecture, sculpture, painting, the stone and the bronze images, the idols within, the reliefs without.

The inscriptions on the walls of the temple provide a vast corpus of information at the level of economic, social, cultural, organizational and administrative patterns and structures.

The Chola monuments, the Brhadisvara temple at Tanjavur in particular along with the Gangaikondacholapuram temple, have attracted the attention of archaeologists, epigraphists, literary critics, musicians, dancers, craft specialists, sociologists and anthropologists.

The present volume on the Architecture of the Brhadisvara temple is the first of technical monographs as a result of the project. It is only appropriate that the architectural plan of the monument should precede the other studies relating to inscriptions, sculptural programme on inner and outer wall, murals in the garbhagrha, karanas on the upper storeys, inscriptions and much else. A standard code has been devised so that all subsequent studies will follow the same code. It is the monument which provides centrality to the region and constitute the steel frame for further studies on other aspects.

Contents

Foreword: Kapila Vatsyayan9
Introduction 13
1 Design and Construction 23
Overall Design of the Temple Complex 23
Construction Techniques 30
2 The Main Shrine 35
The Sanctuary-tower 45
The sanctum and its Linga 48
The Cirmcumambulatory Carridors 52
The Vestibules 57
The Pillared Halls 61
3 The Elevation of the Main Shrine63
The Socle and the Base 63
The Main Body 69
The Superstructures 84
The Square, the Octagon and the Circle 93
4 The Subsidiary Shrines97
The Candikesvara Shrine 94
The Amman Shrine 99
The Subrahmanya Shrine 99
The Ganapati Shrine 100
The Nataraja Mandapa 101
The Karuvur Devar Shrine 101
5 The Enclosure 103
The Gallery, the Peripheral Subshrines and the Enclosure Wall103
6 The Capital City 113
Gangai: a Fragmented Urbanism 114
Destiny of a Capital: from Human Desert to Urban Desert 117
Conclusion 121
Plates 123
Photographs 171
Bibliography 229
Index 235
List of Figures 238
List of Plates 239
List of Photographs 240
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