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Shiva & Parvathi, Kailasanatha Temple

Shiva & Parvathi, Kailasanatha Temple

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Shiva and Parvati sculpture

  1. Click on the image to zoom in. Copyright Trustees of the British Museum
  2. A goddess under worship in Orissa, India. Copyright Michael Willis
  3. Map showing where this object was found. Copyright Trustees of the British Museum

This statue of the divine Hindu couple, the great god Shiva and his wife Parvati, would have probably been placed above a door to a temple. Hindu worshippers used sculptures to develop a close relationship with the gods depicted. Gods would only inhabit a perfectly made statue and sculptors had to ritually purify themselves before they commenced carving. Such statues were primarily for beginners. Experienced worshippers were expected to commune with the gods through prayer and meditation without images.

What do Shiva and Parvati symbolise?

This statue comes from Orissa on the East coast of India. The arrival of Islam in North India in the 1200s caused the centre of Hinduism to shift to south and central India. Orissa was associated with the god Shiva and tantric Hinduism focussed on esoteric teaching and hidden rituals. Shiva represents contrasting values ?both lust and purity, peace and destruction. When depicted together with his wife, Parvati, he represents the union of male and female and marital fidelity.

In myth Parvati was daughter of the mountain, child of Himavan, lord of the mountains and personification of the Himalayas

The same person in different forms

I can tell one little story. Shiva and Parvati were sitting on mount Kailash where Shiva lives and he was giving a class – a lecture – to a number of sages who had come to take his darshan. And Parvati was sitting on his lap.

Now these sages were all ascetics – all celibate – and Shiva himself was sitting there, a very detached person, with his wife sitting on his lap – a very attractive wife. And this maharaja Chitraketu was passing by and he saw this scene and he thought it was very funny that all these ascetics and Shiva were sitting together having a class on spiritual life and detachment with this beautiful woman sitting on his lap with his arm around her. And he laughed. And no one took it seriously except Parvati. And Parvati thought this was offensive to her husband so she cursed Chitraketu that he would have to take life as a demon.

So there’s this little kind of vignette of the character of Shiva and Parvati. Shiva very detached, never takes offence, and Parvati takes all his offences on his behalf it seems.

Shiva-Parvati, Lakshmi-Narayan are in one sense the same person manifest in two different forms. So God is male and female. And the thinking behind that is that God cannot be something less than we are. So God cannot be not-female, because there are females here, so God has to have a female aspect.

I can tell one little story. Shiva and Parvati were sitting on mount Kailash where Shiva lives and he was giving a class – a lecture – to a number of sages who had come to take his darshan. And Parvati was sitting on his lap.

Now these sages were all ascetics – all celibate – and Shiva himself was sitting there, a very detached person, with his wife sitting on his lap – a very attractive wife. And this maharaja Chitraketu was passing by and he saw this scene and he thought it was very funny that all these ascetics and Shiva were sitting together having a class on spiritual life and detachment with this beautiful woman sitting on his lap with his arm around her. And he laughed. And no one took it seriously except Parvati. And Parvati thought this was offensive to her husband so she cursed Chitraketu that he would have to take life as a demon.

So there’s this little kind of vignette of the character of Shiva and Parvati. Shiva very detached, never takes offence, and Parvati takes all his offences on his behalf it seems.

Shiva-Parvati, Lakshmi-Narayan are in one sense the same person manifest in two different forms. So God is male and female. And the thinking behind that is that God cannot be something less than we are. So God cannot be not-female, because there are females here, so God has to have a female aspect.

Shaunaka Das, Hindu cleric and director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

Comments are closed for this object


What's she holding in her left hand, and where's his other left arm?
I don't think I've ever seen a sculpture so full of happiness and joy.

Oops - I've just seen his other left hand: under her breast.

Kadali is reknowned in Indian myth as the land of women. A women only land and the site where Siva chose to teach Hatha Yoga (Sun/Moon yoga) to Parvati. It is also the name for banana in north India. The banana is a fruit that has lost the abilty to seed naturally, so long has it been in cultivation. Is it possible the Siva, in your piece, is holding a babana shoot in his hand ready for planting and not a lotus as we might oherwise have supposed and that he is discoursing on the subject of Hatha Yoga to Parvati in Kadali?
Much more interesting. Where was kadali? Ask the Assyrians and the Ancient Egyptian they loved a banana or two. Ask The Buddha or his contemporary the 24th Tithankara Mahavira they loved one too. Ask Ashoka he probably made a bee line for one. I think I know. Do you?
Oh well, perhaps this women?s land isn?t the Amazonia of ancient Greek myth but at least King Croesus, of your gold coin, would still have recognised the iconography on this piece even though their craftsmen are separated from each other by a thoudsand years or more. Still money has made a big difference by the time of this piece hasn?t it. Such a happy lion lying down with such a contended bull. Croesus has made his point. Do I also see a shepards crook and a styalised Ram (at Top)? I wonder what they stand for?? ? All really is well in the garden of this eden.

Of course Gorakhnath founder of Hatha Yoga is only circa 9th century but like The Buddha and Mahavira before him he came from the borders of Nepal and his discovery was met with such approval that his Hatha yoga somehow mysteriously and mythologicaly makes the magical leap of time and faith and henceforth in the way of myths officially comes into being at the start of time itself with Siva no less credited with its revellation. I suppose symbolically representing this leap back in time Gorakhnath?s followers the Gorakhnathis also began wearing the huge earrings worn in split ears redolent of The Buddha or Marhavira, or at least of their statues. Interestingly the same has happened to the ears of the sculptured imagery which we can see here in this statue of yours.
So can someone now explain to me the banana?s part and the mysterious Kadali (land of women) part in the improvised 9-12th century mythological story of Hatha yoga?? Please.

I leave home listening to a trailer for AHWHO. I get to work, and listen to AHWHO. I get home, and lo! AHWHO ! After Newsnight etc, I enjoy my late bath, whilst listening to. AHWHO ! With it's cheesy 70's 'sun rising over horizon graphic' theme, and MacGregor's regular exotic travel ( the object's in his workplace . ), it is, I'm afraid to say, getting tediously repetitive.

2nd photo : taken at Chaunsat Yogini [64 Sorceresses] temple, Hirapur, Orissa, near Bhubaneshwar. A powerful Tantric temple, Bhauma Dynasty, 9-11 century CE [authorities differ]. The pujari is looking at MahaMata/MahaMaya, the main murti of the 64.

That would Mr. Wood would be pleased, with his effort?

I wonder who the sculptors were? They certainly achieved a joyful, benevolent all encompassing piece of art. The sacred ox at their feet . beautiful!

A utopia achieved through adherence to principle, through love spiritual and temporal.

I wonder what the shell represents in the very bottom right-hand corner of the object. It rests upon a platform or stool.

I believe I found the explanation of the shell. I found references on the Internet to the conch shell being a symbol of Varuna.

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Shiva In The Vedic Texts

Shiva is mentioned in the Rigveda in three hymns as the fearful and vengeful Rudra. He is described as the god of sickness, disease, death, destruction and calamity. For the Vedic people his very name invoked fear . They believed that the best way to avoid trouble was by seeking protection from himself through appeasement because only Rudra would save them from the wrath of Rudra. So they implored him not to harm anyone, not to hurt pregnancies, not to vilify the dead and not to slay their heroes in the war.

The Satarudriya invocation in the Yajurveda is perhaps the most discussed and analyzed hymn. It is part of an invocation offered to the god Agni to avert his wrath and pacify him after he transforms himself into Rudra. The hymn depicts him both as terrifying and pleasing. The prayer is offered to Rudra to bring health and prosperity to the people as a divine physician and also to save them from his own wrath. He is eulogized as lord of all beings and also called cheat and lord of the thieves. He is described as a dwarf as well as as a giant. According to some scholars, the Satarudriya hymn was probably part of several invocations adapted from the prevailing Saiva literature into the Vedas or probably part of a much longer hymn most of which was lost to us.

We find in the Atharvaveda more references to this God than in the Rigveda, suggestive of his growing popularity. Rudra is implored not to harm the cattle and the people. In the Atharvaveda as well as the Yajurveda, Shiva is addressed variously as Sarva, Bhava, Nilakantha, Pasupathi, Nilagriva, Sitkantha and Sobhya. While these names are presumed to be his epithets, in some hymns we find the names Rudra, Sarva and Bhava, being used to refer different divinities. Some hymns are also addressed to not one Rudra but several Rudras who were storm deities associated with violent winds.

The Satapatha Brahmana mentions eight names of Rudra. In one place he is mentioned as Rudra- Shiva. In some cases he is also identified with Agni. Here we come to know how Shiva got his name as Rudra. It was because he, as Manyu or wrath, clung to the Prajapathi, when the later was disjointed, while all other divinities fled. He remained inside and cried and from the tears that flowed out of him originated Rudras in thousands. When the gods saw Rudra as a god of hunger and wrath, with innumerable heads, a strong bow and arrow fitted to it, the gods were afraid of him. The same Brahmana also alludes to his connection with animal sacrifices and snakes.

In the Svetasvatara Upanishad Lord Shiva was elevated to the status of Brahman, by the sage who composed it, after he had a vision of Lord Shiva as the Absolute and Supreme Brahman. He is described as the god who wields the power of maya or delusion by which he controls the world. He is also the indweller (antaratman) of all. Some basic concepts of Saivism are clearly mentioned in the upanishad. Another important upanishad, though belonging to a much later date than the Svetasvatara Upanishad is the Atharvasira Upanishad which mentions the many names of Shiva and recommends the performances of certain rituals such as smearing of the ashes to obtain the grace of Shiva and achieve liberation from earthly life. Brhajjabala Upanishad and Bhasmajabala Upanishad are other minor Saiva Upanishads dealing with some important concepts and aspects of worship of Shiva.

The integration of Yoga and Samkhya Schools of philosophy, the rise of bhakti movement and the growing popularity of ascetic traditions as a reaction against caste prejudices and empty ritualism, coupled with the emergence of Buddhism and Jainism as contemplative and reflective religions with their emphasis on physical and mental practices to achieve self-control contributed to the growing popularity of Shiva and the emergence of Saivism as a important part of mainstream Hinduism.

From Tirupati 22.0 km
From Renigunta 13.2 km
From Nagari 35.5 km
From Nellore 137 km
From Srikalahasti 37.9 km

Gudimallam Sri Parasurameswara Temple Address:

Sri Parasurameswara Temple,
Yerpedu Mandalam,
Gudimallam Road,
Tirupati Rural,
Chittoor District – 517526
Andhra Pradesh.
Contact Numbers: 9959543914, 9490181917
Chairman: 9490181917, 9989759054
Priest/Archakulu: 9959993866

For Marriage

Those who visit Thirumanancheri Kalyanasundareswarar Shiva Temple for marriage get a garland that the god and goddess wear. They have to reserve it until marriage and bring it with them while visiting again as a couple.

Numerous devotees also come here to pray for children. You can know the significance of the temple in the hymns composed by Sambandar and Sundarar. Besides, this is the spot where Sundarar probably bathed in the agni theertham.

Kailasanatha Temple Ellora History

The Kailasa temple is also known as the Kailasa temple is one among the 34 caves of Ellora. The 16 th cave is the Kailas cave of the Ellora caves, the temple is a carved out of a single rock. It was constructed by Rashhtrakuta Dynasty, the temple was dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple architecture resembles a picture of a mountain. The speciality of the temple is that the carvings are upward to the downward direction. It took about eighteen years to build the temple, nearly 200,000 tonnes of stones have been removed for its construction. The temple is famous for its architecture, the architecture of the temple shows epic Ramayana, Mahabharata and the adventures of Lord Krishna were carved into the walls of the temple. The carving of Ravana trying to lift the mountain is an epic carving.

The first picture that comes to mind by listening to the name of Kailasa temple is the famous rock pillar which is called as Dhawajasthambam. The temple shows the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu can be seen among the incarnations of the temple. There are many stories that depict the construction of the Kailasa temple, according to the Legend Yajnavalki (1470 – 1535 CE) the local king due to his ill health his wife got worried as the king was not recovering, the queen prayed to Lord Shiva for the king’s recovery at Elapura. In return, she shall build a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva if her wish comes true, and also promised to fast till she would see the shikra (tip) of the temple. The King recovered and passed the orders to construct the temple. The architect Kokasa assured the highnesses that they would be able to finish off the shikhara with in seven days that is a week of time. Then the temple was named as Manikeshwa. The Kailasa temple shows two floors showing Nandi mandapam and the Shiva temple, the Nandi facing to the lingam is a great construction which are about 7 meters high. The Nandi Mandapam is stood up on 16 pillars, the temple shows rock carvings, gathering halls, windows the Linga of Shiva gives peace to the heart.

Hindu Art and Architecture Before 1300

Before discussing the objects and monuments most significant to Hinduism, begin with an introduction of the basic tenets of the religion itself. Hinduism shares many of the same presuppositions as Buddhism and uses both of the foundational texts the Vedas and the Upanishads. Unlike Buddhism, Hinduism accepts the authority of the Vedas and upholds the principles of a caste system. In both Buddhism and Hinduism, devotees search for a way out of samsara, but in Hinduism, it is called moksha (“release”).

In all indigenous Indian religions, the atman (devotee) equals the Brahman (divine), meaning that we are all one in the same and that the Divine is found within. In other words, the devotee has an inherent connection to the Divine, both in a personal and universal sense. All Hindu art is based on this principle and therefore, the Divine is often modeled after the human form. Because of this, Hinduism has often been called polytheistic, meaning that there are many gods. This is a misnomer, however, since it is believed that there is only one true god in Hinduism, called the Brahman. The Brahman can manifest itself in several forms, including Gods, to allow the devotee several opportunities to encounter it. In Hinduism, the most important gods are: Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, and the Goddess.

  • Shiva represents the destructive force in the Universe, destroying those whose time has come. Because of the belief in samsara, once a being is destroyed, they will automatically be reborn and so, Shiva is also the god of procreation. One of his main attributes is a trident (called trishula), which represents creation, destruction, and procreation the cycle of samsara. Emphasizing his role as creator, Shiva is often represented as a linga, a phallic form, placed in a yoni, a vaginal form–the equal, yet opposing forces of the Universe. Shiva’s followers are called Shaivites.
  • Vishnu is the god who represents the preservation of the Universe. His symbolism often relates to the military: a shankha, which is a conch used to alert troops to war, a gada, a mace, and a chakra, a sharpened wheel used as a weapon. Vishnu is the focal point of the two Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. All Hindus are familiar with these great epics. They are so popular in Hindu culture that there are comic books that retell parts of their stories. Vishnu has many different forms, he is a shown as a god or as one of his ten incarnations–beings that exist on earth, called avataras. Vishnu’s most popular incarnations is Krishna, who is often depicted in art. Vishnu’s followers are called Vaishnavites.
  • Brahma completes the trinity of the gods (called trimurti or three forms) with Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer. They are believed to be one in the same, different aspects of Supreme Enlightenment (the Brahman). In all of India, there is only one water hole and one temple dedicated to Brahma. Brahma is honored, but he is never the main god.
  • The Goddess has many forms in Hinduism, generically called Devi. Durga, the warrior goddess, is one popular form, depicted with a lion as her vehicle. The Goddess is the shakti or the energizing force in the Universe that causes action to occur. Therefore, the Goddess is often portrayed in an active form. The Goddess’ followers are called Shaktas.

Two important aspects of Hindu society include bhakti and dharma. Dharma means “duty,” fulfilling one’s societal role, and bhakti is one’s supreme devotion to god. Ask your students “What does devotion mean to you?” “When do we use the word devotion?” Devotion is not necessarily a rational act, involving supreme and unquestioning faith. Devotion and duty in religion is the driving form behind patronage of Hindu art.

Before class, have your students watch the video the Ganapati Spirit of Mumbai, a short introduction to the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai. This video shows a contemporary example of a devotional, as well as a social, practice. Ask your students to think about who commissions Hindu artworks in contemporary times. Another good question to ask is “Why are animals readily cast in the role of Hindu gods?”

Background Readings

Vishnu Laying on this Serpent, from the Vishnu Temple at Deogarh, c. 500 CE.

For a brief survey of Indian art, Vidya Dehejia’s Indian Art (Phaidon, 1997) is a good introduction and helps put Indian art in context. For a more in depth study of Indian art before 1300, Susan Huntington’s The Art of Ancient India (Weatherhill, 1985) is extremely thorough and detailed. The glossary at the end is an especially useful tool for both instructors and students.

For a short background about Hinduism, An Introduction to Hinduism (Introduction to Religion) (Cambridge, 1996) is a concise text. George Michell’s The Hindu Temple (Chicago and London, 1988) explains the meaning and form of the temple, the embodiment of Hindu culture and society. Diana Eck’s Darshan (New York, 1998) explains the important concept of “seeing” in Hinduism. For Hindus, the god is not just represented by the artwork, the god actually embodies the artwork. Stephen Huyler’s Meeting God (New Haven and London, 1999) is also an excellent exploration of this topic, along with beautiful photographs.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History provides an excellent general overview of South Asian art and culture, as well as other topics. Smartlinks.org provide a comprehensive overview of South Asian culture, as well as specific links about the Hindu trinity and Shiva as the Lord of the Dance. The PBS series on the Story of India provides many citations, including a separate resource page.

Content Suggestions

The following artworks illustrate Hindu art and architecture within the context of an hour and a half class. The limited number of artworks allows for a thorough explanation of each work:

  • Vishnu Temple at Deogarh, c. 500 ce
  • Cave I at Elephanta, c. 550-557
  • Kailasanatha Temple at Ellora, c. 757-783 ce
  • Kandariya Mahadeva Temple at Khajuraho, c. 1004-1035 ce
  • The Great Relief at Mamallapuram, c. 630-728 ce
  • Shiva Nataraja, eleventh century

The Vishnu Temple at Deogarh is one of the earliest extant Hindu Temples, dedicated to the god Vishnu. Made out of masonry, it is a uniquely simple, single-cell shrine temple, but unfortunately, the tower of the shrine is in ruinous condition. When approaching the temple, a devotee would first walk around it on the exterior. As they walk, they would encounter different reliefs that illustrate the mythology of Vishnu. The Brahmins, who are the highest caste, are the only ones are allowed to enter the inner sanctums of Hindu temples and perform religious rituals.

The most famous relief on the temple is a depiction of Vishnu reclining on his serpent, named Ananta. Due to the belief in samsara (reincarnation of life, including the world), several creation myths exist in Hinduism this relief depicts Vishnu dreaming of the creation of the world, while his wife, Lakshmi massages his feet. Brahma, the creator of the Universe, can be seen at the top seated on a lotus, which is wrapped around Vishnu’s body. Brahma then goes on to create the world.

The site of Elephanta, a one-hour ferry ride from Mumbai, is a major Hindu rock-cut site. The site has three caves and was probably used by a select community of Brahmins (again, the members of the priestly caste in Hinduism). The site is probably a royal commission by Krishnaraja I of the Kalachuri dynasty because his coins were found on the island and he was a devotee of Shiva. Thus, this architectural work could demonstrate Kirshnaraja’s bhakti or devotion to Shiva. The main cave at this site, Cave I, consists of the main shrine with a Shiva linga, a form that is repeated on many relief sculptures against the cave walls. The reliefs are so prominent in this cave that they overpower the main sanctum–the most important place in a Hindu temple.

The main image of the temple is called Sadashivan the south wall. The multiple faces of Shiva underscore his multiple aspects, as outlined above (and below). Many have interpreted this image, but in this context, it seems plausible that this image represents Shiva’s ultimate manifestation, the totality of all he does. The right side has an angry expression, called aghora, with twisting hair, a moustache, a furrowed brow, and snake earrings. He represents the ferocious side of Shiva, the destructive force that fights time, death, and evil. The left profile encompasses Shiva’s feminine side, called Vamadeva, through the face of the Goddess Parvati, who represents benign beauty and femininity. The middle face is called Sadyojata, which represents Shiva’s most essential and serene form–his absolute knowledge.

Western India is known for its abundance of Buddhist and Hindu rock-cut sites. About two hundred years after the site of Elephanta was made, the Kailasanatha Temple at Ellora was constructed. The site of Ellora is impressive, recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site, full of rock-cut caves, and Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples. The Kailasanatha Temple was a huge undertaking at a size of one 196 by 98 by 98 feet, carved completely out of the negative space of a hill. This allowed for freestanding “islands” of rock, chiseled out of the ground from top to bottom. For example, one can find two free standing rock-cut elephants and a column on the floor of the courtyard. The entire temple complex was commissioned by Krishna I (reigned 757-783) of the Rashtrakuta dynasty.

Kailasanatha, or “Mt. Kailasa,” is the heavenly abode of Shiva in the Himalayas, where Krishna, Shiva’s avatar, brought heaven to earth. Naming this site Kailasanatha then associates his territory with Shiva’s home, the center of the Universe. (In what other examples do we see the use of divinity to legitimize a ruler?) The building of temples is, again, part of a king’s dharma it is his duty to provide for his subjects both spiritually and materially, and to demonstrate his devotion. Because of this, a large part of most Hindu kingdoms’ economies were invested into building temples. The actual building of this temple was a tremendous effort that required tons of resources, such as laborers to remove the rock, an architect to design the temple, artists to create sculptures and paintings, members of the clergy to manage production, etc. Once finished, markets opened up outside of the temples to take advantage of the foot traffic. Providing these opportunities for commerce, the temple’s construction puts money back into the economy. (Ask your students how this is similar to contemporary major building projects, like the building of sports complexes.)

In general, a Hindu temple like Kailasanatha has four main parts: gopura (gateway), mandapa (porch or hallway for worshippers to gather), garbha griha (the inner shrine), and the shikhara (the exterior tower). All four sections are preserved at Kailasanatha, but unfortunately, only fragments of its paintings remain. The building was so spectacular that, according to legend, its architect stood in front of it in amazement asking, “Was it indeed I who built this?” This site was one of the last hurrahs for rock-cut architecture in western India, as it proved too costly to continue.

The Chandellas were rulers of a small kingdom in North India, whose capital was Khajuraho–another UNESCO world heritage site. The first temple they commissioned was the Laksmana temple, which was completed in 954 and established sovereignty of the new dynasty. The Chandellas are best known for their temples and artificial lakes, with twenty-two temples still intact occupying one square mile. The rulers built a temple for every year they were power, which would mean that there were originally eighty-five completed Hindu temples at this site–the majority erected between c. 954-1035 ce. It is not unusual to build many structures on the same site, but the enormity of this site (a square mile) suggests a special goal–perhaps a declaration of power? A desire to create a seat of religious learning?

The Kandariya Mahadeva temple (also called Kandariya Mahadeo temple) was the climax of building activity in 1035 ce. The Kandariya Mahadeva temple rises ninety-eight feet high with one entrance, an assembly hall (mandapa), a vestibule before the main shrine shrine, and a garbha griha (main shrine) surrounded by a processional passage for circumambulation. Only the Brahmins were allowed into the inner sanctum (the garbha griha) of a Hindu temple, therefore, the mandapa provided the place where devotees could gather while they waited for the Brahmin to perform rituals. Ritual worship is called puja Brahmins perform pujas at set times of day, and they also perform them for individual worshippers. An essential part of puja for the devotee is to make a connection with the Divine. The link to the New York Ganesh Temple in Flushing, Queens will connect you to several examples of rituals.

The elevation of the Kandariya Mahadeva temples has three horizontal zones. The first zone is a solid basement, which raises the floor level of the temple to thirteen feet above ground. The second zone has a series of walls and interim compartments, a series of projections and recesses to allow for maximum number of sculpted images. Here, three horizontal sculpted bands hold about six hundred and fifty life-size figures in total, carved in high relief. The elevation culminates in a grouping of roofs, reminiscent of a mountain range, that sweep upward towards the tall shikhara above the shrine. Indeed, the shikhara symbolizes the cosmic mountain of the Universe.

The Kandariya Mahadeva temple’s famous exterior sculptures have an iconographic program that has yet to be thoroughly studied. Because texts for temple decoration during this time specified that images of women were a necessity, more female, mortal figures exist than gods. In fact, images of women have often been used as auspicious emblems throughout the history of Indian art. Here, they are depicted nude to the waist with large breasts, small waists, big hips, and heavy thighs, wearing lots of jewelry. In general, these types of women represent the potential for fertility in both the spiritual and material sense. The carvings also include both depictions of mithuna and maithuna couples, which represent the unity and the duality of male and female energies. Maithuna couples are explicitly shown engaged in sexual intercourse. These images are placed on the “Joining Wall” that connects the sanctum and the assembly hall–texts describe the shrine and the hall as a bridegroom and bride, with the “Joining Wall” as their place of union. Therefore, he literally “joining” couples on all three levels serve as a visual pun.

The Chandellas were patrons of the Kaulas, an esoteric sect that practiced Tantric Hinduism. When looking closely at the maithuna couples, it is apparent that these are not ordinary situations. Often, the couples have attendants and they are depicted in unusual positions. The practice of Tantra involves partaking in activities that ordinarily would be prohibited, called the panchamakara or “five mas,” as each syllable of the words begins with “ma.” They are matsya (fish), mamsa (meat), mudra (parched grain beverage), mada (wine), and maithuna (sexual intercourse). Normally, these things would be highly addictive, but the goal is that if one partakes in them, they will be able to overcome them and achieve enlightenment. This is great point in the lecture to ask your students what it means for Hinduism to accept aspects of life to the extent that it allows images of sex outside of a temple wall.

In Southern India, two important dynasties ruled in Tamil Nadu before 1300. The Pallavas created the site of Mamallpuram, also called Mahabalipuram, a coastal site about forty miles south of the modern city of Chennai. Mamallpuram contains an enormous amount of unique monuments carved out of natural granite outcroppings, divided into four types: great sculpted cliffs, rock-cut monolithic shrines created out of single boulders, rock-cut caves, and traditional free-standing temples built by masonry. Over half of the monuments are unfinished most likely due to the poor condition of the granite. These monuments were probably built over a period of a hundred years, showing the importance of the site and how the Pallava kings greatly fulfilled their dharma.

The Great Relief at Mamallapuram has also been called a “Great Sculpted Cliff,” “Descent of Ganges, ” or “Arjuna’s Penance,” but no one knows what the iconography means. The relief dates from around the early to mid seventh century ce and is carved out of two granite monoliths with a natural cleft in the center. The boulders measure forty-nine by ninety-eight feet and incorporate a scene of a mountainous abode incorporating elephants at its base. Shiva is depicted twice on the relief: once at top on the proper right and again below in a shrine. A man stands in a tree pose in front of Shiva and is depicted again in front of the shrine. Shiva is shown with his hand in varada mudra, which is the gesture of gift bestowal. The relief received its names since Shiva is prominent in both the story of Arjuna’s penance and the descent of the Ganges:

  • In the story of the Mahabharata, the great Indian epic, Arjuna enacts a penance for Shiva’s weapon. The Mahabharata was composed between 300 bce and 300 CE and is the longest epic in world literature. It is the story about the battle between the Pandavas and Kauravas, who were cousins. Arjuna is one of the five Pandava brothers and needs Shiva’s weapon in order to defeat the Kauravas.
  • Bhagiratha performs austerities to persuade Shiva to bear the force of the Gange’s descent to earth. If the Ganges fell from the heavens to the earth without a buffer, it would have destroyed the world. Bhagiratha wanted the Ganges on earth in order to purify the remains of his ancestors.

The relief could possibly depict both stories, but most accept the interpretation is that it depicts the descent of the Ganges. The site of Mamallapuram is far from the Ganges river and so, by creating this relief, the Pallava rulers brought the Ganges to their territory. Indeed, the snake deities (called naga) swimming along the natural cleft also emphasize a water theme in this relief. To add to this interpretation, an unfinished carving of the same subject can be found nearby. It was probably abandoned because of the quality of the granite.

The production of portable metal images of deities was an important practice during the Chola dynasty (mid ninth-thirteenth centuries ce), they also were located in Tamil Nadu. They used a copper alloy of copper with a small amount of lead, tin, gold, and silver–the combination of which they believed had magical properties. The objects were bathed, clothed, decorated with flowers, and kept in separate shrines in temples. The Rajarajeshvara temple built by Raja Raja Chola I in the eleventh century possessed sixty-six metal sculptures according to inscriptions. The metal images were used during festival processions where they would be attached to carts (called rathas) and taken out of the temple grounds. The idea is that if a devotee cannot go to the god, the god will come to the devotee. This allows for darshan, seeing the Divine and the Divine seeing the devotee.

The metal images were constructed using the cire perdu, or “lost wax” technique. Initially, the image was carved out of wax, then the wax was encased in clay, and the clay fired. While being fired, the wax melted and ran out of passageways left from wax stems, and this left a clay mold. Molten metal was then poured into the mold. Once cool, the mold was broken and the image remained with all of its detail.

List of Dravidian Architecture

  • Sangam period (300BCE – 300CE)
  • The Badami Chalukyas (543 – 753 CE)
  • Rashtrakutas (753 – 973 CE)
  • Western Chalukyas (973 – 1180 CE)
  • Pallavas (600–900 AD)
  • Pandya
  • Cholas (848–1280 AD)
  • Hoysalas (1100–1343 CE)
  • Vijayanagara (1343–1565 CE)
  • Chera

The momentous beauty of Dravidian Architecture is also acknowledged in the ancient book Vastu Shastra and is remarked as one of three styles of temple building.

The majority of the existing structures are located in the Southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana but can also be found in parts of North India (Teli ka Mandir Gwalior, Bhitargaon Baitala Deula, Bhubaneshwar), Northeastern and central Sri Lanka.

Its important to know and understand the history to understand the present, so, let me just take you to the past and get a better understanding of the history and origin of Dravidian Architecture.

Throughout Tamilakam, a king was considered to be divine by nature and possessed religious significance. The king was ‘the representative of God on earth’ and lived in a “koyil”, meaning the “residence of God” or a “Temple.” In the Dravidian-speaking South, the concept of divine kingship led to the assumption of major roles by state and temple.

Mayamata and Manasara shilpa texts estimated to be in circulation by 5th to 7th century AD, is a guidebook on Dravidian style of Vastu Shastra design, construction, sculpture and joinery technique. Isanasivagurudeva paddhati is another text from the 9th century describing the art of building in India in south and central India.

Traditional Dravidian architecture and symbolism are also based on Agamas which have been dated either as post-vedic texts or as pre-vedic compositions. The Agamas are a collection of Tamil and Sanskrit scriptures chiefly constituting the methods of temple construction and creation of murti, worship means of deities, philosophical doctrines, meditative practices, attainment of sixfold desires and four kinds of yoga.

You can find the temples to be of various shapes, they may be rectangular, square, star-shaped, or octagonal.

-These temples usually have Gopuras, which are large towers over the entrances. The Gopuras were in the past always the tallest structures in town.

– The most sacred place is the pitha (altar), or pedestal, of the Deity which is in the inner sanctum called the garbha-griha (womb house). This part of the temple must be constructed first and before construction begins, there is a need to organize a ceremony known as impregnating (garbhadhana or garbha-nyasa).

– The central shrine is topped by a pyramidal tower several stories high called vimana or sikhara. It is crowned by a chakra in a Lord Vishnu temple and a trident in a Lord Siva temple.

– The inner sanctum is surrounded by subsidiary shrines, mandapas (halls), and pillared corridors. Mandapa (mantapa in Kannada) means any roofed, open or enclosed pavilion (hall) resting on pillars, standing independently or connected to the sanctum of the temple. Mandapas are one or more entrance porches or halls that lead to the inner sanctum.

– There is a rectangular hall in front of the sanctum (mukha mandapa) where the devotees stand and view the main deity of the temple.

– The subsidiary shrines or altars contain other deities, including the consort of the main deity (Lakshmi or Parvati). The shrine dedicated to the consort of the main deity usually has her own sanctum (garbha-griha) and ambulatory pathway (pradakshina-patha).

– Pillared halls (Chaultris or Chawadis) are used for many purposes and are the invariable accompaniments of these temples.

– Temples will also usually have a treasury, a kitchen (paka-sala), store room (ugrana), dining hall.

– In the temple yard outside the main entrance of the inner sanctum is the flagpost (dhvaja-stambha) and a platform for food-offerings (bali-pitha).

– Each hindu temple usually has a temple tank (teppakulam), flower garden (nandavana), and temple chariot (ratha).

– These rectangular, pyramidal towers are often 50 meters high with intricate sculptures of gods, demons, humans, and animals on them. They can also be painted very bright colors.

Various kingdoms and empires have made substantial contribution to the evolution of Dravidian architecture.

Sangam period (300BCE – 300CE)

The greatest accomplishments of the kingdoms of the early Chola, Chera and the Pandyan kingdoms included brick shrines to deities Murugan, Shiva, Amman and Thirumal (Vishnu) of the Tamil pantheon. The dynasties of early medieval Tamilakkam expanded and erected structural additions to many of the brick shrines. Sculptures of erotic art, nature and deities from the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple, and the Srirangam Ranganathaswamy Temple date from the Sangam period.

The Badami Chalukyas (543 – 753 CE)

Also called the Early Chalukyas, ruled from Badami, Karnataka and spawned the Vesara style called Badami Chalukya Architecture. Over 150 temples remain in the Malaprabha basin. The rock-cut temples of Pattadakal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Badami, Aihole and Mahakuta are their most celebrated monuments. Two of the famous paintings at Ajanta cave no. 1, “The Temptation of the Buddha” and “The Persian Embassy” are attributed to them.

Rashtrakutas (753 – 973 CE)

The Rashtrakutas who ruled the deccan from Manyakheta, Gulbarga district, Karnataka built some of the finest Dravidian monuments at Ellora (the Kailasanatha temple), in the rock cut architectural style. Some other fine monuments are the Jaina Narayana temple at Pattadakal and the Navalinga temples at Kuknur in Karnataka.

The Rashtrakutas contributed much to the culture of the Deccan. The Rashtrakuta contributions to art and architecture are reflected in the splendid rock-cut shrines at Ellora and Elephanta, situated in present-day Maharashtra.

It is said that they altogether constructed 34 rock-cut shrines, but most extensive and sumptuous of them all is the Kailasanatha temple at Ellora. The temple is a splendid achievement of Dravidian art. The walls of the temple have marvellous sculptures from Hindu mythology including Ravana, Shiva and Parvathi while the ceilings have paintings.

Western Chalukyas (973 – 1180 CE)

The Western Chalukyas also called the Kalyani Chalukyas or Later Chalukyas ruled the deccan from their capital Kalyani in modern Karnataka and further refined the Chalukyan style, called the Western Chalukya architecture. Over 50 temples exist in the Krishna River-Tungabhadra doab in central Karnataka. The Kasi Vishveshvara at Lakkundi, Mallikarjuna at Kuruvatii, Kalleshwara temple at Bagali and Mahadeva at Itagi are the finest examples produced by the Later Chalukya architects.

The reign of Western Chalukya dynasty was an important period in the development of architecture in the deccan. Their architectural developments acted as a conceptual link between the Badami Chalukya Architecture of the 8th century and the Hoysala architecture popularised in the 13th century.

The art of Western Chalukyas is sometimes called the “Gadag style.” Apart from temples they are also well known for ornate stepped wells (Pushkarni) which served as ritual bathing places, many of which are well preserved in Lakkundi. Their stepped well designs were later incorporated by the Hoysalas and the Vijayanagara empire in the coming centuries.

Pallavas (600–900 AD)

The earliest examples of Pallava constructions are rock-cut temples dating from 610 – 690 CE and structural temples between 690 – 900 CE. The Pallavas greatest constructed accomplishments are the single rock temples in Mahabalipuram and their capital Kanchipuram, now located in Tamil Nadu. There are excavated pillared halls and monolithic shrines known as rathas in Mahabalipuram.

Early temples were mostly dedicated to Shiva. The Kailasanatha temple also called Rajasimha is a fine example of the Pallava style temple. Mention must be made here of the Shore Temple constructed by Narasimhavarman II near Mahabalipuram which is a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site.


Srivilliputtur Andal Temple, the finest example of Architecture by Pandya, is said to have been built by Periyaazhvar, the father-in-law of the Lord. The primary landmark of Srivilliputtur is 12-tiered tower structure dedicated to the Lord of Srivilliputtur, known as Vatapatrasayee. The tower of this temple rises 192 feet (59 m) high and is the official symbol of the Government of Tamil Nadu. Other significant temples of the Pandyas include the famous Meenakshi temple in Madurai.

Cholas (848–1280 AD)

The Chola kings included Rajaraja Chola I and his son Rajendra Chola who built various temples that are known worldwide. The Cholas were prolific temple builders right from the times of the first king Vijayalaya Chola after whom the eclectic chain of Vijayalaya Chozhisvaram temple near Narttamalai exists. These are the earliest specimen of Dravidian temples under the Cholas. His son Aditya I built several temples around the Kanchi and Kumbakonam regions.

The Brihadeshvara Temple of Thanjavur and Brihadeshvara Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, the Airavatesvara Temple of Darasuram are some of the finest examples and are also titled Great Living Chola Temples among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Chola period is also remarkable for its sculptures and bronzes all over the world. Among the existing specimens in museums around the world and in the temples of South India may be seen many fine figures of Siva in various forms, such as Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi, and the Siva saints.

Though conforming generally to the iconographic conventions established by long tradition, the sculptors worked with great freedom in the 11th and the 12th centuries to achieve a classic grace and grandeur. The best example of this can be seen in the form of Nataraja the Divine Dancer.

Hoysalas (1100–1343 CE)

The Hoysala kings ruled southern India from their capital Belur and later Halebidu in Karnataka and developed a unique idiom of architecture called the Hoysala architecture in Karnataka state. The modern interest in the Hoysalas is due to their patronage of art and architecture rather than their military conquests.

Their architectural style, an offshoot of the Western Chalukya style, shows distinct Dravidian influences. The Hoysala architecture style is described as Karnata Dravida as distinguished from the traditional Dravida, and is considered an independent architectural tradition with many unique features.

The finest examples of their architecture are the Chennakesava Temple in Belur, Hoysaleswara temple in Halebidu, and the Kesava Temple in Somanathapura.

Vijayanagara (1343–1565 CE)

Vijayanagara architecture is a vibrant combination of the Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya and Chola styles, idioms that prospered in previous centuries. Its legacy of sculpture, architecture and painting influenced the development of the arts long after the empire came to an end. Its stylistic hallmark is the ornate pillared Kalyanamantapa (marriage hall), Vasanthamantapa (open pillared halls) and the Rayagopura (tower).

Artisans used the locally available hard granite because of its durability since the kingdom was under constant threat of invasion. While the empire’s monuments are spread over the whole of Southern India, nothing surpasses the vast open-air theater of monuments at its capital at Vijayanagara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

– Chera

The Cheras, were an ancient Dravidian dynasty of Tamil origin, who ruled parts of the present-day states of Tamil Nadu (Kongu Nadu) and Kerala in India. Together with the Chola and the Pandyas, they formed the three principal warring Iron Age kingdoms ofSouth India, known as Three Crowned Kings ofTamilakam.The Chera style of architecture is only one of its kind in Dravidian architecture. The Thirunelli Temple, the Vadakkunnathan Temples, Kodungallur Bhagavathy Temple and Kandiyur Siva Temple are its examples.


Jambukeswarar Temple is a famous Shiva temple in Thiruvanaikaval near Trichy. The temple was built by Kocengannan (Kochenga Chola),one of the Early Chola, around 1,800 years ago.

Thiruvanaikal is one of the five major Panchabhoota Sthalams (5 Elements of creation) representing the element of Water. The sanctum of Jambukeswara has an underground water spring & it is always wet.

Parvathi (cursed by shiva) in the form of Akilandeswari found Jambu forest in Thiruvanaikoil to conduct her penance. She made a Lingam (Appu Lingam) out of water of river Cauvery (Ponni) under the Jambul or Jambu tree (Eugenia Jambolana, the rose-apple tree) and commenced her worship. Pleased with her devotion Siva taught her Siva Gnana.

'Malyavan' and 'Pushpadanta'. The Siva Ganas always quarreled with each other. 'Malyavan' cursed 'Pushpadanta' to become an elephant and the latter cursed the former to become a spider. The elephant and the spider came to Jambukeswaram and continued their worship of shiva. Daily the elephant immersed the lingam with water for ablutions & the spider constructed web over the Lingam to prevent dry leaves from dropping on it. The elephant tore the web and poured water to cleanse the lingam daily. The spider disliking this elephantine act became angry, crawled into the trunk and stung the elephant to death and was itself crushed in the trunk. Siva, in the form of Jambukeswara, gave both of them moksha.

The elephant’s worship of Shiva here gave the place its name Thiru(Holy) Aanai(Elephant) Kaa or Kaadu(Forest) or became 'Thiruvanaikaval' and 'Thiruvanaikoil'.

The spider was born as King Kochengan Chola (kotchengannan cholan meaning red-eyed king)( Red eyed for delay in birth, for the auspicious moment) in order to atone for his sin of killing the elephant. Remembering his enmity with the elephant in his previous birth, he built the entrance to the Siva Sannidhi(sanctorum) so small, that even a baby elephant cannot enter. The entrance to the sanctum of is only 4 foot high and 2.5 foot wide.

After becoming the king, he built the temple for Siva and Goddess Akilandeswari in the name of Aanaikka (elephant protected) later it became to Thiruvanaikoil.

There are five enclosures or praharams inside the temple. The fourth precinct contains a hall with 796 pillars and a small tank fed by perpetual springs. The sculptures and pillars are intrinsically carved across the temple.The sanctum has the smallest entrance possible to prevent an elephant entering it. The Mukha Mantapa, containing four-pillars and houses a bronze idol of Nandi. The deity is viewed through a stone window which has nine viewing apertures, believed to represent the Navagraha.

Jambukeshwar and Akilandeshwari are installed opposite to each other & represent the Guru and Shishya relationship, as Shiva taught Parvathi Shiva Gnana here & hence there is no Thiru Kalyanam (marriage) conducted in this temple.

1.Lord Jambulingeshwar ( Water Lingam).

2.Akilandeshwari ( Opp Shiva’s sanctum).

3. Double storied Theertham(Pond) & perennial spring.

4. Subshrines including Prasanna Ganapathy.

7.Painting of Shreechakra & Parvathi praying to shiva under the Jambu Tree.

8. Palli (Lizard) on the outer prahara.

9. Sculptures on pillar including Dattatreya,Vishnu,Bramha,Manikkavasagar,Narayani, Thillai kali, Nataraja,Mahalakshmi,Saraswathi,Menaka with a baby, Vishwamitra,Bhringu muni with 3 legs,Parvithi worshipping shiva under jambu tree,& many others including the sculpture of an unusual bird.

10 Zodiac signs on the roof above the dhwaja sthamba.

11.Yin & Yang symbols in dual, triple & quadruple nature.

12. Spider & Elephant worshipping shiva.



Erumbeeswarar Temple in Tiruverumbur,(13 KM’s from Trichy junction) is dedicated to the Lord Shiva. It is built on top of a small hillock of 60 FT, The access is through a few number of steps with intermittent resting places in between.

Two Prahrams, the two tiered Rajagopuram, including the sanctum is on top of the hill, while the large temple tank ( Teppa Kolam) and a hall (Mandapam) are situated at the foot of the hill. Another mandapam on top of the hill adjascent to the temple is in ruins.

The Shivalingam (East facing) is tilted to its left and the surface of the lingam is rough making it easier for the Ants to climb up and worship the lord.The gurukkal told me that the back side of the lingam is bent forward.

The name of the lord Erumbeeswarar ( Erumbu = Ants) ( Eswarar = Lord) aptly defines the legend attached to it. Lord Indra & the Devas took the form of ants in order to avoid the persecution of the Asura Tharakasuran. On lord Bramha’s advise, they reached Tiruverumbur to pray to Lord Shiva to save them from the evils of the Asura. Since the well-oiled lingam was slippery, the lord bowed his head and converted himself into an ant hill for the ants to climb up and worship. This feature of the lord to bow for his bhaktas, is very unique.

The shrine of the consort-goddess Narunguzhal Nayagi Amman, facing south, is in the second precinct of the temple

The temple is by Aditya Chola (871-907 CE) along the banks of river Kaveri(Ponni), to commemorate his victory in the Tirupurambiyam Battle. The Temple is locally referred as "Kailash of South India.The current temple has 49 inscriptions from the Chola period (850-1280 CE). The inscriptions believed to be inscribed during the 5th to 7th year of the reign of Aditya Chola and hence the temple is believed to have been constructed between 882 and 885 CE making it a temple more than 1000 year old.The architecture is that of rock constructed with granite.

1. Erumbeeswarar ( tilted to his left)

2. The shrine of the consort-goddess Narunguzhal Nayagi Amman.

3. Sub – shrines inside the compound.

4. One Ganesh Idol behind another Ganesh Idol(Unique) on the southern side of the praharam.



In the famous Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple in Srirangam, Tamil Nadu, a long line of devotees would patiently wait for the delicious Prasadam, even a few centuries ago. A poor Vaishnavite used to be the first one in the line and was notorious for demanding prasadam not only for himself, but for his entire family consisting of sixteen children! Everyday he would fight with the temple authorities for a huge amount of Prasadam, even as the devotees standing behind him had to make do with a tiny quantity. Exasperated, the authorities resorted to pushing him out of the temple. He would wail, “ My sixteen children would starve if they do not get this Prasadam, please have pity on me!”. One day, he decided to bring all his malnourished children to stand in the line. As usual, the fight with the temple authorities started on that day also. Sri Ramanuja, who happened to be at the temple at that time, asked the authorities what the commotion was all about. They told him about the demands of the Vaishnavite and said that they would not mind giving him extra Prasadam if only he was willing to do some service to the temple.



Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple or Thiruvarangam is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu in a reclining form, built in the island of Srirangam in between Kollidam & Ponni(Kaveri) rivers.


Brahmapureeswarar Temple – Thirupattur - Trichy

The Brahmapureeswarar Temple is located in Thirupattur in Manachanallur Taluka 33 KMs away from the Trichy. The temple has mention in scriptures written in the 8th century & is older than the Brihadeeshwa Temple in Tanjore. The temple has seen generations of Pallavas, pandyas,Cholas taking care of its maintenance.

Lord Shiva has advised Lord Bramha to bless & change the fate of Worshippers who seek the blessings of Lord Bramha at this temple.

Overwhelming pride as the Creator of the Universe, Lord Brahma felt that He was omnipotent than Lord Shiva This sense of pride provoked Lord Shiva, who Cut off Bramha"s Fifth Head, and cursed Him to lose His power of creation.

To propitiate, Lord Shiva , Brahma visited this temple and installed 12 Shiva Lingams & worshipped the Lord here for exoneration. Moved by Lord Brahma's prayers, Lord Shiva, on the appeal of his consort Bramha Sampath Gowri(One who gave Bramha's wealth back), gave him Darshan under the Magizha tree and restored the power and responsibility of creation to Lord Brahma.

Lord Bramha also has a separate shrine at this temple. Since Brahma himself had his destiny rewritten here, he was asked by Lord Shiva to rewrite the destiny of his devotees visiting this temple.

The presiding deities are Lord Brahmapureeswarar in the form of Swayambu Lingam and Devi Brahma Sampath Gowri. There is a separate shrine for Lord Brahma. The idol of Lord Brahma is in meditative pose sitting in Padmasana on a lotus. The temple complex also has the Jeeva Samadhi of Yogi Patanjali , the author of Yoga Sutras .

There are 12 Shiv Lingams in the Temple complex, which includes the garden adjacent to the temple. These Shiva Lingams were installed and worshipped by Lord Brahma.

Most of these Shiv Lingams are housed in separate shrines, which are situated around the Brahma Theertham.

Brahma Theertham is the pond from which Lord Brahma took water for performing puja to Lord Shiva.

These 12 shrines of Lord Shiva which comprise the Bramhapureeswarar Temple complex are :

· Sri Brahmapureeswarar Presiding Deity



Bhagiratha Prayed to Lord Shiva to reduce the force (break her fall) of Ganges when she descends from the Heaven to the Earth. Her turbulent force could shatter the earth, and Only Lord Shiva could contain her force. Ganga while descending thought she will sweep the lord along with her to the Patala or netherworld. Lord Shiva who envisioned this thought of Ganga, imprisoned her in his Matt or Jata, and released her only after the tapas of Bhagiratha, for the well-being of his ancestors and the earth. Shiva is the 1 st builder of a Dam with his Jata. Hence he is also known as “ Gangadhara “, The Lord of Ganga”.

There are very many claims to the first ever man made Dams across the world including Dholavira in India, Egyptian’s, Roman’s and Mongolian’s. It does not make a difference, what makes the difference is the thought behind the dam and the purpose and long sustenance of such structure still functioning or live in the modern times.

Somewhere between the 4 th century BC and 2 nd Century CE, was born a King Named Karikalan or Karikal Valavan ( Kari = Charred Kal = Leg) in the Chola dynasty (Early Cholas) in the southern parts of India and Tamilnadu in Particular. People trying to usurp his throne, tried to burn him in the palace, but he escaped with his leg getting charred by the fire and hence his name.

So fierce was he to his enemies that, he was called Parakesari meaning “Lion to his Opponents”. I was mildly surprised to know that he had conquered the entire country of Bharath and Srilanka. He is supposed to have conquered and engraved his Tiger emblem in the Himalayas. He was given gifts by the Kings of Vajra (Modern Mathura), Avanthi (Modern Malwa region), Magadha(Modern Bihar).

Tiger to his enemies, but very passionate about the welfare of his subjects, He built the Kallanai Dam , also known as the Grand Anicut. Corruption of the word ANAI in Tamil means DAM. KALL means STONE. The purpose behind the construction of the dam was to divert the excess water of the Kaveri to the Thanjavur Delta region for boosting irrigation for agriculture through many canals. The main purpose of the dam was to retain the supply of water in the Kaveri and its distributaries and to pass on the excess water to Kollidam River a tributary of Kaveri.

It is a live dam and still serves the people of Tamilnadu, India. The dam was constructed by King Karikala Chola, and could be dated as early between the 4 th century BC and the 2nd century AD. The dam is located on the River Kaveri, approximately 20km from the city of Tiruchirapalli. During his time the Dam helped in irrigating 69000 acres of land now it irrigates 10,00,000 acres of land.as it was altered during the period of British In the 19 th century.

Built around 2,000 years ago across the Cauveri River in Tiruchirapalli District of Tamil Nadu, the Kallanai Dam is still in excellent condition and used as a major irrigation dam even now. The techniques used to build or the dam was very unique and had used scientific methods to preserve the flow of sand.

The structure measures 329 meters in length and 20 meters in width, with a height of 5.4 meters. The construction was done on very simple principles of displacement of Sand. The heavy Rocks were sunk into the running river, with pressure, which would displace the sand in and around it. A live example is, when you stand in a beach the waves after hitting the shore, while retreating pushes you inside the sand, and the sand below your legs is displaced.

The real Dam built by Karikalan is a unique structure built, just with large boulders brought and sunk in the Kaveri river bed. The Structure of the Kallanai has been tampered and altered with additional hydraulic equipments which have been added around 1800 by the British, making it very difficult to assess the architecture.

Dr.Chitra Krishnan ( Tank & Anicut irrigation Systems: An Engineering Analysis)(Ph.D Thesis, Indian Institute of Technology, 2003), in her pioneering historical studies of old descriptions of the Anicut from a variety of archives with archaeological and anthropological field, suggests, that the original Kallanai had some very peculiar design features: the curved shape of the masonry section, a sloping crest, and an irregular descent from front to rear”( See Photograph).

Dr.Chitra Krishnan also concluded “ that the old Anicut worked so well because they sophisticatedly reshaped water currents and sedimentation processes, rather than trying to control all natural elements by force”

The Kallanai was built to divert floods from the Kaveri branch of the river into the Kollidam branch “via a short connecting stream” “when the water level in the river rose above its crest”.The Kollidam “was the wider (also the steeper, straighter, and hence faster) of the two river branches, and…the flood carrier. It was barely used for irrigation. Almost all of the 600,000 acres irrigated by the river in 1800 were delta lands south of the Kaveri branch. So the Kaveri branch was the lifeline for delta farmers, while the Kollidam was of little consequence for them (See Photograph)


Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur

Brihadishvara Temple, also called Rajarajesvaram or Peruvudaiyar Koyil, is a temple dedicated to Shiva located in Thanjavur. Built by Raja Raja Chola I between 1003 and 1010 AD. The original monuments of this 11th century temple were built around a moat. It included gopura, the main temple, its massive tower, inscriptions, frescoes and sculptures predominantly related to Shaivism, but also of Vaishanvism and Shaktism traditions of Hinduism.

Built out of granite, the vimana tower above the sanctum is one of the tallest in South India. It is also famed for the quality of its sculpture, as well as being the location that commissioned the brass Nataraja – Shiva as the lord of dance, in 11th century. The complex includes shrines for Nandi, Parvati, Karthikeya, Ganesha, Sabhapati, Dakshinamurthi, Chandiswarar, Varahi and others.

Brihadishvara is a Sanskrit composite word composed of Brihat which means "big, great, lofty, vast", and Ishvara means "lord.

This South Indian style is most fully realized both in scale and detail in the Brihadeshvara temple.The architect and engineer of the temple was kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Rama Perunthachan as stated in inscriptions found at the temple.

In the space are five main sections: the sanctum with the towering superstructure ( sri vimana ), the Nandi hall in front ( Nandi-Mandapam ) and in between these the main community hall ( mukhamandapam ), the great gathering hall ( mahamandapam ) and the pavilion that connects the great hall with the sanctum ( ardhamandapam ).

The Brihadisvara temple continued the Hindu temple traditions of South India by adopting architectural and decorative elements, but its scale significantly exceeded the temples constructed before the 11th century. The Chola era architects and artisans innovated the expertise to scale up and build, particularly with heavy stone and to accomplish the 216 ft high towering vimana.

The two walls have ornate gateways called the gopurams. These are made from stone and display entablature. The main gateways are on the east side. The first one is called the Keralantakan tiruvasal , which means the "sacred gate of the Keralantakan". The word Keralantakan was the surname of king Rajaraja who built it. About a 100 metres (330 ft) ahead is the inner courtyard gopuram called the Rajarajan tiruvasal . This is more decorated than the Keralantakan tiruvasal , such as with its adhishthanam relief work narrating scenes from the Puranas and other Hindu texts. The inner eastern gopuram leads to a vast courtyard, in which the shrines are all signed to east-west and north-west cardinal directions. The complex can be entered either on one axis through a five-story gopuram or with a second access directly to the huge main quadrangle through a smaller free-standing gopuram. The gopuram of the main entrance is 30 m high, smaller than the vimana.

The main temple-related monuments and the great tower is in the middle of this courtyard. Around the main temple that is dedicated to Shiva, are smaller shrines, most of which are aligned axially. These are dedicated to his consort Parvati, his sons Subrahmanya and Ganesha, Nandi, Varahi, Karuvur deva (the guru of Rajaraja Chola), Chandishvara and Nataraja. The Nandi mandapam has a monolithic seated bull facing the sanctum. In between them are stairs leading to a columned porch and community gathering hall, then an inner mandapa connecting to the pradakshina patha , or circumambulation path. The Nandi (bull) facing the mukh-mandapam weighs about 25 tonnes. It is made of a single stone and is about 2 m in height, 6 m in length and 2.5 m in width. The image of Nandi is a monolithic one and is one of the largest in the country.

The sanctum is at the center of the western square. It is surrounded by massive walls that are divided into levels by sharply cut sculptures and pilasters providing deep bays and recesses. Each side of the sanctuary has a bay with iconography. The interior of the sanctum sanctorum hosts an image of the primary deity, Shiva, in the form of a huge stone linga. It is called Karuvarai, a Tamil word that means "womb chamber". This space is called garbha griha in other parts of India. Only priests are allowed to enter this inner-most chamber.

In the Dravida style, the sanctum takes the form of a miniature vimana. It has the inner wall together with the outer wall creating a path around the sanctum for circumambulation. The entrance is highly decorated. The inside chamber is the sanctum sanctorum, which houses the brihad linga.

The main Shikhara is a massive 16 storeys tower of which 13 are tapering squares. It dominates the main quadrangle. It sits above a 30.18 metres (99.0 ft) sided square.

The temple is dedicated to Shiva in the form of linga, his abstract aniconic representation. It is 8.7 m (29 ft) high, occupying two storeys of the sanctum. It is one of the largest monolithic linga sculptures in India.

The distribution of the deities is generally symmetric, except for the east entrance side which provide for the door and walkway. In addition to the main deities, each side provides for Dwarapalas (guardians), and various other sculptures. The vestibule has three stone sculptures that is intricately carved, and mural paintings. The ground floor level sanctum walls have the following sculptures: [37]

· East wall: Lingodbhava, standing Shiva, Pashupata-murti, plus two dvarapalas flanking the pathway from ardha-mandapam

· South wall: Bhikshatana, Virabhadra, Dakshinamurti, Kalantaka, Nataraja plus two dvarapalas

· West wall: Harihara (half Shiva, half Vishnu), Lingodbhava, Chandrashekhara without prabhavali , Chandrashekhara with prabhavali , plus two dvarapalas

· North wall: Ardhanarishwara (half Shiva, half Parvati), Gangadhara without Parvati, Pashupata-murti, Shiva-alingana-murti, plus two dvarapalas

One of the 81 dance positions carved on the outer wall of the upper storey corridor wall.

On the second floor, Shiva's Tripurantaka form in different postures is depicted corresponding to these sculptures. Above these floors, the sri-vimana towers above in thirteen storeys ( talas ). Above these storeys is a single square block of granite weight eighty tons and 7.77 metres (25.5 ft) side. On top of this block, at its corners are Nandi pairs each about 1.98 metres (6 ft 6 in) by 1.68 metres (5 ft 6 in) in dimension. Above the center of this granite block rises the griva , the sikhara and the finial ( stupi ) of Tamil Hindu temple architecture. This stupi is 3.81 metres (12.5 ft) in height, and was originally covered with gold (no longer). The sikhara at the top is cupola-shaped and weighs 25 tons. [37] Each storey of this tower is decorated with kutas and salas . The shrinking squares tower architecture of this temple differs from the tower at the Chola temple at Gangaikondasolisvaram, because this is straight in contrast to the latter which is curvilinear. The temple's sri-vimana magnitude has made it a towering landmark for the city.

The upper storey corridor wall of the aditala is carved with 81 of the 108 dance karana s – postures of Natya Shastra . This text is the basis of the Bharatanatyam, the classical dance of Tamil Nadu. The 27 unrepresented karanas are blank blocks of stone, and it is unclear why these were not carved. The 81 postures carved suggest the significance of this classical Indian dance form by early 11th century.

The garbhagriha is square and sits on a plinth. This is moulded and 0.5 metres (1 ft 8 in) thick. It consists of upapitham and adhishthanam , respectively 140 cm and 360 cm think.


The two mandapa, namely maha-mandapa and mukha-mandapa , are square plan structures axially aligned between the sanctum and the Nandi mandapa . The maha-mandapa has six pillars on each side. This too has artwork. The Vitankar and Rajaraja I bronze are here, but these were added much later. The maha-mandapa is flanked by two giant stone dvarapalas. It is linked to the mukha-mandapa by stairs. The entrance of the mukha-mandapa also has dvarapalas. With the mandapa are eight small shrines for dikapalas , or guardian deities of each direction such as Agni, Indra, Varuna, Kubera and others. These were installed during the rule of Chola king Rajendra I.

Inscriptions indicate that this area also had other iconography from major Hindu traditions during the Chola era, but these are now missing. The original eight shrines included those for Surya (the sun god), Sapthamatrikas (seven mothers), Ganesha, Kartikeya, Jyeshtha, Chandra (the moon god), Chandeshvara and Bhairava. Similarly, in the western wall cella was a massive granite Ganesha built during Rajaraja I era, but who is now found in the tiruch-churru-maligai (southern veranda). Of the Shaktism tradition's seven mothers, only Varahi survives in a broken form. Her remnants are now found in a small modern era brick "Varahi shrine" in the southern side of the courtyard. The original version of the others along with their original Chola shrines are missing.

The temple has an underneath layer of Chola frescoes on the sanctum walls along the circumambulatory pathway. These frescoes which cover floor to ceiling, were discovered in 1931 by S. K. Govindasami of the Anamalai University. The painters used natural pigments and infused it into the wet limestone layer as it was setting in. The Chola frescoes were largely of Shaivism themes. These were restored in the 2000s. The total Chola fresco area is about 670 square metres (7,200 sq ft), of which about 112 square metres (1,210 sq ft) had been uncovered as of 2010 in a method that preserves both paintings, a technique developed by Archaeological Survey of India. The frescoes narrate Hindu mythology. According to Balasubrahmanyam, most frescoes are related to Shiva, but the 11th century Chola frescoes also show Vishnu, Durga and others, as well as scenes of Chola royalty, courtly and common life.

The ASI, for the first time in the world, used its unique de-stucco process to restore 16 Nayak paintings, which were superimposed on 1000-year-old Chola frescoes. These 400-year-old paintings have been mounted on fibre glass boards, displayed at a separate pavilion.

1. The colossal Nandi before the Shrine was built during the later period of Nayakars of Tanjore. The Nandi built by Raja Raja Chola is placed on the left side of the inner precinct. This Nandi is smaller in size.

2. The huge round block on top of the Vimana or Tower over the sanctum is not a single stone as perceived by many. It is a block built with many stones.

3. The Navagraha is in the back side of the inner precinct in the form of Lingams.

4. Four Nandi’s adorn the top of the Vimana looking at four directions.

Kailasanatha Temple Kanchipuram

Kumarakotam temple - Kailasanatha Temple is a massive Shiva temple is the oldest in Kanchipuram, built by Pallava King Rajasimha in the seventh century (667 AD). The presiding deity in the sanctum is Sri Rajasimheshwara, named after the king. The Linga is 2.4 metres high. The sanctum has a beautiful bass relief of Somaskantha (Lord Shiva and Devi Parvathi with child Muruga). The temple is known for excellent sculptures. The image of Ardhanaareeshwara, seated on a bull with the feminine aspect carrying a veena, is noteworthy. There are nearly 60 small shrines around the temple complex. Within the pricincts is another Shiva shrine built by King MahendraVarman.

The Golden City of Kanchipuram is situated on the banks of Vegavathi river in Tamil Nadu's Kanchipuram district. It is revered as one of the seven sacred places of India.Kanchipuram, the city of thousand temples, is one of the seven most sacred pilgrim centres for the Hindus.

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