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Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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HomeTamils - a Trans State Nation > Culture & the Tamil Contribution to World Civilisation > Dravidian Temple Architecture  > Airavateswarar Temple, Darasuram - தாராசுரம்


Darasuram temple gets world heritage status, July 2004 - "The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has declared the Brihadisvara temple of Gangaikondacholapuram in Perambalur district and the Airavatesvara temple of Darasuram in Thanjavur district "world heritage monuments," two examples of grandeur and excellence of Chola architecture and sculpture. .."


Architecture of Airavatesvara Temple


A view of the Airavateswarar temple at Darasuram near Kumbakonam

Rebuilding Darasuram, 1998
Renovation Over at Darasuram, July 2004
Darasuram, Tamil Nadu -Selvadurai Sivagnanasundaram "Airavateswarar Temple at Darasuram near Kumbhakonam : The name Darasuram is said to be a corruption of the original name Rajarajapuram, and this temple - smaller than the Periya Kovil and Gangai Konda Choleeswaram dates back to Raja Raja II's period (12th century AD). The Periya Nayaki Amman temple stands out as a separate temple because the outer walls of the temple have disappeared with the passage of time, unlike the original Periya Kovil in Thanjavur. Darasuram is described as a sculptor's dream re-lived in stone. The front mandapam itself is in the form of a huge chariot drawn by horses. Paintings and sculptured panels abound here, causing this shrine to be a veritable storehouse of art. The Vimanam is only about 80 feet in height. In front of the temple are stone panels which produce tones of varying pitches when struck. When I first visited this temple in 1993 it was in a fairly good state. In year 2001 I found it in ruins, and in 2002 a fair amount of renovation has taken place and is ongoing..."
Airavateswarar Temple, Darasuram
Chola Period (10-11th Century)
Rajaraja Cholan II (1146-73)
"Darasuram is described as a sculptor's dream re-lived in stone."

Airavateswarar Temple, Darasuram
Airavateswarar Temple, Darasuram

From R.K.Das on Temples of TamilNad, 1964

Darasuram is a railway station on Madras-Tanjore line, in the District of Tanjore. It is a very small town which has come to eminence due to the famous Siva temple of Airavateswarar, which abounds in archi tectural and rare sculptural specimens of workmanship. The temple is fast deteriorating in its condition for want of proper maintenance. Financial insufficiency and apathy of the local people may be the reason. As I found it, the temple precincts are full of wild growth of vegetation and many sculptural works have been shifted to different places which is marring the beauty of the temple.

The legend goes to show that Airavata, the white elephant of Indra, worshipped Lord Siva in this temple; so did also the King of Death, Yama. Tradition has it that the presiding deity Airavateswarar cured Yama himself (the God of Death) who was suffering under a Rishi's curse from a burning sensation all over the body. Yama took bath in the sacred tank and got rid of the burning sensation. Since then the tank is known as Yamateertham. It gets its supply of fresh water from the river Kaveri and is 228 feet in width. The pilgrims always make
a point to have a bath in the tank. In the recent past Raja Raja Chola and Karikala Chola worshipped the Siva Lingam in this temple. Volume II of the South Indian Temple Inscriptions deals with a number of endowments of the Pandya Kings also (vide pages 556 to 562) On the temple walls these inscriptions are given, from which it is seen that the temple was known in those days as Raja Rajeswararn and Raja Rajapuram. Two such inscriptions are copied here.

Inscription No. 563 of the Book at page 557.No. 23 of 1908 on the inner Gopura of the temple, right of entrance. Record dated in the 10th Year, Tai 11, of the reign of the Pandya King Maravarman alias T ribhuvana Chakravartin Srivallabhadeva registering the provision made for repairs and for celebrating festivals in the temple of XXXI Ra (ja) ra (ja) isuram Udaiyanayanar, by the residents of Uttattur-nadu, a sub-division of Kulottunga-valanadu.

Inscription No. 564 at page 558.
Record dated in the 31st Year, Makara, Ba. Dvitiya, Uttarashada (probably a mistake for Uttaraphalguna) of the reign of the Chola king Tribhuvana Ghakravartin Sri RAJARAJADEVA registering the grant of land (Irandu Ma mukkani araikkani) 23/160 of a veli to meet the expenses of worship, offerings, etc., to the God by a native of Peruchchalipuram, a village in Kilar-kurram, a sub-division of Pandyakulapati-valanadu.

As originally Airavata worshipped the Lingam, the Lingam is named after him as Airavateswara. The Goddess in this temple is known as Deva Nayaki. Whatever remains of the sculptural part of the temple is on the inside wall of the outer prakaram, about a foot from the floor level. 'The carvings contain different poses of gymnastic feats we see in modern circus, shown by females keeping their head at the centre and legs interwoven in such a skilful way as to form the circumference of a circle. It may be a depiction of the present-day gypsy tribe entertaining villagers with skilful gymnastic shows and dancing poses. Such gypsies are still to be seen visiting the interior villages of the country. Very many styles of physical feats shown by both men and "men have been carved an stone.

All the dancing poses of Bharatanatyam are carved an stone. There is a carving showing the village womenfolk helping in delivery of another female, who has put both her hands on the shoulders of the two ladies, who are pressing their hands an the abdomen of the lady to help her deliver. 'These are very skilful and artistic works of superb style. This may give a glimpse into the social conditions of the past. The stone image of Ravana carrying Kailas is a fine specimen of workmanship.

At the very entrance to the temple two Dwarapalakas, Sankhanidhi and Padmanidhi, are imposing figures, giving vivid anatomical expressions of the exuberance of youth. In front of the temple, there is a small mandapa, which can be reached by 3 steps in the form of a ladder. The steps are made of stones, which give different musical sounds when tapped All the seven swaras can be had at different points. If proper care is not taken the village children will spoil the stones soon.

The Front Mandapam









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