Brihadeeswarar Temple (locally known as “Big temple”) is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva located in Thanjavur in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is also known as RajaRajeswara Temple Rajarajeswaram and Peruvudayar Temple. It is one of the largest temples in India and is an example of Dravidian architecture during the Chola period. Built by Raja Raja Chola I and completed in 1010 CE, the temple turned 1000 years old. The temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “Great Living Chola Temples”, with the other two being the Brihadeeswarar Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Airavatesvara temple. The temple was built to grace the throne of the Chola Empire by the Tamil emperor Arulmozhivarman, popularly called Rajaraja Chola I, in compliance with a command given to him in a dream. One of the first great Tamil Chola building projects, the temple’s foundations was laid out in 1002 CE. Intended to display the emperor’s vision of his power and his relationship to the universal order, the temple was the site of the major royal ceremonies such as anointing the emperor and linking him with its deity, Shiva, and the daily rituals of the deities were mirrored by those of the king. It is an architectural example showcasing the pure form of the Dravida type of temple architecture and representative of the Chola Empire ideology and the Tamil civilisation in Southern India. The temple “testifies the brilliant achievements of the Chola in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting.”
The Great Living Chola Temples are temples built during the Chola rule in the south of India and neighbouring islands. These sites include 3 temples of the 11th and 12th century. These 3 temples are the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram. The Brihadisvara Temple was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987, the Temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram were added as extensions to the site in 2004. The site is now known as the “Great Living Chola Temples”.