The iconic ancient Brihadisvara Temple also called Rajarajesvaram temple or popularly known as the Big Temple, in Thanjavur, dedicated to Lord Shiva, built in the year 1010 by Rajaraja Chola, was reconsecrated for the first time in 23 years, on Wednesday, in a ceremony known as the kumbhabishegam. More than one million devotees witnessed the grand celebration and offered prayers today.
Various government departments such as the Hindu religious and charitable endowments (HR&CE), health, police and tourism department, among others, helped to organise the event.
The temple town of Thanjavur was decked up to welcome lakhs of people from across south India for the consecration. The much-awaited grand event kicked off on Saturday with yagasalai poojas, while the maha poornahuthi (the main puja) took place today (February 5).
The holy water in Kalash (pots) which were kept in the Yagasalai was brought in a procession after five days of pooja. Special pooja was performed to the Kalash at the Raja Rajan Vayil Gopuram and then they were taken to the Vimanam (the tower over sanctum) of the shrines including that of Perivudayar which is 216 feet at 8 am in the morning. The Sivachariars (priests) took the Kalash through the makeshift steps made of iron pipes.
At around 9.21 am, the holy water was poured over the Kalasam (Pinnacle) of the Perivudayar, Periyanaki and other shrines in the temple.
Sources said for the first time in the recent history an Odhuvar who sings Saivite hymns in Tamil also went up to the Kalasam to chant Tamil hymns. Maintaining the age-old traditions the mantras were recited in both Tamil and Sanskrit.
Since the main temple premises can accommodate only a few thousand people, separate pandals had been erected inside the sprawling complex to facilitate lakhs of people to sit and watch the poojas on giant television screens.
The District Administration made extensive arrangements, with wheelchairs, electric vehicles, ambulances and a fire engine placed inside the temple premises.
The thousands of devotees who witnessed the consecration from inside the temple complex and also from the outside the complex chanted ‘Om Namasivaya’.
Later, the devotees were allowed inside the Perivudayar shrine where Maha Deeparadhana was performed to the main deity, the 13 feet high Shivalingam. Following which, the devotees were allowed to exit from one of the rear gates of the complex.
Though the devotees started thronging the temple complex from 5.30 am in the morning, the police allowed only a limited number of devotees in batches who could be accommodated in the makeshift enclosures inside.
The security of the temple has been beefed up with the deployment of more than 5,500 police personnel and drone surveillance.
This ceremony is particularly significant as the Brihadisvara Temple consecration ceremony is happening after a long gap of 23 years. During the last consecration ceremony in 1997, a fire had broken out causing 50 deaths.
An architectural marvel, the Brihadeeswara Temple built by Rajaraja Chola of Chola dynasty, is one of the oldest and most famous Lord Shiva temples in South India. Being one of the largest temples in India, it is an example of Dravidian architecture during the Chola period. The temple turned 1000 years old in 2010. It is also known as Peruvudaiyar Kovil.
The temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “Great Living Chola Temples”, with the other two being the Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Airavatesvara temple.
The temple was built by Rajaraja on a command given by Lord Shiva in his dream. The temple is a testimony to the Chola power and wealth at the time of Rajaraja Chola I. The stories of Rajaraja Chola’s conquest have been engraved on the walls of this temple.
Rajaraja Chola embarked on a mission to recover the hymns after hearing short excerpts of Thevaram in his court. He sought the help of Nambiyandar Nambi. Rajaraja thus became to be known as ‘Tirumurai Kanda Cholan’ meaning one who saved the Tirumurai. Till Rajaraja Chola, Shiva temples only had images of god forms, but after the advent of Rajaraja, the images of the Nayanar saints were also placed inside the temple.
Rajaraja through Nambi arranged the hymns written by three saint poets Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar and ensured that these were sung in all the temples and provided for the upkeep of this service, a tradition which is continued till date. This is perhaps the greatest service to Hinduism and Tamil by Rajaraja Chola-I.
Rajaraja Chola is also credited for being a great temple builder. He also built Tiruvalisvaram temple at Brahmadesam in Tamil Nadu, Uttarakailash at Tiruvadi, Vaidyanath temple at Tirumalavadi, Tamil Nadu.
Though Rajaraja was an ardent devotee of Shiva, he remained a truly secular king. He and his family donated lavishly to build Vinnagarams – Vishnu temples. When the Srivijaya king of present Indonesia approached Rajaraja to help him in constructing a Buddha Vihara, he had donated an entire village, Anaimangalam near Nagappattinam for the purpose and for the upkeep of the Chudamani Vihara in Nagappattinam.