We headed inland from Pondicherry toward Tanjore taking back roads through small villages and varied agriculture–rice fields, lentils, sugar cane, pepper, banana to name just a few. Lots of stops along the way.
Yet another temple but it turns out to be more spectacular than any thus far. We get out early before the intense heat to visit Brihadisvara dedicated to Lord Shiva and the most powerful symbol of the Chola empire. This temple is the pinnacle of what we have seen thus far combining later technological developments in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting. Built a thousand years ago it is still an active temple today filled with worshippers dressed in their finest praying and practicing in many different ways.
Up until 1600, the time at which both this, the Thirumalai Naicker Palace and its sibling temple, Brihadisvara temple were built, maharajas left their legacy by building temples ONLY to glorify deities. However both of these fabulous structures reflect European influence and have a stunning fusion of diverse architectural influences, including Italian, Dravidian and Islamic. It was here in Tajore and Madurai and in Northern India reigning maharajas developed their “edifice complexes” and started constructing homes to impress.
Additions of outer walls were done about the same time as the Taj Mahal in northern India, Brihadisvara is a living temple dedicated to worship of Shiva and his wife Parvati.
After the Maharajas death this enormous palace designed by an Italian architect, was never occupied by his heirs and fell into disrepair. Today only a few of the main halls remain but provide a glimpse of the grandeur that once was.
The main temple is part of a compound with two enormous arched gates adding to the grandeur.
About a mile away is the Maharaja’s palace built to look like the temple which today is a wonderful museum filled with exquisite bronze sculptures and stone carvings.