In my recent trip to South India last year, we decided to take a very long car trip to Thanjavur to visit the famous Big Temple (i.e. Brihadeeswarar Temple). It took almost half a day but car journeys are never boring in India. We had the windows down, music on, rocky traffic and roads together with scenic agricultural fields and kids playing by the road or even adults quarrelling over expensive potatoes. It’s an experience of its own. We rarely take public transport as there is too much hassle of changing buses and the overcrowding. But I have taken buses elsewhere. The private buses have little television screens in the front and it plays movies, music videos. Granted you pay a little more but you have that entertainment system for you.
Back to Thanjavur now, we have heard that it’s a city where you get hold of books that are not easily found and they are also well known for their craftsmanship of things from sculptures to pottery etc. We spent the first half of the day at exhibitions of books, jewellery and sculptures. I’m afraid I do not have pictures for that. But the highlight of the day was the temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was huge and it was so beautiful. We are all quite aware of the hustle and bustle in India but once we entered the temple arena, it was a different story.
It’s something about entering a religious, sacred place regardless of your personal religious affiliation. We are respectful and mindful of ourselves. We were in awe of the grandness of the whole place. We walked everywhere, we saw deities, we heard chants, and we basically took it all in. All our senses were engaged. It had a calming sense to it. The artists’ details of the deities and temple on the whole was just magnificent. It really shows how much effort and time was spent on it, especially their passion. My niece was very excited about finding out if what she had studied about the temple was true. She talked to a priest there and got her answers. It is said that the top of the temple, gopuram, does not cast shadow on the ground. We did not it but some say that they have seen it touch the ground.
Above is a Nandi, a bull, that serves the Lord Shiva and, his wife, Parvati. Now that picture was taken pretty zoomed in as it was high up and we were about to leave. But you can see the size of it. It is believed that if you whisper your wishes or about your visit to him, he will inform the Lord about it and your wishes will be granted. Women also visit him and bring floral offerings for fertility reasons. I did not see the floral offerings here but I have seen them in other smaller temples. I say ‘smaller’ but they are still big, just smaller compared to Brihadeeswarar.
They had a place where we could leave our footwear for a charge or outside the temple for free (but with risk of getting it stolen). No worries about walking barefoot though, it is obviously clean. You have to leave your footwear behind out of respect. They carpeted the pathways because of the scorching sun. They also had a little food/drink stall by the footwear-keeping area and we were so glad they did! It was so hot and humid even after the sun had set. We drank water and carbonated drinks like there was no tomorrow.
Cultural visits and experiences are what I absolutely love and enjoy the most about travelling. This temple is an iconic tourist place but it is not hard selling anything in there. I learn so much and I get to immerse myself in their environment.
Have you been to the Brihadeeswarar Temple?