Messages in stone – The donations to Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple

Raja Raja Chola is one of the greatest kings in the Tamil history. Even thousand years after his rule, he is remembered everyday because of his vision to construct an architectural marvel like Thanjavur Brihadeeswara. Right from the entrance to the last piece of stone kissing the sky, every bit of it has been carved out with so much passion and precision. With a huge number of blogs detailing Brihadeeswara temple and about Raja Raja Chola, I will restrict this post to few inscriptions in the temple. This post is part 2 in the Thanjavur Brihadeeswara Chola inscription series based on our visit to Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple in March 2017 with “Walkwithus” group. Click here to read part 1 of the series.

Sasi dharan showing us the royal bath tub of Raja Raja Chola. This is the same bath tub in which he was seated while giving orders for carving out the inscriptions. Image credits: Praveen Narayanan

As described in one of the inscriptions, Raja Raja Chola was seated in his royal bath tub and giving orders for carving out the content in the inscriptions. We came to know everything from the planning and execution of the temple’s construction, the jewellery and gems offered to the temple, donations/gifts to the temple and even the measurements of the bronze status from head to toe were accurately recorded in these inscriptions.

akkan kuduthanam pendukal kuduthanam
The inscription that lists that donations to Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple were given by him, his sister, his wife and by the public.

This inscription is a reflection of the thoughts of the King that the construction of the massive Brihadeeswara temple were not from his individual contribution alone, and there were donations offered by his sister Kundavai, his wife and the general public. Even the smallest contribution of the society or general public has been recorded in these walls with their names. 

நாம் கொடுத்தனவும்
அக்கன் கொடுத்தனவும்
பெண்டுகள் கொடுத்தனவும்
கொடுப்பார் கொடுத்தனவும்

Huge crowd had gathered around Sasi when he was explaining the inscriptions and I ended up shaking my mobile numerous times while capturing the video. While Sasi explains this inscriptions, Ananth pointed to it’s exact location in the walls.

Sasi further added that the names of all the workers in the temple – the dancers, the accountants, flower suppliers, watch guards, managers and almost every other person who contributed to the daily functioning of the temple were inscribed in the walls of Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple.As per the inscriptions, there were 400 dancers (from all over the world) working in the temple.

We moved on to the next inscription that has the mention of Pandya’s treasury being brought from Malainadu (Kerala or Kodumalainadu) and used up in Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple. The inscription also refers to the Chola king with his title “Sivapadasekaran” – one whose head lies below the feet of Lord Siva.

pandya treasury
Inscription mentions Pandya treasury being brought and used up in Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple

Thanjavur Brihadeeswara is a Tamil treasure. One of the best things about this temple is that it gives us an insight of the great ruler Raja Raja Chola. With inscriptions detailing his generosity to his administrative talents, these messages on stones give us an opportunity to understand a mastermind. While a lot of myths about temple’s shadow, lizard, single stone cupola.. etc doing rounds in the internet, this post is an attempt to publish a few facts as read from inscriptions. Raja Raja Chola continues to inspire us even thousand years after his rule.

Contact of WalkwithUs group:

Reaching Thanjavur Big temple:-
Brihadeeswara temple is about 320 kms from Chennai. Thanjavur is well connected by road and train with ample buses/trains from Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Nearest airport is Trichy, which is 70 kms from Thanjavur.

Temple darshan timings: 6 am to 12 pm and 4 pm to 9 pm.

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