Airavatesvara_Temple
Airavatesvara Temple-Kumbakonam

Airavatesvara Temple is Lord Shiva temple of Dravidian architecture at Darasuram near Kumbakonam in tamilnadu.The main deity is called as “Airavateswara”. This temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. This temple, built by Rajaraja Chola II in the 12th century CE is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur, the Gangaikonda cholisvaram Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram that are referred to as the Great Living Chola Temples.

This temple is a storehouse of art and architecture and has some exquisite stone carvings. Although this temple is much smaller than the Brihadeesvara Temple or the Gangaikondacholapuram Temple, it is more exquisite in detail. This is because this temple is said to have been built with nitya-vinoda, “perpetual entertainment”, in mind. The vimana is 24 m high. The temple consists of a sanctum without a circumambulation path and axial mandapas. The front mandapa knew in the inscriptions as Rajagambhiran tirumandapam. The south side of the front mandapam is in the form of a huge chariot with large stone wheels drawn by horses.The pillars of this mandapa are highly ornate. The elevation of all the units is elegant with sculptures dominating the architecture.

Music of the Stones

Airavatesvara-a Temple-Kumbakonam
A view inside the Airavatesvara-a Temple

The most enchanting, though, are the musical notes that rise from the tread stones inside the Nandi enclosure in front of the Airavatheeswara temple. They are melodious testimony to the superb engineering skills of master craftsmen of a bygone era.

About the Deity

The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Shiva is known as Airavateshvara because he was worshipped at this temple by Airavata, the white elephant of the king of the gods, Indra. The main deity’s consort Periya Nayaki Amman temple is a detached temple situated to the north of the Airavateshvarar temple. This might have been a part of the main temple when the outer courts were complete. At present, it stands alone as a detached temple with the shrine of the Goddess standing in a single large court.

History

Airavatesvara Temple-Kumbakonam
A distant view of Airavatesvara Temple

The Airavatesvara temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Shiva is here known as Airavateshvara, because he was worshipped at this temple by Airavata, the white elephant of the king of the gods, Indra. Legend has it that Airavata, while suffering from a change of colour curse from Sage Durvasa, had its colours restored by bathing in the sacred waters of this temple. This legend is commemorated by an image of Airavata with Indra seated in an inner shrine. The temple and the presiding deity derive its name from this incident. It is said that the King of Death, Yama also worshipped Shiva here. Tradition has it Yama, who was suffering under a Rishi’s curse to form a burning sensation all over the body, was cured by the presiding deity Airavatesvarar. Yama took bath in the sacred tank and got rid of the burning sensation. Since then the tank has been known as Yamateertham.

Palaiyarai is the ancient temple town and the capital of the Cholas. King Raja Kamerapara Mamanan, Raja Raja Chola II (1146 ADR-1172 AD) from its Gangaikonda Cholapuram to change the name of the palace, renamed Raja Raja Puram (now Darasuram). There were 1000 Thaligal (temples)in palaiyarai. There were 4 padai veedus (Military Camps) on all the four directions of the Capital. Thalicherippendirgal were appointed by the king to develop fine arts especially music and dance in the temple during festival occasions. King Raja Raja II constructed in his name a beautiful temple called Raja Rajechuram (at present Airavatheeswara) in1160 A.D. to 1162 A.D. This Raja Rajechuram  (Raja Rajeschuram – Tharechuram – Darachuram -Darasurm) became Darasuramat present.

By Bus

There are regular government and private bus services to Chennai, Thanjavur, Mannargudi, Tiruchirapalli, Chidambaram, Nagapattinam, Coimbatore, Madurai, Pondicherry, and Tirunelveli. The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) operates daily services from Bangalore and Mysore to Kumbakonam.


 By Train

Kumbakonam is connected by rail with most important towns and cities in South India. The Mysore- Mayiladuthurai Express connects Kumbakonam with Mysore and Bangalore. There are regular express trains that connect Kumbakonam with major cities in the state like Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Tiruchirapalli.


By Air

The nearest international airport is at Tiruchirapalli, which is 91 km from Kumbakonam.

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