Posted on: 25 September 2010

Rajaraja Cholan, the Great Chola king built The Bragatheeswarar (Peruvudaiyar) Temple, also known as Big Temple. "In the twenty-fifth year of Rajaraja Cholan (A.D 1009-10) on the 257th day of the year the king handed over the copper pot for the finial at the top of the Vimana". It weighed about 235 lbs., and was overlaid with gold plate of weight of 292.5 Kalanju or nearly 35 lbs.

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Read the full article : Dont miss the temple layout :

The temple is a remarkable example of the brilliant engineering skills of the Chola architects. It is the only temple in the world whose “gopuram” does not cast a shadow when the sun is blazing. <(:-)

Also there is a documentary on this as well:

For those of you who have slower computers you can see it in youtube as well:

Nisha: It is only a myth that the temple shadow does not fall on the ground. This photograph reveals that the temple shadow does fall on the ground

shadow or no shadow, it is one of the most beautiful and brilliantly designed temples ever!

Thanks Sreedevi...interesting clarification.

@ Sreedevi Rangaraj: Yes Ma'm this is indeed a story which has been doing rounds for more than a century and it is widely believed, that the shadow of the vimana of the Big Temple, will not fall on the ground.It is a falsehood repeatedly told to students, historians, tourists and all visiting the temple. From morning till evening, at all times, the shadow of the vimana with shikara, keethimugas and kalasam falls on the ground. But the temple as an architectural marvel built 1000 years ago, has no parallels in the world and there is no need for a myth to boost the grandeur of the temple <(:-) Apologies for the gaffe in the previous post <(;-)

Nisha : You have just mentioned a very popular myth....thats alright. It is impossible to extricate the myth from history altogether and rightly so....for it is the myth which gives history that endearing flavor and timeless fragrance.

@ RBSI:But, Kudavayil Balasubramanian, a research scholar and expert on temples and S. Rajendran, architect and civil engineer of Thanjavur, have a different tale to tell. They say, ``No. It is not true. @To explode the myth, they have taken photographs, using digital camera, which show the shadow of the vimana falling on the ground. From morning till evening, at all times, the shadow of vimana with shikara, keethimugas and kalasam falls on the ground, they say.

Nisha : I meant to say that history should not be devoid of the myth and legend. It should be factual but not consisting of only the facts and intellectual conjectures.....which would otheriwise make it dry and tedious.Bring on the myth and the legend as an addon to tantalize the mind.

@ RBSI: I appreciate the insightful nature of ur comment. But the shadow story has gone so deep into the psyche of the people about this wonderful monument dat it is disappointing wen they see it for real and find it to be a mere myth! but as I said before, there is no need for a myth to boost the grandeur of a temple so imposing in appearance and to be ridiculed for the inaccuracy of facts! <(:-)

@Aditee: It sure is. I have not been there yet, but is the following legend accurate:

@ Qamar : quite accurate on the whole!

@RBSI: You are right that myths give fragrance and flavour to a historical monument or a piece of art. That is spectacularly true especially when such myths are blown. It is then you appreciate the myths better.

It might, however, be interesting to trace the roots of such myths - may be, these had some metaphorical significance to begin with which got lost in course of time and only the literal meanings remained.

Shekar : Blown away or blown out of proportion ? : )

Magnificient temple. As good an icon of India as any.

@RBSI: Blown away or blown out of proportion; either is fine. Absurdities always open eyes to the underlying beautiful or horrific truths. All said, this temple is fantastic and the myth makes it more adorable. Deppak is at his usual best giving a Kosambi one-liner.

@RBSI (and others): If I were to do a pilgrimage of 20 Temples (or any other number you may want to propose)of South India armed with a commentary on each, which ones do you recommend? (Time frame of the tour: 30 days. Mode of Transport: Car.) The virtual tours you are giving are ofcourse priceless and timeless.

@Shekhar and others : It is flattering to see one's name being mentioned along with Kosambi - however unfair it might be to the great man that Kosambi was. But, it is certainly a matter of joy to find that a myth could possibly have a simple explanation that is in the realm of possibility. For example, (in brief) Vishwanath Khaire explains that the terrible battles that Rishis in Ramayan had to wage with Asuras, in fact, depicts struggle of man to keep the fire alive against the clouds ("Asuras") who assumed various fierce shapes and sizes, carried terrible weapons (rain, thunder and lightning) which got eulogied in ballads and ultimately found its way in the epic.

"Nizhal-kuda vizhadu"(Tamil) which means 'even the shadows wont fall' -- When this temple was built it was supposedly so tall that whoever saw it doubted the stability of this tower and kept asking the question 'will it fall' the builder or architect who was irritated and annoyed about having to reply to this question every now and then, in a fit of anger is supposed to have blurted "Nizhal-kuda vizhadu" ( even the shadows wont fall), the myth about the shadow of the tower is supposed to have originated from here.

Rajkumar : Wow...thanks for this interesting anectode....almost bringing our speculative banter to a conclusion. Do you have a book reference for this?

@Deepak----don't be pleased as "Punch"--by being mentioned along with "Kosambi_---he is also an "Indologist" which members like Sumedha find very "patronising" ----contrary to literary /academics /journalistic greats like Dalip Padgaonkar( his panegyric to Kosambi in TOI 25/9/10)---AND other words like "Sanskritist""Anglo phile""Egyptologist' History is but Mythology and Myth--except for few tales backed by facts---otherwise all books we read are but the authors imagination woven into the fabric of historical phenomenon. Otherwise Tansen's " raag Deepak "erupting in fire--"Anarkali' getting buried alive--Lord Krishna giving "darshan "to a "low caste bhakht"would never have entered our sensibilities

Why should "the shadow and the Temple "be any different- research notwithstanding

@Shekhar : Regarding your unanswered question above, I would certainly recommend - Belur, Halebid (both near Hassan in Karnataka) and any other 18 places.

Shekar : Ayan Ghosh, the brilliant panoramist photographer would be able to give you a helpful answer. He has travelled in India more than anyone I know. This is his FB profile :

Ooh! I had a friend when I was in Madurai who was writing her art history dissertation on this temple! Man, I should have pressured her into giving me a tour some time. :)

@Shekar. Belur and Halebid are fantastic. Also highly recomended are temples in the Thanjavur belt (Brihadiswarar, Darasuram, Gangaikondachozhapuram, Kumbakonam (lots of temples), chidambaram, Tirunageswram, Thiruvaiyaru, tiruchirapalli and many more. Go when the Cauvery is in spate (Not very often these days) and relive the glory days. The food is traditional and superb and the people, very hospitable. Thanjavur apart, there is the Madurai temple, a veritable Musuem of dravidian art, all temple in Thondai Mandalam (Around Chennai, Kanjeepuram, Mahabalipuram - probably the oldest stone temples in all of South India and among the oldest in India), Thiruvannamalai and many more. Me and my family toured South Tamilnadu last december and just could not get enough of it. Hope you visit.

Thanks RBSI and Suresh Narayanan. I really hope to make the trip happen. I will look up Ayan Ghosh's FB page.

@ shekhar: and to get to some of these temples, you have to go through chennai.get my point? The rock carving at Mahabalipuram,Pillaiyar kovil @Trichy, Madurai for the Meenakshi temple/Koodal Alagar Kovil/ Teppakulam, SriRangam, Suryanaarkovil,etc etc etc

@Kanu : Regarding your post about "Kosambi" etc. above, I have no hesitation in respecting plurality in views. Marathi Saint Tukaram (I think) put it beautifully five centuries ago when he says "Nindakache Ghar Asave Shejari" - Nothing like having a critic as your neighbour - quite a contrast to the intolerance prevailing today.

@Deepak: Also "beware of Stutipathak".

@RBSI I heard this from a friend,

Rajkumar : I am surprised to find so many people having the Brihadeeshwara Temple as their profile pic.

To all FRIENDS...all who are in love with BRIHADESHWARA temple ..must go through the well documented and reserched book with photos and architectural measured drawings...this a world heritage UNESCO monument and i was the part of Indo french team which for 2 yeras documented the temple..and gopurams...the publication is by IGNCA N DELHI and EFEO pondicherry-ecole francaise d'extreme orient...ALL OF YOU WOULD LOVE THIS BOOK.. i worked as an architect from IGNCA..indian side on this project in 1989 to 92

any one who wants to see another masterpiece of Chola architecture ..must go to GANGAIKONDACHOLAPURAM temple..which is one more evolved stage after the Brihadeshwara temple...

Isn't the temple at Gangaikondacholapuram supposed to be the twin of the Brihadeeshwara temple ?

@Anup Dave: What is the name of the book and is it available in stores?

shekherji,the book you can get from indira gandhi national centre for arts janpath n delhi or french institute pondicherry...its called brihadeshwara temple at tanjavur...just google it you will find...this book is not available in book stores..

ADITEEJE....the brihd...has a pyramidical Vimana..shikhara -while gangai has three stages..pyramidical.with square base ..octagonal.. and round...the whole thing is turning the sqauare in to ploygon and then in to circle..and this was done in 3 -D in vimana of was built after Brihad...

we had designed an exhibition...showcasing architectural drawings and photos on brihadeshwara at ignca in new delhi in 1991 ...called FROM EARTH TO ETERNITY...

ADITEEJI u may see following ...kanchipuram/then to pondicherry/mayawaram alias mayladuturai/darasuram/kumbhkonam/tanjavur/trichy and shrirangam/shuchindram/padmanabhapuram palace/madurai/

on the way you may see kartikeya temple at sea shore.. i forgot the tamil country there are 5 famous murugan temples...each one set in a diff landscape...

tiruvaiyaru of tyagaraja...chidambaram...

@Daveji: seen all above mentioned except darasuram and planning to see these in feb/march. what i meant to ask about Gangai being twin was that, one of the local guides told us this, that the king was planning on shifting to Gangai from Thanjavur and therefore decided to replicate the temple ?

gangai was built by the son of rajaraja chola...and he wanted to out do his in the royal familes everywhere...

drasuram is one the finest temples of india... not big ... but extremely beautiful...and Padmanabapuram is a wooden palace...ultimate in wooden architecture of india...the padmanathswami temple is in trivendrum if i am not mistaken...