Airateshwara Temple, Darasuram, Tamil Nadu
Ihave always been attracted by mountains & history. I always make sure to read about the place i travel if it has a historical significance that helps in building up my interest for that place.
The more I travel the more I realise that there is so much to see around.There is also that indescribable & out of the world feeling of being there, not wanting to be elsewhere. For a restless soul like mine, that feeling is rare.Southen India has a great historical background which at times is overlooked. Do you know about the mythical land or sunken continent of "Kumari Kandam" or "Lemuria" which once connected South India to Australia & Madagascar.And this is also described in ancient tamil & sanskrit literature.
While going through this book on Southern India's history, i was inspired to travel to King chola's temples and hence decided to visit "Great Living Chola Temples". Darasuram's Airavateshwara temple is first in the series.The Chola rule was on the decline by the time Rajaraja Chola II came to power in the middle of the 12th century. The Chola’s had lost most of their territory on the Deccan plateau. They had lost their grip on Sri Lanka. They were barely holding on to a sliver of land on the southern peninsula of India.
The Airavatesvara temple is a production of this era, and it shows. Gone are the soaring vimanaas (towers) that were taller than the gopurams and the sweeping temple complexes that were the hallmark of the temples build by the Chola empire at its peak. The impossible-is-nothing granite of Rajaraja Chola’s Brihadeeswara gives way to black stone, announcing a more pragmatic I-am-mortal attitude by King Rajaraja Chola II, a grave reflection of the reality of his times.
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 Gangaikondacholisvaram Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram that are referred to as the Great Living Chola Temples.
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.
The Brihadeeswara temple is a chest thumping monument to a monumental victory on the battlefield. Airavetesvara is an ode to an art – the art of dancing – bharat natyam.
The manthapa of the temple, the prayer hall, has 108 exquisitely carved pillar, each showcasing a pose of Bharat Natyam. Your guide will proudly point out nuances that the artisans of yesteryears poured into the carvings of this temple. It is well worth a hot afternoon.
The Chola dynasty extinguished within 150 years of the consecration of Airavatesvara. Airavatesvara remains the last of the Great Living Temples of Chola, a tidy tombstone of the tenacious Chola rule.
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