Ancient temples are for sure treasure houses, full of astonishing marvels and fascinating history and facts that takes you back in time. India, incredible with diverse culture and traditions boasts of a great many centuries-old temples that speak of the rich heritage of the country, architectural brilliance of the yesteryears, and exciting legends behind it. Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram, Tamilnadu is one such divine historic temple brimming with rich heritage and surprising artistic splendors. One among the three ancient temples that are collectively called the “Great Living Chola Temples“, Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram is bestowed with the UNESCO heritage tag.
The temple and its history will surely delight you. So, let us take you on a virtual tour through the mystical tales and architectural grandeur of Darasuram Airavatesvara Temple. And here we go:
A great place of worship, the Airavatesvara Temple is beautifully placed in Darasuram, in Thanjavur district of Tamilnadu, just 3 Km west of the temple town of Kumbakonam. A feel of entering into a mystical world thrive in your mind right from the moment you step into the temple premises of Airavatesvara Temple where you lose yourself in the memories of the brave dynasty, great battles, epic stories, and the artistic brilliance of the foregone era. Though the upper part of the large gopura is fully destroyed, yet the smaller gopura that remains completely preserved inside the temple premise defines the grandeur of the Airavatesvara Temple.
1000-year-old Chola Marvel – A Mighty Divine Splendour:
Dating back to the 12th Century CE, Darasuram Airavatesvara Temple is a mighty divine splendour built by the famous Chola King Rajaraja Chola II. The King was not just a powerful ruler but a great patron of Tamilian art and architecture who graced his empire with many architectural marvels like temples and monuments. The mighty Airavatesvara Temple bear witness to the remarkable achievements of the Chola in the field of art, architecture, sculpture, painting, and bronze casting. This revered Hindu temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The Darasuram Airavatesvara Temple was much bigger than what it is now. Most of the main architecture and other structures of the temple are now in a crumpled state with the gopurams entirely in ruins. However, the court with the main shrine and the associated sanctums still stand sturdy.
Part of the Notable Trio – “The Great Living Chola Temples”:
Airavatesvara Temple, along with the famous Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur and the Gangaikondacholeeswaram Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram is a part of the notable trio called the “Great Living Chola Temples”. Also, all three of them are a part of the UNESCO world heritage site. Despite being smaller than the other two temples, the Airavatesvara Temple is extremely beautiful, delicate and the most complex.
Named after Airavat, Lord Indra’s White Elephant:
The Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram is believed to have named after Airavat, Lord Indra’s white elephant. Legend has it that the Airavat, Lord Indra’s white elephant was cursed by the short-tempered Sage Durvasa for disrespecting Him which caused the spotless white elephant lost his colour. The Airavat was so upset that he prayed to Lord Shiva at this present temple location to regain his white colour. Lord Shiva who heard his prayer asked the elephant to take a dip in the temple tank and surprisingly he regained his white colour and was freed from his curse. It is believed that this legend led to the naming of this temple as Airavatesvara Temple. You can find this fascinating legend carved in stones in the inner chambers of the temple. The Airavatesvara Temple still holds the water tank and pilgrims believe that taking a holy dip in its waters will cleanse them of their sins.
The Sacred Temple Tank – Yamatheertham:
According to another legend, Yama – the God of death was cursed by a sage which caused a constant burning sensation all over his body. The Airavatesvara Temple is believed to be the location where Lord Yama prayed to Lord Shiva and got rid of the curse after taking a dip in the sacred temple tank. And this sacred temple tank is now known as ‘Yamatheertham‘.
It’s all about a “Poetry in Stone.”
An astonishing spectacle in stone resembling a chariot shape and reflecting the stunning Dravidian architectural styles, the Airavatesvara Temple is bound to leave you in awe. Built-in stone, the entire temple complex is brimming with carvings and inscriptions depicting stories from the epics and Puranas and one can describe it to nothing but a “Poetry in Stone”. The exquisite carvings and sculptures that adorn the entire temple structure are so magnificent and intact that it makes you speechless with its spellbinding charm and intricacies.
The Musical Steps – Indeed an artistic wonder!
Another interesting feature that takes you in wonder at the Airavatesvara Temple is its ‘Musical Steps’ or the ‘Singing Steps’. The small ornately carved flight of seven steps leading to the ‘Balipeetham’, the sacrificial altar of the Airavatesvara Temple is called the ‘Musical Steps’ or the ‘Singing Steps’. The seven steps of this staircase represent the seven musical notes. And the main significance of the ‘Musical Steps’ is that when one walks or even taps them, they produce all the seven melodious ‘swaras’ or notes of music. Isn’t it fascinating?
Micro Carvings – A Trademark of the Skilled Chola Sculptures!
Besides the intricate carvings, amazing sculptures, and fascinating musical steps, the micro carvings of Airavatesvara Temple is truly a wonder to gaze at. Regardless of its height which is not more than an inch, these micro carvings are the finest example of artistic brilliance and perfection, making it a trademark of the skilled Chola Sculptures.
A sculptural and architectural masterpiece filled with history, the Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram is a must-visit at least once in your lifetime. If you are a history buff, architectural enthusiast, ardent devotee, or a passionate photographer, then the Airavatesvara Temple is just for you. Visit Airavatesvara Temple and explore its mind-blowing splendors.
Ways To Reach:
By Air: Tiruchirappalli International Airport is the nearest airport which is about 90 Km away.
By Road: The nearest town to Darasuram Airavatesvara Temple in Kumbakonam which is just 5 Km away. You can hire a taxi, bus, or autorickshaw to reach the temple.
By Rail: Kumbakonam Railway Station is the nearest railway station which is 5 Km away.
We are available online to assist you anytime for a Special Temple Tour of Tamilnadu.