Tamil Nadu Temple Run: Srirangam, Ranganatha Temple

The island of Srirangam on the Kaveri river is immediately north of the city of Tiruchirappalli, and is the site of the Ranganatha (Vishnu) and Jambukeshwara (Shiv) temples. The Rangantha temple is a town unto itself, with the outer few concentric walled enclosures occupied with the city – residences, shops etc. One needs to pass through a few gopurams to get to the temple precints proper, and still there are gopurams and concentric enclosures to pass through to get to the central shrine. As such this temple is throbbing with life, not because it is crowded, but with a more laid back, everyday kind of life, as if this huge temple is part of the everyday of people who visit it. Continue reading

Tamil Nadu Temple Run: Kumbhakonam

Kumbhakonam was an important city to the Cholas and subsequent rulers as evinced by the large number of temples here, many of which have their beginnings in the Chola period but have been substantially altered in the interim centuries. I visited five of the larger temples, and each was an example of the more dynamic atmosphere that exists in a “living” temple. This dynamism is also seen in the different architectural styles and periods that co-exist in these temples, as opposed to the more “pure” styles in the more “archeological” temple sites. Continue reading

Tamil Nadu Temple Run: Gangaikondacholapuram

Gangaikondacholapuram, which has got to be one of the best names ever, was a Chola capital in the 11th c. The Brihadeshwara Temple from that time follows the model of the earlier temple in Thanjavur, as well as it’s massive scale. The monumentality of these two temples is difficult to capture in photos, and even on site it takes a few minutes to grasp the scale of the shikhar especially and the structure in general. Much of the mandapa has been restored, and there is indication that the mandapa would have been double it’s current height, making the original structure all the more massive. Continue reading

Tamil Nadu Temple Run: Tribhuvanam

The Kampahareshwara Temple in Tribhuvanam, a few kilometers outside Kumbhakonam, was built in the early 13th c CE temple and is said to be the last large Chola temple. It is larger than the Darasuram temple, but smaller than the Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram temples. Unlike these others, this temple is in more active use, and the gopurams and shikhars (of the main and side shrines) are kept painted. This seems to be allowable because though the base of the gopurams and temples in these large Chola temples are built with stone, the towers themselves are of brick, and so need periodic plastering to increase their longevity. And because of this new plastering, painting on the towers is permissible. Continue reading