Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Brihadisvara Temple - Tanjore (Thanjavur)

Trichy and Tanjore capped the temple portion of our tour. As was true with Mahabalipuram we visited impressive temples that we had never heard of. In Tanjore (Thanjavur) we toured Brihadisvara Temple, which is locally called "the big temple." And big it is. This Shiva temple was built at the beginning of the 11th century. Allegedly it was built in 12 years - far faster than Europe's cathedrals (Chartres Cathedral was said to take  an "exceptionally fast" 25 years) - clearly, emperors had an easier time amassing resources.

Our guide was a temple guide (guides are licensed for the region, state or monument). He was a retired police officer and clearly guiding for the money. He tried to rush us saying that the "lines are too long" or "there isn't anything worth seeing." We will leave it to pictures do a better, albeit incomplete, job of describing this massive (or big) temple.

Temple entry 

Entering temple - place to leave shoes is at the right

  • One view of complex - Nandi is housed in the structure in the foreground.
    Remember we are walking around barefoot

Saravali (goddess of the arts) - Hanuman a the right  (picture looks as if it may have been restored -
(where is a good guide when you need one)


A familiar god - Garuda, a Hindu god & Indonesia's national symbol

One of the many carvings on the tower

Kalantaka (ender of death)

At the temple western tourist were stopped and posed for pictures with families. The same thing happened to us. Here is a picture Doug took with me and a group of school girls (it was actually taken outside Mysore, but thematically it belongs here). Our guide in Solo, Indonesia (we are behind on entries) explained that people who come from areas with few tourists are fascinated by white skin and to them we look like aliens, like some one from "outer space." Think about his comment if you are traveling and want to snap pictures of exotic looking locals.

Tanjore Palace is on the temple's grounds. It has a sculpture hall containing bronze and granite statues. One can note changes in craftsmanship over time. These two examples are a bit different, after all how many images of Nataraja does one want to see?

Nataraja - Lord on the Dance

Nataraja is a representation of Shiva. The guides from  north India (Rajastan) pointed out the roles of Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the organizer) and Shiva (the destroyer). They would name other gods and note that Hinduism has millions of gods. In south India the guides focused on the three major gods, their spouses, and their various representations - easy to lose track and we did.

Our guide offered to take us to handicraft shop. He brushed off the handicraft shop on the grounds and said that it was for local people. He took us to a standard tourist souvenir shop - filled with materials, bronzes, jewels and other stuff that is everywhere and which we didn't want. At least he didn't get a commission. Bottom line hiring a regional guide for the day be more fruitful.


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  2. Here I am, safely returned over those peaks from a journey far more beautiful and strange than anything I had hoped for or imagined - how is it that this safe return brings such regret? Flights to Sydney