Tag Archives: Tanjavur

The Making of Brihadishwara temple tower


Rajaraja I (Rajaraja Chola) was one of the greatest chola ruler  (984 – 1014 AD) who not only ruled Southern Indian but also the entire northern half of Sri Lanka. He built the great Brihadiswara temple at the Chola capital, Tanjavur. Built out of granite, the vimana tower above the sanctum is one of the tallest in South India.

Thousands of workers were engaged to work round the clock during the construction of the temple. The King’s desire was to build the tower in a such a unique way such that the shadow of the tower should not fall on the ground, at any part of the day. All the people of Tanjavur were in some way or the other involved in the construction of the temple.

In the city lived an old woman called Azhagi. She felt sad that she could not be a part of the temple construction work. However, she decided to distribute buttermilk to the workers as a “service to the Lord”. She would daily distribute buttermilk to all the workers. The construction work of the temple was coming to an end. Only one more huge chunk of rock was needed to be placed on top of the tower. Talking to one of the chief architect she expressed her sadness that she had not made any contribution towards the temple. The architect told her that they were in search of a huge chunk of rock to complete the top of the tower.

She suddenly realized that there was a big mass of rock right in front of her house and suggested to the chief architect that they can use it, if suitable. The rock was brought and the architect found it most apt with respect to its size, shape, composition, colour etc., to use it to complete the top of the tower! Hence, the temple construction was completed. Raja Raja Cholan was immensely happy for having built such a huge towering temple for Lord Shiva and prayed to the Lord for His Grace and Blessings.

That night, Lord Shiva appeared in the King’s dream where the Lord mentioned that he was happy to rest under the shelter of the rock gifted by Azhagi.  The King was shaken by the dream and immediately woke up. He was keen on meeting this great devotee. The next day the king made enquiries and himself went to meet the old lady in her hut. The old lady mentioned that she only served buttermilk to the workers and had asked them to use the huge stone-piece lying near her hut to complete the top of the tower. The King was dumbfounded at her devotion. In memory of her devotion, the king built a tank near the temple which exists even today.

[PS: I request all to please forward and share these value based stories rich in our culture and tradition to elders, youth and children]

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Full moon on Amavasya day!


Subramanya Iyer was a great devotee of Devi Abhirami (Parvathi) of Tirukadaiyur. He would sit for hours together lost in contemplation in front of Devi. So intense was his devotion that he looked upon all women as manifestation of Mother Goddess and run to them and fall flat at their feet addressing them as ‘O! Mother’, whether in the temple or on the street. People even thought he was mad.

Serfoji I Bhonsle, who was King of the Thanjavur Maratha Empire from 1712 – 1728, came to the temple for darshan on a particular new-moon day. Everybody there made way for him. But Subramanya was sitting right in front of the deity, completely immersed in dhyana. On seeing him, the king enquired and was told by people around that he was an insane person. To test this, the king put forth a question to him asking what was the ‘tithi‘ that day. Subramanya who was in ecstasy, mentally seeing nothing but Devi’s divine face, beautiful and shining like the full-moon in the autumn sky, blurted out that it was full-moon day! The angry king walked away with a challenge that if he failed to see the full-moon at dusk, Subramanya would be burnt alive.

The temple priest woke him up from his meditation and explained what had happened. Subramanya was unperturbed. He said, “My divine Mother made me utter these words and so it is now Her responsibility to keep up Her words”.

Subramanya was made to climb onto a suspended wooden plank which was slowly being lowered. Down below was raging fire. It was dusk. Subramanya invoked His Mother, Sri Abhirami with beautiful verses. When he had just completed the 79th verse, Goddess Abhirami gave darshan to him in the skies. She removed Her diamond ear-ornament and tossed it into space. It stood there in the sky shining like the full-moon for all to see! Subramanya continued to sing Her praises. The ropes snapped, the fire got extinguished. The king realized his mistake and sought forgiveness from the great devotee of Abhirami.  Subramanya was henceforth called “Abhirami Bhattar”. His beautiful collection of verses are known as Abhirami Anthaadi. Anthaadi means “End – Beginning”. The last word of each verse is the beginning of the next verse! Even to this day, devotees sing these verses on Amavasya and Poornima days at Devi’s Altar.

[PS: I request all to please forward and share these value based stories rich in our culture and tradition to elders, youth and children]