I along with my two friends visited the PERIYA KOIL (BIG TEMPLE) at Thanjavur, last Saturday. I was amazed at the magnificence of the temple and even more amazed that Raja Raja Sozhan the Great (henceforth I declare him ‘GREAT’) did complete the temple in a span of 6-7 years; did pay for the labour employed towards building the temple; had engraved in old Thamizh, his land administration, revenue collection and the like.
The entrance of the temple is smaller compared to the temple spire and edifice. On top of the temple spire sits the granite dome of 80 tonnes of carved granite. The temple is stated to have been completed in 1010- a full thousand years back. The millennium celebrations have been completed and it was told that a thousand bharatanatyam dancers participated in the inner court meant for such dance performances.
The nandi- overlooking the temple entrance with his tongue licking the space between his nostrils gives the self assured bull the presence of his omnipotent master. The deity is a Lingum (Tamizh and not a singular for Linga!) called ‘PERUDAYAR’ and is said to be the LARGEST LINGUM in any Shivite temple in the world and the overlooking NANDI is the second largest, next only to the Nandi at the LEPAKSHI TEMPLE in Anantapur Dist of Andhra Pradesh. This Nandi is cut from a monolithic block of granite and polished to perfection.
The granite dome (not hollow) is supposed to weigh 80 tonnes, and was whispered into my ears by my guide K.T.Raja, saying that such a heavy stone was place because that weight is the ONLY binding force, which holds the various terraces of the spire of the temple in place. Quite understandable – at 216 feet, to have withstood the wind, storms and other natural events!
The lay-out of the temple is amazing, with the entrance, the nandi and the temple door all in alignment. The running corridor of deities, abutting the compound wall of the temple stay as sentinels to the supreme deity. Somehow, I could not digest the fact that two smaller shrine like temples have been built by the Nayak Dynasty and the Marathas to the left and right of the imposing temple structure. Even the Temple’s name PERUVUDAYAR KOIL, had been Sanskritized by the Marathas, who were probably not finding it mentally easy to accept that a Thamizh Sozha king had built such an imposing structure in the beginning of the eleventh century, more particularly as the structure had survived even inimical dynasties! Their contribution besides building those puny shrines next to the PERIYA KOIL, is renaming the temple as BRAHADEESWARAR TEMPLE! This sounds more like naming CURZON ROAD (Lord Curzon was responsible for shifting the capital from Calcutta to Delhi) to KASTURBA GANDHI MARG from the India Gate round-about in New Delhi!
I believe, if one wants to adulate an idea or a God or a Goddess, one should foremost of all, be original and not attempt to bask in such associated glory. The small mindedness of the Nayaks and the Marathas is fully evident in those additions. Further, those puny structures have spoilt the Architectural GRANDEUR of the PERIYA KOIL. Nevertheless, these acts of outsiders have not deducted the grandeur in scale or the hoary history of the Sozha King RAJA RAJA SOZHA.
The greatness of Raja Raja Sozha is that the administrative procedures and the land revenue collection methods have all been engraved on the base of the temple walls- which serve as the historical remains of his administration.
No FORCED LABOUR had been employed and the temple had been built by paying fair wages -as was prevalent then- to workers, artisans and sculptors, unlike the PYRAMIDS of Egypt! That showed RAJA RAJA SOZHA’S GREATNESS and the tax collected as land revenue was 10% of the produce- which is the most rational tax structure ever imposed on one’s subjects .
RAJA RAJA THE GREAT, shall remain and many generations later be discovered as the GREATEST KING INDIA had ever produced- as unlike Ashoka, Raja Raja Sozha never had to kill his brothers to get the kingdom; unlike Chandra Gupta Maurya RAJA RAJA SOZHA did not have to beg a foreigner like Selucus Nikator’s armed help;and unlike Harsha Vardhana, did not have to savour a battle defeat at the hands of the Chalukyan Pulikesin II and finally, unlike Akbar, RAJA RAJA SOZHA did not have the foreign blood of Uzbegi Babur- but all THAMIZH , therefore TRULY INDIAN!
Mostly, he had consolidated his kingdom within the first 20 years and within the last 6-7 years had completed the PERIYA KOIL, and in the last 2 years had made his son RAJENDRA SOZHA his successor, who went on to capture kingdoms beyond the Indian sub-continent and made Khmer, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Indonesia, Java and Sumatra vassal states to the Sozhas! I cannot accept that there was a king greater than RAJA RAJA SOZHA! EVER!
LONG LIVE RAJA RAJA SOZHA, THE GREAT!