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Airavateswarar Temple - Darasuram, Kumbakonam

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Airavateswarar Temple - Darasuram, Kumbakonam
This 12th Century AD Airavateswarar Temple in Darasuram (originally called Raja Rajeswaram) was the third in the series of temples built by the great Chozha Kings of that time.

Airavateswarar Temple - Darasuram, Kumbakonam
While the 10th Century AD Thanjavur’s Brihadeeswarar temple, built by Raja Raja Chozha 1 is known for its tall tower, covers a huge area and symbolises bigness (hence called the Big Temple/Periya Koil), Darasuram’s Airavateswarar temple,built by Raja Raja Chozhan II,is a marvel and a standing example of the architectural expertise and 'work on stone' of the Chozha kings. The Jagannath Puri temple in Konark is believed to have taken inspiration from Darasuram’s architectural master piece.


The earliest records of the temple mention the name of the town as Rajarajapuram. It is believed that this name might have been corrupted to Darasuram with the passage of time. The sanctum is in the form of a chariot. This temple is a storehouse of art and architecture. The vimana is 85 feet high. The front mandapam itself is in the form of a huge chariot drawn by horses. The temple has some exquisite stone carvings. The main deity’s consort Periya Nayaki Amman temple is situated adjacent to Airavateshwarar temple.
Airavateswarar Temple - Darasuram, Kumbakonam
Airavateswarar Temple - Darasuram, Kumbakonam
The Great Living Chola Temples (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) at Thanjavur, Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Darasuram were built by the Cholas between the 10th and 12th centuries CE and have a lot of similarities.


The lingam is believed to have been worshipped by Indra’s white elephant (Airavatham) and hence the name ‘Airavateswarar’. The Lord of Death, Yama, once incurred the wrath of a rishi and was cursed to have burning sensation all over his body. Yama is said to have visited this temple and invoked the blessings of Lord Airavateswarar by bathing in the temple tank. Pleased with his prayers, Airavateswarar is said to have liberated Yama from his curse.
Airavateswarar Temple - Darasuram, Kumbakonam
Airavateswarar Temple - Darasuram, Kumbakonam
The Airavatesvara temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Shiva is here known as Airavateshvara, because he was worshipped at this temple by Airavata, the white elephant of the king of the gods, Indra. Legend has it that Airavata, while suffering from a change of colour curse from Sage Durvasa, had its colours restored by bathing in the sacred waters of this temple. This legend is commemorated by an image of Airavata with Indra seated in an inner shrine.[2] The temple and the presiding deity derive its name from this incident.

It is said that the King of Death, Yama also worshipped Shiva here. Tradition has it Yama, who was suffering under a Rishi's curse from a burning sensation all over the body, was cured by the presiding deity Airavatesvarar. Yama took bath in the sacred tank and got rid of the burning sensation. Since then the tank has been known as Yamateertham.


While being smaller in size, Darasuram’s Airavateswarar temple is easily the most artistic piece of construction among the four grand temples constructed by the Chozhas- Thanjavur’s Big Temple, Gangai Konda Cholapuram (North of Kumbakonam on the Sethia Thope-Vadalur-Neyveli Highway) and Thirubhuvanam (East of Kumbakonam enroute to Mayavaram).
Airavateswarar Temple - Darasuram, Kumbakonam

Chariot Shaped Main Mandapam:

The main Raja Gambira Mandapam is in the form of a chariot driven by Horses(Chariot Mandapam) - Eastern side and Western side. Inside this are 108 pillars, each one with exquisite sculptures depicting a historical event or a dancing moment- Shiva’s marriage attended by Vishnu and Brahmma, the entire sequence of Murugan Kalyanam, Saraswathi in Yoga Posture, Kannappa Nayanar, Annapoorani-with sharp nails that has been crafted beautifully, miniature forms of Pillayar, Shiva, Parvathi, Murugan.

Airavateswarar Temple - Darasuram, Kumbakonam
While on the eastern side of the mandapam, one finds Saraswathi with a closed lotus (symbolic of the rising sun) and as one moves on to the western side one finds the depiction of Saraswathi with an open lotus (symbolic of the Sun having moved on to the west). On the upper walls of the Raja Gambira Mandapam, there are some drawings- of demons and birds, a large portion of which has lost its form and one finds only sketches.

While the base of the temple was built by the Chozhas, as can be seen from the granite construction, the top portion/structure was renovated by the Nayak Kings as can be seen from the mixture of the construction materials used- Gun Powder and Red Bricks.

Airavateswarar Temple - Darasuram, Kumbakonam
The main Eastern entrance to the temple remains a Mottai Gopuram(no tower). Interestingly and not to be seen elsewhere, the Amman Sannidhi is in a separate temple just next to and North of the Airavateswarar temple.

Airavateswarar Temple - Darasuram, Kumbakonam

How to reach Darasuram:

Darasuram is about 3kms South West of Kumbakonam off the Thanjavur Highway.
Rock Fort Express from Chennai or Mysore Mayiladuthurai Express from Bangalore to Kumbakonam. State Transport buses every 5 minutes from Trichy/Thanjavur to Kumbakonam.

Phone No. : 0435-2417157
Guide Chinnadurai : 99443 12150

1 comment:

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