Airavateshwara temple : where stones are alive.
Updated: Mar 30, 2021
We are fortunate enough to travel across the nation. And we feel more fortunate to explore Tamilnadu. The state where we can see tradition and rituals are part of common man's daily life. Where art and music is respected and celebrated. Gigantic temple complexes that dwarf the pyramids and intricate sculptures shows how far human imagination can mould the stone like a butterball. No wonder you will find traditional forms of art and music are still conserved in Tamilnadu even today.
In the month of January 2016 we were doing a road trip in Tamilnadu. We were living in Bengaluru at that time. So exploring the southern Bharat was very easy. Fortunately roads in TN are really nice. If you plan a trip there don't forget to drive down on East Coast Road ECR. You will love every bit of it. We travelled on that path this time.
Everyone is aware about the Big Temple of Thanjavur. So did we visited it last time. But when we heard about a similar temple near Kumbakonam we headed for it. It was an early morning drive with hardly 04 Kms. As usual the day started with a dosa and cup of coffee / Kapi.
The climate in the winter is soothing here. Most of the area is covered by trees and farms. Spirit of rural life is alive. When we entered the temple complex it was really quiet, hardly anyone was there. The local priest was doing his daily puja and offerings to the god.
The striking fact was that this temple was exactly the same replica of the Big temple of Thanjavur. Obviously there are some changes. Yet it was like a scaled down version of the earlier temple. watching the temple was like taking a walk into the ancient museum minus the crowd. We were actually inside a beautiful museum where people still come to worship gods. For our daughter Anagha it was an opportunity to get the feel of these sculptures up close.
We are not Archaeologists nor Historians. But the deep connection to the culture and our heritage we love to explore and try to understand the beauty of our people. The temple was basking and shining in the morning glory. Yet the inside complex was way cooler and was giving respite from the increasing heat. This is very useful especially in the summer.
This temple was commissioned by Great Raja Raja Chola. No effort has spared to adorn it with beautiful events and celebration of life on the walls of the temple. And yes it's around 1000 years old and still standing strong. The feel of it is really solid. Many palaces will pale in front of this. But we got a similar feel wherever we travelled in Tamilnadu. Be it Kanchipuram, Chidambaram, Tiruvanmalai, Madurai, Thanjavur, Rameshwaram etc...
The Zenith of temple art is achieved anywhere in Bharat is here. From Ajintha to Kanyakumari one will go crazy by watching the towering work done by architects and sculptures in ancient times. What I wonder is that we still can't match the grandeur in art like sculpture, painting, architecture, acoustic, geometry like them. Their construction ability without damaging nature and surviving more than 1000 years even in floods and earthquakes is phenomenal. Still we chose to ignore this and not included in our school curriculum.
We are aware about Michale Angelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Van Gogh but we fail to love our own artists. We fail to take our kids to visit these living museums where art is not only a religious celebration but celebration of farm life, war, festivals, wildlife, dances, kings, commoners, sexual life ( Kama) and liberation ( Moksha). It shows us the accounts of life in that era. The creatures carved on temples are beautiful, scary and unique. Geometric perfection in human body form and rhythm attracts our eyes more. There's beauty but beyond that something else that makes our mind calm is the rhythm. The divinity can be felt through that and even through the eyes of the gods and goddesses or common people. How come they got it right ?
The perspective towards art needs to be instilled from childhood. And the duty starts with the parents and then goes to teachers. One failed generation breaks the chain of aware citizens. Nowadays we do not have time and luxury to work on one temple for generations. But we can derive some values from those artists. Whatever we do give 100% without harming nature. Built lasting legacy, secondary leadership in any field so that the chain continues.
Greatness can be achieved when we learn to observe, have open mind, share the knowledge and information with others, improve each other, do not give excuses for our failures, learn from it. So whatever remains to tell our story it will always be beautiful.
Best season to visit : November to January
Built by : Raja Raja Chola
It is a UNESCO declared World Heritage Site.
Chennai : 320 kms
Chidambaram : 90 kms
Kumbakonam: 04 kms