The Brihadeeshwara temple, also called the Big Temple, dedicated to Lord Siva, was built by the great Chola King Raja Raja 1, and is an outstanding example of the Chola architecture. The main temple is entirely built of granite. More than 130,000 tons of granite is said to have been used to build it. What astounds historians is that there was not a single granite quarry in about 100 km radius of the temple. This means that transporting these stones would have been a herculean task. But Raja Raja Cholan insisted on the use of these stones. All the efforts stand tall when one enters the spectacular space of the temple that stretches long and wide. As we were wondering over these and more facts, naturally, our minds couldn’t help but compare Gangaikonda Cholapuram and the Big Temple with respect to various aspects, but ultimately, both are unique in their own way. During our visit, one thing we loved the most was the human element that we found diversely in and around the temple. On one end there were serious sages sitting in silence, and on the other, we had little children dancing uninhibitedly. We visited the temple at sunrise and at sunset. It was a completely different experience to witness the divine space in different lights. We then moved on to visit the Tanjore palace, Saraswathi Mahal library, Maratta Durbar hall, Art Gallery, and of course, the dancing dolls of Tanjore too.
A groups of kids climb a fleet of stairs inside the temple
After all the walking, we needed a break to rejuvenate ourselves. What better than coffee to do the trick. Coffee is instant energy, anytime, anywhere. But, the best coffee in Thanjavur was at a restaurant a few miles from the Big Temple. Known for its coffee and breakfast, it didn’t take much time for us to reach there. The warm service at the restaurant that had an old-world charm right from its architecture to its utensils was testimony to the patronage it enjoys.
We were there for coffee but couldn’t resist getting our hands on the crispy pooris and dosas. The menu, written on a white board, was simple and straight south Indian items, but there was that perfect balance of taste, aroma and flavour in the food served leaving no room for criticism. Fresh hot coffee was clearly the winner. We got lucky to walk into their kitchen too at the end. They were kind enough to take us along every part of their cooking. We bid adieu after a group photo with them.
The writer is a wedding photographer, avid traveler and founder of Studio A