We enter through the first gateway or gopuras, which was built during the Maratha rule of this region. A rather simple gate with a gopura on top, if was a critical line of defense to the temple’s fortification that was once surrounded by a moat.
“The Cholas, the mightiest rulers of South India, at one point of time held sway over major parts of South India and Sri Lanka. They also made their presence felt over North India and even South East Asia. The glory of the medieval Cholas was established by the early Chola rulers who ruled from the Uraiyur region in the beginning of the common era. The rise of Vijayalaya (850-871 CE) by defeating the Pallavas, Pandas and Muttaraiyars paved the way for the establishment of the Cholas of the Imperial line.
Thanjavur, the rice bowl of Tamilnadu located on the southern bank of Vadavaru, was a strategic and geographic center in the south western corner of the Cauvery delta. It is know as Tanjai in the inscriptions of the Cholas of the 10th and early 11th centuries. It was a center of a collection of villages controlled by the Muttaraiyars and eventually by the Cholas in the middle of the 9th century CE. It was showered with importance by Chola Rajaraja I (985-1014 CE) with the construction of his monumental Bridhadisvara temple. The distinct character of this temple city was that it was deliberately created as a ceremonial and sacred bhakti center. With the temple at its centre, the city was designed with an ullalai (inner quadrangle around the temple) and a perambadi (outer circuit) for the preistly/administrative class and for the other professional groups, respectively.
Thanjavur lost its importance subsequent to the death of Rajaraja I when the capital was shifted to Gangaikondacholapuram. It blossomed forth to its former glory under the Nayaka and Maratha rulers. The Brihadisvara tempe was fortified and the Subramanya shrine as also the colossal Nandi within the complex were added by the Nayakas. Several tanks were repaired and wastelands were reclaimed for agriculture. Raghunatha Nayaka constructed a theatre in his royal palace to state theatricals.
In 1675 AD, Thanjavur was passed into the hands of the Marathas. Shahji, the Maratha ruler improved the balance and constructed a beautiful throne room in it. Manuscripts were collected and housed in the Sarawathi Majal Library. Ragagopalaswami temple added lustre to the city. A number of choultries and charms were constructed for the poor.
Thanjabur was annexed by the British in 1855 AD when the last Maratha king Sivaji had no male heir to succeed him. The stronger and growing British power converted the small princely state of Thanjavur into a viable economic unit.”
After passing through the Rajaragan Gateway, I am confronted by the magnificence of Brihadishvara Temple — it is literally breathtaking. Gazing at the Red Temple, it becomes clear why my benefactor mountain in the Andes — Ausangate — began whispering to me in dreamtime before I left for India. The “change” I sensed that would “rattle my cage” in India and further amplified by Andrew’s comments last night is pounding in my chest.
According to my guidebook, the lower passageway is lined with paintings of the Chola period while the upper one has depictions of Lord Shiva performing 81 of the 108 karanas or dance postures of the Natya Sastra of Bharata, a Hindu text that describes the central role of theatre and dance in Indian culture. Because the temple is dedicated to Shiva, he is represented by a huge 12-foot linga that is named Rajarajesvaram-udaiyar after king Rajaraja Chola I.
After it is my turn to receive a blessing from the priest, I move aside to quietly say a prayer and breathe in the highly-charged energy of this temple. A ripple of energy moves up my body as a knowingness explodes into consciousness — a confirmation of being on the right path; unity of divisions — taqé (the Quechua word for unity:wholeness:Oneness through right-relationship).
Unfortunately, there is no time to visit the Interpretation Center or the North Cloister Mandapam where there are 108 Shiva lingas that were created during the reign of the Maratha ruler Sarabhoji, as well as some smaller shrines.
At our appointed meeting time and place, a group photograph is taken before we retrieve our shoes and board our bus. I crave silence.
Tired and still craving silence, both Babe and I opt to remain aboard the bus while the rest of our group visit the shop where we bought bronze statues last evening. Then, thankfully, it is time for lunch. Nandi takes us to the Hotel Parisutham on Canal Road for lunch. I order a pineapple lassi, garlic naan, vegetable friend rice and garlic prawns — that feeds two others besides myself amply — for $16.96US. That includes tax and tip!
When the alarm goes off, instead of getting ready to party at Nandi’s room again tonight before dinner, both Babe and I find we are still craving. Quickly throwing something on over our nightgowns, go make our apologies to Nandi. Back in our room, I meditate, write and sleep.
Missing out on a party is so unlike me, but I suspect not for long. . . What drew me to this trip was a knowingness that a pacha (cycle in time) in my life was drawing to an end and the start of a new one was at hand. In silence, it is becoming clearer what facets of that look like. Andrew was right last night about my needing to bring more passion to my work . . . its source is silence.