Airavatesvara Temple: UNESCO Heritage Great Chola Temple

 In Festivals, History, religious, Tamil nadu, temple, Thanjavur, Travel Facts

Tamil Nadu is a place filled with many things. There are vibrant festivals and ancient temples, it’s a place that is so rooted in its history and culture which makes it a must-visit for everyone. Thanjavur, a city in Tamil Nadu, India, is famous for its ancient temples and the Thanjavur dance festival.

Temples in Thanjavur date back over a thousand years,  and are marvels of architecture and craftsmanship. One of the most iconic is the Brihadeeswarar Temple, built by the Chola dynasty in the 11th century. 

It is known for its towering vimana (temple tower) and intricate sculptures. Another notable temple is the Thanjavur Big Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. 

These temples are not just places of worship but also hold significant cultural and historical importance, attracting visitors worldwide to admire their beauty and spirituality.

Thus, making Thanjavur one of the best places to visit in Tamil Nadu.

One such temple in Thanjavur is the Airavatesvara Temple; it is a stunning example of Dravidian architecture. Built by the Chola dynasty in the 12th century, it is dedicated to Lord Shiva.  So let’s take a deeper look at the Airavatesvara Temple history and its architecture.

Temple Darshan & Aarti Timings: 8:00 am – 8:00  pm

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Airavatesvara Temple History


The Airavatesvara Temple’s history goes back to the Chola empire. It was made by King Rajaraja Chola II. In the past, the Airavatesvara Temple was much bigger, with seven streets and courts like the Srirangam temple. However, only one court with the main temple remains today.

Ruins of towers and other buildings nearby show that the site was damaged at some point, similar to other Chola-era temples and cities, including Gangaikonda Cholapuram. This tells us about the Airavatesvara Temple history and the challenges it has faced over time.

The reasons behind this destruction are not clear. Vasanthi suggests that the Pandyas, who defeated the Cholas in the late 13th century, might have destroyed the city of GangaikondaCholapuram to get back at the Cholas for earlier battles. This could also have affected nearby places like the Airavatesvara Temple in Thanjavur.

In 2004, the Airavatesvara Temple became part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list, along with other Great Living Chola Temples. 

These temples include the Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur, the Temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram in Gangaikonda Cholapuram, and the Airavatesvara Temple in Kumbakonam. 

This recognition highlights the significance of the Airavatesvara Temple, Thanjavur as a cultural and historical treasure. Thus visiting the Airavatesvara temple is one of the best things to do in Tamilnadu.

Airavatesvara Temple Architecture


The architecture of the Airavatesvara Temple in Thanjavur is truly remarkable and reflects the artistic brilliance of the Chola dynasty. Constructed in the 12th century, this temple is renowned for its exquisite design and intricate carvings. 

The Airavatesvara Temple, Thanjavur follows the traditional Dravidian architectural style, known for its towering gopurams (gateway towers), pillared halls, and intricate sculptures depicting Hindu deities and mythological figures. 

One of the most striking features of the Airavatesvara Temple in Thanjavur is its vimana, or temple tower, which rises majestically above the sanctum sanctorum. This towering structure is adorned with elaborate sculptures and intricate details, showcasing the skill and craftsmanship of the artisans who built it.

The vimana is surrounded by smaller shrines dedicated to various gods and goddesses, creating a harmonious architectural ensemble that is both awe-inspiring and spiritually uplifting.

The Airavatesvara Temple, Thanjavur has a special room called a mandapa, where people gather. This room is amazing to see because it has many tall columns with carvings of animals and gods. 

The ceiling is also beautiful, with paintings and sculptures that make the temple look even more grand. When visitors come to the Airavatesvara Temple in Thanjavur, they are amazed by the lovely designs and decorations in this special room.

Visitors are mesmerized by Airavatesvara Temple Architecture by the sheer beauty and craftsmanship, which stands as a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Tamil Nadu.

Overall, the Airavatesvara Temple in Thanjavur is not only a place of worship but also a masterpiece of architecture and art. Its architectural splendour and spiritual significance continue to attract visitors from far and wide, ensuring that it remains a cherished landmark in India’s architectural heritage for generations to come.

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Airavatesvara Temple Myths


There are many  Airavatesvara Temple myths and legends. One of the most popular myths tells the story of how the temple got its name.

According to this myth, Airavata, the divine elephant of Lord Indra, was cursed by a sage and lost its white colour.

To seek redemption, Airavata prayed at this temple, and Lord Shiva appeared before him, blessing him and restoring his original form.

As a result, the temple came to be known as the Airavatesvara Temple. These myths add to the mystique and charm of the temple, drawing visitors from far and wide to witness its beauty and spirituality.

Best time to visit Airavateshvara Temple

The best time to visit Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram is during the winter months, from November to February. During this time, the weather is cool and pleasant, making it comfortable to explore the temple complex. Additionally, the winter months coincide with the festival season, when the temple may host special events and ceremonies, adding to the vibrant atmosphere.

Airavatesvara Temple Important Festival


The Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram celebrates several festivals throughout the year, with one of the main festivals being the Mahashivaratri festival. This festival, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is celebrated with great fervour and devotion by devotees from near and far.

During the festival, special rituals, prayers, and cultural performances take place in the temple complex, creating a vibrant and spiritual atmosphere. The Mahashivaratri festival usually falls in February or March, depending on the Hindu lunar calendar. It is a time of joyous celebration and reverence for devotees of Lord Shiva.

How to Reach AiraVateshvara Temple


Location: Gurunathan Pillai Colony, Dharasuram, Kumbakonam, Valaiyapettai, Tamil Nadu 612702

The Airavatesvara Temple is a famous Hindu temple located in Darasuram, near Kumbakonam in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Here’s how you can reach it:

By Air:

The nearest airport to Darasuram is the Tiruchirapalli International Airport (also known as Trichy Airport) located about 85 kilometres away. From there, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach Darasuram.

By Train:

Kumbakonam is the nearest major railway station to Darasuram, located around 3 kilometres away. You can take a train to Kumbakonam from various cities like Chennai, Madurai, Tiruchirapalli, etc., and then hire a taxi or an auto-rickshaw to reach Darasuram.

By Road:

Darasuram is well-connected by road. You can take a bus or hire a taxi from nearby cities like Kumbakonam, Thanjavur, Tiruchirapalli, and Chennai. The temple is easily accessible from the main road once you reach Darasuram.

Local Transport:

Once you reach Darasuram, you can use auto-rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, or hire a taxi to reach the Airavatesvara Temple. It’s a well-known landmark in the area, so most local drivers will be familiar with it.

Additional Tips:

  • Darasuram is a small town, so accommodations might be limited. It’s a good idea to book your stay in advance if you plan to spend the night.
  • The temple is open to visitors from early morning to late evening. It’s advisable to visit during daylight hours for the best experience.
  • Don’t forget to check for any local festivals or events that might affect your visit, as the temple might be more crowded during these times.

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The Airavateshvara Temple in Kumbakonam stands as a timeless symbol of devotion and architectural brilliance. With its intricate carvings, majestic sculptures, and rich mythology, the temple offers visitors a glimpse into India’s cultural heritage. Its atmosphere and spiritual significance continue to inspire, making it a cherished destination for pilgrims and tourists alike.

What is the historical significance of the Airavatesvara Temple?

The Airavatesvara Temple bears historical significance as a prominent structure from the Chola dynasty in the 12th century, showcasing their architectural and cultural prowess. Its inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list highlights its global recognition and underscores its importance in preserving India’s rich heritage.

Can you describe the architectural style of the Airavatesvara Temple?

The Airavatesvara Temple follows the traditional Dravidian architectural style, featuring towering gopurams, pillared halls, and intricate sculptures. Its vimana rises prominently above the sanctum sanctorum, adorned with elaborate carvings, while the mandapa showcases intricately carved columns depicting mythical creatures.

What deities are worshipped at the Airavatesvara Temple?

The primary deity worshipped at the Airavatesvara Temple is Lord Shiva, known here as Airavatesvara. Additionally, the temple also houses shrines dedicated to other Hindu deities, including Lord Ganesha, Goddess Parvati, and Lord Subrahmanya (Murugan). These deities are worshipped by devotees who visit the temple seeking blessings and spiritual fulfilment.

Which is the best time to visit the Airavatesvara Temple?

The best time to visit the Airavatesvara Temple is during the cooler months from October to March, avoiding the summer heat.

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