The famous Airavateswarar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and located in the small town of Darasuram, about 4km from Kumbakonam in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu. This Hindu temple was built by Rajaraja Chola II in the 12th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with other famous temples like the Brihadeeshwara temple and the great Living Chola temples.
Darasuram town became famous because of this temple to the extent that the name of this temple is sometimes alternated with the name of the town. Airavateswarar temple forms a cluster along with 17 other temples of the same medieval era in the Kumbakonam area. The name Darasuram is believed to be a corruption of the original name of Rajarajapuram given to it by the reigning king.
The utter magnificence of this temple is like poetry in stone and is accordingly known as a sculptor’s dream come true and relived in stone. Its architectural beauty, innovative designing and rare sculptural specimens are what makes it so unique – and a magnet for tourists and pilgrims. The raised platform of the temple floor can be reached by three steps crafted like a ladder. There is a mystical beauty in these stone steps as they give off different musical sounds of varying pitches when struck. The seven swaras can be heard by tapping on different points on these steps and this keeps many a pilgrim fascinated for some time.
The front ‘Mandapam’ of the temple is in the shape of a huge chariot pulled by horses. Numerous paintings, frescos and sculptural carvings make this a veritable treasure house for those artistically inclined. The ‘Vimanam’ of the temple is comparatively small and stands at a height of around 80 feet.
The stone panels on the inner walls depict major Vedic and Puranic deities like Indra, Agni, Brahma, Vishnu, Durga, Saraswati, Ganga, Yamuna, etc, in various poses and dance forms. All the dance poses of Bharatnatayam can be seen here carved gracefully in stone. There is a depiction of a village women delivering with her two aides and another exquisite one of Ravana carrying Kailas. It is believed that Yama, God of death was suffering under the curse of a Rishi and sustained healing only by bathing in the temple’s sacred tank which is 228 feet wide and fed by the Kaveri River. Pilgrims also make a point of bathing here.
Getting to this temple is easy as it’s within easy reach of the nearby Trichy Airport as well as daily road and railway connections. Stay over in the nearby Chidambara Vilas hotels and experience heritage life first-hand while you explore the surrounding treasures!