The Peruvudaiyar Kovil, also known as Periya Kovil, Brihadeshwara Temple, RajaRajeswara Temple and Rajarajeswaram, at Thanjavur , is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. It is an important example of Tamil architecture achieved during the Chola dynasty. The temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the "Great Living Chola Temples".
This is one of the largest temples in India and one of India's most prized architectural sites. Built by emperor Raja Raja Chola I and completed in 1010 AD.
Thanjavur Periya Kovil stands amidst fortified walls that were probably added in the 16th century. The vimanam (or temple tower) is 216 ft (66 m) high and is among the tallest of its kind in the world Surrounding the main temple are two walled enclosures. The outer wall is high, defining the temple complex area. Here is the massive gopuram Within this a portico, a barrel vaulted gorpuram with over 400 pillars, is enclosed by a high wall interspersed with huge gopurams axially lined up to the main temple. There is a big statue of Nandi, carved out of a single rock, at the entrance measuring about 16 feet long and 13 feet high. Another widely held belief is that the shadow of the gopuram never falls on the ground. The temple is said to be made up of about 60,000 tons of sandstone and granite.
The Kumbam itself, a 60 ton granite stone carved in one piece, on top of the main gopuram is believed to have been taken to the top by creating an inclined slope to the height of 66m to the top of the gopuram. The prevailing belief is that a mud-slope, which starts at about three miles from the temple site, from Thirukoilore near Sri Virateshvara swamy temple portrays the figure of the Thanjavur Temple. Elephants might have been used to drag the stone up the slope. This was claimed to be the only part of the gopuram, which does not cast a shadow that fall on the ground, at least not within the temple premises which is an architectural amazement in the world of architecture.