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Darasuram Temples

Darasuram Temple

Darasuram is a panchayat town located 3 kilometres from Kumbakonam in Thanjavur District. The town is known for the Airavateswara temple constructed by the Rajaraja Chola II in the 12th century AD. The temple is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage monument. This temple is a storehouse of art and architecture. The vimana is 85 feet high. The front mandapam itself is in the form of a huge chariot drawn by horses. The temple has some exquisite stone carvings.

The main deity's consort Periya Nayaki Amman temple is situated adjacent to Airavateshwarar temple. The Great Living Chola Temples. (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) at Thanjavur, Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Darasuram were built by the Cholas between the 10th and 12th centuries CE and have a lot of similarities.

The main mantapa is called Raja Gambira as the elephant draws the chariot. The wheels were put back by the ASI at a later date. The ceiling has a beautiful carving of Shiva and Parvathi inside an open lotus. All the dancing poses of Bharatanatyam are carved in the stone. They are referred to as the Sodasa Upasaras. There is a carving showing the village womenfolk helping in the delivery of another female, who has both her hands on the shoulders of the two ladies, who are pressing their hands and the abdomen of the lady to help her deliver. 'These are very skillful and artistic works of superb style. This may give a glimpse into the social conditions of the past. The stone image of Ravana carrying Kailas is a fine specimen of workmanship. One finds sculptures of Buddha, Bhikshatana, Saraswathi without her Venna, and a sculpture of Ardhanarishvara, Brahma and Surya.

It was during this time that Shaivism took a very drastic step and lord Sarabheshwara would seem to have come into existence. Many reasons have been cited for this incarnation of Lord Shiva. Sarabha has the face of a lion and the body of a bird and has placed on his lap the mighty Lord Narasimha. A mantapa has been specially built for lord Sarabha, and thereafter has been installed in temples. The paintings on the walls have been repainted during the Nayak periods.

At the very entrance to the temple two Dwarapalakas, Sankhanidhi and Padmanidhi, are imposing figures, giving vivid anatomical expressions of the exuberance of youth. In front of the temple, there is a small mandapa, which can be reached by three steps in the form of a ladder. The steps are stones, which give different musical sounds when tapped. All the seven swaras can be had at different points. It is feared that if proper care is not taken soon, village children will damage the stones. Now these stone steps have been completely covered with metal grills to save them from deterioration.