Ancient Hindu temples in India are for sure treasures, full of unbelievable marvels with fascinating history and facts that will make you feel goosebumps! These rich temples speak volumes of diverse culture and traditions boasts of as well as architectural brilliance of the yesteryears, and the exciting legends behind it.
One such temple is Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram, Tamilnadu which boasts of rich heritage and astonishing artistic grandeur. Being one among the three ancient temples that are collectively called the “Great Living Chola Temples“, Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram is bestowed with the UNESCO heritage tag. Despite being smaller than the other two temples, the Airavatesvara Temple is extremely beautiful, delicate, and the most complex.
The Airavatesvara Temple is located in Darasuram, in the Thanjavur district of Tamilnadu, just 3 Km west of the temple town of Kumbakonam. Though the upper part of the large gopura is fully destroyed, yet the smaller gopura that remains completely preserved inside the temple premise defines the grandeur of the Airavatesvara Temple.
Reflecting the stunning Dravidian architectural styles and built-in stone, the entire temple complex is brimming with carvings and inscriptions depicting stories from the epics and Puranas.
Another interesting feature that will make you feel fascinated is its ‘Musical Steps’ or the ‘Singing Steps’, the small ornately carved flight of seven steps leading to the ‘Balipeetham’, the sacrificial altar of the temple. The seven steps of this staircase represent the seven musical notes. And the main significance these steps is that when one walks or even taps them, they produce all the seven melodious ‘swaras’ or notes of music. Isn’t it fascinating?
Dating back to the 12th Century CE, Darasuram Airavatesvara Temple is built by the famous Chola King Rajaraja Chola II. This revered Hindu temple is dedicated to Bhagwan Shiva. The Darasuram Airavatesvara Temple was much bigger than it is now. Most of the main architecture and other structures of the temple are now in a crumpled state with the gopurams entirely in ruins. However, the court with the main shrine and the associated sanctums still stands sturdy.
The temple is believed to have named after Airavat, Bhagwan Indra’s white elephant who was cursed by the short-tempered Sage Durvasa for disrespecting Him which caused the spotless white elephant lost his colour. The Airavat was so upset that he prayed to Bhagwan Shiva at this present temple location to regain his white colour.
Bhagwan Shiva who heard his prayer asked the elephant to take a dip in the temple tank and surprisingly he regained his white colour and was freed from his curse. It is believed that this legend led to the naming of this temple as Airavatesvara Temple. You can find this fascinating legend carved in stones in the inner chambers of the temple. The Airavatesvara Temple still holds the water tank and pilgrims believe that taking a holy dip in its waters will cleanse them of their sins.
Speaking about the Sacred Temple Tank, Yamatheertham, Yama – the God of death was cursed by a sage which caused a constant burning sensation all over his body. The Airavatesvara Temple is believed to be the location where Bhagwan Yama prayed to Bhagwan Shiva and got rid of the curse after taking a dip in the sacred temple tank. And this sacred temple tank is now known as ‘Yamatheertham‘.
A sculptural and architectural masterpiece filled with history, the Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram is a must-visit at least once in your lifetime!