Nageswaran Temple Kumbakonam

Location: Kumbakonam, 36 kms from Thanjavur
Built in: 1005 AD

The Tanjore district has a definite magic- a magic endowed by the towering presence of many ancient temples, built over 1000 years ago. One such temple is the Nageswaran temple, a place where where devotion, mythology and aesthetics form an ideal medley. Built around 1005 A.D, it is an outstanding symbol of Chola sculpture. It draws many foreigners keen to interpret the rock wall edicts and study the sculptures.

The main sanctum has a large lingam and legend stated that the temple got its name because of a snake found worshipping the lingam. The front tower is of moderate height, with very lovely sculptures. A peculiarity of the temple is that the Sun_s rays fall directly on the lingam, every year, for three days, from April 14, the traditional Tamil New Year day. Crowds gather during this phenomenon, as the deity_s powers, it is said, are further enhanced then.

Going round the temple prakaram, one comes across some of the most splendid architectural sculpture ever seen. Niches in the outer wall of the sanctum contain large, graceful figures in standing postures-both male and female. Their beauty, hairstyle, attire, jewellery and shape are all examples of the supreme skill of the Chola sculptor. These are not figures of gods, but those of the wealthy patrons of the temple. A fabulous Brahma and Ardhanariswara are found on the other side of the outer wall. Smaller sculptures can be seen along the temple main walls.

A mesmerising Goddess Durga is housed in a separate shrine here. Further down the compound on the left, is a huge Mandapam complete with giant chariot wheels in stone. Mythology states that the entire Mandapam descended from heaven, on a chariot drawn by elephants. One has to climb the steps of the chariot to the shrine of Nataraja and Sivakami- said to be one of the loveliest bronze images that exist. Lord Siva is seen dancing vigorously here, and Sivakami is shown keeping tala (the beat) for his cosmic dance.