Airavatesvara Temple, Thanjavur

Visitor Information

  • Famous for: History, Architecture, Divinity
  • Entrance Fee: No entry fee for this place of worship
  • Visiting Time: 6 AM to 8 PM (Daily)
  • Visit Duration: 1 hour to 2 hours

The Airavatesvara Temple is a great masterpiece located in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. Constructed during the rule of the powerful Cholan dynasty, this majestic place of worship is present in Dharasuram quite near the temple town of Kumbakonam. A temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, this was built under the ruler Rajaraja Cholan back in the 12th century. It has been named Airavatesvara after the white elephant which is the vehicle of Lord Indra. The elephant is said to have worshipped Lord Shiva at this location in order to regain its white color after having suffered a curse from Sage Durvasa. This legend led to the naming of the temple as such. Moreover, this location is also believed to be the spot where Lord Yama prayed to the prime deity to get rid of a burning sensation all over his body which he was cursed with. This beautiful and serene location with its historic significance is definitely a place to be visited.

Airavatesvara Temple
Photo by Arian Zwegers, CC BY 2.0

Traveler Tips

  • Avoid visiting the place during the rainy season.
  • Carry water bottles, caps and hats to combat the heat if visiting in the afternoons of summers.

Things to Do

  • Marvel at the stunning architecture of this quiet temple which has got its own set of inscriptions and carvings all around the premises.
  • The austere background provides a certain aura which makes it perfect to experiment with photography.
  • Visit the various shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva, Goddess Periya Nayagi Ammal and Lord Ganesha.
  • Also look into the sculpture of Lord Indra seated on his vehicle, Airavata.
  • Visit the nearby town of Kumbakonam which contains a multitude of temples which boast of history and architecture.
  • Try out the local cuisines in the eateries, and do not miss out on the famous Kumbakonam degree coffee for which the locality is widely known for.
  • The small museum affiliated to the temple has got to be looked into.
  • Shop out at the local markets to collect some souvenirs from the trip.

Availability of Guides

Local guides can be hired for a certain fee to explain the history behind this temple, and its various architectural aspects.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit the city of Kumbakonam would be during the winter months from November to February. The summers of this place are typical of the region, and can be really hot and humid. Winter is the time when both the heat and the humidity are at an all-time low leading to a nice and pleasant ambience to tour around the city. The temple can be dropped in at in the mornings and evenings for a good visit.

How to Reach

The temple is just about 5 kilometers from the outskirts of the temple town of Kumbakonam. The nearest airport to Kumbakonam is the Trichy International Airport at a distance of about 70 kilometers from the city. It has got its own railway station which is well connected through rail to cities like Trichy, Madurai, Chennai etc. Bus services are available in plenty to this town while cabs and autos can be used to traverse within the city.

Interesting Facts and Trivia about the Airavatesvara Temple

  • The temple, along with the Brihadeeswara Temple and the Gangaikondacholisvaram Temple are together known as the Great Living Chola Temples.
  • The temple is shaped in the form of a chariot.
  • It contains about 108 inscriptions about the life and principles of the Saivaite saints.
  • The temple has records of being renovated by the ruler Kulotunga Chola.
  • It also contains the sculptures of the Devara Othuvars which accounts to 108 in number, and also that of the various rivers goddesses.
  • The Balipita, literally translating to the seat for sacrifice, adjoins the shrine of Lord Ganesh.
  • Lord Yama was believed to have taken a dip in the adjoining water source to get rid of his curse, and hence the tank is called Yamateertham.
Airavatesvara Temple Thanjavur
Photo by Nithi Anand, CC BY 2.0

Nearby Restaurants

  • Singh Bakery
  • Saravana bakery
  • Murari Sweets
  • Chennai Restaurant

Nearby Attractions

  • Chakrapani Temple
  • Nageswarar Temple
  • Kanchi Kamakoti peetam
  • Swamimalai Murugan Temple

This mesmerizing spot, filled with history and breathtaking architecture is a lesser known but worthwhile place for history buffs and architectural enthusiasts to spend time in. Devotees should certainly pay a visit to this serene temple, which stands tall in all its grandeur within a splendid background.

About Rohit

An architect by profession, Rohit Agarwal is a curious traveller, seeking out the minutest detail about the places he travels to, and that’s what one will find in his writings. His writings have appeared in various blogs, he’s currently trying to bring forth as many different places a traveller who shares the same level of curiosity like him would like to visit through his writings.

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