Darasuram Temple

Sri Airavateeswarar temple

Sri Airavateeswarar temple, built by Raja Raja Chola II (1145-73), is in Darasuram on the Tiruvaiyaru-Kumbakonam route, a few km before Swamimalai.
This temple for Lord Shiva was originally fortified by seven massive walls, and several prakaras.  At present only the beautifully carved, but dilapidated main entry gate, some distance from the temple grounds, stands in splendid isolation.  The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) virtually rebuilt the temple in recent years.  The temple is now a World Heritage Monument.

Darasuram is said to be a corruption of the original, Rajarajeswaram, named after its builder.  However, another school maintains that Darasura, an asura, worshipped the Lord here, along with his 1,000 wives.  According to another legend, Lord Yama, the god of death, was afflicted with a terrible disease, on account of a curse, and was told to bathe in the holy tank here.  He did, and was cured of the malady.  The tank has since come to be known as Yama theertham.  It is also said that Airavata, the celestial elephant, was absolved of his sins after he worshipped here; hence the Lord is known as Sri Airavateswarar. 

The Nandi is in a small mandapa, below ground level, as indeed is the temple.  The Nandi itself is small, compared to the huge ones that you encounter in Thanjavur and Gangaikonda Cholapuram.  A modest, South Indian style Rajagopuram, embellished with figures of gods and goddesses, in the front and rear, greets one at the entrance.  The main entrance is propeed up by two pillars on either side.  The temple consists of the sanctum, ardhamandapam, mahamandapam and Rajagambhira mandapam.

The Rajagambhira mandapam, housing the sanctum (garbagriha), presents a charming facade.  It is built in the form of a chariot, complete with whels, and horses in full gallop the balustrades on both sides of the steps are in the form of elephants.  Inside, intricate carvings in miniature relate stories from the various puranas.  A particularly spectacular miniature shows Shiva on the Nandi, flanked by devas, while the bottom half depicts dancing girls in various poses.  Other sculptures depict Shiva's wedding, the mohini avatar, and Kama(cupid) being dissolved by Shiva.  The dwajastambham (flag staff), in front of the main mandapam, is shorter than the structure to which it is attached.

Around the temple are carved figures in niches that resemble those in the temples of southeast Asia.  In one of the niches is Durga over the head of Mahishi ( the buffalo-headed demon).  There are also smaller shrines in the sides, attached to the main structure, alongside which are beautiful paintings, ravaged by age.  Maybe, these were later additions! Also, on the outer wall you find several circled snake forms, inside which are carved women in various postures.  The outer fortification is surrounded on the inside  by a running verandah, like in most Shiva temples.  Over this fortification are seated nandis every ten metres or so.  The pyramidal Vimanam (tower) is only 26m (85 feet) tall, and like the temple itself, smaller than the towers of Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Thanjavur.

Independent of the main temple, but juxtaposed to it, stands the shrine of the Mother Goddess, Sri Deiva Nayaki Amman.  The shrine is famous for some of the most charming sculptures of the feminine form.

How to get there:  Darasuram is 3km from Swamimalai, and 5km from Kumbakonam.  Like Swamimalai, it is on the Mayiladuthurai-Trichy train route.
Accommodation: Kumbakonam or Swamimalai.

Darasuram Sri Airavateeswarar Temple Photos

Darasuram Sri Airavateeswarar temple Photos
Darasuram Sculptures Photos
Darasuram Photos
Sri Airavateeswarar temple
Darasuram Pictures
Darasuram Image
Darasuram Photo
Darasuram Picture

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