Brihadishvara Temple: The Golden Thread of Science and Religion

Brihadishvara Temple, also called Rajarajesvaram, is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva located in South bank of Kaveri river in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India. It is one of the largest South Indian temples and an exemplary example of a fully realized Dravidian architecture. It is called as Dhakshina Meru (Meru of south). Built by Tamil king Raja Raja Chola I between 1003 and 1010 AD, the temple is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “Great Living Chola Temples”, along with the Chola dynasty era.

I had the fortune to visit this temple recently. The temple built in 10th century is not only a masterpiece for religious purposes, but also a technological marvel (quite comparable to pyramids). Temples (be it Indian, Greek, Egyptian, Chinese etc.) have always been knowledge centres, economic centres and spiritual centres for various flourished civilisations of the world. The primary purposes of such structures were to bring enlightenment and societal feelings amongst the followers. Hence, we generally do not see the such structures as technological marvels. However, Brihadishvara temple located in Tanjore is one such example.

King Raja Raja Chola was a visionary leader, a valorous commander, a devout of Lord Shiva and great supporter of Arts and Architect. During his reign, Chola kingdom expanded its border and commissioned great pieces of arts and Architecture. This temple is classic example and reflection of the great king’s vision and technological expertise.

Few noticeable features of this temple are following:

  • Lord Shiva’s statue consecrated in the sanctum is bigger and broader than the entrance door. It means that, the statue was installed first, and temple was built around it. The construction employed carefully carved stones. While doing the construction, the foundation was laid, and the statue of Shiva was installed. Later, the carved stones were arranged around. As the construction progressed, the temple was filled with sand for saving the statue and providing platform for the masons to build.


  • The temple is roughly around 216ft tall. For such a structure one needs a deep foundation. However, the current temple does not have a traditional foundation. The real question to ask is “How this structure is standing on such short foundation and has survived for almost 1000 years now?”. The answer lies with the human anatomy, like human body had foundation in pelvic region and legs as appendages. The structure is double walled with foundation in mid-air. This signifies, that Cholas were not only brilliant in engineering and technology but also in physical manifestation of anatomical principles.


  • The 216feet Monument made with Interlock & puzzle technique means keeping one stone & above one stone no cement or stucco & adhesive used.


  • Although the much younger heritage structure in the world is tilting example, like London Big Ben & Leaning tower of Pisa. This 1000 years monument showing “0”Degree Inclination still. The scientific reason is it works on the principle of ‘Centre of Gravity’


  • The final surprising thing is the Vimana (Temple Top) is made with single & a large marble stone weight of 81 tons, which is placed successfully on the top of the Temple (Approx 200 feet high before Vimana placing) once construction is completed is still miserable how that was possible without technology & cranes


  • The main temple is entirely built of granite. More than 130,000 tons of granite is said to have been used to build it. What astounds historians is that there was not a single granite quarry in about 100 km radius of the temple. This means that transporting these stones would have been a herculean task. But Raja Raja Cholan insisted on the use of these stones. All these features make this Chola temple of Tanjore, a magnum opus of the Chola reign

What it teaches you ?

  • Religion and Science can live together, co-exist to gift humanity with such beautiful examples.
  • Ancient people were far more technologically advanced than what we are today.
  • Respect your heritage, learn from it and enhance.
  • Follow the laws of nature, work with it and not against it to stand the test of time.
  • There is no boundry to human endeavour. Inspire and perspire to achieve.


Nihit Mohan


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Who is Nihit Mohan?

Nihit Mohan is a banker, author and a TEDx speaker. He was born & raised in the cradle of cultural diversity of India, & currently resides in Singapore. He did his education from seven schools spread across multiple cities & cultures. He is an engineer by education & has made a successful career in the financial services industry. He hails from a family of engineers, bureaucrats & academicians.

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