The Brhadisvara temple of Tanjavur is acclaimed as the
finest achievement of Cola art. The artistic design of this temple has been compared
to a bio-organism where each part is related to the whole. It is not just an
architectural monument but a living organism that has served as a centre of
social, economic and political life in many succeeding centuries since the time of Raja
Raja I (1010 AD). Its artistic excellence lies in perfect balance of the parts and
the whole, in architecture, sculpture, painting bronze images, the idols and
reliefs. Inscriptions on the walls of the temple provide a corpus of information
over a span of many centuries. The Centre has initiated the study of this temple at
several levels to investigatethe multi-layered and multi-dimensional personality of the
Ksetra Tanjavur and the Ksetram, the Kovil, the temple as a physical and conceptual
- Multilingual bibliography related to this 11th century
temple. Based on secondary sources, the annotated bibliography with 1,000 entries is being
- Inscriptions and epigraphical materials. This module was
entrusted to the Archaeological Survey of India which unfortunately could not complete the
work. However, on the basis of the available materials a monograph is under preparation.
- Architecture and archaeological factors. An attempt has been
made to document the temple by examining scale drawings of its ground plans, elevations
and sections; work was also done on the sculptures, paintings and inscriptions of the
outer and inner walls of the temple. An exhibition of the drawings and photographs, titled
Earth to Eternity, was held; it was followed by a seminar titled
Brihadishvara: the Monument and the Living Tradition. A monograph on the
iconography of 637 sculptures is under preparation.
- Photographic documentation of mural paintings. Documentation
of numerous mural paintings on the garbhagriha walls has resulted in 903 slides. A
monograph has been planned.
- Temple as a living presence. There are daily, weekly,
monthly and annual performances of rituals which need to be recorded in a multi-media
form. In 1993, a workshop was organized with Oduvars of Shaivite temple on Tevaram
singing, which yielded 17 audio tapes, 33 spools, 28 transcripts of interviews and 67
photographs of Oduars. A master tape of the Tevaram singing by famous Oduvars and a
monograph on Tevaram hymns have been planned.
- Documentation of Utsava. In 1997, the temple celebrated the
ritual of Mahakumbhabhishekam (after 12 years). Photographs and audio-and-video tapes of
the ritual have been obtained; also three albums of photographs, 17 audio tapes, and 42
U-matic video tapes. A 90-minute film of this ritual is being planned.
Multi-media walk-through of the Brihadishvara temple. Under
the auspices of the UNDP, the ID Division of IGNCA is planning a multi-media
project on the temple, by using the materials so far collected.