Airavateswarar, Darasuram, Thanjavur
Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Airavateswarar||Ambal / Thayar:||Veda Nayaki|
|Timing:||7 to 12 & 5 to 8||Parikaram:|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Darasuram||District:||Thanjavur|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Kumbakonam (5 km)||Thanjavur (38 km)|
|Mayiladuthurai (42 km)||Thiruvarur (43 km)|
Darasuram is very close to Pazhaiyarai, on the outskirts of Kumbakonam, and the temple – maintained by the ASI – is one of of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
Sthala puranam and temple information
Darasuram is named after Dara, the asura, who worshipped Lord Siva here with his 100 wives.
This temple, together with the Thanjavur Brihadeeswarar temple, the Gangaikonda Cholapuram Brihadeeswarar temple and the Kampahareswarar temple at Tribhuvanam, possibly represent the height of Chola architecture. A lot of similarities can also be seen amongst these temples, including the structure of the Vimanam, architecture on the walls and corridors, etc. Interestingly, the first three mentioned above were in or near the capital cities of the Cholas. None of these four temples are Paadal Petra Sthalams, even though they are all extremely popular and much-visited. These temples are known more as showcases of Chola architecture than for their spiritual aspects and divinity.
The original temple complex at Darasuram is said to have been much larger than the current one, with sapta veedhi (seven concentric streets, much like Srirangam), the innermost of which is the current structure seen today. The Darasuram complex was part of the old city of Pazhaiyarai, one of the capitals of the Chola empire.
The Vimanam of Thanjavur temple (first of the three) itself is supposed to have taken inspiration from the Achaleswarar temple (Arur Araneri), a separate Paadal Petra Sthalam located inside the Thyagarajar Temple in Tiruvarur.
Airavatam, the celestial elephant and Indra’s mount, had become egoistic and was misbehaving. As a consequence of its conceit, it once trampled upon the garland given by Sage Durvasa to Indra. The angered sage cursed the elephant, and it lost its lustre and was born on earth, roaming around forests to find relief from the curse. Ultimately, here at Darasuram, Lord Siva gave into its pleas and relieved the elephant from the curse. Airavatam regained its lost color and divinity. Because of this, the Lord is named Airavateswarar. An older name of this temple is Airathali (Aira-thali = temple of Aira, short for Airavatam).
Yama suffered from a sage’s curse, causing a burning sensation all over his body. He worshipped at this temple and bathed in the temple tank, in order to be cured of this curse and its effects. The temple tank is named Yamatheertham.
The Airavateswarar Temple at Darasuram (built by Rajaraja Chola II in the 12th century), along with the Brihadeeswarar temple at Thanjavur (built by Rajaraja Chola I) and the Brihadeeswarar temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram (built by Rajendra Chola I) make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site called the Great Living Chola Temples, and are all maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Some experts also regard that Darasuram is a corruption of Dara Puram, from Ra Ra Puram, a shortening of Rajarajapuram, the name used in some inscriptions to denote this place.
The main mantapam, called the Raja Gambhira mantapam – is designed as an elephant drawing a chariot. A mantapam has been built specially for Lord Sarabheshwara.
Periya Nayaki Amman’s sannadhi is not within the main Airavateswarar shrine, but in a separate temple within the temple complex.
The temple’s architecture and design incorporates elements that clearly show the influence of the Veera Saiva sect.
The north wall of the verandah consists of 108 sections of inscriptions, containing the names, descriptions and images of the 63 Nayanmars, and listing the principal events in their life; as also that of 108 Thevaram Odhuvars.
Many sculptures from this temple, including that depicting the story of Bhikshatanar and the rishi patnis, are currently housed at the Thanjavur Museum.
Other information for your visit
Darasuram is located very close to Kumbakonam, where accommodation at various budgets can be found. Lately, some resorts have come up around Kumbakonam, including near Swamimalai, and also near Thanjavur, from where one can access this temple easily.
The architecture of this temple stands out particularly during the early mornings and just before sunset – those are great times for visiting this temple.