Airavatheeswara Temple in Tamilnadu
The Airavatheeswara Temple in Tamilnadu is famous Sculptural Master Piece of Chola Empire built by Raja Raja CholaII dated between 1160-62AD. This Airavatheeswara Temple is such living monument located at Dharasuram in Tamilnadu which has got recognition as a world heritage monument by the UNESCO.The temple is an outstanding creative achievement in the architectural conception of the pure form of the Dravida type temple.
In this Airavatheeswara temple Lord Shiva is enshrined as Airavateshvara, since he was worshipped by Airavata a white elephant of the king of the gods, Indra.
This Airavatheeswara Temple is a four-tiered temple that has a sanctum and three halls with fine stone chariot known as Rajagambira Mandapa drawn by caparisoned horses, with Brahma as its driver. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple is Nirandhra i.e. without the circumambulatory passage. The Airavatheeswara Temple constitutes an ardha Mandapam and a 100-pillared Maha Mandapam in the temple. With the finely carved sculptures on the outer walls of the Maha Mandapam and the garba griha.
There is a wonderful sculptural idol that depicts Annapoorani with a beaming smile, holding a brass vessel with her left hand and a lotus on her right hand. The most attracting about this Airavatheeswara Temple among all things is the tread stones housed within the Nandi enclosure. The Airavatheeswara Temple walls are carved with beautiful dancing poses of Bharatanatyam.
Near the entrance to the Airavatheeswara Temple two Dwarapalakas, Sankhanidhi and Padmanidhi, are imposing figures, giving vivid anatomical expressions of the liveliness of youth. The steps in the Airavatheeswara Temple are made of stones that gives different musical sounds when tapped with all the seven swaras are heard at different points.
History of Airavatheeswara temple:
As this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva named as Airavatheeshwara, an elephant legend known as Airavata is associated with this temple. When elephant was suffering from a change of colour due to the curse from Sage Durvasa, it had restored its colour by bathing in the sacred waters of this Airavatheeswara Temple.
Thus the temple and the presiding deity derive its name from this incident and is commemorated by an image of Airavata with Indra seated in an inner shrine.
This place is also believed that Yama, the King of Death also worshipped Lord Shiva when he was cursed by Rishi and suffered from a burning sensation all over the body then later he was cured by the when he took bath in the sacred in this temple pond. Since then the tank has been known as Yamateertham.