Darasuram Information

The superb temple Airavateshwara was built by king Raja Raja II (1146 – 73) AD. It ranks alongside at Thanjavur and Gangaikonda Cholapuram.  Others are grandiose emphasizing heroism and conquest.  This temple is far smaller, exquisite in proportion and detail said to have been decorated with Nitya vinodha, “perpetual entertainment”, in mind.  “Siva” of here is known as “Airavateshwara” because he was worshipped by “Airavata” the white elephant belonging to the king of gods, Indra.

The entrance has a gateway of large gopura which is a metre below ground level in the man wall.  It is topped with the small {redlining} bull figures.  The main building is set in a spacious conrtyard.  Next to the inner sanctuary, fronted by an open porch, the steps of the closed mandapa feature elegant, curled balustrades decorated with elephants and makaras at the corners rearing horses and wheels make the whole into a chariot.  Clever sculptural puns include the heart of an elephant merging with that of a bull.

Finest pieces of Darasuram’s sculpture are the chola black basalt images adorning wall niches in the mandapa and innershrine.  These include the images of nagaraja, the snake king with a hood of cobras and Dakshinamurti the south facing shiva as teacher, expounding under a banyan tree.  One rare image shows shiva as sharabha, Partman, beast and bird, destroying the man lion incarnation of Vishnu, Narasimha incarnation of Vishnu, Narasimha indicative of the animosity between the saivite and vaishnavite cults.

A unique series of somewhat gruesome panels are hard to see without climbing out to the base, from a band along the top of the basement of the closed mandapa and the sanctum sanctorum.  The illustrate scenes from sekkilars periya puranam is one of the great works of Tamil literature.  The poem tells the stories of the Tamil shaivaite saints.  The Nayanmars and was commissioned by king Kulothunga II after the poet criticized him for a preoccupation with erotic, albeit religious, literature,.  Sekkilar is said to have composed it in the Rajasabha at Chidambaram. When it was completed the king sat every day for a year to hear him recite it.

Each panel illustrate the lengths to which the saints were prepared to go to demonstrate the devotion to Shiva.  The boy chandesha whose job is to tend the village cows, discovered one day that they were involuntarily producing milk.  He decided to bathe a Lingam with the milk as a part of his daily worship.  Apalled by this apparent waste, the village complained to his father.  He went to the field, cursed the boy and kicked the lingam over.  At this affront to Shiva, Chandesha cut off his father’s leg with an axe.  He is shown at the feet of Shiva and Parvathi who have garlanded him.  Another panel shows a man who gave food to Shiva devotees frequently. His wife was reluctant to welcome and wash the feet of a mendicant who had previously been their servant, he cut off her hands.  A Pallava queen has her nose cut off for inadvertently smelling a flower, rendering it useless as an offering to Shiva.  The last panel shows to saint Sundara who sang a hymn to Shiva, in return for which Shiva rescued a child who had been swallowed by a crocodile.

Darasuram Photos

Darasuram Horse and Wheel Photo
Darasuram Sculpture pillar
Darasuram Sculpture image
Darasuram Statue