(Last Updated on : 14-09-2011)
Airavateshwar Temple was built by Virarajendra chola I
in the eleventh century. It was completed by Rajaraja II
in the twelfth century. It has been built in a Dravidian architecture. This temple is considered as one of the greatest Chola temples. Lord Shiva
is known as Airateshvara as he is worshipped by Airavata, the white elephant of Lord Indra
This temple has its legends. Airavata was suffering from the curse of Sage Durvasa. The curse was change in his body colour. However when he bathed in the river of this temple his colour was restored. The wall paintings that have been done near the entrance, depict musicians and dancing-girls thereby being able to create an atmosphere of relaxed elation. The bases of these pillars are Yalis. These depict the stories various stories of Shiva.
On both sides galloping horses can be seen suggesting the structure of a chariot. In the front there are beautiful panels that depict Shiva fighting the demons of the Three Cities; Shiva Kalantak and Shiva fighting Kam and Shiva as Virbhadra ruining the sacrifice of his father-in-law Daksha. The Main gateway has finely chiseled images. The variation in architecture is noteworthy. Most images in the niches are composed of basalt. In the ceilings there are sculptures depicting dancing scenes.
The dvarpal of the cella are terrifying, it has four arms, tusks and lion-emblems. On the left side of the entrance there is an image of Lord Kartikeya
with six heads. Inside there is an image of Ardh-narishvar with three faces and eight arms; a Nag-raj with four arms; sage Agastya
, the saint who instructed Shiva; a dancing Shiva Bhairav, Shiva as Sharabh, killing Narsinha; a standing Ganesh; Shiva as Dakshina Murti and as Lingodbhav; Brahma; Durga with eight arms; a seated Devi; Shiva Tripurantak and Shiva Gajantak; Shiva Bhairav with six arms and his dog; Shiva as Mahesh Marti, with three heads and four arms. These are all made of basalt. God's images are flanked by wise men.
This temple has exquisite stone carvings. It is believed that this temple was built with "permanent entertainment" in mind. The vimana is 24 m (80 ft) high; the south side of the front mandapam is in the form of a chariot with large stone wheels drawn by horses.
To the east of the inner court lies a group of well-carved buildings, one of which is the Balipita. In the south-west corner is a mandapam that has four shrines. There are large stone slabs sculptured with images of the sapthamathas or seven celestial nymphs.
Several inscriptions have been found in this temple. One of these speaks of the renovation of the shrines by Kulottunga III
. The north wall consists of 108 sections of inscriptions, each containing the name and description and image of the Saivacharya. Another inscription records that an image was brought from Kalyani.