Tanjore Big Temple Documentary

I’ve been looking for this a long long time. The first time I saw this documentary was couple of years back on Discovery channel(or was it NGC). Since then I have been looking for this and finally found it at Google Video. One of the pleasures of browsing the net at wee hours of morning, like 3:56 am on a saturday.

This documentary, The Lost Temples of India, talks about Raja Raja Chola and how he built the Tanjore Big Temple. Running for over 52 minutes, this is pure treasure, especially if you love the temples and their architectures. There is a lengthy dramatization on how they would have moved the 80 ton single stone to the top of the gopuram. Those 360 degree helicopter shots of Tanjore Gopuram explain in detail the class of architecture used. Just amazing.

I’m positive that it would be worth the time spent.

25 thoughts on “Tanjore Big Temple Documentary

  1. Decent documentary… There are a lot of conclusive erros in the documentary. For ex: Raja Raja did not build these marvellous temples only to avoid to be reborn as a worm in the next reincarnation. There is a sincere spritual reason for these temples to exist.

    These errors aside, a very good introduction of the South Indian temples to the western audience.


  2. I was appalled by the simplistic view of things taken on everything, especially the spiritual and cultural dimensions. Informative?? It was just an incongrous mixing up of everything. Anybody who cares to read an introductory history on these temples would be way off!! I wish i had not wasted my one hour on this.


  3. Despite a few mis-interpretations and a an urge to dramatize (Lost Temple??? Maybe to the west….Still millions of people visit these temples), it was quite a documentary attempting to capture the grandeur of the Hindu temples in South India.
    Your midnight net scouring is well worth it. Well worth the time.
    Thanks for sharing, Lazygeek.


  4. thanx for the vid. Will dload on monday. By the way, the theory of how they brought the stupa stone to the top of the temple is plausible dont you think. They even found the ramps and all.


  5. //There are a lot of conclusive erros in the documentary. For ex: Raja Raja did not build these marvellous temples only to avoid to be reborn as a worm in the next reincarnation. There is a sincere spritual reason for these temples to exist.//

    Yep. I agree but this documentary coming from the west is prone to have such errors on fundamentals. Still its great stuff. Loved every bit of it.


  6. //Informative??//

    Fakir, Yes. Atleast it is possible the only documentary made visually on the building of the big temple. And they did try to dramatize building of the temple. Atleast a bit and thats nice.


  7. //The top of the temple is not made by a single stone and it’s not true that it doesn’t have any shadow on land. //

    Thanks Ramki. Will check. Also I think the capstone[Gopuram] was made up of two stones of 40 tons each.


  8. Lazy, Thanks. I am visiting this temple when I got india next. Want to take photographs. As far as the shadow claim goes, The claim is that the shadow of the capstone and the kalasam never falls on land within the temple’s walls. I cannot validate it. More of hearsay.


  9. Great find. Is there any way to download the entire clip ? 🙂

    Every South Indian should preserve this.

    Infact i have forwarded this link to a bunch of my North Indian friends who says Wah Taj!

    Cheers, Keep it up.


  10. I haven’t seen this documentary, don’t have the time yet. But I am a thanjavoor iyer. Brihadeeshwarar Kovil is our pride.The story that we thanjavoor kara are aware of goes like this – Raja raja chozhan, during the construction of the temple,was horseback riding when he felt very thirsty near an old hut. The paati gave him some more to drink, and he in return gave her gold and asked if he could take the huge boulder near her hut, which is a single stone and is on the gopuram. There is no shadow, trust me. I’ve been there. The whole temple is an architectural wonder. And so is the mysterious varahiamman statue that keeps growing out of the ground. Apparently, varahiamman came in the king’s dreams ordering him to build the temple.


  11. However, during the course of building the temple he managed to let his pride supercede devotion, and thus, the temple stands cursed till today that it will never be recognised for its spiritual power or sanctity. Till today, it’s more popular for its architectural miracle, right from the nandi to the huge sivalingam… No one worships there, but stands in awe. The only deity that is whole heartedly worshipped, in my opinion, whenever i go there, is the varahiamman statue which people predict will outgrow one day…


  12. Dr Padma Subramaniam, the dancer,was one of the privileged who was allowed inside the gopuram where new dance concepts were found, that she’s elaborated in her book. Also, there is a very controversial small idol of pillayar holding his thing…


  13. Great Vid. I too had seen it years before on Discovery Channel.

    Forget the errors.Only through this documentary did I know how they managed to move the top stone through the slope – some awesome brainy stuff!

    Atleast Discovery takes interest in these things…..Namma ooru channelum iruke……huh


  14. Wow.. Thanks for the video guru…Hailing from Thanjavur , I always love ‘Our Periya Koil’..

    I had been to temple mannnny times and haven’t noticed the shadow of the Gopuram falling on the ground..

    As Rums pointed out, both the Nandhi and Varahi amman statue are growing ( paatti,96 – ‘naan chinna ponna irukkum pothu verum thala gireedam mattum thaan theriyum varahi ammanukku’.).. (Mebbe some chemical nature of the stone)
    Huge Nandi is made of one single stone…

    And you could see an English officer’s statue (vella kaara thora) ( Man dressed up like a Justice/Governer) in the west(?) side of the temple..which everybody tells that the astrologers of Raja Raja Cholan’s kingdom has guessed that Foriegners would come to India and conquer..

    And the architecture is amazing that sun shade falls on the huge Lingam…

    There is a story (I AM NOT SURE) that Raja Raja Cholan used Prisionars to build the temple..And he has mishandled/killed many of prisionars while constructing the temple.. And many ladies were raped by RajaRaja Cholan’s soldiers while building the temple … And so there is a ‘sabam’ for the temple.. Whenever, they arrange for a ‘Kumbabishekam’ , there would be some unexpected accidents… ( Remember Thanjavur Thee vibathu.? )… Also, the people in power are not supposed to see the ‘Gopuram’.. People speculate that after seeing the Gopuram, MGR, Indira Gandhi,etc etc..(there is a list, i dont remember) passed away within 3 months.. So, whenever, Jayalalitha comes to Thanjavur, they would cover the Gopuram ( with ‘keethu’).. I had seen this many times during many leader’s visit..



  15. 3signs, I dont think the Nandi is growing, do you? But it is by far, the most magnificent Nandi I’ve ever seen. There are so many mysteries associated with Periya Kovil. There is said to be a suranga padai from Periya Kovil, through Sivagangai, and also to Madurai. No one is allowed to venture into certain areas of the temple. Balakumaran’s book ‘Udayar’ is a must read for people who are interested in Thanjavoor. He got lotsa first hand information that is being passed down from generation to generation – from a very old man in thanjavoor who still narrates the story the way it has been told for generations. Raja raja chozhan was definitely an arrogant king. Can strike lotsa similarities in Gangai konda Chozhapuram…


  16. A li’l late to the party i guess 🙂 Thanks for the link though, would never had hit upon it in the next 2 yrsm, if not for u…

    And thanks Rums and 3signs for the addtnl info.


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