One of the Great Living Chola Temples, built by Rajaraja Chola II, recognized by UNESCO as the World Heritage Site is the Airavateswarar Temple in a small town called Darasuram, near the Temple City Kumbakonam In the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu. The temple is believed to exist from the 12th century CE built in the Dravidian Style of Architecture.
The presiding deity Lord Shiva was worshipped by the White Elephant Airavata, owned by the Celestial King Indra to get out of his problems. That is the reason the Lord is called as Airavateswarar and so the temple. Though this temple is not equally big when compared to its counterparts in Tanjore and Gangai Konda Cholapuram,this temple has got more significance with respect to the ornate carvings and sculptures. Historians have found worth mentioning about this temple that the entire premises has been constructed with a noble intention of “perpetual entertainment”(Nithya Vinoda). This means, every time you visit this temple, you will find something new to enjoy which you would have missed previously. Thus the temple is a treasury of art, culture and architecture.
The entire temple is built to resemble the form of a chariot used during the festivals and processions. The façade of the temple welcomes with an 80 foot high gateway tower and it is quite surprising to know that the sanctum sanctorum is without any pathway for circumambulation unlike any other Hindu Temple. Adjoining a small shrine for Lord Ganesha,there is a set of three steps not to be missed by any visitor. The significance of these steps is that when one strikes these steps, it gives out the seven basic nodes of music .(Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma,Pa,Dha, Ni) which is still a mystery for many architects.
There is a separate temple in which the consort of Lord Airavateswarar is housed in the name of Periya Nayaki Amman. The architecture of the Amman Temple is slightly different than that of the main deity leading to a conclusion that only during this period the practice of constructing Amman Temples started to emerge.
The section of the temple which any visitor should not afford to miss is the Inscriptions. There are interesting inscriptions containing the name and image of the 63 saints of Saivism called Nayanmars with an additional information on the significant events occurred in their lives. The entire details are narrated in 108 sections. There are sculptures for Odhuvars who used to sing the devotional hymns in the temple during the period of the King Raja Raja Cholan. Another interesting aspect is the sculptures representing the river Goddesses like Cauvery, Ganga, Yamuna,Godavari and the like which cannot be normally seen in any other temple.
Thus, the Airavateswarar temple and the small village Darasuram is a place where there is a huge repository of art and culture reflected everywhere. The rich heritage and the age old tradition are well depicted in the artistic works of the temple. The Beauty of the temple is beyond explanation and one has to visit this premises to have a next to divine experience.
Come and visit the World Heritage Site Darasuram.