image caption, The temple tower uses similar building principles to those used in constructing the great pyramids
Official celebrations are taking place in southern India for the 1,000th birthday of one of the grandest temples ever built on the subcontinent.

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The Brihadisvara temple - in the town of Thanjavur, 350km (220 miles) south-west of Chennai - is considered the finest example of southern Indian architecture.

R Nagasami, the state of Tamil Nadu government's retired director of archaeology, says it is not clear when work started on the attraction, which is better known as the Big Temple.

He adds: "But we can definitely say it was completed in the year 1010. We made this conclusion from stone inscriptions."

Dedicated to Lord Shiva, a major Hindu deity, it consists of 13 tiers, and its main tower soars majestically to a height of 60m (200ft).

The master designers built the hollow tower by interlocking stones without using any binding material.

Considered one of the tallest structures in India at that time, the temple was built on the orders of the King Raja Raja Chola, the most prominent sovereign of the Chola dynasty.


The Cholas reached their zenith during the 11th Century, subduing smaller kingdoms and bringing most of southern India under their rule.

They were also pioneers in naval warfare, carrying out hostile waterborne expeditions to Sri Lanka and the Far East.

Raja Raja Chola, who ruled from 985 AD to 1014, was a Saivite, a branch of Hinduism that worships Lord Shiva.

His capital was the town of Thanjavur, situated on the banks of the River Cauvery, which is considered sacred by Hindus.

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"King Raja Raja was also known as Sivapada Sundaran ," says Mr Nagasami.

"Temple inscription says he first placed all the spoils of war at the feet of god and sought blessing from the almighty."

The temple is 240m long and 120m wide. There was no rock formation near the temple, so it had to be transported from quarries 50km away.

PS Sriraman, assistant superintendant archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India, says: "If you compare Big Temple with other temples of that time, it is at least 40 times bigger.


image caption, It is not clear when the work started on the attraction better known as the Big Temple

"This is a dramatic scaling up. It shows their confidence and imagination. It has a very unique design. It is the first Hindu temple to be built on such a grand scale."

Interestingly, the temple also has number of statues and stone carvings depicting the life of Buddha.

V Ganapati Sthapati, a well-known temple architect, says: "The temple tower incorporates the same building principles used in the construction of great pyramids.

"They designed the temple using traditional knowledge which is held as family secrets, and passed down from father to son. They carved out rocks using hand-held tools."

The temple, which also has fresco paintings, has survived the ravages of countless monsoons, six recorded earthquakes and a major fire.

Its superintendant archaeologist, Sathyabama Badrinath, says: "The temple is in excellent condition. It has no structural problems.