The musical steps in Airavateswara temple

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Darasuram Musical steps temple – Unesco world heritage site Tamilnadu‏

Each step emits a different tone of the musical scale. At the entrance near the Nandi bull. Kept locked to prevent vandalism.

Darasuram is a small town near Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu state in southern India. It is known for the Airavatesvara Temple built by Rajaraja Chola II between 1146-63. The temple is constructed as if the whole temple is a chariot encased in a lotus floating on a lake. The vimana is 85 feet high. This along with the Brihadeeswara temple in Thanjavur and the Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple is part of the Great Living Chola Temple inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The legend goes to show that Airavata, the white elephant of Indra, worshipped Lord Siva in this temple; so did also the King of Death, Yama. Tradition has it that the presiding deity Airavateswarar cured Yama himself (the God of Death) who was suffering under a Rishi’s curse from a burning sensation all over the body. Yama took bath in the sacred tank and got rid of the burning sensation. Since then the tank is known as Yamateertham. It gets its supply of fresh water from the river Kaveri and is 228 feet in width.

The temple is a treasure trove for art and architecture. The numerous carvings depict not only the gods and their stories but also daily life as witnessed in those days. There are depictions of all the Bharatanatyam poses, and many figures of women in gymnastic poses. At the entrance to the temple are two Dwarapalakas, Sankhanidhi and Padmanidhi. In front of the temple, there is a small mandapa, which can be reached by 3 steps in the form of a ladder. The steps are made of stones, which give different musical sounds when tapped and one can here all the seven swaras can be had at different points.

One needs many hours to truly experience the wonder of this temple and it is good to have a a guide expain the intricasies and the many carvings. Definitely worth a visit and should be on everyone’s itinerary.

The Airavatesvara temple in the form of a chariot, Darasuram, India

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