Thanjavur, the ancient city of Tamil Nadu and the erstwhile capital of the Chola Empire is home to numerous 'Great Living Chola Temples', the greatest of which is the Brihadeeswarar temple or more commonly known as the Big Temple ('Periya Kovil' in Tamil).
The 1000 year temple is well known for its architecture and prized stone sculptures but it also home to some of the most beautiful, vibrant, intricate and well preserved frescos to be found anywhere in South India.
Temple paintings are a common sight in South India, but most of them are either buried under layers of soot or 'inartistically' restored with a heavy brush. The ones at Tanjore were however seemed to have survived the millennia (as of September 2010 the temple is officially 1000 years old) relatively unscathed with their colors and details relatively intact.
Fantastic Frescos : Timeless intricate wall paintings at the Tanjore (Thanjavur) Big Temple
I came upon them while nonchalantly walking the corridor along the walls of the temple complex and was immediately struck by their beauty and details. The entire inner wall was covered by these beautiful paintings and above each painting there was some text written in tamil perhaps describing the painting or giving it some context. A iron grill offers some form of protection for these paintings, keeping them out of reach of the vandals but apart from that i could not see any other means of protection for these paintings. Which is a shame, coz i'd id like to see these paintings treasured and preserved for at least another millennia.
By some accounts the paintings are as old as the temple itself and the ones in the outside corridor are just the tip of the iceberg. It is said that the main gopuram of the temple hosts the more important paintings. Some of which, it is claimed, are created by the great Raja Raja Cholan himself.
Created using plant extracts and other natural preservatives it is amazing how these paintings have withstood the passage of time and are in impeccable condition. The only major threat seems to be from the vandals and from chipping plaster and the crumbing walls themselves.
Some say that the paintings tell a story of Raja Raja (the great Chola Emperor) and of the origins and rituals of temple itself. It would be fascinating to get the story told by each of the frescos. Hmm.. maybe it is a project worth undertaking.