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The historic town of Thanjavur is getting ready for festivities as its world-famous Big Temple, an edifice of the great Chola kingdom, turns 1000.
The Tamil Nadu government is planning many cultural events to mark the 1000th year of existence of the grand structure, also known as Brihadeeswara Temple, which is now part of Unesco's Great Living Chola Temples.
To mark the occasion, the state government will organise a dance show under noted danseuse Padma Subramaniam in which 1000 dancers will enthrall the audience.
The small town will turn into a cultural hub for two days starting September 26 as street performers and dancers will be performing all over the town.
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Further, 100 'odhuvars' (professional temple chanters) will recite the divine 'Thirumurai' (compendium of Tamil hymns in praise of Lord Shiva).
Standing tall at over 200 ft, this architectural marvel has awed believers and non-believers alike for its sheer magnificence and complex construction technique.
Believed to be the biggest temple in the country, the structure was built by Rajaraja Chola. Built in 1010 AD, the temple remains a grand structure and is visible from any area in Thanjavur, perhaps the only such temple in India having this characteristic.
The temple also boasts what is considered as India's largest 'Nandi', the bull which Lord Shiva rides, located in front of the temple tower.
The inner sanctum houses rare paintings, which were not discovered until a few decades ago. However, access to the paintings is restricted as they are in a very fragile state.
While the Chola king named the temple as Rajarajeswaram, the place of worship which stood the vagaries of monsoon, he could do little to resist the cultural invasion.
The Marathas and Nayaks who invaded Thanjavur later christened the temple as Brihadeeswarar Temple, taking a new name from Sanskrit.
During the festivities this year, the Tamil University in Thanjavur will play host to conferences on the 1000-year-old strong structure while a commemorative stamp will also be released on the occasion.
To boost the infrastructure of the ancient town, the state government will pump in Rs 25.19 crore for upgrading various facilities. Various state government departments are vying with each other to do their bit on the occasion.
The Archaeological Survey of India has also taken up renovation work, while the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation has launched a virtual tour of key destinations in the state with special focus on the Big Temple to enable the locals and those overseas to have a "real kind of experience" of the tourism potential of the state, one of the most preferred tourist destinations in the country.