Darasuram is home to Airavateswar Temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Airavateswar Temple was built by Chola King Raja Raja II in the 12th century AD. This shiva temple at Darasuram near Kumbakonam is a UNESCO world heritage site and a treasure trove of Art, Carvings and Architecture. The temple gets its name after Airavat the white elephant of Lord Indra who came here to worship. Along with Brihadeswarar Temple of Thanjavur & Gangaikondacholapuram, The Airavateswar Temple at Darasuram forms a triad of the Great Living Temples of Cholas and is a must visit.
Darasuram is just 3 Kms from the town of Kumbakonam in Tamilnadu. Kumbakonam is well connected by trains from Chennai, other cities of Tamilnadu and Bangalore. You can hail an auto or taxi from Kumbakonam for Darasuram. Local buses ply every 15 minutes between Kumbakonam and Darasuram. The nearest airport is at Trichy, 80 Kms away. While there is a railway station at Darasuram, only Passenger trains halt there.
The best place to stay near Darasuram would be Kumbakonam, 3 kms away. Hotel Raya is a good option with clean rooms and can be contacted at 04352423270. Tariff is Rs 900 for non AC and 1100 for AC double occupancy.
The Airavateswar Temple was built during 1160-1162 A.D by Raja Raja Chola II. There is an interesting story behind naming of this Temple. Airavat the white elephant of Lord Indra was cursed by Sage Durvasa and turned black. He came to the Temple at Darasuram and worshipped Lord Shiva. Airavat got back his white colour and ever since the Temple at Darasuram has been known as Airavateswar.
The Temple tower is 85 feet tall. The main mantapa consists of 100 pillars and is an incredible sight. Each pillar panel carries magnificent carvings like Shiva taking bath before his marriage, Shiva convincing Paravati, dancing Parvati, Palanquin procession and dancing Shiva.
At the southern side of main Mantapa is a grand chariot in stone being pulled by horses. An interesting building to the east of the inner court is The Balipita or seat for sacrifice. The pedestal of Balipita joins a shrine of Lord Ganesha. The southern side of the pedestal has a set of 3 finely carved steps. These make musical sounds upon striking!
Towards the southern side of Maha Mantapam is a shrine of Shiva in the rare Sarabeswara form.
Another noteworthy part of the temple is towards with south west corner of the inner court. You will find here large stone slabs sculptured with images of the Sapthamathas or the celestial nymphs.
There are 108 sections of inscription towards the north wall of the verandah, each dedicated to a Saivite saint and happenings in their life. Closer to the temple tower is an inscription about how an image was brought from Kalyani after Raja Raja defeated the Chalukyan King.
Long ago Yama the god of death was cursed by a pious Sage and he developed a burning sensation all over his body. He came over to the Temple at Darasuram and took a dip in the Temple Tank. Yama was completely cured of his ailment. The tank is now called Yamateertham.
The Airavateswar Temple at Darasuram is said to have inspired the architecture of the famed Jagannath Temple at Puri.
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