January 24, 2014

0029, 0987 INDIA (Tamil Nadu) - Great Living Chola Temples (UNESCO WHS)

0029 A gateway of  Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur

Posted on 06.11.2011, 24.01.2014
The Great Living Chola Temples, which includes the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Brihadisvara Temple at Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram, were built by kings of the Chola Empire, which stretched over all of south India and the neighbouring islands. These complexes form a unique group, demonstrating a progressive development of high Chola architecture and art at its best and at the same time encapsulating a very distinctive period of Chola history and Tamil culture.

0987 A fresco in Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur

Brihadisvara temple, also known as Rajarajeswaram or Peruvudaiyar Kovil, is located in Thanjavur (formerly Tanjore), in the southern part of India. Dedicated to Lord Shiva and considered as one of the greatest glories of India, this temple reflects the power of its creator, Raja Raja Chola I (985-1014), the greatest of the Chola Monarchs, who built it between 1003 and 1010. The temple can be approached from the eastern side through two gateways (gopuras).

The exterior is decorated with hundreds of painted sculptures and the interior has a massive statue of Nandi Bull (the mount of Lord Shiva), a shrine with octagonal dome known as Chandeshvara, a columned hall, a towered sanctuary and other small shrines. On the walls of the sanctuary are well carved figures of Shiva and other gods (lingams), but also frescoes portraying the mythological episodes of the journey of Sundarar and the Chera King to heaven, the battle scene of Tripurantaka (Lord Shiva) with Asuras (demons).

In the frescoe from the postcard 0987 is Chamunda, a fearsome aspect of Devi, the Hindu Divine Mother and one of the seven Matrikas (mother goddesses). The temple stands within a fort, whose walls (in the postcard 0029) are later additions built in the 16th century. In the Hindu religion the elephant represents Lord Ganesha, who became the Lord (Isha) of all existing beings (Gana) after winning a contest from his brother Kartikay. When given the task to race around the universe, Ganesha didn't start the race as Kartikay did, but simply walked around Shiva and Parvati, his father and mother as the source of all existence.

One of the most important Gods, Ganesha is worshipped by virtually every Hindu, whatever his other spiritual preferences. Many large Hindu temples have elephants outside their doors (donated to them to use daily or hire for use during important festivals) to give blessings to visitors (as can be seen in the postcard 0029). Each blessing costs a nominal fee which is split between the elephant trainer (mahout) and the temple. 

About the stamps

The first stamp on the bouth postcards, depicting Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, respectively C. V. Raman, are part of the definitive set Builders of Modern India, which contain the following figures / stamps:

• 2008.12.01 - Jawaharlal Nehru (0.25 INR)
• 2009.05.11 - E. V. Ramasami (0.50 INR)
• 2009.03.01 - Mahatma Gandhi (1.00 INR) - it’s on other postcard
• 2009.03.01 - B R Ambedkar (2.00 INR) - it’s on the first postcard
• 2009.03.01 - Satyajit Ray (3.00 INR)
• 2009.03.01 - Homi Bhabha (4.00 INR)
• 2008.12.01 - Rajiv Gandhi (5.00 INR) - it’s on other postcard
• 2008.12.01 - Indira Gandhi (5.00 INR) - it’s on other postcard
• 2009.05.11 - C. V. Raman (10.00 INR) - it’s on the second postcard
• 2009.03.01 - J. R. D. Tata (15.00 INR)
• 2009.03.01 - Mother Teresa (20.00 INR) - it’s on other postcard
• 2009.05.11 - Rukmini Devi Arundale (50.00 INR)

The second stamp on the first postcard is part of the commemorative set Children’s Day, consists of four stamps of the same value, issued on November 14th 2010. The third stamp on the first postcard is also a commemorative one, 100 Years Of Airmail, issued on February 12th 2011. The second stamp on the second postcard is part of a series dedicated to Rashtrapati Bhavan, about which I wrote here.

Great Living Chola Temples - UNESCO official website
Great Living Chola Temples - Wikipedia
Brihadeeswarar Temple - Wikipedia

Sender 0029: Swaminathan (direct swap)
Sent from Chennai (Tamil Nadu / India), on 18.10.2011
Photo: V.B. Anand
Sender 0987: R. Seetharaman (direct swap)
Sent from Chennai (Tamil Nadu / India), on 24.02.2012
Photo: V.B. Anand 


  1. I really like this card - it has a little of everything - people, history, animals, local customs, and colour. Beautiful.