''Dwarapalas'' (gate keepers) of Brihadeeshwara temple, Thanjavur - awe inspiring sculptures

Brihadishvara (dedicated to God Shiva) Temple, locally known  as Thanjai Periya Kovil ("Thanjavur Big Temple")  was built by Chola emperor Rajaraja I between 1003 and 1010 CE, the temple is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the only temple in the world entirely made of hard rocks of Archaean group- oldest rocks on earth about 3 to 4 billion years old. It an architectural splendor built in typical chola style.   

Brihadeewara temple at  Gaṅgaikoṇḍa Chōḻapuram, a village close  near to Jayankondam town, Ariyalur district, TN built by Rajendra Chola, son of Rajaraja Chola, is yet another architectural grandeur. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. King  Rajendra founded the town  to commemorate his victory over the Pala Dynasty

Both these temple have fine sculptures of Dwarapalas and this post is more about the Parivara devata at the Big temple, Thanjavur,  
Dwarapalas west wall big temple,back of sanctum. Thanjavur

Dwarapalas, GK Cholapuram temple.madhujagdhish.blogspot.com

Often depicted  as larger than-life warriors with fearsome look and armed with gada (mace) Dwarapalas are the gate keepers and guadeans of the temple and the inner abode of the load. Their size, look, and other attributes  are in relation to the power and size of the deity in the sanctum.  At the GK Cholapuram temple like Thanjavur big temple, the dwarapalas are massive in size about 18 feet tall made of monolithic granite. with protruding curved teeth firmly standing with intimidating posture. They symbolize the majesty and grandeur of the deity in the sanctum. 

They may be gentle looking or fierce looking armed with weapons mostly mace - gada;  doing duty for the lords. They  are always in pair or in even numbers. The Agama texts recommend four pairs of Dwarapalas, each pair to guard a cardinal direction based on the size of the temple. In rare cases smaller structures may have had only one dwarapala. Some larger temples  have  four (lokapālas, guardians or 8 or 12 facing cardinal direction.  Unlike in Shiva temples, at Vishnu temples dwarapalas look subdued and not ferocious.
Dwarapalas as an important  temple  architectural feature have their origin in tutelary deities, like Yaksha and warrior figures, such as Acala, of the local popular religion.  Depending on the size and wealth of the temple, they are  placed  in pairs or in larger groups. 

The Dwarapalas at the Brihadeshwara temple of Thanjavur are massive  sculptures and have  attributes of the presiding deity- God  Brihadeeswara in the form of  large monolithic Shivalinga in the sanctum which itself is more than two floors tall. 

What is interesting is the  entire  Dwarapala panel  is related to the image of an elephant, the largest animal on earth. This depiction will give you some idea about the size and power of the parivara devata- gate guardians at the big temple. This is linked to the size of the temple as well as the main deity in the inner sanctuary.   

This being a Shiva temple the temple guardians have  four hands holding a Pasha (noose) and Trishula (trident) with their upper hands and one of the lower hands holding a Gada ( mace) and another showing Suchi or Tarjani Mudra  warning the devotees to enter the holy shrine with reverence and bhakti.   
Dwarapala with protruding teeth Thanjavur big temple

Brihadeeswar temple Thanjavur. thehindu.com

Above image:  A  dwarapala at the entrance of Brihadesvara  temple, Thanjavyur  showing  a python swallowing an elephant at the foot of the dwarapala  at t the bottom of the panel, The  serpent which in turn is coiled around the mace held in the hands of the guardian. The serpent looks quite small  in comparison to the mace on which the Dvarapala has planted his foot. The  big mace it self  looks like a toy in the hands of the gatekeeper. 
Dwarapala in Gangaikonda cholapuram temple, TN.

G.K.holapuram temple, TN.dreamstime.com

Above image:  A Bhikshatana-murti and dwarapala, southern niche of the central shrine, Brihadisvara Temple, Gangaikonda cholapuram, Tamil Nadu, India


Above image: Gajalakshmi and dwarapala, southern niche of the central shrine, Brihadisvara temple   

Brihadeesvara Temple, G.K.Cholapuram Dwarapala with Saraswati.  
image. dreamstime.com

Brihadisvara Temple, Tanjore dreamstime.com

Above image: Dwarapala and deities in niches, southern entrance, Brihadisvara Temple, Tanjore, Tamil Nadu......

Dwarapala  Alamy.comGK Cholapuram

Above image: Chandesanugraha-murti and dwarapala, southern niche of the central shrine, Brihadisvara Temple, Gangaikonda cholapuram, Tamil Nadu........

dwarapalas 2nd entrance gate, big temple, thanjavur.en.wikipedia.org

Above image: Close view of the vimana sculptures, Brihadeehvara temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.  You can see pairs of dwarapalas near the vimana facing east direction.

Dwarapalas on higher floors on entrance tower to the temple brihadishwara,


Above image: Stone Dwarapalaka Statue on Gopuram Of Brihadeswarar Temple, Thanjavur.

Dwarapalas northt wall big temple, Thanjavur 23rf.com

Above image: Thanjavur Brihadeeshear temple; A pair of dwarapalas on the north side, ie.  the sanctum  This particular temple has not only a pair of dwarapalas on all four entrances in the cardinal directions, abetting the open court yard-prakara but also at the entrance of the sanctum of the main deity  and  also at the gopura vasal (entrance gate out side the front court yard).You can also see stone outlet on the head of a demon  from sanctum for abhisheka water. 

Dwarapalas, Big temple, Thanjavur. upload.wikimedia.org

Dwarapalas south wall big temple, Thanjavur 23rf.com

Above images; Giant Dwarapalas at Brihadeeswar temple, Thanjavur-. They are facing south direction and  the open court yard on the north side. The image are mirror reflection of the other. A small shrine dedicated to Dhakshinamurthy is near by and can be  accessed by a flight of steps.......

Dwarapalas at the 2nd entrance gate, big temple, Thanjavur

Dwarapala, Subramanya shrine, Big temple, Thanjavur.

Subramanya shrine, Dwarapala. dreamstime.com

Above images: Thanjavur big temple.  Sculptures of Dwarapalaka,  inside the Subrahmanya shrine.They are well polished meduim size images. Part of it is damaged by the vandals.  

 Brihadisvara Temple, Tanjore  dreamstime.com

Dwarapala and deities in niches, southern entrance, Brihadisvara Temple, Tanjore, Tamil Nadu, India

Above image: Dwarapala on the left side of the entrance to maha-mandapa, Brihadeeshvara Temple, Tanjore, Tamil Nadu, India.