I see a lot of praise on Kalki often on the blogosphere (even i did it once i guess ) but balakumaran gets very scant attention for the Magnum Opus Udayar , a epic book on the Brihadeeswara temple (பெருவுடையார் கோவில்) at tanjore . Raja Raja Cholan the greatest king of the Chola dynasty has a vision to build a temple for Lord Shiva , with the Gopuram alone around 216 feet made entirely of granite . The temple kalasam is a monolithic granite (a single stone ) of weight around 81 ton . So the story starts with the great King envisioning to build this great temple for Lord Shiva. He is shown as astute follower of Hinduism or Santhana Dharma . Raja Raja’s vision is seen by skeptics like his son Rajendra Chola as impractical and virtually impossible . But Raja Raja is absolutely committed to the temple .
The story was absolutely gripping , i can go on with the highlights of the book , but i am too lazy to that . So I just want to share those splendid things which i liked the most in the book :
Raja Raja’s Characterization I dont’ know how much of it is Story and how much is real history . But I love this king , i had dreams of seeing him when i was reading the book . At times i could relate with certain characters in the book , at times i was even thinking “May be I was this guy then in my previous incarnations ” (I still remain a strict rationalist just a too much of the book ). He is a absolute definition of a leader , the way he inspires people to contribute to the temple , or the way he handles complicated matters like the Caste differences in the Chola dynasty . On a personal note he is a very good romantic lover , especially with his wife panchavanmadevi .
Rajendra is shown as a Angry at times even rude and foolish heir apparent, the way RajaRaja matures him and breaks his foolish and egoistic thoughts is astounding . Especially Rajendra abhors the special privileges offered to Bhramins . He is interested only in waging wars , and believes that the Wariors should be given supreme importance in a society . RajaRaja as a king during non-war times is very loving and caring , this makes Rajendra think of his father as weak , and Rajendra’s battalion to be more powerful when compared to his father . In this context RajaRaja will remind him that even the battalion of Rajendra comes under his order as he is the King of this nation .
Karuvoora Thevar : He is the Guru/Saint of RajaRaja , shown as a Sidha Purush who guides RajaRaja in matters of strategy and Spirutal thought . Every human being at some point requires logical (call it spiritual i am bit skeptical about the word ) thinking that does not make him too arrogant for his own good . So RajaRaja is attributing all his success to the Lord himself .
The Story covers very different areas of Chola history , the caste system that was present in the Chola history . The Sirpa Art which was in all its glory during the period of RajaRaja is described in great deal . The Story also discusses how such huge granite blocks were carried to the top . The temple construction required wars to be fought , it involved lot of slaves captured during wars . The temple was built using the properties looted during the wars with the Chalukyas , Pandyas etc .
Let me quote the famous inscription that is still there , which was inscribed while the temple was inaugurated by Raja Raja :
‘Naam kuduthanavum nam akkaan kuduthanavum nam pendugal koduthanavum koduthar koduthanavum…’ (I could not get the tamil one , maybe if i get the one i will update ) . This is basically a reference to all the people who contributed to the temple . When the book was over , i felt a void in myself . I am planning to go to the temple very soon , just a historic mission .
A great King and a great book to cherish for generations to come !