Airavatesvara Temple

Hindu Temple in Kumbakonam

Three kilometres west of Kumbakonam, this late-Chola Shiva temple was constructed by Raja Raja II (1146–73). The steps of Rajagambhira Hall are carved with vivid elephants and horses pulling chariots. This pavilion's 108 pillars, each unique, have marvellously detailed carvings, including dancers, acrobats and the five-in-one beast yali (elephant's head, lion's body, goat's horns, pig's ears and cow's backside). Inside the main shrine (flanked by guardians), you can honour the central lingam and get a tilak (auspicious forehead mark) for ₹10.

On the outside of the shrine are several fine carved images of Shiva. Four mandapas frame the corners of the courtyardlike complex.