ceremonial mount of Siva. There are also sculptured panels showing the Bharata Natyam dance postures (karanas) and the manifestations of Siva known as Sivalingams. Altogether, there are about 250 Sivalingams throughout the temple complex: the largest, 29 feet (8.7 meters) high, is set in a two-story sanctum. The main shrine also includes a large hall with open aisles (Maha-mandapam), intended for religious discourse; another terraced hall enclosing the shrine of Sri Thyagarajar; and various ancillary halls for storing religious trappings and housing musicians. Standing in an elaborately decorated open hall in the inner court is a massive monolithic nandi, 12 feet (3.6 meters) high and nearly 20 feet (6 meters) long. There are several subshrines in the complex, but only one seems to have been built at the same time as the main temple.

The inner court is dominated by the 96-foot-square (29-meter) granite base of the vimana, a tower that rises through fourteen diminishing stories to a height of almost 220 feet (66 meters). Its facades are encrusted with hundreds of stucco figures of the myriad Hindu gods, standing in niches between carefully wrought pilasters. The vimana is crowned with an octagonal dome (sikaram) resting on an 80-ton (7.3-tonne) granite structure (contrary to popular accounts, it is not a single block), enriched with nandis at each corner. Rising above the dome is a 12.5-foot (3.8-meter) finial (kalasam) ending in a copper pot overlaid with gold plate, a gift of King Rajaraja. The generous endowments of the devout king and his sister Kundavai to the temple are recorded in inscriptions on the walls of the vimana. Everywhere, the surfaces of the building provide a vehicle for Chola art, making the Brihadisvara more than just an architectural masterpiece—it is also a magnificent repository of the highest artistic and craft skills of a golden age. Someone has said that the Chola artists conceived like giants and finished like jewelers. The temple was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1987.

Beginning with Rajaraja the Great, the piety of the Chola dynasty is evidenced by more than seventy temples built in and near Thanjavur over the next two centuries. Noteworthy among them were Gangaikondacholisvaram Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram, whose vimana was a little shorter than that at Thanjavur; the more diminutive Airavateswarar Temple at Darasuram, described by one critic as “a sculptor’s dream re-lived in stone”; and the Kampahareswarar Temple at Tribhuvanam. In each of the four, the vimana was taller—usually much taller—than the towers of the entrance gates; after them, Chola architects returned to their traditional forms, in which the relative heights were reversed.

Further reading

Balasubrahmanyam, S. R. 1977. Middle Chola Temples: Rajaraja I to Kulottunga I (a.d. 985–1070). Amsterdam: Oriental Press.

Barrett, Douglas E. 1974. Early Chola Architecture and Sculpture, 866–1014 a.d. London: Faber.

Moorthy, K. K. 1991. The Temples of Tamil Nadu. Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh, India: Message Publications.

Brooklyn Bridge

New York City, New York

When it was opened on 24 May 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge, joining the boroughs of urban Manhattan and semirural Brooklyn across New York’s East River, was the longest suspension bridge in the world—twice as long as any previously built. More significantly, it was the first structure of its kind to be supported by cables of galvanized steel wire instead of the usual iron.

From the early seventeenth century through most of the nineteenth, the only transport link between Manhattan and Brooklyn was a ferry service, latterly the Fulton Street Ferry. As early as 1802 the New-York State Legislature had been petitioned to build a bridge between Long Island and Manhattan Island, but it was not until 1857—a decade before the enabling legislation was passed—that serious consideration was given to the project. The German-born engineer John Augustus Roebling had been thinking about an East River bridge since 1852. Supported by influential local politicians Abram Hewitt and William C. Murray, he proposed a suspension bridge, composed of two 800-foot (247-meter) spans linked by a 500-foot (153-meter) cantilever section over Blackwells Island (now Roosevelt Island), close to