Darasuram is a small town located about three kilometers from Kumbakonam town in Tanjavur District, Tamil Nadu, India. The town is known for the Airavateswara temple constructed by King Rajaraja Chola II in the 12th century AD. The temple is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage monument. Raja Raja Chola II ruled in the years 1146 to 1172 AD and this temple is said to have been built around 1160 to 1162 AD.
The legend is that Airavata, the white elephant of Indra, worshipped God Shiva in this temple since Airavata was cursed by Sage Duruvasa (well known for his fiery temper) that he would lose the shining white skin. On getting this curse Airavata prayed intensely to God Shiva to get him out of this curse which He did. Since then this temple dedicated to God Shiva is known as the Airavateshwara temple.
Legend goes that Yama the King of Death also prayed in this temple. Tradition has it that the presiding deity Airavateswara cured Yama himself (the God of Death) who was suffering under the curse of a sage from a burning sensation all over the body. Yama took a bath in the sacred tank of this temple and was rid of the burning sensation. Since then the tank is known as “Yamateertham”. It gets its supply of fresh water from the river Kaveri.
This temple is a storehouse of art and architecture of indescribable beauty. The imposing “Vimana” or the tower over the sanctum sanctorum about 85 feet high. The front Mandapa itself is in the form of a huge chariot drawn by horses. The temple has innumerable stone carvings of exquisite beauty and architecture. As you go around this temple you will observe that be it the walls, or the columns or the ceiling no part is left blank. Every inch of this temple is filled with exquisite architecture that leaves a visitor spell bound. The main deity's consort is Periya Nayaki Amman and the temple dedicated to this Goddess is situated adjacent to Airavateshwara temple.