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The Chola Empire’s “TIMELESS” Clock that Requires No Battery No Electricity!

Timeless: A clock that’s still ticking

Kings and emperors in ancient times commissioned devices and structures not only for immediate use but such that they would serve as a remembrance of their contributions. India has been the hub of scientific, astronomical, medical and other such developements. They were much ahead of their time and the structures that they built have stood the test of time. It is hardly surprising that ‘sun clocks’ were widely constructed across kingdoms. Much of the activities were carried out in accordance with the movement of the sun. Hence, sun clocks were found all over the ancient India.

Cholas: Masters of construction

Sun clocks and sun dials can be found to this day all across the country. They were constructed by many kings for use by their astronomers and commoners alike. The Cholas were at the forefront of temple constructions in the south. The artisans they employed were masters of stone carving. Each and every Chola monument is a testimony to the deftness and excellent craftsmanship of its artisans. Granite was widely used by the Chola emperors. Of the many marvels that the Chola emperors commissioned, Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur is world renowned and obviously most spoken of. However, one of the lesser known constructions lost in the sands of time is a wall clock that stands at the Sivayoginathar Temple at Thiruvisainallur.

Thiruvisainallur is small town that is situated 12 kms away from the temple town of Kumbakonam. The main attraction here is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva which houses a shrine for Chatur Kala Bhairavs. This temple was built under the instructions of Parantaka Chola. The significance of this temple is that the presiding deity and his consort are not together. The shrine of Devi Soundaryanayaki faces the sun clock because she is waiting for Lord Shiva to finish his meditation.

Timeless wall-clock

During Parantaka Chola’s rule a wall mounted sun clock was built on the inner walls of Sivayoginathar Temple. This clock has been mounted on the 35 feet high wall inside the temple and is possibly the only public ‘wall clock’ in Tamil Nadu. The most significant feature of the clock is that it requires neither battery nor electricity and depends completely on the movement of the sun. Like most other Chola monuments this too is made out of granite and has a 3 inch brass needle that is permanently fixed in the middle. The shadow of the needle, which is cast as the sun’s rays falls on the needle, points out the right time. In olden days devotees who visited the temple deciphered the time using this method. It goes without saying that the sun clock was used for finding out the time between 6 AM and 6 PM; i.e. between sunrise and sunset.

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Repairs and renovation

The clock was built in 6th century and hence it has been in working condition for more than 1400 years. Over time wear and tear has taken its toll on the device which needs to be dealt with now. The brass needle has got discoloured due to wear and tear on the granite surface. British added numerals to the clock for their own convenience.

The temple management falls under the Thanjavur Palace Devasthanam. The clock along with the temple is set to be repaired and renovated at an approximate cost of 46 lakhs rupees.


Latha Iyer

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