The legend tells us, that Airavata, Lord Indra’s most beautiful white elephant with four tusks and seven trunks, was cursed by Sage Durvasa for disrespecting him by mistake. Durvasa, a sage known for his temper, presented Lord Indra a garland of heavenly fragrant flowers he had just received from a celestial nymph. Lord Indra, a warrior king, not used to flowers, awkwardly placed them on his elephants head. Airavata, in turn was overwhelmed by the unusual fragrance, tore the garland from his head and trampled it into the dust. Duravsa, angry that his gift had been disrespected cursed the spotless white elephant, who ended up with a severe skin discolouration. Airavata was so distressed about the loss of his beauty that he went and prayed to Shiva for help. Shiva advised him to take a dip in the sacred waters in a healing pond at Darasuram. The elephant got his blemish free white colour back. The pond turned holy and finally to commemorate this healing a temple was built.
Darasuram over time was covered by earth and is only now being rediscovered by the archeological survey of India. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and counted as one of the marvels of South India, the Airatesvara temple, built in the form of a chariot offers intricate carvings throughout the temple. The fabulous workmanship is for once not in neck craning heights and easy to observe. Many fine and wonderful miniature sculptures adorn its walls and pillars, many of them with optical illusions. The temple is said to be the absolute masterpiece of Chola architecture and stone carvings. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.