A must for art lovers… Once the erstwhile capital of the Chola Dynasty and also the cradle of many other dynasties such as the Pandyas, Madurai Nayaks, Thanjavur Nayaks, Vijayanagar Dynasty… Tanjore or Thanjavur is a fascinating city in Tamil Nadu, known for breathtaking temples and rich culture and heritage left behind by its various dynasties.
An important centre of learning in India, according to legends, Tanjore is a city named after Tanjan-an asura, a demon that once lived and terrorized the people here. Finally killed by Lord Vishnu and Sri Anandavalli Amman for his misdeeds, his last wish was that the city be named after him.
Home to many World Heritage Monuments, the result of the many dynasties that once ruled the land, it was under the Chola dynasty that this city reached its height of glory, today a tour of the place would take you through some spectacular ruins of a glorious past.
Second to only the Pallavas in patronizing art, the Chola Empire was responsible for some marvelous monuments such the Brihadeeshwara temple and the Thanjavur Palace.
Dating back to the 16th century, with its ‘Vimana’ (tower) standing at 70 meters (One of the tallest in the world) and ‘Shikharam’ (crown) weighing approx. 81.25 tons, and carved out of a single piece of stone, this architectural marvel, the famous Brahadeshwara Temple, is one of the finest granite structures around dedicated to Lord Shiva, known for its intricate carvings on the outside and wall paintings that adorn its sanctum walls.
Standing at 216 ft. tall it is said that it was constructed in such a manner, that the shadow never falls on the ground! Another attraction here is the enormous statue of Nandi the Bull at the entrance… also carved of a single granite rock and weighing 27 tons, it is one of largest of Nandi statues found across the globe.
Another Heritage Temple here is the Airavatesvara Temple known for some intricate stone carvings. Though smaller that the Brihadeesvara Temple, the work done here is far more exquisite.
While the Vimana stands at 24 m, in this brilliant temple one can find fine carvings of huge stone chariots drawn by horses, images of Ganesha, Yama, andsapthamathas (seven celestial nymphs).
Other important temples here include the Aalangudi temple, where according to legend Lord Shiva consumed the deadly poison Alavisham. The Thirumananjeri temple is where the wedding between Lord Shiva and Uma Maheshwari took place here, named Thirumananjeri, as Thirumanam means wedding in Tamil. The Thirunageshwaram Temple stands at a place called Thirunageshwaram, where Raaghu the king of the Nagas worshipped Lord Shiva.
At 25 km north of the city, the Chandra Bagawan temple or Moon Temple is a must for those who believe in horoscopes, as, it being the second important navagrhangal temple here, a visit here is said to reduce the ill effects of the moon play in their horoscopes.
Sani Bhagawan Temple though a little further away from here at approx 52 km is often referred to as the most powerful of all Saneeshwaran temples in the world. Another ancient temple here is the Thiruvanajozhi temple, also known for its carvings and architecture. Situated on the outskirts of Thanjavur, it dates back to the 13th/14th century.
Last but not the least of the prominent temples in and around the area is the Vellai Puliar temple, famous for its spectacular art work and carvings on its pillars, sculpting of deities, and other idols.
Built about 1550, the Tanjavur Palace is another delight for tourists visiting the city. Today housing an art gallery, museum and a library, one can find over 44000 manuscripts here. The Art Gallery displays some wonderful pieces, dating back to the 8th / 9th century, while the museum is known for its collection of fascinating royal memorabilia. The Hall of Music produces nearly the perfect acoustics, and is known to have staged many a performance here. The Tanjore Palace, Sangeetha Mahal, Saraswathi Mahal Library, as well as the art gallery are all part of the Vijayanagar fort, though the fort is in ruins today.
Close to the palace is the famous Siva Ganga Garden that was built by the Nayaks in the 16th century. Here one can find a variety of flowerings plants as well as different species of birds and animals. On the Palace Gardens one can find the Schwartz Church built by Rajah Serfoji in 1779 AD as a sign of his affection for Rev. C.V.Schwartz of the Danish Mission.
Located 55 km east of Tiruchirappalli, on the rich fertile region of the Cavery River, Tanjore has often also been nicknamed as the ‘Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu’ or the ‘Granary of South India’,
A centre of fine arts, no mention of this incredible city is complete without a mention of its fine Bharathanatyam dancers, many musical instruments made from jack-wood, Carnatic music and Tanjore School of Painting that dates back to the early 9th century!
A paradise for craft lovers, must buys from here include Tanjore paintings which often depict scenes from great Indian epics or Hindu Mythology, and are adorned with semi precious stones, pearls, glass pieces and gold foil. Thalaiyatti Bommai (literally translated as the head-nodding doll) is another wonderful handicraft one can pick from here, while bronze idols, Thanjavur Plates (with sombu, coconut), bowls, vessels also make great buys.
Looking forward to exploring the magic this temple town has to offer? Though Tanjore does not have an airport of its own, the nearest airport is in Trichy just only 54kms away, and well connected by road or rail.
A blend of culture, heritage and history, Thanjavur makes a wonderful travel destination that allows one to enjoy the relics of India’s glorious days.