Thanjavur is a royal and historic city near Chennai. It is known as the 'Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu' and is the granary of South India. Thanjavur is sited at a distance 330 km from Chennai in Tamil Nadu. The name Thanjavur has been originated from Tanjan, who was a demon killed by Lord Vishnu at this very place, according to the Hindu mythology. Being one of the ancient regions which hold a long history dating back to the Sangam era, this province was established by the Mutharayar King Swaran Maran, and reached the summit of fame in the sphere of knowledge and culture, at the time of Chola dynasty. It remained the capital of the Cholas from 9th to 13th century AD. After the collapse of the Cholas, it was ruled by several dynasties including the Madurai Nayaks, Pandyas, Vijaya Nagar Empire, Thanjavur Nayaks, Thanjavur Marathas and the British.
Today, it is one of the significant sites of South Indian art and architecture and with its fascinating history, ancient temples and monuments, it is a major attraction for visitors from all over the world. Most of the grand Chola temples, present in and around Thanjavur, come under the list of UNESCO World Heritage Monuments while the paintings of Thanjavur have their own way of embellishment. Made on glass and on board, in these paintings, the pictures and the background are nicely adorned with gold leaf and gems. Made by applying gesso, a mixture of gypsum, plaster of Paris and glue, the Thanjavur paintings are renowned all over the country for their exclusive style. Besides this, Thanjavur district is also famous for Carnatic music and the musical instruments made from jack-wood.
In terms of attractions to see and marvel at, there are various sites which allure visitors from all over the globe, the most prominent one being The Brahadishwara Temple, also known as the Big Temple, built by Raja Raja Chola, the leading emperor of the Chola dynasty. The construction of this temple, dedicated to the Lord Pragatheeswarar, commenced in 1003 AD and ended in 1010 AD, with the chief architects being Raja Raja Perunthachan and Kunjaramallan. This temple is a unique example of the Indian architecture as well as the wonder of the Dravidian art and architecture and is enclosed by a fosse on both the sides with the Anaikut River flowing on the other side. One major crowd puller here is an eight storied victory tower constructed by the great Maratha emperor Serfoji, to honour and admire the triumph of the British over the Napoleon Bonaparte at the combat zone of Waterloo.
To enrich your experience further visit the Thanjavur Palace. One of the main attractive sites, the Thanjavur Palace lies in the heart of the ancient tower and contains huge labyrinthian edifices, vast halls, watch-towers, moat, fort and patios. Structured by the Nayak rulers around 1500 AD, the palace was refurbished and enlarged by the Maratha Kings in the later years. Other locale of attraction is the Saraawathi Mahal Library set up around 1700 AD in the district of Thanjavur. It has about 44,000 manuscripts and the ancient palm leaves and paper manuscripts are still conserved in the library. It also has 4,500 foreign books inscribed by the Kings and the Scholars. 80% of the manuscripts are written in Sanskrit language and some of them are really very exclusive and uncommon. The Tamil works includes the dissertations on medicines and observations on the ancient works of Tamil. With so much on offer, a visit to Thanjavur, when in Chennai, is a must.