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Things To Do In Thanjavur (Tanjore)
Thanjavur is a South Indian city known for its aesthetic demonstrations of culture, art and architecture. The temples and monuments are a visual treat to the eyes, which adds zing to the fertile landscape of the delta region. Thanjavur might not have a hip trendy setting, but is sure loaded with a majestic traditional quaintness which is visible in everything Thanjavur. We will tell you about the things you can do in Thanjavur, the best souvenirs to shop for, festivals and food and the places to stay in.
Thanjavur and its environs are the pulse of Tamil Nadu’s performing arts and music. Thanjavur is called the Cradle of South Indian Art forms. The Chola Kings’ patronage of arts had only augmented the town’s cultural heritage. Thanjavur has its own exclusive style of Bharathanatyam, which is well watched in the home town. Watch a Bharathanatyam recital at the Brihadeshwara Temple.
Melattur Bhagavata Mela
The history of Melattur Bhagavata Mela Nataka Utsav goes back to the 11th century. The festival is held in May at the Varadaraja Perumal Temple at Melattur, about 18 km from Thanjavur. There are Bharathanatyam and Kuchipudi recitals, musical dramas on the stories of Prahlada and Sri. Krishna Vijayam, dance-dramas and Tamil Operas. Visit Melattur in May to revel in the bhakthi movement through music, dance and drama.
Thanjavur was home to Thyagaraja, Shyama Sastri and Muthuswamy Diksthithar, known as the Trinity of Carnatic Music. Visit Thiruvaiyaru on the banks of the Cauvery for the renowned Thyagaraja Aradhana in January, where scores of Carnatic musicians from India and all over the world gather to participate in the music gathering, to render Thyagaraja’s Pancharatna Krithis. It's lovely to listen to the music as it's accompanied by a number of musical instruments in unison.
Visit the Silk Weavers colony near Airavateshwara Temple at Darasuram, about 35 km from Thanjavur. Weaving is done at the weavers’ home loom on traditional wooden looms. The weavers will give you a demo of how weaving is done and you could even buy silk saris and shawls directly from the looms. When you travel to Swamimalai, call on the workplace of Stapathies (sculptors) where you can watch bronze sculptures and the world renowned Thanjavur Art plates being made.
Watch the artisans create delicate Thanjavur paintings, the region’s special Thanjavur bobble head dolls, pithwork handicrafts and bronze sculptures at the Art Village at Co-operative Colony. You can buy the souvenirs directly from the workshops. Take a trip to South Main street where workshops are busy producing the exquisite Thanjavur Veena or Saraswathi Veena made from the wood of the jackfruit tree.
Thanjavur is best known for its souvenirs. You can buy the silks and silk saris of Tribhuvanam that are known for their captivating vibrant colours, intricate inlaid zari work and highly structured borders with a variety of temples, birds, rudraksha or fruit motifs. Other popular stuff includes bronze and brass idols, lamps, bobble head dolls or Thanjavur Talayaatibommai, Thanjavur art plates that make excellent gifts, Thanjavur paintings that are special for their intricate work, bright colours and wafer thin gold plating and the wooden handicrafts.
Thanjavur is a popular tourist and pilgrim place and there are good locations giving a fine range of budget options. There are budget hotels, OYO Rooms, Youth Hostels and luxury five star resorts. There are some four star hotels, as well as the Tamil Nadu Tourism Hotel near the Railway Station that offers accommodation, too. You could also choose from among the hotels situated quite close to the Brihadeshwara Temple.
Mahashivaratri is celebrated for seven days, with great pomp and splendour in the Brihadeshwara Temple in February, the celebrations including a Brihan Natyanjali International Dance Festival which has hundreds of dancers and dance troupes participating from the world over. Other famous festivals include Saint Thyagaraja Aradhana Music Festival (January), Mahamaham at Kumbakonan (February-March, held once in 12 years) and Raja Raja Chola’s birthday in October. The previous Mahamaham was celebrated in 2016.
The Festival of Sacred Music is a 3-day festival held at Thiruvaiyaru in February which showcases different forms of music performed by musicians from across the country and abroad.
Thanjavur as the Granary or Rice Bowl of South India, would definitely have a cuisine that has rice as its staple. The traditional Thanjavur cuisine is a full course of thali meals with sambhar, rasam (lentil soup), dry and soupy vegetable gravies, payasam (phirni) and curd, finished off with a betel nut pan and bananas! Thavalavadai, a crispier version of vada, Mani kozhukattai or spicy momos, Ashoka Halwa, Paanagam, a traditional summer drink sweetened with jaggery and spiced with ginger, with a dash of lemon and cardamom and Vasantha neer, tender coconut water with a hint of mint are some of the region’s specialities. On the non-veggie platter there’s seafood prepared with coconut milk and Thanjavur mutton varuval.
The town that is steeped in history has its own subtle touches of modernity. Some of the hotels serve beer at night. There are bars and clubs that are open till 11.00pm. There are a good number of theatres and multiplexes where you can relax over a late night movie. You could even stroll around the Brihadeshwara Temple and the Raja Raja Mani Mandapam that are brightly lit after sun down.