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Tourist Places To Visit In Thanjavur (Tanjore)
The culturally vibrant city of Thanjavur rose to prominence under the Cholas, whose first King Vijayalaya captured the region in 850 AD. The town remained their most significant capital city until the centre was shifted to Gangaikonda Chozapuram. After the Cholas, Thanjavur was ruled by the Pandyas, the Vijayanagara Empire, the Nayaks of Madurai, and the Maratha Bhonsle and later by the British before the town was annexed with independent India.
It was during the period of Chola Kings Rajaraja Chola I and his son Rajendra Chola I, that Thanjavur gained utmost supremacy in art and architecture. Temples that had great wealth bestowed to them were not only used for worship but also as the hub of trade and industry. Today, Thanjavur stands tall as the hallmark of the artistic expressions of the ancient people and their love for elegance and beauty. Apart from temples, Thanjavur has so many other interesting places to see and we’ll give you a compilation of some places you can visit.
The Brihadeshwara or Peruvudaiyar Temple built by King Raja Raja Chola I in about 1010 AD, is undoubtedly one of the most happening temples in all of South India. The temple for Shiva is a part of the Great Living Chola Temples of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Brihadeshwara is the world’s first granite temple, built at a time when there were no granite quarries at least within 50 km and has a vimana (tower) about 216 ft high with an 80 ton granite cupola on top. There’s a monolith Nandi (bull) that’s about 13 feet high and 16 feet in length, making it one of the largest Nandi sculptures in India. And to top it all, the shadow of the vimana never falls on the ground at noon, no matter what the season is. The temple has beautiful sculptures, painted frescoes which are later additions by the Nayaks and Marathas, and inscriptions in Tamil and Grantham scripts.
Thanjavur Maratha Palace Complex was built by the Nayak rulers as a Fort and later occupied by the Marathas and is now the residence of the Maratha Bhonsle family. Simply known as the Aranmanai or Palace, the must-see portions of the Palace include the Royal Palace Museum which exhibits sculptures and weapons, the Thanjavur Maharaja Serfoji’s Saraswathi Mahal Library with priceless manuscripts, medieval books, maps and classic Thanjavur paintings. Check out the Art Gallery in the Mahratta Durbar Hall, which has beautiful bronze idols and stone sculptures. Climb up the seven stories Bell Tower for a mid-air view of the city.
The Thanjavur Palace is about 1.2 km from Brihadeshwara Temple. The Palace is open from 9.00am-1.00pm and from 3.00pm-6.00pm.
Schwartz Church is an old Church in Thanjavur and is not only a significant tourist place but also an example of secularism. The Schwartz Church was built by Raja Serfoji, the Maratha King due to his respect for the Danish Missionary Heinrich Friedrich Christian Schwartz. The Church was built in 1779 AD in a very tranquil, verdant and quiet portion of the Thanjavur Palace Garden.
Check out the white marble tablet made by John Flaxman on the orders of Maharaja Serfoji on the western end of the Church, showing Rev. Schwartz on his death bed surrounded by Maharaja Serfoji and his ministers.
Kanjanoor Sukran Temple
The main deity of Kanjanoor Sukran temple is Shiva or Agnishwara, after Agni the God of Fire is said to have worshipped here. Kanjanoor Temple is a Navagratha shala for Sukra, or the Planet Venus. According to legends it was here that Shiva performed the cosmic Mukthi Tandava dance for Sage Parasara. The temple is considered one of the most important temples of Thanjavur and gets pretty crowded on Fridays, the planetary day of Venus. The architecture of the grand temple and the tranquil locale that it sits in, are some of the other reasons why Kanjanoor Sukran Temple has become a favourite tourist destination.
The temple is about 55 km from Thanjavur.
Manora gets its name from a Minaret. Maratha ruler Serfoji II built the Fort in 1814 to celebrate the advance of the British against Napoleon Bonaparte in the Battle of Waterloo in 1814.The 23 m high, hexagonal, eight storied tower that is surrounded by a moat, stands on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. There are circular staircases that separate one floor from the other with resemblances to a Pagoda. The Fort is said to have been used as a Lighthouse and abode of the King. Tourists are allowed to climb up to the second story that offers a nice view of the sparkling sea on the one side and the countryside on the other.
Manora Fort is in Mallipattinam, about 65 km from Thanjavur.
Kallaperambur Lake Bird Sanctuary is one idyllic place for a photo shoot and to spend a pleasant day in. The lake attracts about 40 species of birds like pelicans, egrets, ducks, storks, and white ibis. The best time to visit the sanctuary is from November to April. The Lake is about 14 km from Thanjavur.
Another bird sanctuary you can visit is the Vaduvoor Lake Bird Sanctuary, set close to the Vaduvoor Kodandaramaswamy Temple. The Lake is an irrigation tank that receives northeastern monsoon waters from the Mettur Dam. The region is green and abundantly fertile, and over the years about 138 species of birds have been flying in from various continents for nesting and breeding. Best season to watch the birds is from November to February. The Vaduvoor Bird Sanctuary is in Thiruvarur district, about 24 km from Thanjavur. There are basic facilities for you to stay overnight and watch the birds from the watch towers.
Raja Rajan Site Museum
The Museum pays homage to Raja Chola I, one of the greatest rulers of the Chola Empire. The Museum was established in 1984, on the 1000th birth centenary of the king. There is an amazing display of bronze idols, stone sculptures, ancient lamps, paintings, coins and weapons.
The Museum is located in the Raja Raja Mani Mandapam and is open from 10.00am-5.45pm on all days except Wednesdays. The Raja Raja Mani Mandapam is about 2.1 km from Brihadeshwara Temple.
Swamimalai Swaminatha Swamy Temple
The Swamimalai Temple for Subrahmanya is believed to have existed since 2nd century BC and was built by Parantaka Chola I. The temple sits on a 60 ft high hillock and you will have to climb up about 60 steps to reach the temple. Halfway up the hill, check out the beautiful statues associated with the history of the temple. According to legends it was here that the young Subrahmanya taught the Pranav mantra to his father and came to be called Swaminatha or the one who teaches God-His Father! This is one of the six abodes of Subrahmanya and a preferred pilgrim site.
Poondi Madha Basilica
The 18th century, Our Lady of Lourdes Basilica, is a Catholic church built by Rev. Fr. Constantine Joseph Beschi, known as Veeramamunivar in Tamil. Built in Gothic and French styles of architecture, the Church has statues of the Twelve Apostles and a portion of the True Cross, said to be a part of the Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. There are facilities at the centre for tourists to stay in at the Retreat Centre.
Poondi Matha Basilica is at Thirukattupalli in Thiruvaiyaru, about 35 km from Thanjavur.