Thanjavur, Information about Thanjavur, Thanjavur Tour

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Information about Thanjavur

Tanjore, now known as Thanjavur is situated only about 50 km. from Trichy. Thanjavur derives its name from Tanjan-an asura, a giant who devastated the neighbourhood and was killed by Sri Anandavalli Amman and Vishnu. Before his death, he requested the city to be named after him and thus the city was named as Tanjore. Thanjavur is also known as the granary of the South India and lies in the delta region of the famous Kaveri river and criss-crossed by lengthy network of irrigation canals. Thanjavur is also known as the "Rice bowl of Tamil Nadu" and famous for the Brihadeshwara Temple. This temple was constructed more than thousand years ago by the King Raja Raja and an architect's marvel. This temple and the other temples in Thanjavur are known all over the world. It is a flourishing centre of bronze sculpture and painting. The Tamil University has been set up recently in Thanjavur and devoted to the growth of Tamil literature and language. The best season to visit Thanjavur is throughout the year. Tamil, English and Marathi are the main languages which are spoken in Thanjavur.

History of Thanjavur

Thanjavur was the royal city of the Cholas, Nayaks and Mahrattas. The Cholas were the chieftains from the first to the 8th century. They took over Thanjavur and declared it as his capital. During their rule, Thanjavur gained importance. They acquired vast territories and moved into Kerala, Sri Lanka and Maldives. They conquered the area up to Orissa and had trade links with China, Russia and Arabia. The Cholas were the great leaders and patronized literature, art, science and religion. The Cholas encouraged the worship of past kings and thus built temples in their memory. During their rule, India became a major exporting country, with plenty of surplus food, textiles, ivory, sandalwood, camphor, etc. The system of devadasis originated during the rule of Chola kings. The parents also dedicated one of their daughters to the service of the temples. These girls spent their lives in worship and in learning Bharatanatyam. But in course of time, the system degenerated and these innocent girls became victims of the priests. During the period of time, the capital of the Cholas also kept on changing. Thiruvarur was the capital during Manuneethi Cholan. It has been believed from the epics that many Chola kings were ruling from Thanjavur even before Karikala Cholan. Some of the historians believed that Thanjavur was captured by Vijayalaya Cholan from Perumpidugu Muttaraiyan. Rajendra Cholan, Rajarajan's son moved the Chola capital to Gangaikonda Cholapuram. After this, the Chola Kingdom started declining and the Pandya Kings captured Thanjavur. After the Pandya kings, the Vijayanagar kings founded the dynasty of the Thanjavur Nayaks. Thanjavur remained the capital of the Nayaks for the next 125 years till Vijayaraghava. His General Alagiri ruled for another fourteen years. General Venkaji was the half brother of Shivaji the Great. He defeated Alagiri and seized the throne in 1676 because of the dissensions in Nayaks. The Mahrattas ruled in Thanjavur for 179 years. The English first interfered in 1749 AD with a view to the restoration of the deposed King, Saiyaji. In 1758 AD, the French attacked Thanjavur, but were retaken by British in 1773 AD and Thanjavur became a protected state under the East India Company. In 1799 AD, Thanjavur became a British principality and its ruler Sarafoji II was given the fort of Thanjavur and an area outside it. Sivaji died in 1855 AD without an heir and Thanjavur passed directly under British.

Tourist Attractions in Thanjavur

In Thanjavur, there are about 70 temples. The main attraction of Thanjavur are the temples. The main attraction of Thanjavur is the Brihadeshwara temple or the Big temple. This temple was built by the greatest Chola emperor Raja Raja Chola, and the finest contribution to Dravidan temple architecture. Besides this temple, the various other tourist attractions in Thanjavur are the Royal Palace, Royal Museum, Shivaganga Fort and Saraswathi Mahal Library.


Brihadeshwara temple
The Brihadeshwara temple, also known as the Big Temple is the biggest and richest temple that is monumental in design, concept, execution and the greatest architectural achievement of the Chola rulers. This temple was built by Raja Raja Chola, and dedicated to Lord Shiva. A huge Nandi Bull guards the gopuram and its vimana is 64 metres high. This temple stands tall within the Sivaganga Fort and one of the best examples in South India. The fort is encircled by moat in the east and west, the Grand Anicut Channel in the south and the Sivaganga Garden in the north. The temple entrance has an imposing gateway on the east and on the either sides of it stands two small shrines dedicated to Ganapathi and Murugan and further, there is another Gopuram which is 90 feet high. The second Gopuram further leads into the main court in which the temple is built. The inner court is about 500 feet long and 250 feet broad, and well paved with brick and stone. The rich carvings of the temple

are still fresh. Inside the temple, there is a portrait of the king with his Guru, his royal visit to Chidambaram, and Lord Shiva riding a chariot drawn by Brahma. In his twenty fifth year of rule and on the 257th day, the king handed over the copper pot for the finial at the top of the Vimana. It weighed about 235 lbs., and was overlaid with gold plate weighing 292.5 Kalanju. Once, the annual income of the temple included 250 kilograms of gold, 300 kilograms of silver and many precious stones. Revenue also came from hundreds of villages donated for the upkeep of the temple. 

Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is a series of large and rambling buildings of fine masonry, built partly by the Nayaks and partly by the Marathas. The entrance is through a large quandrangular courtyard. The encircling walls are pierced by big gateways in the north and east. The courtyard leads to a pillared hall. On the southern side of the third quadrangle is a vimana like building, about 190 feet high with eight storeys and it is the Goodagopuram. It was the palace watch tower and also the armoury of the Thanjavur Kings till 1855 AD. Madamaligai is the tower which rises from the palace roof beyond the Goodagopuram. It has six storeys and was built by Nayak ruler to worship the Sri Ranganatha of Srirangam every mid-day. This tower was destroyed by lightning and was subsequently repaired and preserved. The two Durbar Halls of the Nayaks and the Mahrattas and the Raja Sarafoji Saraswathi Mahal Library are the main places in the Royal Palace. The Saraswathi Mahal Library has remarkable collection of about 30,433 sanskrit and other vernacular palm leaf manuscripts, 6,426 printed volumes and a large number of journals. The library is the effort of the three hundred years of collections by the Nayak and Mahratta kings.

Royal Museum
The Royal Museum houses a remarkable collection of South Indian sculptures and paintings. Within the museum there is a gallery which has a collection of stone sculpture from the Pallava, Chola, Pandya and Nayaka periods. Another gallery contains samples of the characteristic glass paintings of Tanjore. This museum is also known for its bronze sculptures of rare artistic quality which can be seen only in this museum. The Kalyanasundaramurti, the images of Shiva and Parvati at the time of their marriage, is a masterpiece and one of India's finest bronzes. The other famous sculptures are the Bhikshatanamurti and the Vrishabhantika with the Devi.

Shivaganga Fort
The Shivaganga Fort is situated southwest of the old City. This fort was built by the Sevappa Nayaka, the Nayaka ruler in the mid-16th century. Its battle mented stone walls, which enclose an area of 35 acres are surrounded by a partly rock cut moat. The Square Shivaganga Tank in the fort was excavated to provide drinking water for the city. The fort also contains the Brihadishvara Temple, Schwartz Church, and public amusement park.

Shopping in Thanjavur

Thanjavur is known for its arts and crafts. Some of the famous crafts are stone, wood, brass and bronze carvings and Tanjore paintings. Its main speciality is the repousse work which includes the tapping a design in the relief from behind and copper work inlaid with brass and silver. There are silk weavers, and makers of musical instruments specially veena and mridangams. The bazaars are buzzing with activity and one can see craftsmen at work. The State Government Emporium “Poompuhar” on Gandhi Road is the best place to buy crafts of good quality.

How to reach here

By Air:
The nearest airport is located in Trichy, about 65 kms east of Thanjavur. The another airport is located in Madurai. 

By Train:
There is a railway junction in Thanjavur. It is well connected by rail with Trichy, Chennai and Nagore. 

By Road:
Thanjavur is well linked with all the major towns and cities like Chennai, Trichy, Chidambaram, Kochi, Ernakulam, Thiruvananthapuram and Bangalore.

To know the distances from Thanjavur click here.

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