Thanjavur District is the Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu. The Big Temple and the other famous temples in the district are known all over the world. Thanjavur was the cultural capital of the country in 1790. Thanjavur gained prominence during the period of Chola Kings, who made it as their capital. Thereafter, it was ruled by Nayaks and Maratta Kings, who nurtured art and culture. The cultural, the architectural and the scholarly pursuits of these rulers are reflected in the great monuments like Grand Anaicut, Big Temple and Serfoji Mahal Library etc. in the district.
Thanjavur district stands unique from time immemorial for its agricultural activities and is rightly acclaimed as the Granary of the South India lying in the deltaic region of the famous river Cauvery and criss-crossed by lengthy network of irrigation canals, this coastal district abounds in green paddy fields, tall coconut groves, vast gardens of mango and plantain trees and other verdant vegetation. Various testimonials available in the ancient Tamil literature referring to the Cauvery as possessing the sanctity of the Ganges in conformity with the legendry and mythological stories attributed to its divine origin, rightly point out why the river is popularly called the ' Mother Cauvery' and its sacredness is evident from 'Kaviri-Thala-Puranam'. The river has also been named 'Ponni' because it is yielding 'pon' -Gold in the form of paddy. That is why it is said with pride that every iota of the earth of Thanjavur is equal to an iota of gold. The tillers in Tamil literature have been rightly called as 'Kauvirippudhalvars' - the sons of the Cauvery as they alone are worthy of this title for the rich production of grains in this fertile soil.
Main Attractions of Thanjavur
Bragatheeswarar Temple: The Big Temple. Rajaraja Cholan, the Great Chola king built Bragatheeswarar Temple. Big Temple is an example for the Indian sculptural architecture greatness. Temple is surrounded by moat on two sides and Grand Anaicut river on the other side. This temple is unique to have the tallest tower over the sanctum sanctorum unlike the other temples. It is 216 feet tall. The stupa at the top is made of bronze.The walls of the sanctum are covered, with the wall paintings of Chola and Nayak periods, comparable to the famous Ajanta cave frescoes.
Guarding the inner shrine of the temple, is the gigantic statue of Nandi, the Bull. The Nandi is 12 feet tall, 191/2 feet long and 81/4 feet wide. And it weighs around 25 tons. Nayaka kings constructed a Mandapam for the Nandi to protect it from sun and rain.
Saraswathi Mahal Library: This library has one of the most important oriental manuscripts collections, in India. Established around 1700 AD, the library contains a collection of over 44,000 palm leaf, and paper manuscripts in Indian and European languages. Over eighty per cent of its manuscripts are in Sanskrit, many on palm leaves, some very rare or even unique. The Tamil works includes treatises on medicine, and commentaries on works from the Sangam period.
Palace: The Palace, on the east main street is a series of large and rambling buildings of fine masonry, built partly by the Nayaks around 1550 AD, and partly by the Marathas.On the southern side of the third quadrangle is a Vimana like building, 190 feet high with eight storeys and it is the Goodagopuram. Madamaligai is the tower which rises from the palace roof beyond the Goodagopuram. It has six storeys.
Sivagangai Garden: A very beautiful park, located north of the big temple. It has a good collection of beautiful flower plants and birds and animals.
Punnai Nallur Mariamman Kovil: Its around 4 Kms from the town.
Tamil University: Established in 1981, the university is engaged in research and advanced study in Tamil. Tamil University Museum has a collection coins and musical instruments.
Rajaraja Cholan Manimandapam: Constructed on the eve of the World Tamil conference held at Thanjavur. It is a beautiful park.
Schwartz Church: In the palace garden, this church was built in 1779 A.D by Rajah Serfoji in token of his affection for the Rev. C.V. Schwartz of the Danish Mission.
Museums: Archeological Museum :- houses an interesting collection of sculpture.
Tamil University Museum :- contains coins and musical instruments.
Saraswathi Mahal Library Museum :- one of the most important oriental manuscript collections in India, closed to the public, but by scholars from all over the world. Over eighty percent of its 44,000 manuscripts are in Sanskrit, many on palm-leafs, and some very rare or even unique.
Nayak Durbar Hall Art Museum and Rajaraja Chola Museum :- contains magnificent collection of Chola Bronzes-all discovered locally -fills the Nayak Durbar Hall Art Museum and next door, the Rajaraja Cholan Museum houses Chola stone sculpture etc