Overview. Thanjavur is well known for its paintings and the huge temple built by chola kings. The Brihadiswara temple, or the 'big temple' as it is sometimes called, remains the tallest landmark in town even today, and is visible from far. Built by Chola kings, the temple is nearly a thousand years old.
Orientation. The two well known places to see - Brihadiswara Temple and Thanjavur Palace are close to each other and in the center of the town. The Temple is in a large complex and can take more than an hour to see it from end to end.
Things to do and places to see
Thanjavur's Brihadiswara Temple was built by Raja Raja Chola in eleventh century to commemorate his victory over the king of Kerala. The temple was subsequently enhanced by the Maratha and Nayak rulers of Thanjavur. Today, the temple complex includes the tall Brihadiswara Temple surrounded by an Amman Temple, Muuagan Temple, a Ganapathi Temple and a mantapa for Nandi.
The gopura of Brihadiswara Temple has a 85 tonne stone crown. How it was lifted up remains a mystery even today. There are some speculations that it would not be a monolith, and some people say that it might have been taken up through a ramp several kilometers long.
The inside walls of the temple complex are decorated with Thanavur style paintings, most of them in bad shape today. The insides of the main temple too, are said to have sections with frescoes that are now closed for visitors to prevent possible damages. The roof of Nandi Mantapa adorns colorful floral designs, and so does Amman Temple. But the later has gone through a round of painting in recent years, which has made it loose its original touch and appears garish instead.
While you are the temple complex, don't forget to pat the temple elephant and offer her bananas.
While Brihadiswara Temple is a good example of well preserved ancient edifice, Thanjavur Palace is just the opposite. Nevertheless, it has many things worth seeing.
The bell tower is a queer seven story structure that looks like a modern multi-storey building, and has a maze of hapahazard passages inside . The main palace building looks like a temple from outside. Inside the palace is Saraswati Mahal Library, which has a rare ancient books from the collection of Maratha King Sarfoji. The Maratha Darbar Hall in the palace has a colorfully painted auditorium.
Food and Accommodation
Thanjavur is a big town, and has many budget and mid range hotels. South Indian food is available in small restaurants spread all over the town.
How to reach
Thanjavur has a train station. Nearest airport is at Trichy, which is approximately 60km away. Regular buses connect Thanjavur with Trichy.