Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu)
Thanjavur was once the capital of the Chola, Nayak and Maratha rulers and is situated in the delta of rivers Cauvery. Thanjavur, named after demon Thanja who was killed by Lord Vishnu, is also called as the City of Refuge, derived from the word Thanjan. The place is called as the Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu.
Thanjavur, far older than the Chola period, rose to glory during the later Chola reign between the 10th and 14th centuries and reached its zenith becoming the centre Tamil learning and culture during the Chola rule.
It continues to enjoy the important even today due to its cultural and contribution to music and dance. In the city, there are rare specimens of old art and architecture, inscriptions and paintings created centuries ago. It is known for its exquisite handicrafts, bronze casting and articles and South India musical instruments.
Raja Rajendra Chola conquered the Pandyas and the eastern Chalukyas in about the middle of the 10th century and founded a mighty kingdom with Thanjavur as his capital. He and his successors in the dynasty enriched the places with grand temples and places.
BRIHADISHWARA TEMPLES : This grandest temple is one of the most famous living monuments of the world. Conceived by the great Raja Chola and built by master architects, this monument is one of the finest contributions by Chola dynasty. In spite of the city having come under the sway of diverse rulers, the temple has been carefully preserved. Tradition has it that the chief architect and masons were specially brought from Kanchipuram. 72 metres high and 14 storeyed tower rests on a wide base. The pious Kalasha is based on a monolithic granite plinth. In front of the temples is the huge monolithic Nandi statue.
PALACE BUILDING : This is a cluster of fabulous building with huge corridors and halls. Building by the Nayaks in 1550 and enlarge later by the Mahrattas, two of the places tower, the Kudagaparam and the Madamaligai are visible from all parts of the city. After the recent renovations of the palace, the portions of the halls have been utilised as a museum and Art Gallery. Many bronze idols and work of art are exhibited here.
SARASWATI MAHAL : A portions of the Thanjavur palace has been converted in to Maharaja Sarfoji Saraswati Library. It contains many useful and vary rare or nearly unique books, many of which are unknown or quite difficult to procure. The library has the original work of many Nayak and Mahratta kings, as also those great scholars who flourished under their patronages. Besides, there are a number of palm-leaf manuscripts collected from families of scholars. The volumes collected are in Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, medicine, engineering, astronomy, paintings, music and dancing.
SANGITHA MAHAL : This is also called as the Mansions of Music perfectly planned in acoustics, auditorium and other details. Renovated recently, it brings back the past the glory. This monument was built by Raja sarfoji and bears resemblance to the court of the palace of Tirumala Nayak at Madurai.
Other places of interest in Thanjavur are in Sivaganga Tank, well known for its sweet water and the Schwartz Church built in 1779 by Raja Sarfoji as a token of affection and esteem for the Rev. C.V. Schwartz, the Danish Missionary who also Rajah's teacher and guardian.