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The imposing vimanam at the Brahadeeshwara temple Scenically one of the most enchanting districts in the state, green, airy, Thanjavur lies to the east of Trichy and has the reputation as the Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu. It is not surprising that the great Cholas chose Thanjavur as the location of some of their most magnificent creations, since this now small city once occupied the proud position as their capital and most treasured territory. Though the history of Thanjavur is far older than the Chola period itself, it is during their reign between the 10th and 14th centuries that the city rose to dizzying heights, becoming the centre of Tamil learning and culture.

One of the best temples in South India, the Brahadeeshwarar temple or the Big Temple built by the greatest Chola emperor Raja Raja Chola, is that dynasty's finest contribution to Dravidan temple architecture. What makes the construction so unique is the diversion from the usual temple building norms of having a tall gopuram and a smaller vimanam (the tower over the sanctum). At the Big temple the vimanam soars high while the gopuram remain stunted. The 64.8m tall, 14 tiered pyramid shaped vimanam rises from a square base and is topped by a huge monolithic cupolas carved out from an 81.3 tonne block of granite that was installed with the aid of a 6 km long inclined plane. The tower is a testimony to the engineering skill of the Chola architects who planned its construction in such a way that the shadow of the cupola never falls on the ground.

In keeping the 'bigness' of the temple is the gigantic Mahalingam in the shrine and the massive Nandi at the portals. Measuring 6m in length, 2.6m in breath and 3.7m in height, it is the second largest monolithic Nandi in the country.

Thanjavur General Information

  • Area: 36.33 Sq kms
  • Population: 2, 00,216
  • Altitude: 59 meter abovesea level
  • Clothing: Summer: Light Tropical, Winter: Light Woolen
  • Season: Throughout the year
  • Rainfall: 111.37 mm average
  • Language: spoken-Tamil, English & Marathi
  • Climate:
  • Summer 36.6°c 32.5°c
  • Winter: 23, 5°c 22.8°c

How to Get There

By Air

The nearest Airport Tiruchirapalli is 58 kms

By Rail

Thanjavur is connected by rail with Trichy, Madurai, Nagore and Chennai directly.

By Road

Thanjavur is connected with all major cities.

Places to visit

The Palace: The Palace near the temple is a vast building of masonry built partly by the Nayaks around 1550 AD and partly by the Marathas.

Art Gallery: In the Palace there are a number of granite and bronze statues of the Chola period Timings 9 a.m to 1. p.m, 2.p.m. to 6.p.m

Saraswathi Mahal Library: In another section of the palace is a library where over 30,000 palm leaves and paper manuscripts in Indian and European languages are preserved. Closed on Wednesday,
Timings 10 a.m to 1 p.m.and 1.30p.m. To 5.30p.m.

Hall of Music: Also in the Palace is the acoustically perfect ancient music hall.

Royal Museum: Located in the palace complex, this museum has mixed collections like manuscripts, weapon dresses, Utensils, Musical instruments used by the Royal Family of Thanjavur.

Schwartz Church: Built in 1779 AD by Rajah Serfoji in token of his affection for the Rev. C.V.Schwartz of the Danish Mission.(In the Palace Garden).

Rajagopala Beerangi: A very big Beerangi is there in Thanjavur East Kothalam (ramport) of the Fort. The place is called 'Beerangi Medu'. It has been remarked as "Dasmedu". Once upon a time that place was used as a Bell announcement stage.

Sharja Madi: It is located in the Palace complex. It is opened for Tourists. One can have panaromic view of Thanjavur city. The wooden Sculptures are inside the Sharja Madi.

Tholkappiyar Sadukkam: During the 8th World Tamil Conference, this Sadukkam (Square) was built. One can have a panaromic view of Thanjavur Town from the Tower.

Uppliyappan Koil: This place is 6 kms. From Kumbakonam and 46 kms away from Thanjavur. Lord Venkatesaperumal dedicated like Tirupathi Balaji "Oppil Upper" is the other name. It is connected by bus route from Kumbakonam to Nachiarkoil.


Kumbakonam 36 kms

Sarangapani, Kumbeswarar, Nageswarar and the Ramaswamy temples are located here. Mahamagam congregation takes place once in 12 years; last held in 1992.

Swamimalai 32 kms

One of the six Abodes (Arupadaiveedu) dedicated to Lord Subramanya.

Thirubuvanam 45 kms

13th Century Chola Temple dedicated to Lord Siva and this is renowned for silk weaving.

Thiruvaiyaru 13 kms

Where the famous Saint Thyagaraja lived and attained Samadhi. Music festival is held here every January in honour of the saint composer.

Grant Anicut 48 kms

Known for its engineering marvel, this ancient Dam consisting of solid mass of rough stone and clay, stretching across the River Cauvery in a serpentine fashion. It is a fine picnic spot.

Manora 65 kms

Rajah Serfoji built this 8-storey victory town in 1814 to commemorate the victory of the British over Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo. It is situated on the shore of Bay of Bengal in Sarabendrajanpathinam village about 20 km. South of Pattukottai Town; in Tanjore Dist. Manora is the grand and gregarious old town with lawyerly architecture and surroundings. This ancient fort Monument is styled 'Manora' a derivation from "Minors" of North Indian architecture, this historical Monument majestically shooting up in thin air, 140 feet height. Manora is a pleasing blend of Roman pillar architecture a combination very serious and striking to artistic eyes. This hexogen shapped 10 storyed fort represents the 19th Century architectural taste of Maratha king serfoji of Thanjavur. The panosanic views Foamler Sea, the floating boats, breezy coconut trees, scattered fisherman houses taking different beautiful shaper at every storey.

Gangaikondacholapuram 71 kms

The temple built by Rajendra Chola at Gangaikondacholapuram is almost similar to the Big Temple at Thanjavur. It has an imposing Vimanam dominating the landscape for miles around.

Thiruvarur 55 kms

World Heritage Monument The Thyagarajaswami temple here has the biggest temple chariot in Tamil Nadu. This is the birthplace of Saint Thyagaraja, the poet-saint and composer. The Arulmigu Thyagarajaswamy Car Festival is celebrated in March –April, every year. Boating at the Kamalalayam Temple tank is being organised by the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. from April 1997.

Vedaranyam: 104 kms

Festivals on full moon days in the Tamil months of Adi (July-August) and Thai (January-February) attract pilgrims from all over Tamil Nadu to this place. It is also historically important because when Gandhiji organized the Salt March to Dandi, Gujarat in 1930 in protest during the freedom struggle against the British, C.Rajagopalachari, undertook the same march in the south, to this town, which has the saltpans.


  • Saint Thyagaraja Aradhana Musical Festival - Thiruvaiyaru - January.
  • Pongal (Tourist) Festival - Thanjavur - 14th to 16th January.
  • Mahamaham Festival at Kumbakonam - February & March once in 12 years. Last held in 1992.
  • Annai Velankanni Festival - August-September.
  • Arulmigu Thyagarajaswamy Car Festival - Thiruvarur - March and April.
  • Muthupallakku Thiruvizha - Tiruvarur - May.
  • Rajaraja Chola's Birthday - Sathaya Thiruvizha - October every year at Thanjavur


Thanjavur paintings

Thanjavur paintings basically signify paintings created using a style and technique, which originated in Thanjavur during the Maratha period in the 16th century. A typical Thanjavur painting would consist of one main figure, a deity, with a well-rounded body & almond shaped eyes. This figure would be housed in an enclosure created by means of an arch, curtains etc. The painting would be made by the gilded and gem-set technique - a technique where gold leaves & sparkling stones are used to highlight certain aspects of the painting like ornaments, dresses etc. The painting would be bright and colourful and breathtakingly beautiful. The impact in a darken room is that of a glowing presence. While most of the paintings would depict the Child Krishna and his various pranks, paintings of other deities were also created. Over a period of time changes have occurred in the stylization - for example, the figures are no longer round. Presiding deities of various famous temples are also being depicted in the paintings. The technique is now more in use than the style.

How Thanjavur (Tanjore) Paintings are made

Thanjavur Paintings are made on canvasses. The Canvas for a Thanjavur painting is usually a plank of wood (originally wood of the Jackfruit tree was used, now it's plywood) over which a layer of cloth is pasted with Arabic gum. The cloth is then evenly coated with a paste of limestone and a binding medium and let to dry.

The canvas is now ready for painting. The artist then draws a detailed sketch of the painting on the canvas. A paste, made of limestone and a binding medium, is used to create 3D effect in embellishing and ornamenting the theme using a brush.

Gold leaves and gems of varied hues are used in selected areas like pillars, arches, thrones, dresses, etc. The shine and glean of the gold leaves used by the Thanjavur style paintings lasts forever. Finally, colours are applied on the sketch. In the past, artists used natural colours like vegetable dyes, whereas the present day artists use chemical paints which enhance the sharpness and provide better shade contrasts.