A Cultural & Heritage Travel Guide on Thanjavur (Tanjore)

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Frequently Asked Questions by Travellers visiting Thanjavur (Tanjore).

The early history of Tanjore

The known history of Tanjore, also known as Thanjavur, dates back to the 2nd century BCE. It was the capital of the Chola dynasty, one of the most powerful and long-serving classical kingdoms in South India. During this period, Tanjore becomes an important centre for art, religion, and culture. The Chola kings built many temples and palaces in Tanjore, which are now major travel attractions. The grand Brihadeeswara Temple, also known as the Big Temple, is the most amazing among the temples created by the Cholas. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What is the modern history of Tanjore?

The modern history of Thanjavur begins in the 16th century when the city was under the Nayaks. The Maratha rulers took over the area in the 17th century. From the Marathas, it went to the British in the 18th century. The British established their presence in Tanjore by building a fort and a residency. The fort was later converted into a prison, and the residence was turned into a government office. You will visit both of these places as part of your history expedition in the city.

What is the cultural importance of Tanjore?

Tanjore is known for its rich cultural heritage. The city is famous for its classical dance form, Bharatanatyam, which originated in South India. Tanjore is also known for its music, art, and literature. The city has produced many famous musicians, artists, and writers. The Tanjore painting style, a form of Indian classical painting, originated in Tanjore and is renowned for its rich colours and intricate designs.

How to reach Tanjore?

Tanjore is well-connected to major cities in India by road, rail, and air. The nearest airport is in Tiruchirappalli (TRZ), about 60 kilometres/ 37.2 miles away. Tanjore railway station connects big cities like Chennai, Bangalore, and Coimbatore. You can reach Tanjore by road from Chennai and Madurai.

What are the top historical and heritage places you must visit in Thanjavur (Tanjore)?

a) Brihadeeswara Temple – A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of India’s largest and most magnificent temples. This is undoubtedly our favourite place in Thanjavur. 
b) Thanjavur Palace – A sprawling complex of buildings built by Nayak rules in the 16th century. The Place is a good example of the Dravidian and Maratha styles of construction. 
c) Schwartz Church – An 18th-century church built by the Dutch, featuring a fusion of European and Indian architecture.
d) Siva Ganga Garden – A serene garden with a large tank next to the Brihadeeswara Temple.
e) Art Gallery – A museum that showcases Tanjore paintings, sculptures, and other art forms.
f) Saraswathi Mahal Library – A library that houses rare and ancient manuscripts, including some written on palm leaves.
g) Gangaikonda Cholapuram – A historical town about 70 kilometres/43.4 miles from Tanjore features a large temple built by the Chola kings.

What are the other places of tourist interest in Tanjore?

Tanjore has many other tourist attractions besides historical and heritage places. The Rajaraja Chola Art Museum, the Kumbakonam Mahamaham Tank, and the Punnainallur Mariamman Temple are other sites worth visiting in Tanjore.

Which is the best time to visit Tanjore?

We recommend visiting Tanjore between October and March when the weather is pleasant and comfortable. Since exploring Tanjore demands walking and being out in the open, visiting during the summer can become difficult. The same is the case during the monsoon season.

What are the art forms you should watch to have local experience in Tanjore?

Tanjore has been the apex centre for many performing art forms, including Bharatanatyam, Tanjore painting, and Carnatic music, since Raja Raja Chola (947? -1014 CE), the most renowned king of the Chola dynasty. Try to attend the Tanjore Music Festival held every year in the Feb-March period. It is a grand spectacle of South Indian arts.

What are Thanjavur paintings and why is it so unique?

Thanjavur paintings are a style of paintings that originated and practised in the area that has a   distinctive appearance. The Thanjavur style painting uses precious stones, glass pieces, and gold foil to do the art. The gold foil is meticulously applied to the painting, imparting a distinct lustre and sense of depth that sets these artworks.

What are the best souvenirs to buy from Tanjore?

Tanjore is famous for its handicrafts, including Tanjore paintings, brass lamps, and silk sarees. You can also buy replicas of the temples and art performances to keep as souvenirs. Art Emporium is a popular place to buy handicrafts and souvenirs in Tanjore. Make sure that you bargain well before making the purchase decision. If you ask our preference, it would be one authentic Thanjavur painting. 

What are the lesser-known facts about Tanjore?

One factor amazed us during our visit to the temple. The Big Temple is built entirely of granite, and the dome at the top weighs over 80 tonnes. But what baffled us was how the engineers of 1200 years ago placed it on the top. The temple authorities told us that during the time of the Chola Kings, about 1000 resident artists and performers lived in the temple quarters and performed daily for the public. The Saraswathi Mahal Library in Tanjore is the custodian of more than 50,000 ancient manuscripts.

How many days are required to explore Tanjore?

Visitors should plan to spend at least two days in the city to explore Tanjore fully. This will give you enough time to visit the major tourist attractions, attend cultural events and performances, and explore the local markets and shops. If you are visiting the city during the dance festival, it is worth spending a day or two more.

Is visiting Tanjore worth it?
Indeed, if you are a heritage and historical traveller, Tanjore should be at the top of your list. The Big Temple is the grandest of all temples in Tamil Nadu. Refraining from visiting South India without seeing the temple will be a considerable loss for your heritage expedition life.

Which is the best heritage accommodation available in Thanjavur known for quality and local experience?

We recommend the Svatma Thanjavur. 



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