One of the most enchanting districts of the State, Tanjavur lies to the east of Trichy and is also known as the “Rice Bowl of Tamilnadu.” The now small city of Thanjavur once occupied the proud place of honour among the Cholas as their Capital City and most treasured territory, who also built some of their most magnificient creations in this City.
During the reign of Cholas between 10th and 14th centuries, the city rose to dizzying heights, becoming the centre of Tamil Learning and Culture. The Cholas were great patrons of Tamil language, various art forms as well as great temple builders. The TamilUniversity set up recently (http://www.tamiluniversity.ac.in/Tamil Palkalaikazhagam) is indeed rightly located in the heart of Tamil Culture and is devoted to the growth of Tamil language and literature. The temples, numbering over 74 around Thanjavur, stand as monuments of the Glorious Legacy of the Cholas.
Sri Brihadishwara Temple:
Sri Brihadeeshwara (Brihadeeshwarar) Temple, was built by King Raja Raja Chola between 985- 1014AD. The temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Great Living Chola Temples”.The towering Vimana is 200 feet in height, referred to as Dakshina Meru. The Octagonal Shikaram rests on a single block of granite. The Shivalingam set in the two storeyed sanctum and the walls surrounding the sanctum is a storehouse of murals and sculpture. The monolithic Nandi, Lord Shiva’s sacred Bull mount is about 2 m in height, 6m in length and 2.5 m in width, dates back to the Naick period and matches up to the Grandeur of the temple itself.
The Palace, Thanjavur:
The Palace, partly built by Naicks and partly by the Marathas dates back to 14th Century AD and is located about a kilometer away from the Brihadeeshwara temple. Surrounded by huge fort walls, the mammoth corridors, spacious halls, decorated rooms, tall observations towers, the beautiful stucco works, wonderful fresco painted walls and ceiling and intricate carvings are all a feast to the visitors eye.
The Art Gallery:
The art gallery houses a fabulous collection of bronze icons of Hindu Mythology. The finest pieces of stone sculptures enlightens the viewer on the depth of Chola Art. The different forms of the dancing poses of Lord Nataraja is a delight for the Indian classical dancer.
Saraswathi Mahal Library:
Maharaja Serofji’s Saraswathi Mahal Library is one of the few Medieval Libraries that exists in the world. Conceived and Christened as the Royal Palace Library, it was built in the 16th Century by the Naick Kings and later developed by the Maratha Kings. It houses rare and valuable collections of manuscripts, books, maps, paintings etc. of yester years and has also found its place in the Encyclopedia Britannica as “The most remarkable Library in India.”