Top Things To Do In Thanjavur For A Wonderful Cultural Experience
Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu’s ancient temple town is one of the must visit places for cultural holidays in India. It is not just a city, but a treasure of cultural legacy of over a millennium. Some of the most exquisite masterpieces of Tamil architecture including a UNESCO World Heritage Site finds its place here, making it one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tamil Nadu. From the rule of Cholas, their greatest era to the days Pandyas, Vijayanagar Empire, Madurai Nayaks, Thanjavur Nayaks, Thanjavur Marathas and even the British Empire; find stories of the yore in every nook and corner. The centre of Dravidian culture, Thanjavur is an unmissable gem for a holiday in Tamil Nadu.
Take a look at our list of top things to do in Thanjavur
Bow your heads to Brihadeeswarar Temple
Named among the holiest temples in India, the Brihadeeswarar Temple is the popular landmark of Thanjavur. Built in the 11th-century, the masterpiece of Chola architecture was an advanced construction in its time, intriguing visitors till date.
A must-visit attraction in Thanjavur, Brihadeeswarar is a part of the Great Living Chola Temples. The first thing that spellbinds is its visual grandeur. The mysterious tales and the divine ambience of the shrine of Lord Shiva bring in devotees from far ends of the world. There are several inscriptions inside the temple that gives a detailed account of the town’s history of more 1,000 years. Do check out the notable amazements, the Sikhara of the Sri Vimana (the top of the main Gopuram tower) and the statue of Nandi, both of which were carved from a single block of granite. During the celebrations of Maha Shivaratri, the temple gets huge crowds from all.
Pray to Lord Shiva at Adi Kumbeswarar Temple
Next on the list of the best things to do in Thanjavur, we have a visit to Adi Kumbeswarar Temple where you pray to Lord Shiva. Located in the city of Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district, the Adi Kumbeswarar Temple is one of the holy 127 temples on the southern banks of the river Cauvery.
The presiding deity is ‘Adhikumbheswara’ and His consort is ‘Mangalambhika’. The largest Shiva temple in Kumbakonam is named among one of the 64 saktibheta sthala (Mantrabheta sthala) in the world. The main attraction of the temple is the Lingam, said to be created by Lord Shiva himself. The lingam is slightly tilted at the top towards left. The Mahamaham festival takes place one every twelve years during the Tamil month of Masi (February- March) when pilgrims come visiting the temple for the ancient traditions and get blessed.
Learn about Lord Rama at Ramaswamy Temple
The spiritual bliss of Thanjavur is the first thing you notice about the township. Next on the list of the best places to visit in Thanjavur is the holy Ramaswamy Temple. Built in the 16th century, by the Achutha Nayaka of Thanjavur, it is one of the holiest temples in Tamil Nadu. The tales of Rama Katha, Vamana Avatharam, Meenaskshi Kalyanam, Sukreeva Pattabisegam and many more come to life through intricate stone carvings and more than 219 wall paintings.
From the story of Rama, his struggles, to various other episodes of Ramayana, the temple has many marvelous murals. The highlight of visiting the Ramaswamy Temple in Kumbakonam is, the lure of knowing the Ramayana through pictures. The ritual of pradakshinams (rounds) of the sanctum help you know the tales of the ancient mythology. On the walls of the prakaram (closed precincts of a temple), the pictorial format narrates the entire epic.
Relive your worries at the holy Naganathaswamy Temple
Moving on, next on our list of the top places to visit in Thanjavur include Naganathaswamy Temple. Over 1000 years old, the Naganathaswamy Temple is one of the ancient sites of Tamil Nadu. Declared as a protected monument, the temple lures visitors from all over the world. The interesting historical interest along with workmanship and style that depicts antique value owing to its intricate inscriptions and sculptures.
The main deity of the temple, Lord Naganathaswamy is a revered form of Lord Shiva. The temple is thronged by visitors who seek a solution with prayers and rituals for people with Rahu Dosha (an astronomical condition in a person’s horoscope). Also, according to local legends it is said that during the ‘milk abhishekam’, the color changes from white to blue. Adorned with artistic pillars, the sacred temple is said to relieve people from their past karmas and suffering.
Attain blessings of Mother Goddess at Aiyarappar Temple
The innumerable wonderful temples of Thanjavur attract visitors from far ends of the globe. For this reason, getting the blessings at Aiyarappar Temple completes your holiday in Thanjavur. Lord Aiyarappa, is another form of Lord Shiva. The main deity of the shrine is swayambumurty Shiv lingam. An interesting highlight of the temple is the idol of Mother Goddess. According to local beliefs, women are considered better guardians of Dharma. Therefore the Jagan Matha is highly revered as she pursues her devotees to follow the path of dharma.
Fables reveal that if the name Aiyarappa is spoken loudly from a particular spot in the temple, it echoes seven times. Circumambulating the temple prakaras is a usual tradition in Hindu temples in India, but this is prohibited in this temple. The holy shrine in the town of Tiruvayiru is considered to be one of 51 temples built during the Chola Kingdom north of the River Kaveri.
Get spell bound by the ethereal Airavatesvara Temple
Another one of the ancient temples in Tamil Nadu, Airavatesvara Temple is one of the best places to visit in Thanjavur. The famous Hindu temple built in the 12th century is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Built during the prosperous rule of Raja Chola, it is one the Great Living Chola Temples in India, declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the temple architecture, design and the intricate paintings and sculptures make it one of the unmissable tourist attractions in Thanjavur.
The stone temple settled in Darasuram is known for its incredible chariot structure 85m high. The revered idols includes Vedic and Puranic deities such as Indra, Agni, Varuna, Vayu, Brahma, Surya, Vishnu, Saptamatrikas- Durga, Saraswati, Sri Devi (Lakshmi), Ganga, Yamuna, Subramanya, Ganesha, Kama, Rati and a special idol for consort of Lord Shiva is form of Periyachi Amman. Feel spiritual bliss at the ancient temple.
Cleanse your sins at the Thirunallar Temple
Moving on with the top things to do in Thanjavur, a visit to the Thirunallar Temple is unmissable. Believed to be the holiest pilgrimage sites in South India, the Thirunallar Temple is a short distance from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu but comes under the jurisdiction of Pondicherry Union Territory.
Pilgrims come from far and wide, come to cleanse their sins at the Thirunallar. It is believed to be the only temple where Lord Shani lost his powers to Lord Shiva. Therefore people who struggle with the influence of the planet Saturn in their horoscope come here to offer prayers. It is believed that if you take bath in the ‘Theerthams’ all the past karmas and sufferings are cleared. One of the best temples in South India, the legends pique your interests and the divine bliss soothe your body, mind and soul.
Relive History at Thanjavur Royal Palace Museum
The highlight of visiting Thanjavur is its vast royal heritage. The cultural capital of Tamil Nadu has been witness to many eras of Tamil supremacy in ruling, arts, crafts and many others. One of the top things to do in Thanjavur includes reliving history, the amazing amalgamation of Tamil and Maratha heritage in the Thanjavur Royal Palace Museum.
The township has served as an important centre for both the Chola and Maratha kingdoms in different points of history. In fact, the museum is itself located in the Maratha Palace, the official historic residence of the Nayaks of Thanjavur, particularly the popular Bhonsle family. Named among the ancient, here you can browse through ancient items, images, paintings, sculptures, household items, royal memorabilia, etc. Another unmissable feature of the museum is the sculpture of ‘Bhikshatanamurti’ popularly known as Shiva in his different form as a beggar, an uncommon statue.
Marvel at the displays of Tanjore Art Gallery
One of the prime tourist attractions in South India, the Tanjore Art Gallery is favored by history lovers, art enthusiast and tourist wanting a glimpse of the olden days. The beautiful Tanjore Royal Palace of the Nayaks of Thanjavur house this wonderfully exciting gallery. The art gallery is a treasure of historic objects, paintings, sculptures of Gods and Goddess, etc.
The main sections in the gallery are namely; Pooja Mahal, Indira Mandir and Rama Chowdam Hall. Marvel at the variety of stone sculptures, various forms of God and the amazing collection of images and idols of bronze regained from Chola dynasty ( 9-13th centuries), Nayak Dynasty (17-18th centuries ) and some from the era of Pallavas. A tour of the art gallery is a pictorial reliving of the glory of Tanjore and South India.
Bask Natural Bliss of Siva Ganga Garden
Siva Ganga Garden is not only a very popular park but one of the unmissable tourist attractions in Thanjavur. Located in the heart of the city, the lush landscape of Siva Garden consists of a huge 16th century square tank that had served as the water resource for the palace. Built by one of Nayaka rulers, Sevappa Nayaka, it is now a popular picnic spot.
The highlights of the garden are playing area for children, pond that is open for boat riding and lush green environs. But that is not all, there is small toy train offering a joy ride for all. Plants of all varieties, some blooming with flowers and others providing shade dot the gardens. Treat your eyes to the greenery, listen to the soothing chirping of the birds as you breathe in the fresh air. Spot varied species of animals and birds at the miniature zoological park.
Collect Ancient Wisdom at Saraswati Mahal Library
The historic city of Thanjavur has witnessed dynasties, eras and people from various periods of civilization. In in its vast days, the township has also collected ancient wisdom. Statiate your thirst of knowlge dat Saraswati Mahal Library, one of the best places to visit in Thanjavur.
Known as one of the most important repositories of ancient Sanskrit, Tamil and South Indian literature and writing, the Library in Thanjavur is also one of the largest in the country. Dating back to the 16th century, the valuable library has nearly 49,000 volumes including palm leaf manuscripts dating back to the Sangam Era (3rd century BC to 4th century AD). Boasting as one the oldest libraries in Asia, browse through the extremely rare volumes. The highlights include, the Madras Almanac (1807), Dr. Samuel Johnson’s 1784 dictionary, a pictorial bible printed in Amsterdam in 1791, along with some 39,000 manuscripts in Sanskrit.
Soothe you spirits with music at Sangeetha Mahal
Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu is not just historic, but also a treasure of culture. Music lovers in Thanjavur are in for a special treat as the Sangeetha Mahal offers wonderful therapy to your spirits. Located on the first floor of Tanjore Palace, Sangeetha Mahal translates into local language as the ‘Hall of Music’. Built in 1600’s during the rule of Nayak King Sevappa Nayak, till date it is one of the charming tourist destinations in Thanjavur.
Step into the world of music. Its very construction was in such a way that is avoids echoing of sound waves and also maintains a perfect balance between absorption and deflection of sound. Furthermore, there are exhibits of ancient Tanjore. In the early times the hall was used as a performance site where talented dancers and musicians used to showcase their talent. Walk through the hall and gain knowledge on ancient artists and their unique talents.
Walk through Manora Fort
Overlooking the Bay of Bengal, Manora Fort is a magnificent building in Thanjavur. Built by Maratha Ruler Serfoji in 1814-1815, the fort was constructed to honour the incident of successful advance of the British over Napoléon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo. An inscription marking the event is still seen in the runs of the fort.
The eight-storied hexagonal fort is 23m high. It had served as a royal reesince and alos a lighthouse for seafarers. Some stories about the fort reveal that there lies an underground walkway directly connected to Brihadeeswarar Temple of Thanjavur. Though ravaged by time and natural calamity, the fort retains its charm and is one of the best tourist sites in Thanjavur. Walk through the ruins and relive the olden days.
Offer prayers at Mahalingeswarar Temple
Mahalingeswarar Temple of Thanjavur in Tiruvidaimaruthu is a popular Hindu temple. One of the seven major Shiva temples in South India, the 7th century temple has an imposing gopuram and huge linga enshrined in the sanctum. Known as a Mahalinga sthala (Big Linga shrine) and one of the Jothilinga sthala, offering prayers here is one of the top things to do in Thanjavur.
The main highlight of the temple is 159 inscriptions that states that there was a theatre for enacting Dramas (Natakasala). Aryakoothu and Chakkaikoothu, two ancient art forms were enacted during festivals. Mud pots were used to bring water from Cauvery for Thirumanjanam (abhiseka). The temple was a centre for fine arts. One of the biggest Theres, Temple Cars in South India lies in the temple. Measuring over 89 feet, which is pulled by 5000 people when taken out on a procession during the Tami month of Adi.