Sri Brihadeeswara Temple:
This stunning monument, the Sri Brihadeeswara Temple also known as Thanjai Periyakoil, was constructed by the greatest king of the Chola dynasty, emperor Raja Raja Cholan I, between 985 and 1014 AD. The temple celebrated the 1000th year of its existence in 2010.
The architectural mastery of this temple is instantly visible by its imposing 5 tiered pyramid shaped tower that raises 216 feet skywards; and its Vimana or Shikaram, the spire on top, cut out of a single rock, weighs almost 80 tons and was rolled to the top with the help of elephants through an incline from 6 kms away – its shadow never touches the ground. What’s hard to imagine is how more than 130,000 tonnes of granite were transported to build it, when there’s no quarry in sight for hundreds of kilometres.
The lingam in this temple, chiselled out of a single rock is 13 feet tall, with a circumference of 54 feet, making it one of the largest ever. At the entrance is the sacred bull, Nandi, 12.5 feet tall, 8 feet long, 5 feet wide, made of a single rock weighing 25 tonnes. The Chief Architect of the temple was Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Peruntachan. The temple has been built on the principles of Vastu Shastra, and holds the images of Shiva, Vishnu and Durga on three sides.
The Palace: There are two forts in this town – The Big Fort and The Little Fort. The Palace is in the Big Fort, which is a sprawling 110 acres. Inside it you can visit the temple of Lord Chandra Mauleeswara.
What you shouldn’t miss out are the important structures like the Arsenal Tower, Bell Tower and Durbar Hall.
Art Gallery: Tanjore has its own style of art and the Tanjore Plate and Tanjore paintings are extremely distinctive. There are three sections to this gallery, each divided on different aspects of art and culture. You will come across a fabulous collection of bronze icons, and stone sculptures that are truly astounding.
Saraswathi Mahal Library: The Thanjavur Maharaja Serfoji’s Saraswathi Mahal Library is one among the few medieval libraries that exist in the world. Established in the 16th century by the Nayak kings, it contains a rare and valuable collection of manuscripts, books, maps and paintings.
Sangeetha Mahal or The Hall of Music: Check out the audio engineering skills of the architects of the bygone era.
Royal Museum & Serforji Memorial Hall: It has rare possessions of the Maratha Royal Family – from antiques to manuscripts to weapons to royal robes to handicrafts.
Maratha Durbar Hall: Check out its fascinating pillars and eye-catching stucco painted ceiling.
Sharajah Madi: Get an excellent city view from this Saracenic style building.
Raja Rajan Mini Mandapam: Built during the 8th World Tamil Conference, this is in the southern part of Tanjore.
Schwartz Church: Rajah Serfoji as token of his affection, built this church in 1779 A.D. for Rev. C.V. Schwartz of the Danish Missionary. Formerly it was a Prayer Hall for the British Military.
Sivaganga Tank: This old tank has a moat around it and is northwest of the Brihadeeswara Temple.
Rajagopala Beerangi/Cannon: This is actually called as the BeerangiMedu [Cannon Mound]. The Cannon on display was in use during the Nayak period, around 1650.
Tholkappiyar Sadukkam: This Square was established during the 8th World Tamil Conference.
Tamil University: Established in 1981, it was set up for research and advanced study in Tamil, and is devoted to the cause of Tamil Literature and the language.
Venkoji Maharaja who ruled over Tanjore, stayed at Samayapuram for the darshan and worship of the Samayapuram Mariamman. As he stopped to rest, Mariamman appeared in his dream and instructed him to go to Punnaikkadu. On reaching Punnaikkadu he discovered a white anthill in the form of Mariamman, built a temple around it in 1680 and donated the village to the shrine.
Thirukandiyur [10 kms] : A temple of Lord Shiva incarnated as Brahma Sira Kandeeswarar Temple. The legend here is that Lord Shiva was absolved of Brahmmahathi Dosham.
Hara SaabaVimochana Perumal temple, one of the 108 Divya Desams and the Pancha Kamala Kshetram are the two important temples in this town.
Thiruvaiyaru: This town, on the banks of River Cauvery, is associated with one of the music trinity, Saint Thyagaraja, who composed innumerable Kritis. The famous Thyagaraja Aradhana festival happens at this memorial where his body has been buried.
Grand Anaikut: Known as the Kallanai, this is an ancient dam constructed in the 2nd Century by the Chola King, Karikalan. It is the oldest in India and the fourth oldest water diversion effort in the world.
Poondi Matha Basilica: This is a Roman Catholic pilgrim center. Fr. Constantine Joseph Beschi, popularly known as Veeramamunivar, built the Church of Mary Queen of Immaculate Conception between 1714 and 1718. This church was officially classified as a minor Basilica in 1999 by Pope John Paul II.
Thirukarugavoor [20 kms]: Mullaivana Nathar and Karbarakshambiga Temple is located on the riverbed of Vettaru a branch of River Cauvery. Expecting mothers from all corners of the State visit and pray to the goddess for her blessings.
Patteswaram [38 kms]: Patteeswaram got its name from Patti, daughter [calf] of the sacred cow Kamadhenu which is worshipped here. The Durga with a gracious and peaceful look, appears in a Tribanga stature [eight hands, with three eyes].
Manora [65 kms]: This place is known for its 8 storied miniature fortress, which was built in honor of Britain's victory over Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo.
Gangaikonda Cholapuram [71 kms]: Rajendra Chola earned the name Gangaikonda Cholan when he successfully transported Ganges water in a golden pot and sanctified its water body. He then built a Shiva temple, Gangaikonda Choleswarar and shifted the Chola capital from Tanjore to Gangaikonda Cholapuram.
What’s noteworthy about this poetry in stone are its richly carved sculptures that are intricate and imaginative. The bronzes of Bhogasakti and Subrahmanya are masterpieces of the Chola era.
This temple possesses a really large Shiva Lingam carved out of a single rock. The shadow of the temple Kalasam does not fall on earth. Also, there is a stone called the Chandra Kanta Kal that has been kept under the lingam, which is believed to keep the temperature under control whether it’s summer or winter.
Tiruvarur [55 kms]: This is the birthplace of Saint Thyagaraja. It has a Thyagaraja Temple for Lord Shiva, and the lingam is referred to as Maragadha Lingam. It is one of the largest temples in India, and has 9 gateway towers.
Vedaranyam[104 kms]: It is also called Thirumarakkadu, and it came into prominence during the Salt Satyagraha held by Rajagopalachari in 1930. The Vedaranyeswarar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, was built by Aditya Chola to commemorate his victory in the Tirupuambiyam battle.
Papanasam [30 kms]: The Palavainathar Temple is considered to be the 19th in the series of Thevara Sthalams and is in a town that’s at the confluence of three rivers – Cauvery, Tirumalairajan and Kudamurutti. The temple dates back to the 12th Century. Legend has it that Lord Sri Rama, who visited and performed puja at 108 Shiva lingam temples, worshipped here and thus the name “Rama Lingam” was given to the main deity of this temple.
Swamimalai [32kms] : It is said that Lord Murugan taught the meaning of the pranava mantra OM, to his father lord Shiva at this spot. Located atop a 60-foot hillock, the temple has three gopurams, and has 60 steps to its ascent representing the 60-year Hindu cycle.
Darasuram [34 kms]: Considered one among the Great Living Chola Temples, the Airavatesvara Shiva Temple at Darasuram is a masterpiece from Raja Raja Chola. According to legend, the temple got the name from Airavata, Lord Indra’s white elephant, after its skin was restored clean when it took a dip in the temple tank that is connected to the Cauvery River. This legend is carved in stone in the inner shrine.
Kumbakonam [40 kms]: There are around 188 temples within the municipal limits of Kumbakonam, and hence it is called Temple City - Kumbeswarar, Sarangapani, Nageswarar, and Chakrapani Temples being the few important ones. Apart from this there is a Sacred Tank in the center of the town called as Mahamaham Tank. Once every 12 years the Mahamaham festival is celebrated.
Uppliyappan Koil [6 kms]: Lord Venkatachalapathi and Tirupati Balaji both are called as OppilAppar. The Prasad offered to the Perumal is made without salt. Hence this temple is called Uppiliyappan Kovil. Mythological legend in Brahmandapuranam says the Lord accepted to marry a very young girl, who did not even know to add a measure of salt to food. Hence anything cooked and offered in the temple is without salt, but yet quite tasty.
Thiruvidaimaruthur [8 kms] : The river Cauvery passes through this village. This is also called as Madhyarjunam.
Kodikkarai/ Point Calimere [112 kms]: Situated around 70 kms from Nagapattinam, this sanctuary was created in 1967 for the conservation of Blackbucks. Its sandy coast is fringed by saline swamps and thorny scrub. It is known for the congregation of waterbirds, especially the great flamingos.
The use of the name Point Calimere is supposed to date back to the 16th Century when portugese traders established commercial routes here. The sanctuary has high bio-diversity with many unique species of animals and birds.
Nagapattinam [83 kms]: See Nagapattinam
Nagore [88 kms]: See Nagore
Thirubuvanam [45 kms] : Kampaheswarar Temple and Sarabeswarar Temple are the important temples of this town. It is also famous for its Silk Weaving Centers. It is on the Mayiladuthurai – Kumbakonam Road.
Velankanni [90 kms]: Twelve kilometres from Nagapattinam, one of the most revered Christian Pilgrim Centres of the State called the Basilica of our Lady of Good Health is a highly popular Roman Catholic Latin Rite Shrine. Pilgrims of all faiths and religions throng this shrine, as devotees believe that Virgin Mary has miraculous healing powers. Its origins can be traced back to the 16th Century.
Sikkal [70 kms]: The Sikkal Singaravelan temple is dedicated to Lord Murugan and is 5 kms away from Nagapattinam. Here, there is an old temple for Lord Shiva, where it is believed Lord Murugan worshipped him in the form of Singaravelan.
- Suryanar Koil: The presiding deity of Suryanar Kovil is Suryanar, and his consorts Ushadevi & Pratyusha Devi. Believed to have been built in 1100 AD by Chola King Kulothunga I, it is one of the few historic temples dedicated to Lord Surya and is the only temple in Tamil Nadu with shrines for all planetary deities. It is located east of Kumbakonam, about 2 kms from the village of Aduthurai.
- Thingalur [18 kms]: When you wish to remove obstacles, pray for the birth of a child or be relieved of stress or sorrows, you can do so at the Kailasanathar temple in Thingalur. Situated 18 kms from Thanjavur, this pre-7th Century temple is as ancient as is revered.
- Vaitheeswaran Koil [90 kms]: Many come to this temple for a dip in Sidhanmirtham Tank for its curative powers over skin ailments; others do so when they face obstacles in the marriage of a son or daughter; Here Shiva is worshipped as Vaitheeswaran [The God of Healing]. This legendary temple is one of the Navagraha temples dedicated to Mars.
- Thiruvenkadu [95 kms]: Dedicated to Lord Budhan [Mercury], the Thiruvenkadu Budhan Temple is referred to in Valmiki’s Ramayana and is believed to be over 3000 years old. Considered to be one of the places equivalent to Kashi, Thiruvenkadu is situated just 15 kms from the Vaitheeswaran Kovil on the Sirkali-Poompuhar road.
- Alangudi [36 kms]: When it comes to excellence in education, fine arts and wisdom, Lord Guru holds the key. Revered by the Nayanmars of the 7th Century, Lord Shiva is worshipped as Apathsaheswarar, and his consort Parvati is worshipped as Elavarkuzhali at this majestic temple. It is believed that Goddess Parvati was reborn on the banks of Amrita Pushkarani, a divine tank within temple, before being reunited with the Lord.
- Tirunallar [95 kms]: Anybody who worships Lord Saneeswaran [Saturn] is believed to be relieved of curses, ill luck and disease as he occupies the most powerful of planetary positions. Legend has it that King Nala negated all the malefic influences of Saturn by taking a holy dip in the Nala Theertham, one of the holy tanks around the temple. Thirunallar is a must visit for those who believe in the power of Saturn.
- Kanchanur [57 kms]: Lord Sukran or the Planet Venus is a teacher of demons and is the bestower of long life, wealth, happiness, children, property, love, marriage, beauty, comforts and good education. He is ruled by Goddess Mahalakshmi. The Agnishwar Temple in Kanchanoor is 18 kms north-east of Kumbakonam. Brahma is said to have had a vision here of Shiva’s wedding with Parvati.
- Tirunageswaram [47 kms]: The Naganathar Temple is a Rahu sthalam and is located in the outskirts of Kumbakonam. The temple is a masterpiece of Chola architecture and is believed to have been built by Aditya Chola in the 10 Century. Devotees throng this temple to get relief from naga dosham.
- Keezhperumpalam [93 kms]: Ketu, the shadow planet, is the presiding diety in the Naganandhaswamy Temple. A weak Ketu in the planetary chart can lead to financial losses, loss of business opportunities, urinary tract infections or joint pains. Legend has it that Ketu worshipped Lord Shiva here.
How to get there
Road: Thanjavur is well connected by road and has an efficient bus transport system.
Rail:The nearest railway stations are at Budalur[18 kms] and Ariyalur[43kms]
Air: The closest airport is in Tiruchy, 56 kms away.