All you Need to Know About Thanjavur | Travel Guide

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About Thanjavur

Thanjavur, formerly known as Tanjore, is an important center of religion, art, and culture in South India. It is home to most of the Great Living Chola Temples that feature in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Monuments. Further, the famous Tanjore or Thanjavur painting finds its roots in Thanjavur too. It is also known as the Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu due to the extensive paddy grown in the region. Thanjavur history is very fascinating and attracts thousands of tourists every year. It is located in the eastern part of Tamil Nadu.

Architectural Splendor at Thanjavur

Thanjavur is known for temples that stand testament to exemplary South Indian architecture of yesteryears. Of these, the most famous Brihadeshwara temple is one the best examples of Dravidian architecture constructed granite. There are various other temples and structures that allow you to marvel at South Indian architecture in all its glory.

Temples in Thanjavur

While there are many tourist attractions in Thanjavur, it is primarily famous as a religious destination. The Thanjavur temple town has around 90-100 temples. Here is a quick look at some famous temples in Thanjavur.

Brihadeshwara Temple Thanjavur or Peruvudaiyar Kovil

Brihadeeswarar Thanjavur Temple History

According to the Brihadeeswarar temple history, the Thanjavur Brihadeshwara Temple was built in the year 1010 CE by Raja Chola I. In the Tamil language, the word ‘Brihadishvarain’ means ‘Big Lord’. Hence, this temple is often referred to as Thanjavur Big Temple. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Thanjavur Brihadeshwara temple architecture epitomizes a fully-realized Tamil architecture-based temple.

Interesting Facts

  • This temple has the tallest vimanam or temple tower in the world. The kumbham or the structure on the top weighs around 80 tons.
  • It is believed that the temple was made using around 130,000 tons of granite.
  • Thanjavur Temple Mystery: Locals believe that the Thanjavur temple shadow never reaches the ground (a fact that scientists have proven wrong)

Thanjavur Temple Timings & Dress Code

The Brihadeshwara temple timings are from 6 am to 12:30 pm and 4 pm to 8:30 pm on all days.
While there is no dress code specified, it is better to be traditionally dressed and avoid modern clothes like mini-skirts, low-wait jeans, shorts, and even sleeveless tops while visiting the temple.

Brihadisvara Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram

Temple History

As a part of the new capital at Gangaikonda, this temple was built by Rajendra Chola I in 1035 AD. It shares the same design as the Brihadeshwara Temple but is more refined and smaller in size. The King used to instruct all other kings that he defeated in battle to send him pots of water from the River Ganga. These pots were emptied in the temple’s water tank or Kunda. The name Gangaikonda is derived from two words – Ganga and Kunda.

Interesting Facts

  • The Nandi idol is sculpted in stucco and fallen stones in a way that reflects sunlight to the sanctum.
  • The vimanam is slightly smaller than the Brihadeshwara Thanjavur Temple

Temple Timings & Dress Code

The temple is open for visitors from 8 am to 9 pm on all days. While there is no dress code specified, it is better to be traditionally dressed and avoid modern clothes like mini-skirts, low-wait jeans, shorts, and even sleeveless tops while visiting the temple.

Airavateswara Temple

Airavateswara Temple
Airavateswara Temple

Temple History

The smallest but most exquisite temple of the three Great Living Chola Temples, the Airavateswara Temple was built by Rajaraja Chola II in the 12th century. The temple is named after Airavata, the white elephant of Lord Indra. According to legends, Airavata’s skin had turned black due to a curse by the sage Durvasa. It was restored to white after bathing in the temple’s tank. Another story associated with this temple narrates Lord Yama taking bath in the temple’s tank.

Interesting Facts

  • The temple features singing steps that produce musical notes when walked on.
  • It is an amazing confluence of religion, art, and culture.

Temple Timings & Dress Code

The temple is open for visitors from 6 am to 12 pm and 4 pm to 9 pm on all days. While there is no dress code specified, it is better to be traditionally dressed and avoid modern clothes like mini-skirts, low-wait jeans, shorts, and even sleeveless tops while visiting the temple.

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Thanjavur Famous Places

Thanjavur is famous for a lot of things:

  • Lush green fields Temples – the Great Living Chola Temples and various other temples and places of religious interest
  • Thanjavur Maratha Palace – Popularly known as Aranmanai, this 16th century palace served as an armoury and watch tower of the Nayak kings.
  • It is believed that Carnatic Music and Bharatnatyam originated from this place
  • Dancing dolls – where the weight and center of gravity are put at the bottom of the doll making it dance in oscillations.
  • Silk Weaving – Thanjavur weaving is famous for fine counts of silk and exquisite zari work.
  • Paintings

How to Reach Thanjavur from Chennai

Thanjavur is connected to all important cities via a network of highways and well-maintained roads. Here are some ways to travel from Chennai:

By Train

Trichy or Tiruchirappalli is the closest railhead to Thanjavur. There are around 67 trains that ply between Chennai and Tiruchirappalli regularly. Of these, around 36 trains run every day. The fastest train is the Chennai Egmore – Madurai Tejas COVID-19 Special that takes under 4 hours to reach. Trichy is at a distance of around 55-60 km from Thanjavur. From Trichy, you can book a cab to reach your destination.

By Road

Chennai is around 350 km by road from Thanjavur. You can take the Chennai – Villupuram – Trichy – Kanyakumari Rd (around 345 km) or the more scenic and shorter East Coast Rd and NH36 (around 320 km). You can book a Chennai to Thanjavur taxi and reach within 6-7 hours.

By Flight

Tiruchirappalli International Airport is the closest airport to Thanjavur. There are six flights between Chennai and Trichy every week. The distance between Trichy and Thanjavur is around 57 km. You can book a cab from Trichy to Thanjavur and reach there in less than two hours.

How to Reach Thanjavur from Coimbatore

Here are some ways to travel to Thanjavur from Coimbatore:

By Train

Trichy or Tiruchirappalli is the closest railhead to Thanjavur. There are around 12 trains that ply between Coimbatore and Tiruchirappalli regularly. Of these, around 8 trains run every day. The fastest train is the Coimbatore – Mayiladuturai COVID-19 Jan Shatabdi Special that takes under 4 hours to reach. Trichy is at a distance of around 55-60 km from Thanjavur. From Trichy, you can book a cab to reach your destination.

By Road

Coimbatore is around 270 km by road from Thanjavur. You can take the NH81 for an amazing drive. You can book a Coimbatore to Thanjavur taxi and reach within 5-5.5 hours.

By Flight

Tiruchirappalli International Airport is the closest airport to Thanjavur. There are seven flights between Coimbatore and Trichy every week. The distance between Trichy and Thanjavur is around 57 km. You can book a cab from Trichy to Thanjavur and reach there in less than two hours.

Places to visit in Thanjavur

Apart from the temples mentioned above, you can visit the following places in Thanjavur for a complete experience.

Thanjavur Palace

Thanjavur Palace
Thanjavur Palace

One of the most Thanjavur sightseeing places, the Thanjavur Palace or Maratha Palace or Nayak Palace was the official residence of the Maratha rulers from 1674 to 1855. It is an amazing architectural structure and definitely worth a visit.

Entry fee for Thanjavur palace

The entry fee is Rs 50. You can carry your camera along for an additional charge of Rs 30.

Location

It is located at the center of the city on East Main Street and close to the Brihadeshwara Temple.

Schwartz Church

Built in 1779 in the honor of the Danish missionary FC Schwartz by Raja Serofji, the Schwartz Church is a must-visit to experience its pristine beauty and serenity.

Entry fee for Schwartz Church – None

Location

It is located in the Thanjavur Palace Garden and merely 500 meters from the Brihadeshwara Temple.

There are many other Thanjavur tourist places like Saraswati Mahal Library, Shiva Ganga Garden, Vijayanagar Fort, Poondi Madha Church, Manora Fort, Cholan Art Village etc. All kinds of travelers can find things to do in Thanjavur that will keep them mesmerized.

Best Time to Visit Thanjavur

The months October to March are the best for visiting Thanjavur since the temperature is comfortable (between 20 and 29 degrees C) and you can make the most out of your trip. During summers, temperatures can climb up to 37 degrees C making it difficult to move around during the day. Thanjavur can experience heavy rainfall during the monsoon months.

Things to do around Thanjavur

There are many places near Thanjavur that can help you make the most of your trip. Here are a few tourist places near Thanjavur that can be worth a visit.

  • Visit Cuddalore. It is famous for its beaches and temples. Approximate distance is 150 km.
  • Marvel at the unique architecture of houses at Karaikudi. This is at a distance of around 105 km from Thanjavur.
  • If you want to continue your religious pilgrimage or want to witness some inspiring temple architecture, then plan a trip to Srirangam – a temple island at a distance of around 60 km from Thanjavur.
  • Plan a trip to Velankanni which is around 100 km from Thanjavur. This town is a famous spiritual destination frequented by people of all religions and faiths.

Things to Shop in Thanjavur

Here are some things that you can buy in Thanjavur:

  • Silk Weaves
  • Thanjavur Paintings
  • Dancing Dolls
  • Traditional Handicrafts

Best Place to Eat in Thanjavur

Here are some best places to eat in Thanjavur:

  • Anbu Lassi Shop, South Rampart – famous for Badam Milk and Bombay Lassi
  • Dhivya Sweets, East Main Street – try the hot samosas and masala sandwiches
  • Sahana Vegetarian Restaurant, Attar Mohalla – for lip-smacking veg thalis
  • Vasantha Bhavan, South Rampart Road – best place for south Indian food in Thanjavur
  • Sathars Restaurant, Gandhiji Road – for Mughlai food

Best Places to Stay in Thanjavur

Here is a quick list of hotels and resorts to stay in Thanjavur:

  • Svatma, Blake Higher Secondary School Road
  • Naadi Stay Inn Thanjavur, Sri Saratha Nagar
  • Hotel RK, Ramakrishna Nagar
  • Rams Inn, Medical College Road
  • Sangam Hotel, Opposite Vinothakan Hospital
  • Grand Ashok – A Bergamont Group Of Hotels, Opposite RTO Office
  • Hotel Raks, Near New Bus Stand

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About the author

An engineer by degree, a writer by passion, I’m a lover of fiction, classics and Shah Rukh Khan. When I’m not busy challenging the status quo, one word at a time, I fancy reading, shoe-hoarding and petting my cat.

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