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Tanjore

Tanjore, also known as Thanjavur or Thanjavoor is located on the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu. Also called the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu, Tanjore is famous for many reasons since the time of Cholas. The name itself has many interesting legends related to it. According to one of them, Tanjore probably was called Tanjai. The other legends attribute the name of the city to Tanjam, a demon who was haunting the locality and was destroyed by God Vishnu. However, apart from these legends Tanjore also has a sound history of different dynasties that ruled over it. The Cholas conquered Thanjavoor in about 850 A.D. replacing the Mutharayar Chiefs and made it their capital. The Cholas ruled over Tamil Nadu for more than 400 years (850 to 1279) and have left an imperishable mark on its history. Besides the Cholas, the southern part of the Indian peninsula was also ruled by Pallavas, Pandyas and Cheras. The present day Tanjore is the headquarters of the Tanjore District.

Sightseeing:

Brihadeeswara Temple:

The Brihadeeswara Temple is the main attraction of Tanjore. The massive temple built by Rajaraja Chola reflects the Cholas’ contribution to the development of arts in this area. It is also regarded as the Chola dynasty's finest contribution to the Dravidian temple architecture. Listed as a World Heritage site, the temple is visited by a large number of people for the regular worship here. The temple is characterised by its unique structure. Unlike the usual South Indian temples, the Brihadeeswara temple has a soaring vimana and a stunted gopuram. It was constructed from a single piece of granite weighing an estimated 80 tonnes and the dome was hauled into place along a 4-km earthwork ramp in a manner similar to the Egyptian pyramids. A huge Nandi, about 6 m long and 3.7 m high, faces the inner sanctum. The statue of Nandi was created from a single rock piece and weighs 25 tonnes. It is in fact one of the largest statues of Nandi bulls in India. The temple also has a spacious ground, number of pillared halls, shrines and 250 lingams.

The Palace:

The Palace of Tanjore also makes an important tourist destination. The royal Palace near the massive Brihadeeswara temple is characterised by its vast corridors, large halls, shady courtyards and observation and arsenal towers. Built by the Nayaks in the mid-16th century, the Palace was completed by the Marathas. The Durbar Hall of the palace still retains the grandeur of the bygone era. The palace also functions as a Royal Museum housing a diverse collection of royal remnants, compilations of the early 19th century, the king’s slippers, head dresses and hunting tools.

Art Gallery:

The Art Gallery is another must see of Tanjore. It has a rich collection of 250 Chola Bronze statues and 150 stone statues dating from the 9th to 12th century. These statues belong to the many groups namely the Bhairava, Umasahita Shiva, Kali and the Rama Lakshmana. You can have a look at all these wonderful collections by paying a nominal entry fee.

Saraswati Mahal Library:

Located just by the side of the art gallery, the Saraswati Mahal Library has a huge collection of about 30,000 palm leaf and paper manuscripts in Indian and European languages. It also has some Tamil works including treatises on medicine, and commentaries on works from the Sangam period. It was built during 1700 AD. You can visit the nearby museum that houses some interesting exhibits like the entire range of the Ramayana written on palm leaf. Checkout the time and entry fee before you visit the Saraswati Mahal library.

Excursions From Tanjore:

Kumbakonam:
Kumbakonam is another important site to include in your excursion itinerary. Located at a distance of 36 kilometres from Tanjore, Kumbakonam is famous for its four temples namely the Saragapani, Kumbeswarar, Nagaswara and the Ramaswamy. The place also gets mentioned for its Mahamaham festival celebrated once in twelve years.

Swamimalai:
Located at a distance of 32 kilometres from the main Tanjore city, Swamimalai is also one of the many important religious excursion sites. The place is famous for Arupadaivaadu, one of the six abodes of Lord Murugan (one of the two sons of Lord Shiva). The wonderful brass works of Swamimalai is also famous.

Thirukandiyur:
Located at a distance of about 10 kilometres from the main Tanjore, Thirukandiyur is an important religious tourist destination. Thirukandiyur is famous for the temples of Brahma Sri Kandeswarar and Harsha Vimochana. A visit to the temple will also give you the idea of the ancient form of Dravidian architecture.

Thiruvaiyaru:
Located 13 km from Tanjore, this is another important place to include in your excursion itinerary. Thiruvaiyaru is also famous for the saint Thyagaraja's annual celebrations. Saint Thyagaraja together with Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Sastri were the maestros of Carnatic music. Situated on the banks of the river Cauvery, this place is also an important religious destination for the follower of Hinduism. Thiruvaiyaru has an old Shiva temple dedicated to Lord Panchanatheeswar.

Thiruvarur:
Thiruvarur is one of the important pilgrimage sites of Tamil Nadu. Located at a distance of 55 kilometres from Tanjore, it attracts number of religious tourists towards its Thiyagarajaswami Temple. This temple is the biggest chariot temple in Tamil Nadu. This place is also revered as the birth place of Saint Thiyagaraja, one of the musical trinity of south India.

Tirunallur:
Tirunallur is located at a distance of 95 kilometres from Tanjore. The town is famous for its Shivastalam, a Maadakkovil built at an elevation. According to the legends, Agasthyar is said to have been blessed with a vision of the marriage of Shiva here. Bhringi Muni and Narasimhar are also said to have worshipped in this place. The legend of the trial of strength between Vayu and Adisesha where the peak of Mt. Meru (Sundaragiri) fell at Nallur and formed a Shivalingam, is also related to this place. Tirunallur, referred to as Dakshina Kailasam is also famous for its Shivalingam that is believed to manifest itself in five different colours in a day.

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