Thanjavur has as many as 74 temples but the most superb is the Sri Brihadeswara temple. The temple dedicated to Nandi, the Bull is a masterpiece of the captivating Chola architecture. The mount of Lord Shiva i.e. Nandi has been made from a single granite rock. Similarly the dome of the temple rests on one granite rock. The Chola king Raja Raja I built the Brihadeswara temple way back in the 10th century AD. The architecture of the temple is simply put beautiful and wondrous the best amongst the many in the temple town of Thanjavur. The Brihadeswara temple stands 216 ft. tall but it has been built in such a manner that throughout the day its shadow never falls on the ground! The big temple is home to the 12 feet tall, 191/2 feet long, 81/4 feet wide Nandi weighing approximately 25 tons.
Right next to the temple is the Palace that was built by the Nayaks and the Marathas in parts is worth visiting for its magnificent masonry. The Palace is home to the Mannar Saroboji Saraswathi Mahal Library, Art Gallery and Sangeetha Mahal. In the north of the Big temple is the Sivagangai Garden, the gorgeous greens must be visited to check out the amazing flora and fauna. Then there is the Schwartz Church that stands in the palace garden. Rajah Serfoji had built the church in appreciation of the Rev. C.V. Schwartz of the Danish Mission. The other remarkable structure built by Raja Serfoji is the eight-story victory tower at Manora, which happens to be at a distance of 65 kilometers from Thanjavur.
The tourists throng the Thanjavur Art gallery for its splendid statues in bronze and stone, which date back to the 9th to the 12th centuries. The Saraswathi Mahal Library is renowned for its compilation of manuscripts on paper and palm leaves in several Indian and European languages. The 16th century library is home to works of ancient and medieval periods. At the library you will come across the biography of Muhammad Ghazni as well as books on the 64 Bathing Ghats of Varanasi.
In case you are interested in the history of Thanjavur further you may check out the various museums that dot the city. The Archeological Museum has several splendid sculptures, for a captivating collection of coins and musical instruments do visit the Tamil University Museum. As it is the Tamil University that opened up recently in the year 1981 is associated with the research as well as advanced study of Tamil language.
Places Around Thanjavur
The visit to the Gangaikondacholapuram temple, Nageswaraswami Temple and the Airavateswara Temple is mandatory to complete the trip to Thanjavur. The Gangaikondacholapuram temple lies right next to Kumbakonam. The son of Chola king Raja Raja, Rajendra Chola, had built the temple on the lines of the Big Temple of Thanjavur. Till date even the ruins of the temple are visited for the splendid specimens of the Chola sculpture. Similarly the sculptures at the Nageswaraswami temple of Kumbakonam and the temple of Airavateswara of Darasuram will not fail to sweep you off your feet. The artistic appeal of the carvings is simply put amazing!
At a distance of 13 kilometers from Thanjavur is the Thiruvaiyaru associated with saint Thyagaraja. While at Thiruvaiyaru do visit the celebrated Panchanatheswara temple, which has been dedicated to Lord Shiva. In fact Thiruvaiyaru also happens to be the host for the eight-daylong annual Thyagaraja Aradhana music Festival in the month of January as a tribute to saint Thyagaraja. 32 kilometers away from Thanjavur is Dharasuram. At the silk weaving center the Airavateswara Temple built in honor of Lord Shiva by the Chola king Rajendra is worth visiting.
From Thanjavur you may even visit the kaleidoscopic Kumbakonam that is at a distance of 36 kilometers. At Kumbakonam the semi erotic sculptures at the Sarangapani, Kumbeswarar, Nageswara and Ramaswamy temples attract many tourists. Kumbakonam is the venue of the magnificent Mahamaham festival that is celebrated once in every 12 years. The last festival was celebrated in the year 1992.