Thanjavur…the name itself has a divine ring to the ears. We must’ve stumbled across the renowned emperors of the erstwhile South Indian Empire who laid the pillars of foundation for the South Indian cultures, customs, paintings, architecture that many tourists throng to. The works of art are truly, a sight to behold.
Thanjavur is known as the “Rice Bowl of India” owing to its agricultural importance. It has been ruled by many prominent rulers such as Cholas, Pandyas, Marathas, Delhi Sultanate, Vijayanagaram empire etc.
ORIGIN AND GEOGRAPHY
The word Thanjavur is a Tamil name.”Than”-cold, “chei”-farmland, “ur”- city, a city surrounded by cold farmlands. The word “Thancheiur” has become “Thanjavur”.
The history of Thanjavur seems to be very captivating with the power struggles, annexations, and rule by various dynasties ranging from the prominent Cholas, Pandyas, Delhi Sultanate to the not-so-famous Mutharayar and Nayak dynasties.
Initially, the Cholas who ruled the city in the sixth century, lost it to the Muthrayars during the Battle of Venni, fought in Kovil Venni which is 15 miles east of the city. The Cholas once more gained prominence in the city in the eighth century, under the Medieval Chola monarch, Vijayalaya(841-878). The power over the city once more swapped hands with Mutharayars but eventually got back to Cholas under Aditya Parantaka Chola l (907-950). Gradually, Thanjavur became the most important city in the Chola Empire and remained as its capital until the emergence of Gangaikonda Cholapuram in 1025. In the first decade of the eleventh century, king Raja Raja Chola l built the famous Brihadeeshwara temple, which remains to date, the most artistic piece of work in South Indian architecture.
Thanjavur underwent a massive shift of power in the 13th century, due to the decline of Cholas. Twice, the city was invaded by the Pandyas, who ultimately gained suzerainty over it.
They ruled the city from 1279-1311 until the city was captured by Malik Kafur and the Delhi Sultanate. With the emergence of Vijayanagaram empire, the city was ultimately absorbed into it. Sevappa Nayak, the Vijayanagaram viceroy of Arcot established himself as the independant king, which heralded the start of Thanjavur Nayak kingdom(1545-1699). Over the period of time, the city changed the hands of Marathas and the British, and was renamed by the latter as “Tanjore”.
ATTRACTIONS OF THE CITY THAT YOU SHOULDN’T GIVE A MISS!
The city glorified under the rule of Cholas, who built magnificent temples and other pieces of art and architecture. Elaborately carved temples, historic ruins and mind-numbing waterfalls, lends it a beautiful charm that is hard to miss!
If you want a quick tour of the city and its attractions, this is one place you wouldn’t want to miss! Also known as Rajarajeswara temple or Periya Kovil, it is temple of Lord Shiva.
The temple is entirely built of more than 130,000 tons of granite.
The architecture of this temple is designed in such a way that the temple doesn’t cast any shadow when the sun is at its peak. Another interesting fact is that, the temple being built COMPLETELY of granite, one doesn’t find granite anywhere near 100 kilometre radius in the surrounding area. These phenomena attract many tourists and architectures from all over the world.
Gangaikondacholapuram used to be the regional capital of the Chola dynasty after the seat of power shifted from Thanjavur. Built completely of burnt bricks, this mind-boggling structure with formidable fortifications would be an eye candy for the archaeologists and historians. The 182 feet high gopuram with intricately carved sculptures all over it, is one of the finest specimens of Chola architecture. The temple also boasts of a 13.5 feet tall Shiva lingam which is the 2nd tallest lingam in India – only next to the Shiva lingam at the majestic Brihadeshwara temple.
AGAYA GANGAI WATERFALLS
If you are looking for some real entertainment and enjoyment, this waterfall should DEFINITELY be in your itinerary!
At a distance of 141 Kms from Thanjavur and 349 Kms from Chennai, Agaya Gangai Waterfalls is located in Kolli Hills in Namakkal district. With a height of 300 feet, this enchanting waterfall is formed on the river Aiyaru. It is located near Arapaleeswarar temple situated at a distance of around 2 kms from Valappurnadu village. The falls are accessed by walking down the steps near Arapaleeswarar temple. There are around one thousand steps and it takes around an hour to trek down. The upwards journey takes more than 1 hour, hence demands good physical fitness to reach the falls. The place is lush with verdant valleys and mountains that offer spectacular views.
Apart from these, there many other attractive places in and around the city that would take at least a week to make a detour. The city would be a field day for pilgrims and historians as they can devour the exquisite sculptures, lose themselves in the history behind each structure, enjoy the serenity and peaceful seclusion and pay homage to the deities.