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Thanjavur, also known as Thanjai or Tanjore, is a historic Chola-era city in Tamil Nadu, 342 km (213 mi) from Chennai. It is also considered the granary and 'rice bowl' of Tamil Nadu.


Brihadisvara temple, Thanjavur

Thanjavur thrived as the ancient capital of the Chola kingdom, later of Marathas and Nayaks. Thanjavur was at the height of its glory during the Chola period between the 10th and 14th centuries and became a great centre of learning and culture. The Chola Empire eventually grew into one of the most powerful empires India had ever seen under the rule of Rajaraja Chola I, also known to many Tamils as Rajaraja the Great, and his son, Rajendra Chola I. Under Rajendra Chola I, the capital was moved from Thanjavur to the nearby Gangaikondacholapuram.

An important landmark in Thanjavur is the great Brihadisvara Temple, also known as the Big Temple, built by Rajaraja Chola I. It is one of the most magnificent pieces of South Indian temple architecture. Established in 1011 CE in celebration of the victory of the Chola kingdom that extended to Ceylon and some parts of the Malaya archipelago. Now it is a world heritage site.

Even today Thanjavur is not only considered the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu but also many linguists consider it the cultural capital and the dialect of Tamil spoken here to be the purest form of the language. Though the Thanjavur district is dominated by agriculture, the town itself is diverse, having a literacy rate of more than 75% and a heterogeneous mix of populations of all religions. The presence of numerous Engineering colleges nearby has increased the student population in Thanjavur.

Thanjavur is very famous for its fine paintings done with studded gems and gold leaf.

Get in[edit]

Panorama of Brihadisvara temple complex

By plane[edit]

The nearest airport is Tiruchirapalli International Airport (TRZ IATA) (57 km (35 mi) on road). There are direct flights from Chennai.

By train[edit]

Thanjavur is also reachable by train from other Indian cities. 1 Thanjavur Junction  SR  Thanjavur Junction railway station on Wikipedia is the station to alight. There are daily trains to or from Chennai, Bangalore, Mysore, Ernakulam, Palakkad, Thrissur, Coimbatore, Tiruchirappalli, Madurai, Erode, Salem, Tirupur, Tirunelveli, Rameswaram and weekly trains to Tiruchendur, Bhubaneswar, Varanasi, Prayagraj, Jabalpur, Vijayawada, Vizianagaram and to all main cities. For train timings and online reservations visit the IRCTC website. The station is nearer to the Old Bus Stand than the New Bus Stand.

By bus[edit]

There are several state and private buses that ply daily from Mannargudi, Pattukkottai, Kumbakonam, Pondicherry, Bangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Tiruchirappalli. The journey from Bangalore and Chennai takes about 9 hours and there are overnight buses. Some buses (from Madurai or Tiruchirappalli) arrive at the New Bus Stand in Thanjavur; located about 4 km (2.5 mi) from the centre. To travel into the city, you can take another bus (town bus, commonly in brown colours) to the centre for ₹10, asking for the Old Bus Stand.

Get around[edit]

Map of Thanjavur

By auto-rickshaw[edit]

Negotiate a rate with the driver before riding in an auto. Any place within the city costs a minimum of ₹80 to ₹100. The auto drivers will charge extra if you don't speak Tamil or don't negotiate well (if you seem like a pushover). Bargaining for the prices before alighting is a must.

By tourist cab[edit]

Tourist cabs are the best choice in case you want to tour the temples around Thanjavur. Drivers don't follow a fixed method for charging. But it's wise to negotiate at least the rates that are applicable in Chennai.

By cycle rickshaw[edit]

Though not popular among the locals, foreign travellers usually hire cycle rickshaws to go around Thanjavur. One can inquire about the hotel's service desk for help.

By town bus[edit]

Town buses are the cheapest means of transport for moving within the town. The maximum price of a ticket is less than ₹20. However, buses in peak hours are crowded and are filled with office goers and college students. The stopping name is Cholan Silai where you can see the statue of Rajaraja Chola I.

See and do[edit]

  • 1 Brihadisvara Temple Complex (Rajarajesvaram or Big Temple), Hopital road (Behind old bus stand). This is the most important place to see in Thanjavur. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see. One can enjoy the architecture of the whole temple and also the cute little garden in the temple's backyard. Dedicated to Shiva, the temple is built by Rajaraja Chola I. Hundreds of lingams are in the pillared cloister. The sanctum sanctorum has a huge Shiva lingam, an immense stone Nandi, and two live elephants to bless the pilgrims. Free entrance. Raja Rajeswaram Temple (Q916943) on Wikidata Brihadishwara Temple on Wikipedia
    • 2 Maratha Entrance. Outer most entrance.
    • 3 Keralantakan Tiruvasal. Outer most gopuram.
    • 4 Rajarajan Tiruvasal. Inner gopuram.
    • 5 Nandi Mandap.
    • 6 Varahi Temple.
    • 7 Southern Cloister Entrance.
    • 8 Brihadisvara Temple (Main temple of the complex)).
    • 9 Interpretation Centre.
    • 10 Ganesha Shrine.
    • 11 Karuvur Devar Shrine.
    • 12 Subrahmanya Shrine.
    • 13 Chandikesvara Shrine.
    • 14 Northern Cloister Entrance.
    • 15 Amman Shrine.
    • 16 Nataraja Mandap.
  • 17 Schwartz Church. This church was constructed by Rev. Schwartz more than 200 years ago. Though there is nothing much great about the artistic work, the church is still operational under the CSI Trichy-Tanjore Diocese. The morning service which is conducted in English takes place every Sunday at 7:00.
  • Thanjavur Palace & Saraswathi Mahal Library - Possesses very old manuscripts mostly in Tamil and Sanskrit. The library is situated inside the Saraboji Palace which contains many rare paintings depicting various Indian cities during the reign of King Saraboji.
  • Sangeetha Mahal
  • South Zone Cultural Centre
  • Siva Ganga Garden - A cute little park sandwiched between the Brihadeshwara Temple and the Schwartz Church. There are children playing area at the heart of the park and it is very pleasant to watch the innocent laughs and smile. The park has a cute little train and also a theppakulam ( a temple in the middle of the pond). Boating is also available in the pond.

In and around Thanjavur there are other ancient temples like Vellai Pillaiyar Temple, Thiruvanajozhi, Lord Murugan Temple, Swami Malai, Chandra Bagawan Temple, Thingalur Moon Temple, Sukkiran Temple, Kanchanur, Kethu Temple, Keelaperumpallam, Sani Bhagawan Temple, Punnainallur Mariamman Temple, Thirunallar, Mercury Temple, Thiruvenkadu, Raaghu Temple, Thirunageshwaram, Guru Baghawan Temple at Alangudi, Thirumananjeri.

Museums and art galleries[edit]

  • FCI Food Museum. 11AM–5PM (closed in public holidays). Opened in 2021, the museum is dedicated to food and how the human race transitioned from hunter-gatherers to food producers. Free.
  • Tanjore Art Gallery (Tanjore Paintings or Thanjavur Paintings), East main road (Inside the palace), +91 9113670272. 09:00-13:00 and 15:00-18:00 (closed on holidays). Art exposition of bronzes and statues of the Chola period. The ticket gives also access to the construction of the palace with a nice view of the town. Entrance: ₹30 for foreigners, ₹7 for Indians.


Thanjavur is famous for its 'Thanjavur dancing doll' (Thanjavur thalai attu bommai), Tanjore Paintings (Lord Krishna paintings are the best) and Tanjore art plates (Lord Balaji are the best).

There is an outlet inside the palace where old and new art works are sold. You can pay with your credit card too. Many shops accept UPI payments nowadays.

There is a Phoompuhar art Gallery, which exhibits and sell a wide range of artistic bronze idols, Thanjavur paintings and artistic plates.Its been a hot spot for the foreign travellers.

Bargaining is a necessary skill that needs to be used. Like everywhere else, foreign travellers may be charged extra and may be fleeced. Adequate precautions must be taken.

  • Tanjore Painting Gallery (Handmade Thanjavur Art Paintings), Thanjavur, +919113670272. 9AM-9PM. Gallery of hand made Tanjore Paintings with gold, gemstones & unique 3D embossing art work. INR-10.



  • Sree Aariya Bhavan (Old bus stand), +91 9042026277. Very good traditional, authentic vegetarian restaurant. In the morning, delicious dosas & idly are served; for lunch, the thali is served on a banana leaf. ₹110 for biryani (updated 2022). ₹45 for the thali.
  • Venkata Lodge (Old bus stand). Very good traditional (especially pongal, adai, aviyal), authentic vegetarian restaurant.
  • Hotel coffee palace (W Main Street). Very nice traditional food. Always full of people in the morning for breakfast. ₹45 for dosa ₹15 for coffee (updated 2022).


  • Dheen Garden - The only place where you can get grilled chicken. The food is decent. Tandoori chicken is delicious and the portion they serve is very good. Check out their murthapa.
  • Hotel Sangamam
  • Popular - This is the cheapest among the lot and the Chinese dishes are nice.
  • Raja's curry, Court road, +91 4362270007. Very good veg, non-veg and halal restaurant. Indian and Chinese food. ₹40 for the thali.
  • Rice Bowl (pla) - They serve awesome Chinese food and their starters also pretty good.
  • Sathars, Gandhiji road. They are good at Mughal dishes. Very rich gravies. Try this out if you are not too worried about your waist line. ₹50-100 for a curry.
  • Thevars- The best biriyani in town


  • Marutham (Hotel Oriental Towers), Srinivasam Pillai Road. 07:00-23:00. Vegetarian South Indian cuisine.
  • Mullai (Hotel Oriental Towers), Srinivasam Pillai Road. 12:00-15:00 and 19:00-23:00. Multicuisine, one of the few places place here where you get continental food but the food is overpriced.


  • Bombay Sweets (Many locations including Old Bus Stand, New Bus Stand, Medical College). Very good sweets and special spicy savouries.
  • Sri Krishna Sweets (Locations at Old Bus Stand, New Bus Stand). Ghee murukku and good Indian-style cakes.
  • Sri Divya Sweets (Old bus stand). Excellent vada and bhajjis; also cheap wholesome sweets and savouries.


  • Banam bub, Srinivasam Pillai Road (Oriental Towers). 11 am - 10 pm.


Hotels in Thanjavur are generally not that expensive. Try to avoid booking rooms from online websites as these websites may show increase in demand and may charge extra. Calling the hotel's phone and booking is the best way. For a more adventurous soul, going to the hotel, haggling and then booking the rooms may be another way. Hotels in the centre of the town tend to cost extra due to ease of access to the tourist spots. However, one can avoid the crowds and stay at hotels near to the New Bus Stand, for ease of travel to other cities.


  • Hotel Karthik has double rooms at ₹370 and single at ₹200. Air conditioned rooms cost ₹600. This is somewhat old hotel and cleanliness is about 3 on the scale of 5, but it is just a 5 minute walk away from Bridhadeeswara Temple and 10 minute walk from the palace. Has a restaurant in the ground floor where food is good south Indian vegetarian cuisine.


  • Hotel Ramnath, South Rampart (Old bus stand), +91 4362272567, fax: +91 4362271139. Check-in: 24 hours. Clean and modern, it offers a good price quality ratio. A/C and non-A/C rooms are available with TV and hot water. from ₹500 to ₹900 (and ₹100 tax).
  • Hotel Sangam - Near Ramanadhan Hospital
  • Hotel ASK Residency - located near the New Bus Stand, the hotel has a modest rate ( around ₹800 to ₹1200 depending on the type of room). They provide clean rooms as well as towels and soaps. Air conditioned rooms cost extra.


  • Hotel Gnaman, Anna Salai (Market road), +91 4362-278501, fax: +91 4362-235536, . Check-out: 24 hours. Located in the center of the town. Only A/C rooms. ₹1200 to ₹3500.
  • Ideal River View Resort A little out of town but well kept and quiet.
  • Oriental Towers, Srinivasam Pillai Road (South of Thanjavur Junction), +91 4362-230724, fax: +91 4362-230770, . From US $ 50 to 100.
  • Parisutham a perfectly adequate hotel with a nice pool area and good food.
  • Temple Tower near Membalam

Go next[edit]

This city travel guide to Thanjavur is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.