Thanjavur (or 'Thanjai' or 'Tanjore'), the headquarters of the district with the same name, is 342 km from Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, India. Thanjai is considered to be the granary and 'rice bowl' of Tamil Nadu.
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 the 14th century 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.
The important landmark in Thanjavur is the great Brahadeeswara 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 AD in celebration of the victory of Chola kingdom that extended till 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 a cultural headquarters, and the Tamil spoken here is considered by many linguists 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 population 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.
Thanjavur is also reachable by train from other Indian cities. 'Thanjavur Junction' is the station to alight. There are daily trains from/to Chennai, Bangalore, Mysore, Ernakulam, Palakkad, Thrissur, Coimbatore, Tiruchirapalli, Madurai, Erode, Salem, Tirupur, Tirunelveli, Rameswaram and weekly trains to Tiruchendur, Bhubaneswar, Varanasi , Allahabad, Jabalpur, Vijayawada, Vizianagaram and to all main cities. For train timings and on-line reservations (within India) visit the IRCTC's website. The station is nearer to the Old Bus Stand than the New Bus Stand.
There are several state and private buses that ply daily from Mannargudi, Pattukkottai, Kumbakonam, Pondicherry, Bangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Tiruchy. The journey from Bangalore and Chennai takes about 9 hours and there are over-night buses. Some buses (from Madurai or Trichy) arrive at the new bus stand in Thanjavur; located about 4 km 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".
- Auto Rickshaws - negotiate a rate with the driver beforehand. Any Place with in city costs a minimum of ₹80 to ₹100. The auto drivers will charge extra if you don't speak the language or don't negotiate well (if you seem like a pushover). Bargaining for the prices before alighting is a must.
- 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 its wise to negotiate at least the rates that are applicable in Chennai
- Cycle rickshaws - Though not popular among the locals, foreign travellers usually hire cycle rickshaws to go around Thanjavur. One can inquire the hotel's service desk for help.
- Local/Town Buses - 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 Raja-raja Cholan's statue
- Tanjore Art Gallery, East main road (Inside the palace). 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 a construction of the palace with a nice view on the town. Entrance: ₹30 for foreigners, ₹7 for Indians..
- 1 Brihadishwara Temple (Rajarajeswaram 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 on the temple's backyard. The temple is dedicated to Shiva. Hundreds of lingams are in the pillared cloister. The sanctum sanctorum has a huge Shiva lingam and an immense stone Nandi and two live elephants to bless the pilgrims. The temple gopuram is 63 m high. Free entrance.
- 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
- 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.
- 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 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.
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.
- Sree Aariya Bhavan (Old bus stand), ☏ . Very good traditional, authentic vegetarian restaurant. In the morning, delicious dosas & idly are served; for lunch, the thali is served on a banana leaf. ₹45 for the thali.
- Venkata Lodge (Old bus stand). Very good traditional (especially pongal, adai, aviyal), authentic vegetarian restaurant.
- 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, ☏ . 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), ☏ , fax: . 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), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 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), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. From US $ 50 to 100.
- Parisutham a perfectly adequate hotel with a nice pool area and good food.
- Temple Tower near Membalam