Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India

An early Chola capital from the 9th to the 11th century CE, Thanjavur, or Tanjore, again gained prominence during the Vijayanagar, Maratha, and British periods. Its attractions today include the spectacular Brihadishwara Chola temple (built by Raja Raja in 1010 CE, this pinnacle of Chola architecture is also a UNESCO world heritage site, and the palace of Serfoji (1798-1832), a Maratha prince. Industries include cotton mills, traditional handloom weaving, and the manufacture of vinas (South Indian stringed instruments). [Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica]

Thanjavur is also home to a major collection of Medieval manuscripts-Maharaja Serfoji's Sarasvati Mahal library-with about 59,000 titles on both palm leaf and paper. A precious cultural resource today, it was fostered by the royals of both the Nayak (1535-1676) and the Maratha (1676-1855) dynasties of Thanjavur. Its eclectic collection includes 4,500 works in French, English, German, and Danish. Over 39,300 are in Sanskrit, written in Grantha, Devanagari, Nandinagari, and Telugu scripts (visit the library website for more).

Brihadishwara Temple

Temple in the evening (more)

Main temple (1, 2)

Main temple entrance (more)

Courtyard in temple complex

First gateway (from inside)

Inner sanctum

Second gateway (from inside)

Path to the inner sanctum

Subsidiary shrine (entrance)

Elephant staircase

Temple staff (more)

Western face detail (more)

Main temple closer view

North side entrance

South side entrance (more)

Giant Nandi (more)

Original paintwork

South side entrance

Courtyard puja

Original paintwork

An Odissi dance performance at the Brihadishwara temple by the Sutra Dance Theater of Ramli Ibrahim (Malaysia). Odissi is said to be over 2000 years old. It originated and developed in the temples of Orissa and later flourished in the courts too. One of the six recognized schools of classical Indian dance still practiced today (the other five being Bharata Natyam from Tamil Nadu, Kathak from North India, Manipuri from Manipur, Kuchipudi from Andhra Pradesh, and Kathakali from Kerela), many of its dance poses are sculpted on the exterior of the temples of Bhubaneswar, Konarak, and Puri.

Expressive eyes

Emotive gestures

Evocative vocals

Effective costumes (1, 2)

Thanjavur Palace & Museums

Royal palace (16th century)

Nayak durbar hall

Durbar hall wall detail

The time 3 O'clock was apparently when the Marathas handed over the palace (and command over their local domain) to the British

Another view of palace

(Shiva in beggar form) 1040 CE
Provenance: Tiruvengadu

Kanappa Nayanar
10th cent. CE
Provenance: Tiruvengadu

Hunter devotee of Shiva with his scooped right eye ball in his right hand

Vijayaragava Nayak
17th--18th cent. CE
Nayak king, Thanjavur

The lungi was popular even in his time!

Parvati (Amman)
11th cent. CE
Provenance: Tiruvelvikkudi

"Amman" refers to Parvati as mother. Her other sculpted forms in this museum include a virgin and an old woman.

Raja Raja II and his wife
Late Chola, 12th cent. CE
Provenance: Darasuram

Sri Rishaparudar and Amman
(Shiva and Parvati)

Tanjore from a palace tower

Maratha durbar hall

Courtyard from durbar hall...

...diagonally opposite view

Pillared pavilion / museum

Another courtyard


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