Tamil Nadu has some amazing historical places you must visit. What pops up in you mind if I ask you the best places to visit in Thanjavur? Brihadeeswarar Temple, of course, is the most popular attraction in Thanjavur, which I feel requires a separate blog in itself. Another must-see attraction in this city is the Thanjavur Palace or the Thanjavur Maratha Palace. I was extremely dazzled by this place and am surely going to visit the palace again. Now it’s your turn to get bewitched with the history, art, and architecture of the palace through this virtual tour.

Tamil Nadu has some amazing historical places you must visit. The Thanjavur Palace is one such place you cannot miss to visit if you have an eye for art, culture, and history. Flaunting a spectacular spread of mural work and paintings, the Royal Palace was built by the kings of the Nayak kingdom and its construction was further expanded by the Maratha rulers.

Walkthrough the beautiful corridors and chambers and tunnels to witness the divine scenes painted on the walls of Durbar Hall. The palace also houses a museum, art gallery, and the Saraswati Mahal Library. The museum consists of a fascinating collection of paintings, sculptures, books, and other memorabilia. The intricate architecture and impeccable structure of tiles and teak of the palace charms visitors across the globe.

History

Thanjavur is the capital city of Cholas, thriving since the 7th century CE. The city comprises of two forts, namely, Chinna Kottai and Periya Kottai. Thanjavur royal palace is located in the Periya Kottai or the Big Fort complex. After the Cholas, Sevappa Nayak captured the city and became the King in 1532.

The Royal Maratha Palace was built by the rulers of Thanjavur Nayak kingdom. The construction was completed in 1535 with the help of local war prisoners who provided manual labor. The palace was then called the “Sivagangai Fort” until the Maratha ruler Venkoji captured it in 1674. Thereafter it became the official residence of the Thanjavur Marathas, who then enhanced and expanded the palace complex.

After the annexure of the palace to the British rulers in 1799, the Marathas continued to hold sway surrounding the fort. The Bhonsale family continued to hold on to the palace after king Shivaji II was overthrown according to the Doctrine of Lapse.

Attractions

The Thanjavur Maratha Palace is a huge complex with many architectural features. The palace is filled with exciting and intriguing features that were built as a fort by Nayak kings. The palace reflects the ‘Nayaks’ and ‘Marathas’ patronage towards Indian religion, art, and culture. From the paintings in the Darbar Hall to the architecture of the bell tower the palace is bound to captivate your senses.

There are three main attractions in the campus of the Thanjavur Palace. I will take you through them and also pen down other spots worth a visit as you wander around the palace grounds.

Saraswati Mahal Library

It is one of the oldest libraries in Asia with a display of a rare collection of Palm leaf manuscripts and papers written in Hindi, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, English, and other languages indigenous to India. There is a museum inside the Library which showcases only selected books for the visitors. I took a stroll inside this amazing library and believe me it was bewitching. Videography is not allowed in this structure but you can take photographs.

The main library is not accessible to public. In case you want to read some manuscripts from there, you need prior permission and that book will be issued to you. You are not allowed to take any book out of the premises and read the content in the Mahal Library itself. The Saraswati Mahal Library museum has a collection of ancient books on medicine, Ramayana, Mahabharata, small scroll scripts, old Tanjore paintings, and much more.

Some of the rare books and manuscripts in the library include:

  • Dr. Samuel Johnson’s dictionary published in 1784
  • Ancient maps of the world
  • The globe used by the raja
  • Lavoisier’s Traité Élémentaire de Chimie (Elements Of Chemistry)

Durbar Hall & Sangita Mahal

The Durbar Hall or the Maratha Durbar is adjacent to the library. The Maratha Durbar house two small museums – one for the weapons and other for the utensils. Entry to these museums is charged extra. The Durbar Hall is the main attraction for historic artifacts and paintings.

It was reconstructed and refurbished by the Maratha King Venkoji in 1684 CE. The walls and domes of the courtyard are adorned with ornate paintings of deities and figurines. The paintings make the hall look like a colorful art arcade. I was bewildered with the fine art in this place and so will you.

Next to the Maratha Durbar was the Raja Saroji Memorial Hall that houses his personal belongings. But the area is not maintained well and I was pretty disappointed by it.

Bell Tower (Maadamaaligai)

The next main attraction I visited in the palace is the Bell Tower. This seven-story tower has a superb view of the Big Temple which was worshipped by the Nayak kings from the top of this tower. The bell tower used to house a large clock with a monkey that used to strike the gong every hour. The tower has a beautiful architecture resembling modern-day skyscrapers. People climb up the tower to get the splendid aerial view of Thanjavur city.

thanjavur bell tower

Arsenal Tower (Gooda Gopuram)

It is a 192 feet eight-story tower. Constructed by the Marathas in 1855 CE, it was used as an armory and watchtower. The second floor was exclusively used for the king’s martial art training. You can get a bird view of the famous Brihadeeswarar Temple Vimana from here.

Art & Bronze Gallery

Thanjavur’s royal palace has an exquisite art gallery that houses a beautiful collection of ancient coins and sculptures. The bronze sculptures of Hindu deities and saints from the 9th to 19th centuries depict the early Indian lifestyle, their clothing, hairstyle, and even jewelry. Coins dating back to 300 B.C. are also exhibited in the royal palace museum. The upper walls of the gallery are richly decorated with floral designs, lions and angels, and imperial crests that you may miss the classic collection of Chola bronzes.

art gallery Thanjavur Palace

Royal Family’s Temple

Chandramoulishwarar Temple, located on the ground floor of the palace was constructed by the Achuthappa Nayak in 1589. The temple has a Shiva Lingam on the floor with two Nandis (sacred bulls) in the front. Royal families worshiped the deities here every morning.

Baleen Whale Skeleton

A 92 feet long skeleton of Whalebone whale or Baleen whale is exhibited in the Arsenal tower. The dead whale was brought to the palace after the locals found it on the shores of Tharangampadi beach on 26th February 1955. It is an interesting and fascinating view of the bones strung together which once was a large living mammal. However, the skeleton is not well preserved.

baleen whale skeleton

Sharjah Mahdi

The royal balcony located in the eastern part of the palace is known as the Sharja Mahdi. The balcony is adorned with wooden carving that attracts the visitors.

Sculptures And Paintings

On the ground floor of the Thanjavur Maratha palace complex, numerous stone sculptures are displayed. If you have an eye for interesting details and art, this is the best place for you. The sculptures range from 8th to 18th century A.D. and most of them are well-labeled.

The walls of the royal palace were covered with rich Tanjore paintings; however, most of them have been destroyed with time. Today you can see some faded paintings that have been destroyed by unscrupulous visitors.

Thanjavur_Palace_Paintings

Secret Chambers

There are three hidden chambers in the palace with interconnecting doors. One of the hidden chambers, located in the Arsenal tower was acoustically designed to send secret voice signals over multiple floors and hear even the smallest whisper from three floors above. The access to these chambers is prohibited by the government.

Best Time to Visit

December to May is the time where many tourist flock in the temple city. However, one can stopover this place anytime of the year. It is also a great weekend gateway for people residing in the state. The Royal Thanjavur Palace is open on all days except holidays.

Connectivity

The palace is located in the heart of the city and near to the world heritage site, Brihadeeswarar Temple. Buses and rickshaws are available to reach the palace from the railway station and bus stands. The nearest airport is located at Trichy (61 km) while the nearest railway station is Thanjavur Railway Station (2.9 km).

Entry Fee and Visit Timings

Hours: Opens every day from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm and remains closed during lunch hours. The palace remains closed on public holidays.

Entry Fees:

  • For Indian citizens/foreigners – ₹50/₹200
  • Camera – ₹30/₹100

The Royal Thanjavur Palace is an abode of rare manuscripts, sculptures, sensational art, and other ancient stuff. Each section of the palace brings life to history, art, and culture. Every history-lover, art-admirer, knowledge-seeker, architectural-buff, and globetrotter should definitely visit the palace to get captivated by the golden era.

From here I am going to visit the most beautiful and renowned temple in Thanjavur, the Brihadeeswarar Temple. I am super excited about it.

Have you visited Thanjavur Palace yet? Will you plan your next trip to this awesome historic locale in India? Comment in box below.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is famous Thanjavur for?

Thanjavur is an important center of South Indian religion. It is a symbol of Indian culture, art, and heritage across the globe. Most of the great living Chola Temples, also renowned as UNESCO World Heritage Monuments, are an exemplary example of architecture in Thanjavur. The Brihadeeswara Temple is popular among all temples here. Thanjavur is also known for its art gallery, paintings, and museums.

Is Thanjavur worth visiting?

If you’re in for a vacation down the history lane, a knowledge trip to Thanjavur should be your choice. Thanjavur is a temple city and has numerous examples of majestic architectural works. It is a place where history meets art and culture. Yes, definitely worth visiting.

What can I buy in Thanjavur?

From silk sarees to gold painting, you can buy a variety of things when in Thanjavur. Here is a list of few popular items one can purchase from the temple city of Tamil Nadu:
• Thanjavur silk sarees
• Dancing dolls
• Tanjore paintings
• Brass and bronze sculptors
• Tamil art books
• Masala Kajus

Who built Tanjore Palace?

The rulers of Thanjavur Nayak kingdom built the Thanjavur Maratha palace in the 16th century. Thanks to the prisoners of war during that era that provided the much-needed manpower to construct the majestic piece of art and culture.

What is the main theme of Thanjavur art?

Tanjore paintings revolve around a common theme revealing child Krishna and his various pranks. The paintings are a classic example of South Indian art. Glided or gem-set techniques are used to highlight specific portions of the painting like jewelry, dresses, etc.