About 350 kilometres from Chennai lies Thanjavur, a treasury of art, sculpture, and architecture. The city is believed to have been named after an asura - Tanjan. Its portfolio of rulers is rich with the presence of the great Cholas, Nayaks and Marathas. Each reign has added to the historic and cultural depth of the city.
Steeped in history, the city is an inevitable winner in terms of experiences for tourists. If you are here for a day, follow our guide to soak in as much as you can of the cityâs personality.
Weâve heard it time and time againâ âBreakfast is the most important meal of the dayâ. A South-Indian breakfast is the epitome of healthy and hearty Indian meals. Try out the usual idlis and dosas, or branch out and try and other dishes like pongal, adai or rava khichdi. A restaurant popular for its breakfast is Vasanta Bhavan.
As we mentioned earlier, the architecture in Thanjavur is a cocktail of contributions by various rulers. Only 2 kilometres away from the Brihadisvara Temple is the Vijayanagar Fort. Apart from the gorgeous architecture, you can also visit the Thanjavur Palace, Sangeetha Mahal (renowned for ancient musical instruments and its impressive patronage), the Thanjavur Art Gallery and Saraswati Mahal Libraryâ all of these lie within the fort. The show-stealer is definitely the watch tower carved in a serpentine ascension. The fort, in itself, is home to several attractions and can keep one occupied all morning.
With the sun high above you, we suggest a little lunch break. South Indian thalis will allow you to get a taste of different dishes of the state without burning a hole in your wallet. There are many restaurants that will serve a la carte as well. Two popular restaurants, known for their affordable yet delicious meals, are Sri Venkata Lodge and Sahana restaurant.
Sloth comes naturally at the end of a heavy meal, so we suggest you spend the afternoon at a less active environment. Kallanai Dam. Better known as the Grand Anicut, it is one of the earliest known irrigation dams in the world. Built across River Cauvery, it is a popular tourist destination near the city. Built with cemented stone, the dam is an engineering marvel.Â
A memorable trip means you find something by which to remember it. There are numerous souvenirs up for grabs in the city. However, none compares to the authentic Thanjavur paintings. A 16th-century art, these feature religious idolsâ generally with oval eyes and rounded bodiesâ enclosed within arches and curtains.Â
A refreshing snack is due at this time of the day. Established around 40 years ago, Anbu Milk Bar is a famous store that sells its popular drinksâÂ the frothy and decadent âBombay lassiâ and badam milkâ to long queues of loyal crowds. The enthusiastic workers make quite an impressive pour, demonstrating their skills. And of course, donât forget the dollop of cream to top it off.Â
We suggest you end your day with the most recognised attraction of the cityâ one of the Great Chola temples. A Unesco World Heritage Site, the Great Chola temples are a standing statement to the architectural excellence achieved by the Chola empire in the 11th-12th century. The Brihadisvara temple in Thanjavur was built by Raja Raja Chola as a manifestation of a dream. The granite structure is carved intricately and took 12 years to build. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and while most people visit it for its religious significance, there is no denying that the construction would appeal to non-religious people as well. Later in the night, you can watch a Bharatanatyam performance at the temple. It is in Thanjavur that the dance form was codified and hence, holds an important connection with the city. The dance performances at the temple are mesmerising and an ideal way to wrap up an eventful day (and trip).
Note: If you manage to time your trip perfectly to land on January 15 or the days around it, do visit the annual Thyagaraja Aradhana festival. A celebration of Carnatic music and Thyagarajar, a musical prodigy and composer, the festival is an exciting introduction, or revisitation, to the art form. Many singers perform for the audience in the city of Thiruvaiyaru in Thanjavur district.Â Â Â