They call it manji soozh Thanjai — the mist enveloped town. In December, January and February, a mist rises from the Cauvery at dawn. It swirls through the area and wraps itself like fine muslin around the lofty temple towers, ramparts and palaces. For a short span of time, the town looks as magnificent and mysterious as its history warrants. Then the sun comes out, the mist vanishes and Thanjavur puts on its everyday face, dusty and crowded. But still, you can sometimes see glimpses of its lost grandeur flicker through.

Things to See & Do

Brihadeeswara Temple
This is the temple around which Thanjavur grew. Locally called Periya Koil (Big Temple), the Brihadeeswara Temple, spans an area of 33,000sq ft.

Courtesy Wikipedia
Brihadeeswara Temple
Brihadeeswara Temple

The sanctum has a single block of granite, 25.5sq ft wide, as its roof. The 13-tiered vimana (tower over the sanctum) is over 197ft high. The lingam inside is 12ft tall and so is the monolithic Nandi Bull facing it. The stone shikhara (pinnacle) that perches over the tower weighs nearly 80 tonnes, an amazing feat of engineering. The temple was, for the most part, built of granite blocks, though no granite is available for miles around Thanjavur. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Entry Free Timings 6.00am–noon and 4.00–8.00pm, open all days

Shivaganga Fort
This 35-acre fort was modified by the Marathas in the 17th century and includes the temple complex, the Schwartz Church, the Royal Palace along with two museums, and the Shivaganga Tank and Park to its north.

The Royal Palace must have been wonderful once upon a time. Today, the walls have crumbled, the interiors are damp and the tunnels have all caved in. However, inside are the Rajaraja Museum and the Art Gallery, both of which have a stunning collection of rare Chola bronzes and granite sculptures.

Museum Entry ₹10 Timings 9.00am–1.00pm and 3.00–5.00pm Sound & Light Show ₹50 Timings 6.45pm (English)

Tip Photography is not allowed inside the Rajaraja Museum

Srikanth Kolari
The Majestic Façade Of The Brihadeeswara Temple
The Majestic Façade Of The Brihadeeswara Temple

The Saraswati Mahal Library boasts of a staggering collection of 44,000 palm leaf manuscripts besides paintings and writing equipment.

Entry Free Timings 10.00am–1.00pm and 1.30–5.30pm

The small Palace Museum closeby exhibits the personal collection of the royal family: arms, clothes, paintings and so on. The Schwartz Church was built in 1779 by Raja Sarabhoji II for the Danish missionary Rev Christian Fredriech Schwartz. The rosewood pulpit from which Schwartz preached still stands, as does the rosewood pew where the king liked to sit and pray.

Where to Stay & Eat
Hotel Ganam (Tel: 04362-278501; Tariff: ₹2,300–5,000) and Hotel Oriental Towers (Tel: 230450; Tariff: ₹2,700– 5,000) are decent options.

The Information
When to go
It rains in November and early December. But soon after is the best time to go. Thanjavur celebrates Pongal in mid-January

Tourist Office

Department of Tourism, Govt of TN Tourism Complex, Gandhiji Road, Thanjavur, Telefax: 04362-230984, tamilnadutourism.org

STD code 04362

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Trichy (54km/ 1.5hrs). Taxis into town cost ₹2,000

Rail Thanjavur Junction is connected to Chennai by the Chennai Express

Road Bus Services are available from Chennai via Trichy from Koyambedu bus stand