Tanjore, an ancient conurbation of Southern India and the erstwhile seat of the Chola Kingdom that basks in the glory of its elongated and eventful history and affluent cultural heritage is fittingly accredited by the laurel; the “cultural capital of the Indian peninsula”. Eminently complimented as the seventh heaven for the lovers and practitioners of art, Tanjore; the preeminent center of South Indian art and architecture is a home to some of the most precious assets in the effulgent casket of Indian Culture.
‘The Tanjore School of Painting’ which has earned this civic an immense reputation on the international front is one of the most distinguishing episodes in the proud legacy of Tanjore. Rooted back in 1600 AD and instigated and developed during the ascendancy of The Nayakas of Thanjavur, the world famous Tanjore School of Painting chiefly assumes Hindu Gods and Goddesses, saints and various themes from Hindu scriptures and legends as their subject matters. Also referred to as the ‘Palagai Padam’, the Tanjore School of Painting is basically a panel painting made on hard wood planks. Presently, the Tanjore Paintings are used worldwide to be gifted as souvenirs, to decorate houses and also as collection items for the art lovers.
The Tanjore Doll, also reckoned as the ‘Thanjavur Bommai’ is a traditional South Indian bobble head toy made from terracotta which due to its peculiar formation presents a dance like constant movement through dawdling oscillations. Both round bottomed and standing dolls are available. Traditionally, the beautifully and gracefully decorated Thanjavur Bommai used to be handmade; however these dolls are also made in plastic these days.
Additionally, Tanjore is also renowned for its fabulous handloom and handicraft items, silk and cotton saris and silk carpets. Tourists make it a point to buy silk saris with broad border and unique motifs laden with Zari, silk carpets, Thanjavur dancing doll, Tanjore Paintings, Tanjore art plates, bronze idols, jewelry, garlands, woodworks, bell metal products, pith models of temples, unhusked paddy models, other handicraft and handloom items, and so on as the souvenirs of their visit to Tanjore.
Tanjore is also the home to the prestigious Carnatic Music, the performing arts and the well-known classical Indian dance form; Bharatnatyam. The Carnatic Music of Tanjore embodies the rich musical lineage and heritage maintained and developed here over the centuries. The classical musical instruments like veena, mridangam, thavil and tambura, cast a delightful magic charm on the audience by their captivating symphonies. The musical instruments of Tanjore made out of jack-wood are remarkably treasured by the experts and the music lovers and the visitors of Tanjore purchase these musical instruments from here for their personal as well as professional purposes. A ‘South Zone Culture Centre’ established by the Indian Government in Tanjore operates with an objective of preserving and promoting the effulgent traditional and cultural heritage of India.
The economy of Tanjore is supported by agriculture and tourism industry for the most part. The land of Tanjore is extremely fertile which yields several crops including rice (paddy), coconut, banana, sugarcane, maize, gingelly, ragi, green gram, red gram, black gram, etc in abundance. Tanjore is even bequeathed with the epithet; ‘The Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu’. Some of the not to miss gourmet feasts of Tanjore include Thavala Adai, rasam, boiled rice, idly, dosa, uttapam, appam, vada, Surul Poli, Kozhakottai, Pal Payasam, Vasantha Neer, delicacies of fishes prepared in fresh coconut milk, etc.
Apart from other traditional Indian festivals, Tanjore is mainly noted for its two distinct festivals namely the ‘Natyanjali Dance Festival’ and the ‘Carnatic Classical Musical Festival’.
The Natyanjali Dance Festival organized by the Natyanjali Trust of Chidambaram, the Department of Tourism; Government of Tamil Nadu in collaboration with the Department of Tourism; Government of India is a dance festival celebrated for five days beginning from the auspicious occasion of Mahashivratri. This festival is dedicated to Lord Nataraj; the dancing form of Lord Shiva and the Lord of the dancers. Held within the premises of the Tanjore Shiva Temple, this eminent festival provides a platform to the dancers where they can present their talent and earn appreciation. The dancers from all over the country perform here with absolute perfection and total dedication to the Lord Nataraj. The Natyanjali Festival symbolizes the importance of the traditional performing arts in human life. Thousands of tourists and art lovers alight at Tanjore from far and wide to witness the stunning performances of various classical dance forms.
The Carnatic Classical Musical Festival is celebrated in the month of December and January in the honor of Thyagaraja; the supreme maestro of the Carnatic Classical Music. This festival beckons a number of renowned classical musicians and singers from all corners of the country and globe to Thanjavur where they get an opportunity to showcase their creative talent and artistic caliber.