|Brihadeeswarar Temple||Sited just 2 kilometers away from the Thanjavur Junction|
|Thanjavur Royal Palace||Within the periphery of the Vijayanagara Fort Complex|
|Vijayanagara Fort||Sited about 2 kilometers to the north east of the Brihadeeswarar Temple|
|Sangeetha Mahal||Situated on the first floor of the Royal Palace of Tanjore inside the precincts of the Vijaynagara Fort|
|Manora Fort||To be found about 65 kilometers away from Thanjavur|
|The Serfoji Saraswati Mahal Library||Located within the grounds of the Tanjore Royal Palace|
|Thanjavur Art Gallery||Gallery located inside the Tanjore Royal Palace close to the East Main Road of the Vijayanagara Fort Complex|
|Siva Ganga Park||Located within the Vijayanagara Fort adjacent the Tanjore Royal Palace between the Brihadeeswarar Temple and the Schwartz Church|
|Grand Anicut||Located about 47 kilometers away from Tanjore|
|Suryanar Kovil (Sun Temple)||Located about 21 kilometers away from Swamimalai and nearly 15 kilometers from Kumbakonam|
|Thingalur Temple (Moon Temple)||Parked at the distance of about 25 kilometers to the north of Tanjore on the Thiruvaiyaru-Kumbakonam Road|
|Vaitheswaran Kovil (Mars Temple)||Located at Sirkali in Tamil Nadu about 110 km from Tanjore|
|Thiruvenkadu Temple (Swedharanyeshwarar) (Mercury Temple)||Located in the Thiruvenkadu Town near Sirkazhi about 23 kilometers away from Mayiladuthurai|
|Alangudi Temple (Jupiter Temple)||Located in the Alangudi Village of the Valangaiman Taluk in Tiruvarur District about 17 kilometers away from Kumbakonam on the way to Mannarguddi|
|Kanchanur Temple (Venus Temple)||Located about 18 kilometers to the north-east of Kumbakonam|
|Thirunallar Temple (Saturn Temple)||To be found in Thirunallar of Karaikal district in Pondicherry|
|Thirunageshwaram Temple (Raahu Temple)||Situated at the distance of about 7 kilometers from Kumbakonam on the southern bank of the river Cauvery|
|Keelaperumpallam Temple (Kethu Temple)||Located in the Keezhaperumpallam Village about 2 kilometers away from Poompuhar|
|Our Lady of Sorrows Church||Positioned on the Pookara Street of Tanjore|
|Schwartz Church||Located within the precincts of the Thanjavur Palace Garden|
|Thirumananjeri Temple||Nestled about 3 kilometers to the west of a small town named Kuthalam of Thanjavur District|
|Thiruvanajozhi Temple||Situated on the outskirts of the city|
|Airavateswara Temple||Sited at Darasuram close to Kumbakonam|
|Vellai Puliar Temple|
|Raaghu Temple||Sited approximately 6 kilometers away from the town of Kumbakonam in the Thanjavur District|
|Lord Murugan Temple||Nested on the banks of a tributary of river Cauvery roughly 5 kilometers to the west of Kumbakonam|
|Swami Malai Temple||Located at Swamimalai about 5 kilometers away from Kumbakonam near Thanjavur|
|Sukkiran Temple||Stationed about 16 kilometers away from Kumbakonam|
The Brihadeeswarar Temple of Tanjore also reckoned by different monikers such as ‘the Peruvudaiyar Kovil’, ‘the Rajarajeswaram Temple’ and ‘the Big Temple’ is a Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva that comprises the most predominant landmark of this historical township. Estimated to be dating back to 11th century AD and established under the patronage of the great Chola emperor Raja Raja Chola I, the Brihadeeswarar Temple of Tanjore; an authentic paragon of the Dravidian order of temple architecture happens to be the most incandescent paradigm of the architectural adroitness achieved by the artisans of yesteryears. Recognized as the classic exemplar of Tamil architectonics, the Brihadeeswarar Temple, honored to be the largest temple complex of India is deemed as the ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’. Reckoned amongst the ‘Great Living Chola Temples’, this magnificent sanctuary is indeed an expression of the wealth, power and the aesthetic perception of the Chola Sovereignty.
During the domination of the Cholas, the Brihadeeswarar Temple used to serve as the venue of the chief royal ceremonies including the coronation of the king. Sited just 2 kilometers away from the Thanjavur Junction this enormous temple complex entirely structured out of hard granite stone is fortified by a stone rampart. The Vimana or the temple tower measuring about 216 feet in its height is one of the tallest temple domes existing in the whole world. A mammoth Nandi Statue positioned close to the entrance of the Brihadeeswarar Temple is nearly 16 feet long and 13 feet tall which is believed to have carved out of one single boulder. The central sanctum (karuvarai) of the temple enshrines a huge Lingam of Lord Shiva that measures 3.7 meters in its height. Apart from the presiding deity, other Gods and Goddesses enshrined in the sanctorum include Dakshinamurthy, Sun, Moon, Ashta Dik Paalakas, etc.
The interior and exteriors walls of the temple are festooned with sculptures depicting 81 dance poses of Bharathanatyam, Chola frescoes, mural paintings portraying various mythological episodes related to Lord Shiva and so on. Developed and expanded by the subsequent rulers of Tanjore including the Pandyas, Vijaynagara and Marathas, the Brihadeeswarar Temple of Tanjore built in 1010 AD celebrated its 1000th anniversary in 2010 AD. To commemorate this occasion, the Postal Department of India released a postage stamp of Rs. 5 featuring the 216 feet tall ‘Raja Gopuram’ while the Reserve Bank of India released a 5 Rs coin with the image of the Brihadeeswarar Temple embossed upon it.
Thanjavur Royal Palace
The Thanjavur Royal Palace, popularly known as ‘Aranmanai’ and the ‘Thanjavur Maratha Palace’ is an archaic alcazar that served as the royal residence of the Nayak Kings of Thanjavur. To be found within the periphery of the Vijayanagara Fort Complex, this baronial manor, dating back to 16th century AD also sufficed as the official headquarters of the Bhonsle Royal family who governed the Tanjore region between 1674 and 1855 AD, after the decline of the Nayak Kings. Some of the worth mentioning attractions of the Thanjavur Royal Palace include the Durbar Hall, the Nayak Hall, Sadar Mahal, Queen’s Courtyard, Sangeetha Mahal, Raja Serfoji’s Saraswati Mahal Library, the Royal Palace Museum, the arsenal tower for the tourists, a tiny bell tower, the palace watch tower and so on. The Nayak Hall that was established by the Nayak rulers presently houses the ‘Thanjavur Art Gallery’ wherein a wide range of Thanjavur artifacts dating back to the age of Cholas are exhibited.
The Durbar Hall owing its subsistence to the Marathas displays a dazzling throne canopy marvelously ornamented with Thanjavur styled mirror-glass work. The Saraswati Mahal Library positioned close to the Nayak Hall is noted for its rare anthology of palm-leaf manuscripts and ancient Sanskrit literature. From the top of the arsenal tower of the Thanjavur Royal Palace tourists can behold the imperial prospects of the lofty Gopuram & the Vimana of the Brihadeeswarar Temple and also the clear outlooks of the Vijaynagara Fort complex. The Aranmanai of Tanjore is bedecked with a giant quadrangular courtyard at the entrance which leads to a multiple pillared hall while the encircling fortifications bear large gateways to the east and north of the palace. The six storied Madamaligai Tower of the palace suspended over the roof beyond the Goodagopuram was erected by the Nayak King to worship Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam from here every noon.
The Vijaynagara Fort of Tanjore sited about 2 kilometers to the north east of the Brihadeeswarar Temple is one of the most prominent historical monuments and one of the greatly sought after tourist attractions of the city. Estimated to be built in early 1550 AD by the Nayak King ‘Vijay Raghav’ and later expanded and completed by the Maratha rulers of Tanjore, this stronghold was erected around the Royal Palace of Thanjavur with an objective of safeguarding it from the enemy assaults. Some of the most remarkable attractions of the Vijaynagara Fort include; the Thanjavur Palace, Sangeetha Mahal, Siva Ganga Garden, Serfoji’s Saraswati Mahal Library, Tanjore Art Gallery and so on. Mostly in ruins now, only a part of the Vijaynagara Fort of Tanjore is opened to the general public.
The Sangeetha Mahal or ‘the Hall of Music’ situated on the first floor of the Royal Palace of Tanjore inside the precincts of the Vijaynagara Fort used to be the auditorium where the talented musicians and dancers of Tanjore as well as other parts of the country used to perform in front of the Nayak and later Maratha rulers of Thanjavur. Built in early 1600 AD (approx.) during the ascendancy of a Nayak sovereign ‘King Sevappa Nayak’, this spacious chamber was originally named ‘Navaratnamanamaina Nataka Shala’ meaning; the amphitheater adorned with gems. It was later renamed as the ‘Sangeetha Mahal’ during the tenure of the Marathas. Apart from its historical significance and its association with the eminent art forms such as music and dance, the Sangeetha Mahal of Tanjore is also commended for its peerless architectural and auditory properties.
The Hall of Music is a rectangular opera house bequeathed with an arched roof studded with several chandeliers and four pankahs. This hall was constructed using certain peculiar techniques that it balanced the absorption and deflection of the sound waves and controlled the excess amplification of the melodies. The water pool placed right in front of the stage and the perforations and decorations assist in the deflection of the sound waves. The Sangeetha Mahal, a sumptuous epitome of the classic Indian architecture and craftsmanship truly speaks volumes about the proficiency and expertise achieved by the sculptors, builders and architects of the bygone ages. This acoustical musical hall unquestionably a worth visiting place of Tanjore leaves its guests utterly spell bound. Currently, the Hall of Music is converted to a handicrafts exhibition centre where handicraft items made by the local artisans are displayed and sold.
The Manora Fort, to be found about 65 kilometers away from Thanjavur is an ancient fort of Tamil Nadu erected by the Maratha ruler ‘Serfoji II’ in the year 1814 – 15 commemorating the triumphant advance of the British army over Napoleon Bonaparte. This is an eight storied hexagonal tower that measures nearly 23 meters in its height and stands overlooking the Bay of Bengal. The fort receives its name ‘Manora’ from the English word ‘Minaret’. In December 2004 this tower was devastated in the Indian Ocean Tsunami but later in 2007, the State Tourism Department planned to renovate the structure and also added several facilities including tourist’s shed and children’s park. Various legends are associated with the Manora Fort. Some say that in ancient times the traders from Shri Lanka used to come here and exchange goods with Indian Traders. It is also believed that King Serfoji had hidden some treasure inside the mazes of the Manora. Due to the treasure hunting attempts made by the locals and the lack of maintenance, the Manora has suffered a considerable damage. It is also said that an underground passage from here leads to the Thanjavur Temple placed 65 kilometers away. Presently, the tourists are allowed to climb only 2 floors of this 8 storey Manora Fort.
The Serfoji Saraswati Mahal Library
The Serfoji Saraswati Mahal Library located within the grounds of the Tanjore Royal Palace and acclaimed amongst the foremost attractions of this historical metropolis happens to be one of the oldest libraries existing in the Asia Continent that is highly esteemed for its grandiose collection of over 60,000 volumes. This library is particularly exalted for its precious treasure of palm leaf manuscripts and papered documents written in Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Hindi, English and other indigenous Indian languages. This library was originally opened as a private royal library for the personal pleasure and delight of the Nayak rulers of Tanjore. Later, when the Maratha rulers patronized the local Thanjavur culture, they also developed and enriched the Palace Library till 1855. The most noteworthy contribution was made by the Maratha King Serfoji II; an eminent scholar in several branches of arts and learning who passionately showed special concern in the up gradation of the library. He employed numerous Pundits to collect, buy or copy the Sanskrit works from all the renowned centers of learning, all over the country.
Presently this library; the fruit of the relentless efforts of the Nayak and Maratha kings houses about 39,300 manuscripts written in Sanskrit, 3500 in Tamil, 3076 Marathi, 846 Telugu, 22 Persian & Urdu, 1342 bundles of the proceedings of the Maratha Raj written in the Modi script, over 6,426 printed volumes and a large number of journals. These manuscripts and records inform us about the social, cultural, political, administrative conditions of the ancient princely state of Thanjavur. Since 1918 AD, this library belongs to the state government of Tamil Nadu. It was officially christened after the Maratha King Serfoji II to commemorate his substantial input in the present day fortune of this library. The Serfoji Saraswati Mahal Library of Tanjore now endeavors to publish these rare manuscripts and also preserve all the volumes in the microfilm. A museum is also set up here that highlights several ancient illustrated manuscripts, copies of the original drawings, atlases, canvas paintings, Tanjore paintings, glass and wooden painting, portraits of the Maratha Kings, the physiognomy charts of Charles Le-Brun and so on so as to give the visitors an idea of the momentous collection preserved in the library.
Thanjavur Art Gallery
The Thanjavur Art Gallery located inside the Tanjore Royal Palace close to the East Main Road of the Vijayanagara Fort Complex is a historic menagerie where an outstanding assortment of uncommon bronze images, stone sculptures, Tanjore Paintings, murals and other atypical artifacts belonging to the age of Chola, Pallava and the Nayak rulers of Thanjavur are conserved. The mementoes housed in this art gallery sing the sagas of the complete history of Tamil Nadu starting from 9th century AD to 18th century AD. The stone and bronze sculptures are harbored inside the Nayak Hall where they are classified in three distinct sections i.e. the ‘Pooja Mahal’ for the stone sculptures, the ‘Rama Chowdam Hall’ for the bronze sculptures and the ‘Indira Mandir’ for the ancient armory. One of the most attention grabbing articles of this art gallery is the statue of Raja Serfoji put up here. The genesis of the Tanjore Art Gallery is enrooted in an interesting anecdote. Dr. Sivaramamoorthi; an archeologist from Kolkata found an icon of Lord Brahma and wanted to take it along, but the local people raised an objection against it. Later, under the direction of T K Palaniappan; the then District Collector it was decided that all the artifacts, icons and sculptures which were lying neglected or buried would be gathered and preserved in at an appropriate place. Thus, the Thanjavur Art Gallery was instituted on 9th December, 1951. The Thanjavur Art Gallery is open to public from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm all days of the week but Sundays and government holidays. An entry fee of Rs. 7 is charged here.
Siva Ganga Park
The Siva Ganga Park of Tanjore located within the Vijayanagara Fort adjacent the Tanjore Royal Palace between the Brihadeeswarar Temple and the Schwartz Church is a recreational park extremely popular amongst both the locals and the tourists. Laid by the Tanjore Municipality under the dominance of King Sevappa Nayak in the year 1871 – 72, this well landscaped and very well maintained public park is especially admired for its extraordinary assortment of various species of flowering and non-flowering plants and different birds and animals sheltered here. The most striking feature of the garden is its large square tank that was built by certain Nayak King of Thanjavur in 16th century AD in order to provide water to the Thanjavur Palace. The Siva Ganga Park was revamped before the World Tamil Conference of 1994 AD when motor boating facilities were added to the Siva Ganga Tank. Today, the Siva Ganga Park is bequeathed with a children playing area, a toy train, a miniature zoological garden, motor boating and a temple set up in the middle of pond (Theppakulam). The Thanjavur Municipal Library is also stationed within the premises of the park.
The Grand Anicut, also known as the ‘Kallanai Dam’ is an ancient water reservoir built over the river Cauvery in 2nd century AD during the supremacy of a Chola king named ‘Karikalan’. Considered to be one of the oldest existing water-regulators or water-diversion structures in the world still in use, the Grand Anicut, located about 47 kilometers away from Tanjore is eulogized as the supreme epitome of the Dravidian Engineering. The main objective behind constructing the Grand Anicut was to redirect the waters of the river Cauvery via canals across the fertile Cauvery Delta region for irrigation purposes. This 329 meters long, 20 meters wide and 5.4 meters high dam divides the river Cauvery into four diverse streams named ‘Kollidam Aru’, ‘Kaviri’, ‘Vennaru’ and ‘Puthu Aru’. The Grand Anicut, still serving as an exemplary paradigm to the later engineers is in a well maintained condition even today. Sir Arthur Cotton, who built the Mukkombu Dam in 19th century, also drew inspiration from the Grand Anicut near Tanjore. Presently the Grand Anicut irrigates over one million acres of land and the farmers dwelling in the Cauvery Delta region have insisted that the government of Tamil Nadu should honor the King Karikalan Chola for envisaging and contributing such a pragmatic largesse to the state. Flourishing as one of the principal tourist destinations around Tanjore and Trichirapalli, the Grand Anicut is indeed a worth visiting destination during your visit to Tanjore.
The Navagraha Temples around Thanjavur
Suryanar Kovil (Sun Temple)
The Suryanar Kovil, also referred to as the ‘Tirumangalakkudi Temple’ is one of the nine Navagraha Temples scattered around Tanjore that is located about 21 kilometers away from Swamimalai and nearly 15 kilometers from Kumbakonam. Dedicated to the Sun God, this ancient shrine, also known as Kulottungachola-Marttandalaya, was established under the patronage of King Kulottunga Choladeva in 11th century AD. Lord Sun who is flanked by his two consorts Usha Devi and Pratyusha Devi is worshipped here by the title ‘Pranavaradhar’. A noteworthy characteristic of this temple is that it happens to be the only Navagraha Temple where all the nine planets are enshrined in separate sanctums. Apart from the Navagrahas, the Suryanar Kovil temple also houses the shrines dedicated to Lord Kashi Vishwanath, Goddess Vishalakshi and Lord Guru. The temple is endowed with 15 holy water tanks, the foremost amongst them being the ‘Surya Pushkarni’. This Sun Temple celebrates its annual festival on the day of ‘Ratha Saptami’ which falls in the Tamil month Thai (January). The first Sundays of the Aavani and Kartikai months are also regarded auspicious. Moreover, the temple also organizes the Brahmotsavam and the Vijaya Dashami Festival.
Thingalur Temple (Moon Temple)
The Moon Temple, also known as the ‘Kailasanathar Temple’ or the ‘Thingalur Temple’ is parked at the distance of about 25 kilometers to the north of Tanjore on the Thiruvaiyaru-Kumbakonam Road. Believed to be existing since 7th century AD before the Bhakti Era in India, this temple though dedicated to Lord Moon or Chandra enshrines the idol of Lord Shiva i.e. Lord Kailasanath’ in its sanctum. As the legend goes, this is the very locale where Chandra worshipped Lord Shiva and was relieved from the curse of Daksha Prajapathi. Lord Moon is believed to be the God of contented and elongated life and the darshana of Lord Chandra removes pains and sorrows. The people who are under the dire effects of Chandra in their horoscopes often pay a visit to the Thingalur Temple and seek the blessings of the Moon God. The devotee offer rice cooked with jaggery and white clothes at the feet of Lord Moon. Special worships are performed here on the full moon days of the Panguni month.
Vaitheswaran Kovil (Mars Temple)
The Vaitheswaran Kovil also referred to as ‘Pullirukkuvelur Temple’ is dedicated to Lord Shiva who is worshipped here as the God of Healing. Associated with one of the nine planets Mars or ‘Mangal’, this Hindu shrine is located at Sirkali in Tamil Nadu about 110 km from Tanjore. It is believed that Lord Mars or Angaraka was suffering from leprosy who was cured here by the grace of Lord Vaidhyanathaswamy. Moreover, the heavenly army of Gods piloted by Lord Murugan was also cured of their injuries here after their battle against the demons. It is also said that Jatayu, who was killed by Ravana while trying to save Sita was cremated by Lord Ram here itself. The Vaitheswaran Kovil Temple Complex houses a Siddhamirtham Tank which is believed to be possessing therapeutic powers. The sanctum of the temple enshrines a Lingam of Lord Shiva. Apart from that, other deities worshipped here include Lord Muthukumara Swamy (Lord Subramanya), Nataraja, Angaraka, Somaskanda, Goddess Durga, Dakshinamoorthy, Surya, Jatayu, Dhanvantari, Vedas and Sampati. The noteworthy temple festivals are Brahmotsavam, Karthigai Festival, Skandha Shashti, etc.
Thiruvenkadu Temple (Swedharanyeshwarar) (Mercury Temple)
The Thiruvenkadu Temple located in the Thiruvenkadu Town near Sirkazhi about 23 kilometers away from Mayiladuthurai is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva, along with His consort ‘Goddess Brahma Vidya Ambal’ is worshipped here as Lord Swedharanyeshwara i.e. the ‘Lord of white forest’. This temple is associated with Lord Budha (Mercury); the God of wisdom, intellect, knowledge, music, astrology and medicine. Believed to be about 3000 years old, this Budha Temple holds three water tanks where the three presiding deities of the shrine are believed to be bathing. As suggested by the inscriptions found here, the early Chola kings Aditya Chola and Raja Raja Chola made a lot of contributions in the development of this temple. Regarded equivalent to the Lord Shiva temple at Varanasi, the Thiruvenkadu Temple also enshrines Goddess Durga, Goddess Kali and Lord Vishnu. The Chariot Festival of this temple is annually celebrated in the month of February for ten days when myriads of devotees from all over the place throng the temple to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva and Lord Budha.
Alangudi Temple (Jupiter Temple)
The Alangudi Temple, also known as ‘Apatsahayesvarar Temple’, ‘Tiru Irum Poolai’ and ‘Guru Sthalam’ is a Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Brihaspati. Lord Guru or Brihaspati is worshipped as the God of fame, wealth and siblings and the tutor of the Gods. Located in the Alangudi Village of the Valangaiman Taluk in Tiruvarur District about 17 kilometers away from Kumbakonam on the way to Mannarguddi, this temple is believed to be the legendary venue where Lord Shiva consumed the Halahal Vish (poison) i.e. ‘Alavisham’. The village also derives its name Alangudi from the word Alavisham. Moreover, it is also believed that Goddess Parvati was reborn here on the banks of the Amrita Pushkarini. The major poojas offered to Lord Guru in this temple include the Guru Homam and the Milk Abhishekam. Other shrines at the Alangudi Temple are dedicated to Lord Kalangamar Katha Vinayagar, Lord Abathsagayeshwarar, Goddess Elavarkuzhali Ammai, Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Murugan.
Kanchanur Temple (Venus Temple)
The Kanchanur Temple, also reckoned by the title ‘Agniswarar Temple’ is a Hindu Shrine dedicated Lord Shiva and Lord Shukra (Venus). Located about 18 kilometers to the north-east of Kumbakonam, this temple enshrines Lord Shiva (Agniswara) as the presiding deity and Lord Shukra is said to be seated in the stomach of Lord Shiva Idol. Erected by the Medieval Cholas and renovated by the Vijayanagara Kings, this temple is decorated with a five tier rajagopuram that is enclosed by 2 prakarams. Also called the ‘Padal Petra Stalam’, this temple dedicated to the planet God Venus is one of the nine Navagraha Temples of the Cauvery Delta. The prevailing legend suggests that here Lord Shiva blessed Sage Parasara with His cosmic ‘Mukti Thandavam’ dance. Furthermore, here Lord Brahma had foreseen the vision of Shiva’s wedding with Goddess Parvati. That’s why this shrine is also known by the names Brahmapurai, Palaasavanam and Agnisthalam and men visit this temple to pray for the well being of their wives. The Mukti Mandapam of the temple houses the statues of Nataraja and Shivagami. Daily six poojas are offered to Lord Shiva and Lord Shukra here. The notable temple festivals comprise Aadipooram, Mahashivaratri and Navaratri.
Thirunallar Temple (Saturn Temple)
The Thirunallar Temple to be found in Thirunallar of Karaikal district in Pondicherry and also known as the ‘Dharbaranyeswarar Temple’ is a Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shani (Saturn) and Lord Shiva. It is believed that King Nala prayed at the feet of Lord Shiva here and thus got rid of the sufferings showered upon him by the Shani Graha. Originally Lord Shani was treated as the door keeper of the Shiva shrine of Thirunallar but later the focus shifted from Lord Shiva to Lord Shani. Today, the devotees make it a point to worship Lord Saturn before entering the sanctum of Lord Shiva. It is believed that as you wash your feet in the pond sited in front of the temple, all your sins are washed away. This temple is particularly extolled for its 18 days long festival of Shani Peyairchi celebrated with tremendous pomp in the Tamil month Vaigasi. The Thirunallar Temple is also renowned for its Maragathalingam idol which is made out of precious green stone.
Thirunageshwaram Temple (Raahu Temple)
The Thirunageshwaram Temple situated at the distance of about 7 kilometers from Kumbakonam on the southern bank of the river Cauvery is one of the Navagraha Temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Raahu. Classified as the ‘Paadal Petra Sthalam’ this temple credited as the masterpiece of Chola art was built under the benediction of King Aditya Chola I in 10th century AD. The devotees hold a belief that as three serpents namely Takshak, Adishesha and Karkotak worshipped Lord Shiva here, this temple received the appellation, ‘Thirunageshwaram’. The temple enshrines Lord Shiva (Naganatha Swamy), Goddesses Parvati, Goddess Giri Gujambigai, Lordess Girigujambal and Lord Raahu along with his wives Naga Kanni and Naga Valli. It is said that Lordess Girigujambal along with Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha, Murugan and Maha Bhairava is still worshipping Lord Shiva here. Additionally, the sages including Gautam, Nala, Nandi, Parasar, Bhageerath etc. also worshipped Lord Naganatha Swamy here. Daily four worships are offered to Lord Raahu and the temple celebrates its annual festival in the Pankuni Month.
Keelaperumpallam Temple (Kethu Temple)
The Keelaperumpallam Temple, also known as the ‘Kethu Sthalam’ is located in the Keezhaperumpallam Village about 2 kilometers away from Poompuhar. Dedicated to Lord Kethu, one of the two half Grahas, this shrine holds Lord Naganatha Swamy and His consort Goddess Ambal as the presiding deities. A remarkable attribute of this temple is that Lord Kethu can be seen with his head in this temple.
Our Lady of Sorrows Church
Our Lady of Sorrows Church positioned on the Pookara Street of Tanjore is a Christian place of worship that is popularly known as ‘Viagula Madha Church’ amongst the locals. Estimated to be existing even before the mid 18th century AD, the Our Lady of Sorrows Church is regarded to be the oldest church of the Thanjavur District. It is also said that the great Maratha ruler of Tanjore; King Serfoji II allocated the land, donated money and immensely contributed in the construction of this tabernacle. Our Lady of Sorrows Church of Tanjore, deemed as a symbol of the religious concord in this temple town is particularly renowned for its annual car festival celebrated with great pageantry and cheerfulness in the third week of September. Devotees regardless of their religion or caste pay a visit to the Our Lady of Sorrows Church and harmoniously participate in the Car Festival.
The Schwartz Church of Tanjore located within the precincts of the Thanjavur Palace Garden is an ancient house of worship established by a Maratha King of Tanjore; Raja Serfoji II in the year 1779. An exemplar of the religious tolerance and broadmindedness of the rulers of Thanjavur, this church was built by King Serfoji in the honor of a Danish missionary; Reverend Frederick Schwartz. Reverend Schwartz died in 1798 AD. Subsequent to his demise, a white marble structure was added to the church edifice towards its western part. Constructed in glittering white marble, this configuration is distinguished for its intricate carvings those illustrate the last moments of Schwartz. He is portrayed surrounded by Raja Serfoji and his ministers here. John Flaxman served as the architect of the Schwartz Church.
The Thirumananjeri Temple nestled about 3 kilometers to the west of a small town named Kuthalam of Thanjavur District is believed to be the venue where the betrothal ceremony of Lord Shiva and Goddess Uma Maheshwari had taken place. The term ‘Thirumananjeri’ has derived from Tamil Language wherein ‘Thirumanam’ means wedding. The Thirumananjeri Temple celebrates a three days long festival in the Tamil month Chithirai on the day of Poosam star to commemorate the heavenly wedding. At the time of this festival unmarried boys and girls offer special poojas at the feet of Lord Shiva and it is believed that they find their life partner soon by the blessings of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Considered amongst the foremost pilgrim destinations around Thanjavur, the Thirumananjeri Temple is greatly frequented by the visitors of Tanjore.
The Thiruvanajozhi Temple of Tanjore situated on the outskirts of the city is one of the archaic temples of Thanjavur established by Chola Kings in 13th or 14th century AD. Enshrining the self originated (swayambhu) idol of Lord Shiva, this Shiva Temple is predominantly appreciated for its sumptuous architectural appeal. The stone walls of this temple bear many primordial inscriptions and the historians and the archaeologists have concluded that some university was located here in prehistoric period. Today, the Thiruvanajozhi Temple of Tanjore is honored to be a popular venue for the performances of various classical dances and musical concerts.
The Airavateswara Temple of Thanjavur sited at Darasuram close to Kumbakonam is yet another luminous addition to the proud anthology of the temple town Tanjore. Dedicated to Lord Airavateswara i.e. Lord Shiva, this temple; an epitome of the Dravidian order of temple architecture was built under the patronage of Raja Raja Chola II in 12th century AD. Along with the Brihadeeswarar Temple of Tanjore, the Airavateswara Temple is also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As per the prevalent legend, Lord Shiva was worshipped here by the Airavata; the white celestial elephant used by Lord Indra as his vehicle, in order to get rid of the curse of Sage Durvasa that had changed his color. Airavata restored his white color by the grace of Lord Shiva after bathing in the sacred water tank of the Airavateswara Temple. The idol of Lord Indra accompanied by the Airavata is placed in the sanctum along with the Shiva Lingam which testifies this mythical tale.
What is more, it is also said that the Lord of death; Lord Yama also worshipped Lord Shiva at the Airavateswara Temple of Thanjavur. The Airavateswara Temple; a repository of the ancient Chola art and architecture is distinguished for its exquisite stone carvings. The Vimana of the temple is 24 meters tall and the main mandapam is framed in the shape of a mammoth chariot with large stone wheels drawn by the horses. The Balipitha i.e. the seat of sacrifice lies to the east and the pedestal of the Balipitha is flanked by a small shrine dedicated to Lord Ganesha. This pedestal is festooned with three delicately carved set of steps and striking them produces distinct musical notes. Images of Yama and seven celestial nymphs are housed in the south-west corner of the mandapam. The consort of Lord Shiva i.e. Periya Nayaki Amman is devoted a separate shrine that is placed to the north of the Airavateswara Temple. The Airavateswara Temple is also noted for its antique inscriptions mentioning the names of various Chola rulers of Tanjore.
Vellai Puliar Temple
One of the most cherished flowerets in the temple garland of Tanjore, the Vellai Puliar Temple is an ancient sanctuary dedicated to Lord Ganesha. The term ‘Vellai Puliar’ means the white (Vellai) Lord Ganesha (Puliar). The main idol of the presiding deity of this temple is made out of white stone. This temple of Thanjavur apart from its historical and religious magnitude is celebrated for its aureate and elaborate carvings and its unrivaled architectural merit. The tourists exclusively interested in art and sculptures indeed find a way to this temple of Tanjore. The figurines of the deities and the pillars of the temple bejeweled with intricately chiseled patterns and motifs yield an extravagant banquet to the human eyes. The Vellai Puliar Temple of Tanjore is really a testimonial of the artistic excellence achieved by the builders, engineers, sculptures and artisans of the ages gone by.
The Raaghu Temple sited approximately 6 kilometers away from the town of Kumbakonam in the Thanjavur District is dedicated to Lord Raaghu; the mythological king of snakes. A snake skin that is believed to have shed on the idol of Lord Raaghu by a snake in the late 80s is still conserved in this temple and worshipped by the devotees.
Lord Murugan Temple
The Lord Murugan Temple of Thanjavur nested on the banks of a tributary of river Cauvery roughly 5 kilometers to the west of Kumbakonam is a holy shrine dedicated to Lord Kartikeyan. Worshipped by many other names such as Lord Subrahmanyan, Lord Skanda, Dhandapany, and Arumugam and so on, Lord Murugan is the eldest son of Lord Shiva and the brother of Lord Ganesha. The main festivals celebrated at the Lord Murugan Temple of Kumbakonam include the monthly Kiruthikai Festival, Tai Pusam (celebrated in January), Car Festival (celebrated in April), Navaratri, Skanda Shasthi, etc when locals as well as tourists from all over the Tamil Nadu Region congregate at the Lord Murugan Temple.
Swami Malai Temple
The Swami Malai Temple also called ‘Thiruveragam’ and dedicated to Lord Murugan is located at Swamimalai about 5 kilometers away from Kumbakonam near Thanjavur. Considered to be one of the six main abodes of Lord Subrahmanyan; i.e. Arupadaiveedu, this temple worships Lord Murugan as Lord Balamurugan or Lord Swaminatha Swami. As the myth goes, Swamimalai is the place where Murugan at a very tender age (Balamurugan) preached Pranava Mantra to His father Lord Shiva. He had also arrested Lord Brahma here as he was not able to answer the question about the Pranava Mantra asked by Murugan. The Swami Malai Temple is erected atop an artificial hillock, known as ‘Kattu Malai’ in Tamil. A flight of 60 steps, each of them named after the 60 Tamil years leads us to the doors of the Lord Murugan Temple.
The Sukkiran Temple stationed about 16 kilometers away from Kumbakonam and administered by Madurai Sri Thirugnanasambantha Swamigal Aatheenam is dedicated to Lord Agneeswarar. The devotees believe that Lord Agneeswarar can bless us with wealth, prosperity, fame, love, marriage, pleasure, etc. The main temple festivals include Navaratri and Aadipooram when myriads of pilgrims assemble here to offer homage at the feet of Lord Agneeswarar.