Thanjavur Architecture: Introduction

The Architecture of Thanjavur (formerly Tanjore) is one of the oldest and special architecture of the ancient south India. Thanjavur is in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Many of the Thanjavur temples and monuments are designated as the UNESCO World Heritage Monuments in 1987, Thanjavur architecture attracts thousands of visitors every month.

Thanjavur architecture preserves the classical South Indian painting. The form is popularly known as Tanjore Art. Thanjavur was the capital city during the Medieval Chola period.

Thanjavur in Tamil means ‘City surrounded by Clod Farmlands ’. According to local people of Thanjavur, the city got its name when the Neelamegha Perumal ( the form of Vishnu god in Hindu mythology) killed a demon named ‘Tanjan’. But not much of the history of Thanjavur is known.

Vijayalaya (841–878) conquered Thanjavur from the Mutharayar king Elango Mutharayar and built a temple dedicated to Hindu goddess Nisumbhasudani. During the eleventh century, the Chola king Raja Raja Chola I (985–1014) constructed the Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur.

Thanjavur is an important centre of silk weaving in Tamil Nadu. Thanjavur is known as the ‘Rice bowl of Tamil Nadu’. Only the 58% of the land is fit for cultivation.


The Government of India declared Thanjavur as one of the regional cultural centres to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of India. The two magnificent temples at Thanjavur and Gangaikonda Cholapuram were built in early 11th century A.D. These two temples show the best of Chola art.

Thanjavur architecture is famous for its Brihadeeswarar Temple, the Chola king Raja Raja Chola I (985–1014) constructed the Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur in the 11th century. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.


The Sivaganga Park was created as a people’s park by the Tanjore municipality in 1871-72. It has a collection of plants, animals and birds and is situated to the east of the Brihadeeswarar Temple and encompasses the Sivaganga Tank. The southern side of the third quadrangle of the palace has 190 ft (58 m) tower like building, called the Goodagopuram.


The Saraswathi Mahal Library established around 1700 and located in the premises of the palace, It contains the collection of over 30,000 Indian and European manuscripts, 80% of which are written in the Sanskrit language on palm leaf and paper.

The Saraswati Mahal Library which dates back to the end of the 16th century and the Central Library looked upon by the district administration are the two most prominent libraries in the city. The Tamil works include the treatise on medicine and texts on Sangam literature.

Art Gallery

The Rajaraja Chola art gallery is located inside the palace – it has a large collection of stone and bronze images from the ninth to 12th centuries. Most of the idols present in the gallery were collected from various temples in the Thanjavur district.


Schwartz Church, a historic monument located in the palace garden, was built in 1779 by Serfoji II

Raja Rajan Mani Mandapam

Raja Rajan Mani Mandapam is one of the tourist attractions in Thanjavur, built during the Thanjavur Tamil Conference in 1991 by the Tamil Nadu government to honour the Great Chola King Raja Rajan.

Exhibitions and Studio

Sangeetha Mahal has a permanent handicrafts exhibition centre.Sangeeth Mahal Musicals is the one stop, one shop, all under one roof for Musical instruments.


The 16th century was the period when Thanjavur was ruled by Nayakas before Cholas. They encouraged the study of art and literature, wrote various texts on palm leafs and papers in Sanskrit and Tamil.

The most popular art was to create and paint forms of religious gods.Hindu god Krishna,Shiva and Vishnu being the most popular image depicted. In modern times, these paintings have become souvenirs of festive occasions in South India, wall decors, and collectors’ items for art lovers.

Drainage system

Thanjavur city uses the underground drainage system which covers 70% area of the city and the other sewerage system for disposal of sullage is through septic tanks, open drains and public conveniences. Thanjavur is one of the cleanest city in southern India.


There are five museums in the city namely Archeological Museum, Tamil University Museum located with the Tamil University premises, the Saraswathi Mahal Library Museum located inside the Saraswathi Mahal, Nayak Durbar Hall Art Museum and Rajaraja Chola Museum.

Educational and Health facilities

There are 20 registered schools in Thanjavur and 37 hospitals and seven clinical labs in Thanjavur.


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