Thanjavur is the headquarters of the Thanjavur District in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.The city lies on the south bank of the Kaveri River, 200 miles south of Chennai. Thanjavur derives its name from Tanjan-an asura (demon) who according to local legend caused devastation and was Killed by Sri Anandavalli Amman and Sri Neelamegapperumal. Tanjan’s last request that the city might be named after him was granted.
Thanjavur is famous for the Brahadeeswara Temple built by Rajaraja Chola, the first sailor king of India. The Brahadeeswara Temple also known as the Big Temple is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The temple is enclosed in two courts, surmounted by a lofty tower and including the exquisitely decorated shrine of Subrahmanya. Among the other historic buildings is the Vijayanagara fort, which contains a palace that was expanded by the Maratha king Serfoji II with an armoury, a Bell Tower and the Saraswathi Mahal Library, which contains over 30,000 Indian and European manuscripts written on palm leaf and paper.
The town first started to prominence during the reigon of the Medieval Cholas when it served as the capital of the Chola empire. After the fall of the Cholas, the town was ruled by various dynasties like Pandyas, Vijayanagar Empire, Madurai Nayaks, Thanjavur Nayaks,Thanjavur Marathas and the British Empire. It has been a part of independent India since 1947.
Thanjavur is an important center of South Indian religion, art, and architecture. Most of the Great Living Chola Temples, which are UNESCO World Heritage Monuments, are located in and around Thanjavur. The foremost among these, the Brihadeeswara Temple, is located in the center of the town. Thanjavur is also the home of the Tanjore painting, a painting style unique to the region.
Thanjavur stands unique from time immemorial for its agricultural activities and is rightly acclaimed as the Granary of the South India lying in the deltaic region of the famous river Cauvery and criss-crossed by lengthy network of irrigation canals, this coastal district abounds in green paddy fields, tall coconut groves, vast gardens of mango and plantain trees and other verdant vegetation. Various testimonials available in the ancient Tamil literature referring to the Cauvery as possessing the sanctity of the Ganges in conformity with the legendry and mythological stories attributed to its divine origin, rightly point out why the river is popularly called the ‘ Mother Cauvery’ and its sacredness is evident from ‘Kaviri-Thala-Puranam’. The river has also been named ‘Ponni’ because it is yielding ‘pon’ -Gold in the form of paddy. That is why it is said with pride that every iota of the earth of Thanjavur is equal to an iota of gold. The tillers in Tamil literature have been rightly called as ‘Kauvirippudhalvars’ – the sons of the Cauvery as they alone are worthy of this title for the rich production of grains in this fertile soil.
Thanjavur is one of the chief political, literary and religious centres of southern India, known for its contribution to Carnatic music, it has produced many classical musicians and Bharathanatyam dancers. Tiruvaiyaru, which is close to Thanjavur, is the place where the great musician Saint Thyagaraja lived. It is also well known for its unique painting style called Tanjore Painting, a percussion instrument called the Thavil, a divine classical string instrument Veenai and the Thanjavur Dolls.