Built by the Nayaks in the 1550 and partly by the Marathas, the majestic Thanjavur palace is huge masonry structure situated near the Thanjavur temple. This mighty palace has huge halls, spacious corridors, observation, arsenal towers and a shady courtyard. Once a grand structure, most of the sections of the palace are in ruins. It is being renovated now. The palace houses a library, a museum and an art gallery.
Architecture: To enter the palace one should take the way of a large quadrangular courtyard. The surrounding walls are pierced by big gateways to the north and east. The courtyard leads to a many-pillared hall. A small inner courtyard leads to a large one.
There is a building similar to the Vimana on the southern side of the third quadrangle. It is 190 feet high with eight storeys and is known as the Goodagopuram. This was the palace watchtower and also the armoury of the Thanjavur Kings till 1855 A.D. The State Department of Archaeology protects the important monuments in the palace complex, such as Arsenal Tower, Bell Tower, Darbar hall of the Marathas and Sadar Madi ( Sarjah Madi).
Arsenal Tower is a structure, which attracts the visitors to Thanjavur even as the Tower of the Big Temple does. This Arsenal Tower is 190 feet height with eight storeys and was constructed in 1855 CE during the period of Marathas. It was used for storing weapons, armouries and ammunition, and was also serving as a watchtower.
Several varieties of weapons were stored inside the building including those imported from European countries. When the English in 1855 CE captured the palace all items of arsenal stored in the building were transferred to Tiruchirappalli, in 1863.
The major attractions of the palace are the two Durbar Halls of the Nayaks and the Mahrattas and the Raja Sarafoji Sarasvati Mahal Library. The Saraswathi Mahal Library has a wide collection of about 30,433 sanskrit and other vernacular palm leaf manuscripts. There are almost 6,426 printed volumes, besides a large number of journals. This library is the result of the three hundred years of effort of by the Nayak and Mahratta kings.
A tower called the Madamaligai emerges from the palace roof beyond the Goodagopuram. It has six storeys and is believed that this was build by Nayak ruler to enable him worship Sri Ranganatha of Srirangam every mid-day. Earlier, it was many storeys higher, but was destroyed by lighting. Thus, it had to be repaired and preserved.
The Sangita Mahal or the Music Hall is a miniature of the surviving court of Thirumalai Nayak’s.