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Thanjavur, formerly Tanjore,[1] is a municipality and the headquarters of the Thanjavur District in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The name Thanjavur is derived from "Tanjan", a legendary asura in Hindu mythology. Thanjavur is one of the ancient cities in India and has a long and varied history dating back to the Sangam period. The town was founded by Mutharayar king Swaran Maran and rose to prominence during the rule of the Later Cholas when it served as the capital of the Chola empire. After the fall of the Cholas, the city was ruled by various dynasties like Pandyas, Vijayanagar Empire, Madurai Nayaks, Thanjavur Nayaks and British. It has been a part of independent India since 1947.

Thanjavur is an important center of South Indian 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 the Great Living Chola temples, the Brihadeeswara Temple, is located in the center of the city. Thanjavur is also the home of the Tanjore painting, a painting style unique to the region. The city is an important agricultural center located at the heart of the region, known as the Rice bowl of Tamil Nadu. South Zone Culture Centre in Thanjavur is one of many regional cultural centres established by Indian Government to preserve and promote traditional cultural heritage of India. It had a population of a 2,90,732 in 2011.

Thanjavur is well-connected by roads and railways with other parts of India and with cities and towns in Tamil Nadu. The nearest airport is Tiruchirapalli International Airport located at a distance of 56 kilometres. The nearest seaport is Nagapattinam which is from Thanjavur.



The name Thanjavur is believed to have been derived from "Tanjan",[2] an asura in Hindu mythology, who is believed to have to have been killed at this spot by the Hindu god Vishnu.[3] Also the name is believed to have been derived from Than-sei-oor, it means the place is surrounded by rivers and green paddy fields. The name also may have come from the word seeking asylum (Thanjam) as the Chola king Karikalan had to shift the capital as sea inundated their capital city Poompuhar.


Thanjavur town in 1955

There are no references to Thanjavur in any of the Sangam period records though some scholars believe that the city has been existing since then. Kovil Venni, situated at a distance of 15 miles to the east of Thanjavur, was the site of the Battle of Venni between Karikala and a confederacy of the Cheras and the Pandyas.[4] The Cholas seemed to have faced an invasion of the Kalabhras in the 3rd century AD after which the kingdom faded into obscurity. The region around the present-day Thanjavur was conquered by the Mutharayars in the 6th century CE and ruled up to 849 AD.

The Chola Empire 850-1279 AD Cholas]] The Cholas came once more into prominence through the rise of the Medieval Chola monarch Vijayalaya in about 850 AD.[5] Vijayalaya conquered Thanjavur from mutharayar king Elango Mutharayar and built a temple to the Hindu goddess Nisumbhasudani at this place.[6] His son Aditya I consolidated their hold over the city.[5] The Rashtrakuta king Krishna II, a contemporary of the Chola king Parantaka I claims to have conquered Thanjavur but there exists no evidence to support his claim.[7] Gradually, Thanjavur became the greatest and most important city in the Chola Empire and remained its capital till the construction of Gangaikonda Cholapuram in about 1025 AD.

During the first decade of the eleventh century AD, the Chola king Raja Raja Chola I constructed the Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur. The temple is considered to be one of the best specimens of South Indian temple architecture.

When the Chola Empire began to decline in the 13th century AD, the Pandyas from the south invaded and captured Thanjavur twice, the first in 1218-19 and the second in 1230. During the second invasion, the Chola king Rajaraja III was driven out of his kingdom and sought the help of the Hoysala king Narasimha to get it back.[8] Thanjavur was eventually annexed along with the rest of the Chola kingdom by the Pandya king Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan I in 1279 AD and the Chola kings were forced to accept the suzerainty of the Pandyas.[9] The Pandyas ruled Thanjavur from 1279 AD to 1311 AD when their kingdom was raided and annexed by Malik Kafur and the forces of the Delhi Sultanate.

Medieval Period 1279-1556 AD

From 1311 to 1335, the Sultanate extend its authority directly over the conquered regions and then through the semi-independent Ma'bar Sultanate from 1335 to 1378. During the second half of the fourteenth century AD, the Ma'bar Sultanate was steadily absorbed into the rising Vijayanagar Empire. There exists virtually no record of Thanjavur from this period. Later in 1535, the Vijayanagara king installed a Nayak king hence the era of Tanjore Nayaks which lasted till the mid-17th century, until the city was attacked by the Madurai Nayaks. It later slipped into the hands of Marathas.

Tanjore was conquered by the Marathas in 1674 under Venkoji, the half-brother of Shivaji the Great. His successors ruled as Maharajas of Tanjore. The British first came into contact with Tanjore by their expedition in 1749 intending to the restore a deposed king of Tanjore Nayak lineage. In this they failed, and a subsequent expedition was bought off. The Maratha rajas held Tanjore until 1799.

In October 1799, the district was ceded to the British East India Company in absolute sovereignty by Raja Serfoji II, a pupil of the missionary Schwartz. The Raja retained only the capital and a small tract of surrounding country. He died in 1833 and was succeeded by his son Sivaji, who died in 1855 without an heir.

Geography and climate

Thanjavur is located at [10] It is situated in the Cauvery delta, at a distance of south-west of Chennai and east of Tiruchirappalli. Though most of Thanjavur District is a level plain watered by the Cauvery and tributaries, the taluk of Thanjavur is made up mostly of barren uplands[11] sloping towards the east.[12][13] To the south of Thanjavur town, is the Vallam tableland, a small plateau insterspersed at regular intervals by ridges of sandstone.[13] The nearest seaport in Nagapattinam which is east of Thanjavur. The nearest airport is Tiruchirapalli International Airport located at a distance of 56 kilometres. The town has an elevation of 57 metres above mean sea level. The total area of the city is 36 km2.

The urban agglomeration encompasses Vallam to Mariamman Koil (west - east) and Vayalur to the Air Force Station (north-south) for an area of about 100 km2.

The Grand Anaicut Canal (Pudhaaru), Vadavaaru and Vennaaru rivers flow through the city.

Summer Winter
Min. *
  • during winter season Dec ~ Feb

Places of interest

Rajaraja cholan]] statue in Thanjavur City Thanjavur is famous for the Brahadishwara Temple (or Brahadeeswara temple) built by Rajaraja Chola during the 11th century.[14] The Brahadishwara Temple, also known as the Big Temple, is one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.[15] The temple is enclosed in two courts, surmounted by a lofty tower and including the exquisitely decorated shrine of Murugan. 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.[16] Also built by Serfoji II is the Manora Fort, a monumental tower and The Akshayapureeswarar Temple(Poosam star Temple), Vilangulam (Near by East Coast Road) these are situated about 65 km away from Thanjavur. The then "Sangeetha Mahal" has been converted to a handicrafts exhibition centre now which has handicrafts from local artisans. Raja Rajan Manimandapam is also one of the tourist attractions in Thanjavur. Thanjavur is only second to Chennai in attracting more tourists (foreign tourist).

Arts and culture

Tanjore became a major cultural center during the 18th & 19th centuries, under the Maratha rule. Figure depicts a Tanjore painting from this era.
Tanjore became a major cultural center during the 18th & 19th centuries, under the Maratha rule. Figure depicts a Tanjore painting from this era.
Thanjavur is the cradle for many of the arts and crafts in South India. Carnatic music as we know it today was codified in Thanjavur as was Bharathanatyam. Thanjvur, both the town and district supported several crafts. More information on this can be seen in "Thanjavur - A Cultural History"


Paddy field in Thanjavur District
Paddy field in Thanjavur District
Thanjavur's economy is mainly agro-based. The city acts as a focal point for food grains transported from the adjoining areas of the Cauvery Delta. The city also has some medium and small-scale enterprises. Tourism constitutes a major portion of the city's revenue.

Agriculture in Thanjavur is the main source of livelihood for most of its people. Agricultural Cultivation has been the major occupation of the local inhabitants of Thanjavur as the land is ideal for growing crops like Rice. The maximum portion of Thanjavur land is used up for cultivation and agriculture. The total percentage of land fit for cultivation is 58%.[17] The city of Thanjavur consists of tertiary, alluvial and cretaceous types of soil. The major portion of Thanjavur land consists of alluvial deposits. The eastern region of Thanjavur abounds in alluvial type of soil fit for agriculture. This region thereby produces the maximum number of crops. Organic farming is gradually being known to the farmers of Thanjavur. In order to maximize agricultural produce organic farming is being implemented.

Thanjavur is known as the Rice bowl of Tamil Nadu. The Major crops other than Paddy are Blackgram, Banana, Coconut, Gingelly, Ragi, Red gram, Green gram, Sugarcane, Maize. Indian Institute of Crop Processing Technology (IICPT) is located in Thanjavur on Madurai National Highway (NH 226). The Institute tests a variety of Food Processing Technologies that suit cultivation of the crops and Consumers. The institute conducts many training programs and also delivers training to Research scholars every year. There is much scope for implementing Agro, Food Processing, Packaging based industries, distilleries, breweries in and around the City. Thanjavur is a deltaic region where rice is the major food crop that is grown in the fields. Rice production has increased in the recent years. Rice is exported to neighbouring states, further boosting the economy of Thanjavur. The total rice production has been maintained at 10.615 L.M.T and 7.077 L.M.T.[17]


Thanjavur is the 11th largest city in Tamil Nadu. 2011 census, Thanjavur municipality had a population of 222,619[18] and the urban agglomeration had a population of 290,732.[19] The municipality had a sex ratio of 1,037 females per 1,000 males and 8.3% of the population were under six years old.[18] Effective literacy was 91.48%; male literacy was 94.97% and female literacy was 88.14%.[18]

Tamil is the most widely spoken language. The standard dialect is the Central Tamil dialect. Telugu, Thanjavur Marathi and Saurashtra are also spoken. Thanjavur is the cultural and political center of the Thanjavur Marathi people. Hindus form the majority. The town has a substantial population of Muslims and Christians.


NH 67 in Thanjavur City
NH 67 in Thanjavur City
Pudukkottai Road in Thanjavur City
Pudukkottai Road in Thanjavur City
Thanjavur is well-connected with Chennai, Coimbatore, Tirupur, Vellore, Erode, Tiruchirappalli, Madurai, Kumbakonam, Pattukkottai, Dindigul Pudukkottai, Tirunelveli, Bangalore, Ernakulam, Nagercoil, Tirupathi, Thiruvananthapuram, Ooty and through regular bus services. Previously, Thanjavur had a single bus terminus located at the heart of the city. The National Highways 67,[20] 45C,[20] 226[20] and 226 Extn[20] pass through the city. Recently, a new integrated bus terminus has been constructed outside the city limits in order to handle the passenger traffic. Thanjavur also has a well-maintained sub-urban public transport system. Government and private buses operate frequently between the two bus termini and other towns and villages like Vallam, Budalur, Pillaiyarpatti, Vallam Pudursethi, Sengipatti,Vadakkur North and Kuruvadipatti.

Thanjavur(Code : TJ) is an important railway junction of Southern Railways. Thanjavur is connected by rail with most important cities and towns in India. This district has 122.07 Kilometers of Broad gauge railway lines with 20 Railway stations connecting Thanjavur to Major centres in the state.Thanjavur is also reachable by train from other Indian cities. 'Thanjavur Junction' is the station to alight. There are daily trains from/to Chennai,[21][22][23] Bangalore,[24] Mysore,[21] Ernakulam,[25] Thrissur,[25] Palakkad,[25] Coimbatore,[21][25] Erode,[25] Tirupur,[25] Tiruchirapalli,[23] Salem, Karur,[25] Madurai, Tirunelveli, Rameswaram, Tiruchendur,[23] Dharmapuri and weekly trains to Tirupati, Vishakapatnam, Goa,[23] Vijayawada, Vizianagaram, Nagpur, Jabalpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Bhubaneshwar[23][26] and to all main cities. For train timings and on-line reservations (within India) visit the IRCTC's website.[27]

In the early 1990s, Thanjavur was connected with Chennai via the Vayudoot flight service, which was stopped due to poor patronage. A full fledged Air Force Station is operational at Thanjavur which stations several Fighter (aircraft) including Sukhoi jets.[28] Thanjavur Air Force Station start functioning as a major air base by 2012,[29] The base will be developed to handle not only Fighter and Transport aircraft but also Refuelling aircraft.[29] Construction work both technical and infrastructure is currently in progress. The nearest Airport is Tiruchirapalli International Airport.

Thanjavur has a well-developed transport infrastructure. Thanjavur is well connected by Road, Rail and Air with most cities and towns in India, Being one of the 13 Maritime District of Tamil Nadu waterways through sea is also possible.

Administration and Politics

The municipality of Tanjore was created in 1866 as a third grade municipality as per Town Improvements Act 1865 and initially consisted of 12 members. The number was increased to 18 in 1879 and 24 in 1883. In 1897, the members were empowered to elect a Municipal Chairperson to lead them. Tanjore was upgraded to a second grade municipality in 1933 and first grade in 1943. Since 1983, Thanjavur has been a special grade municipality. The municipality currently covers an area of and has a total of 51 members. Executive powers are vested in a municipal commissioner. The municipality consists of six departments: General Administration, Revenue, Accounts, Engineering, Town Planning and Public Health.

Electricity supply to Thanjavur is regulated and distributed by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB). Thanjavur falls under the Trichy region of the TNEB. Solid and liquid waste management are handled by the Thanjavur municipality.[30][31] The treated sewage water is pumped into the Vadavar canal.[31] Water supply to the town and its suburbs is also provided by the municipality. The town consumes about 31 million litres of water every day.[32] The municipality's expenses for the year 2010-11 was Rs. 91.41 crores.[33] The organisation has allocated a budget of Rs. 66.79 crores for the year 2011-12.[33]

The city of Thanjavur is represented in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly by one elected members, for Thanjavur constituency.[34][35] M. Karunanidhi, who served as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for a record five terms, was elected from the Thanjavur assembly constituency in the 1962 elections. Thanjavur is also a part of the Thanjavur Lok Sabha constituency and elects a member to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Parliament of India, once every five years.[35][36] The Lok Sabha seat has been held by the Indian National Congress for Seven terms (1952 57,[37] 1957-62,[38] 1962-1967,[39] 1980-84, 1984 1989,[40] 1989-91[41] and 1991-96[42]), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam for Seven terms (1967 71,[43] 1971-77,[44] 1996-98, 1998 99,[45] 1999-04,[46] 2004-09[47] and 2009 present[48])and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam for one term (1977-80[49]). R. Venkataraman, who served as the President of India from 1987 to 1992, was elected from the Thanjavur Lok Sabha constituency in the 1951 elections. Indian politician S. S. Palanimanickam who is serving as Union Minister of State, Finance in the government of Dr.Manmohan singh, was elected to the Lok Sabha from Thanjavur in the 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009 elections.


Thanjavur is well known for its culture and education. Thanjavur has a total of 4 Universities as Tamil University,[50] SASTRA University,[51] PRIST University,[52] Periyar Maniammai University.[51] Thanjavur has a total of 15 Arts, Science and Management colleges. There are also 9 Engineering Colleges in the City. Thanjavur have its own Medical College as Thanjavur Medical College which was established in 1959. The Paddy Processing Research Centre (PPRC) later became the Indian Institute of Crop Processing Technology (IICPT) in 2008 has made Thanjavur a food processing hub.[53] There are a total of 26 private schools and many government schools in Thanjavur City. It is a home to the Saraswati Mahal Library which dates back to the end of the 16th century, contains over 30,000 rare manuscripts.[16] and The Central Library which is managed by the district.

The St. Peter s school at Thanjavur was established by Rev. C F Schwartz in the year 1784. This was the first school in South India which taught English to the local populace.[54] It was originally established as a college. St.Antony's Higher Secondary School, is one of the oldest schools in Thanjavur District. The school's history dates back to about 130 years. The school is run by the Diocese of Thanjavur. Christian Missionaries played a prominent role in promoting education in Thanjavur.[55] Kalyanasundaram Hr. Sec School(KHSS) is also a oldest school in Thanjavur.

Tourism and entertainment

Rajarajan Manimandapam at dusk
Rajarajan Manimandapam at dusk

Thanjavur is a Major tourism spot in the State. As per estimates the 40% of tourist travelers from Europe and North America traveling South India visit the Brihadeeswarar Temple, which is one of the world heritage spots. The Navagraha temples located at nine different places are situated around Thanjavur. The State and Central Governments are trying to promote infrastructure and tourism standards focusing on Thanjavur. Thanjavur has few recreation spots namely,Nayakar Palace ,Sivaganga Park, Rajarajan Manimandapam and Tamil Conference Memorial Tower at the Tholkaappiar Square.

See also


External links

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