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Carnatic Music in Thanjavur

Carnatic Music in Thanjavur represents the rich musical heritage of the ancient city of the state of Tamil Nadu. The culturally enriched local indigenous inhabitants of Thanjavur specialize in the traditional Carnatic music which is sung with the accompaniment of the musical instruments of Veenai and Thavil.
Thanjavur musical instruments of Thavil and Veenai form an integral part of the rich musical legacy of the region. Thavil is a form of drum which is played with the help of a short stick that is made up of wood. Both the sides of the huge drum are covered with animal skin for better sound effects. The percussion instrument of Thavil measures about 47 cm in length. Thavil is played on special festive occasions of Thanjavur.
Veenai is another prominent musical instrument of Thanjavur. Veenai is popularly referred to as Yaazh among the native population of Tamil Nadu. The sweet melody of Veena casts a magical spell on the audience. The artists of the indigenous musical instrument of Veenai play with great dedication.
The rich Carnatic music is one form of classical music of the ancient city of Thanjavur. Thanjavur has several music schools that impart formal training in the classical music of Carnatic. The singers of the Carnatic music sing on days of special religious, social and cultural occasions. Accompanied with traditional musical instruments of Veenai and Thavil, the artists sing with great fervor and zeal and fill the air with music, joy and mirth.

The enchanting melodies of the Carnatic music relieve the audience from the stress and strains of regular life.

Thanjavur Festivals

Thanjavur festivals are celebrated with great religious fervor and enthusiasm. The Natyanjali Dance Festival and the Carnatic Classical Musical Festival are some of the prominent festivals of Thanjavur that bears relics to the rich cultural heritage and traditional legacy of the region.
The Natyanjali Dance Festival is celebrated for a continuous period of five days on the propitious religious event of Mahashivratri. The Dance Festival takes place in Chidambaram area of Thaanjavur which is situated besides the Bay of Bengal. The Natyanjali Dance Festival provides the classical dancers of India with a wonderful platform to display their unique dancing skills and rich cultural traditions.
The dancers perform the traditional performing art with great dedication and vigor which is reflected in their flawless performance. The unique dance festival of Thanjavur is dedicated to Lord Nataraj. The Dance Festival is organized in collaboration with The Natyanjali Dance Festival, Chidambaram, The Department of Tourism, Government of Tamil Nadu, and The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.
The Carnatic Classical Musical Festival draws several renowned classical musicians and singers from far and wide to display their creative caliber. The Carnatic Classical Musical Festival is observed at Thiruvaiyaru which is at a short distance of 14 km from the ancient city of Thanjavur. The Classical Musical Festival is observed with great enthusiasm in the memory of the Carnatic musical maestro, Thyagaraja in the month of January.

An integral part of art and culture of Thanjavur, the musical and dance festivals of the place are celebrated on a grand scale.

Thanjavur Paintings

The exquisite Thanjavur paintings portray the rich artistic skill and creative imagination of the local artists of the ancient city in the state of Tamil Nadu. Also known as Tanjore paintings, the Thanjavur paintings were introduced by the royal patrons of art and craft under the Chola dynasty in the 16th century.

Thanjavur paintings are characterised by rich and vivid colors, simple iconic composition, glittering gold foils overlaid on delicate but extensive gesso work and inlay of glass beads and pieces or very rarely precious and semi-precious gems.

In Thanjavur paintings one can see the influence of Deccani, Vijayanagar, Maratha and even European or Company styles of painting. Essentially serving as devotional icons, the subjects of most paintings are Hindu gods, goddesses, and saints. Episodes from Hindu Puranas, Sthala-puranas and other religious texts were visualised, sketched or traced and painted with the main figure or figures placed in the central section of the picture (mostly within an architecturally delineated space such as a mantapa or prabhavali) surrounded by several subsidiary figures, themes and subjects. There are also many instances when Jain, Sikh, Muslim, other religious and even secular subjects were depicted in Tanjore paintings.

The artists of the exclusive art work of Thanjavur paintings followed several steps while drawing the beautiful images of Gods and Goddesses.

Thanjavur paintings are panel paintings done on wooden planks, and hence referred to as palagai padam (palagai = “wooden plank”; padam = “picture”) in local parlance. In modern times, these paintings have become souvenirs for festive occasions in South India – colourful pieces of art to decorate walls, and collectors’ items for art lovers, as also sadly sometimes, dime-a-dozen bric-a-bracs to be purchased from street corner practitioners.

The unique pieces of art work of Thanjavur paintings of the ancient times are an inspiration for the painters of the modern time

Thanjavur Food

If there’s cultural snobbery and heightened aesthetics in Tamil Nadu, it all came from the wealthy Kaveri Delta Area around Thanjavur. Music, art, painting, dance sprung from this beautiful place. However, in the fuss about performing arts, there’s one aspect that has been overlooked but deserves special mention – Thanjavur cuisine.
Maratha influence in Tamil food

According to one theory the ubiquitous South Indian sambhar was first cooked in the Maratha royal kitchens of Thanjavur. Since kokham was not available in Thanjavur the cook used his ingenuity and added tamarind to the dal with sautéed vegetables and lo, sambhar was served. Some culinary historians say coconut that is liberally used as a garnish and dip (thohayal, chutney) in southern food, came from the Maratha influence in Thanjavur and elsewhere in Kerala.

The Tanjore Wedding Repast

Lunch was the big meal with more than 20 dishes made of locally sourced ingredients. Country vegetables like pumpkin, brinjal and raw plantain were primary vegetables but garnished differently. Pachadis (vegetable salads in yoghurt) were important as was sambhar and its variant pitlai. Then followed rasam (without tomatoes called poricha rasam) and chips made of raw plantain and a galaxy of different appalams. Many types of payasam, and laddus were standard desserts. 

A Tanjorean Feast

The perennial waters of the Kaveri ensured year after year of harvests. Harvests got prosperity and a love for the good life. “Learn how to squander your inheritance by just eating from a Tanjorean”, was what others said but the Thanjavurites never bothered!

Where best to study food if not a Tamil wedding in Thanjavur? Even a century ago food and cuisine formed the backbone of any occasion, especially weddings.

Breakfast for children was the rice gruel from the previous night. For others dosai, thick ones called kal dosai (made on an iron flatpan) with molagai podi (gunpowder) was the standard. Idlis were not so important but sevai (steamed rice string hopper) was. Vadais were favoured but the patted ones that have no holes in them. Vaishnavaite families had pongal for sure. Before coffee, a buttermilk based drink with rice was served called neermore sadam.

Travel to Thanjavur

Thanjavur Tourism

The little town of Tamil Nadu is often dubbed as its “Rice Bowl”. The land traces its past in the legends owing its name to Tanjan – an asura (giant) who was killed by Lord Vishnu as a penalty to his misdeeds. Tanjan’s last request that the city might be named after him was granted.
During the rule of the Cholas, the city reached a height of glory and the successive dynasties contributed more to it. A travel to Tanjore would take you to the land of several templesand historic ruins in and around the city that bear witness to the splendour of a bygone time.

The much-famed Brihadeeswarar Temple welcomes you as you travel to Tanjore. Constructed more than a hundred years ago, it is an architect’s marvel.

Travel to Tanjore to see how the collection of 30,433 Sanskrit and other vernacular palm leaf manuscripts and 6,426 printed volumes, besides a large number of journals in Saraswathi Mahal Library. Don’t forget to visit the ancient historical site at Papanasham as you travel to Tanjore. The granary built here in 17th century had the capacity to store 3,000 Kalam (measure).

How to Reach Thanjavur

Elaborately carved temples, historic ruins coupled with secluded lends Tanjore a unique charm making it a prime tourist destination in southern India. Although the city traces its origin into a very old past, convenient location makes it easy to approach from any part of the country by various means of communication. Other tourist destination in Tamil Nadu and Kerala are also located close to Tanjore. Convenient network of air, road and rail connects Tanjore to other cities of the region.

By Air

The city does not have an airport of its own. The nearest airport is in Trichy only 54kms away from Tanjore. Many private and public airlines operate domestic flights to and from Trichy. Some other international airlines too operate regular flights to this airport.

By Road

A good network of well maintained roads connect Tanjore with major south Indian cities like Chennai, Madurai, Trichy and so on. These places again are linked to rest of the country by road.

By Train

The city has a railway station of its own. A well laid out rail network links Tanjore with cities in this part of India. Many important trains service the station regularly.

Shopping in Thanjavur

The city of Tanjore in Tamil Nadu is a haven for craft lovers. The city draws much of its fame from the exquisite handicrafts and handlooms that its skilled artisans produce.

Weaving, painting, jewelry, woodworks are some of its renowned handicrafts which make for wonderful shopping in Tanjore. Since long past Tanjore has been a princely state and under the patronage of the royals, tradition of art and craft attained a glorious height in Tanjore. Do remember to take back some artifacts while shopping in Tanjore. 

Silk weaving is a major traditional craft in Tanjore. A lot of people are engaged in the profession. They specialize in weaving silk saris with broad border and unique motifs laden all over with Zari work. The saris are huge hit for weddings and religious occasions. Pick up graceful Tanjore silk saris while shopping in Tanjore.

Another must-buy in Tanjore is traditional paintings. Richly adorned paintings of mostly Hindu gods are quite popular with those who want to do shopping in Tanjore.

Check out Thalaiyatti Bommai (literally the head-nodding doll), which serve as great souvenirs of a Tanjore tour. Thanjavur Plates (with sombu, coconut), brass and bronze idols, bowls and vessels are other items for shopping in Thanjavur.

There are many shopping joints within the city. Several government run shops and private ones dot over the townscape, which you may explore for great variety and right price.

Visiting the craftsmen at work and buying directly from them is also a good option for shopping in Tanjore. 

Thanjavur Palace

Thanjavur Palace Fascinating Piece of History

e original name of Thanjavur Palace is Sivaganga Fort, which is rarely used these days. If you observe carefully, there is even a small moat around it which provided security against enemy access. Often mistakenly called the “Thanjavur Maratha Palace” was not built by Maratha Kings, but by Thanjavur Nayaks. However, the Marathas made some enhancements to suit their needs. It is more popularly called “Thanjavur Aranmanai” by the people of Tamil Nadu. Today, the Thanjavur Palace Complex is a tourist attraction which houses 3 separate venues: the palace, the art gallery and a manuscript library (Saraswathi Mahal). This article is just about the palace, as there are many interesting and intriguing features that are worth exploring.

Essential Information:

Address: East Main Street, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India ( 1.2 K.M from Brihadeeswarar Temple )
Phone: +91-4362-223384 ; +91-4362-230984
E-mail: Not Available
Timings: 9 A.M to 5 P.M ; Open Everyday
Entrance Fee: Indians – 5 Rupees; Foreigners – 50 Rupees
Note: Art Gallery which is inside the palace has a separate fee. Click here to read about the Art Gallery
Camera Fee: Still Camera – 30 Rupees; Video Camera – 300 Rupees.
Car Parking: Available; Free
Restrooms: Available
Average Visitor Time: 3 Hours

Brief History:

After the fall of Cholas in 1279 A.D, and a few centuries of Pandyan occupation, Sevappa Nayak captured Thanjavur and became the King in 1532. The construction of Thanjavur Palace began in 1534 and was completed in 1535, thanks to plenty of local prisoners of war who provided manual labor. The Palace was officially called “Sivagangai Fort” and was held by the Nayak family until April 1674, when the Maratha ruler Venkoji captured it. The Marathas enhanced the original structure and expanded the palace complex. It was used by them until 1799 when British finally annexed the Thanjavur Maratha Kingdom.
Palace or a Fort? Plenty of tourists expect a gigantic, luxurious and ornamented interior and get disappointed. The complex was built as a fort, not a palace. The Nayaks chose the site carefully and there is even a moat around the complex to protect it. Another intriguing feature is the extremely narrow staircases with short steps, sharp turns and low ceilings. Why would a palace have such primitive staircases? This was a measure to prevent enemies’ rapid advance. Cavalry advances would be impossible through the stairs, and the foot soldiers cannot climb up with great speed. The enemy foot soldiers would be easy prey to the men waiting for them above. Again: this was built as a fort, not a palace.
Secret Chambers: There are at least 3 hidden chambers with secret, interconnecting doors. These were used as torture chambers and to have discreet meetings. One hidden chamber, located at the base of the Arsenal tower is acoustically designed in a way that you can hear even the smallest whisper from 3 floors above. This must have been used as a way for sending secret voice signals over multiple floors. Sadly, the Government has completely prohibited all access to these hidden chambers.
Underground Tunnel: There are two underground passages in the palace, only one of them is partially accessible by tourists. This is a relatively short passage and the Government is renovating it as of 2014. Another secret tunnel which is a mile long, connects the Brihadeeswara temple and the palace. It is wide enough to ride 2 horses in parallel, and was designed as a getaway route by Kings during war times.

Arsenal Tower (Koodagopuram)

This is a 192 feet tall pyramidal structure with eight floors. The initial building was constructed by Nayaks in 1645 with only 2 floors. The Marathas later renovated and finished the tower in 1855, and used it for various military purposes. The top floor was used as a watch tower, and the remaining floors were used to store arms and ammunition. The second floor was exclusively used for the King’s martial arts training.

Bell Tower (Maadamaaligai)
This is another interesting building with a construction style exactly opposite to the Arsenal Tower. A rectangular construction resembling the modern day skyscrapers. Maadamaaligai in Tamil describes it accurately – Rectangular Mansion. This building is shorter than the arsenal tower and has 7 floors. It once housed a mechanical bell which rung every hour from the top. The people of Thanjavur used it as their time teller. For this reason, this building is also called as “Manikoondu”. 
Maratha Durbar Hall
This is the royal court hall, which currently houses the Thanjavur Art Gallery. There is plenty of interesting information about this place, which can take up a whole page. You can also see the photographs of Bronze Sculptures and Rare Coins in the art gallery. An ancient burial urn called Mudhumakkal Thazhi is also exhibited.
Royal Family’s Temple: A very modest temple is located on the ground floor, inside the palace. This is the Chandramouleshwara Temple, which was constructed by the Achuthappa Nayak in 1589. The temple has a lingam on the floor with two Nandhis (Sacred Bulls) in front. Two small decorated enclosures are kept with locked doors, suggesting some more deities may be present inside them. Royal families held their worshiping sessions here every morning.
Saraswathi Mahal
Located outside the palace, it is one of the very few medieval Manuscript libraries in the world. It is considered as one of the oldest and the best historical libraries in India. There is a museum inside Saraswathi Mahal which displays only selected books. The library houses more than a million manuscripts in various languages like Tamil, Sanskrit, Marathi, Telugu and Manipravalam. A survey conducted by Encyclopedia Britannica shows that Saraswathi Mahal was voted as “the most remarkable library of India”.