Location: East Main Street, Tanjore city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights:Built by the Nayakka and Maratha Kings; one of the best tourism sites in Tanjore after the Big Temple
Nearest Railway Station:Tanjore
How to reach:Well connected by road and rail
Hotel: A lot of options across the entire Tanjore city
Restaurants: A lot of options across the entire Tanjore city
Those who know about Thanjavur (Tanjore) city in South India know mainly about the great Brahadeeswarar Temple built by Raja Raja Chola around 1000 years back. However, there are many rare and interesting sites found across the entire city. Let us explore about an interesting site, Thanjavur Palace, in this article.
Thanjavur Palace, which is being referred as 'Aranmanai' locally, is a series of buildings used as museums and libraries nowadays. It was partly built by the Nayaka kings and Maratha kings. Let us explore in detail about all the sections located within the palace.
Saraswati Mahal Library Museum
It is a unique building located within the Thanjavur Palace. You would have visited many libraries and many museums. But, this building is called as 'Library Museum'. It encloses both library as well as museum.
The library concept was introduced in Thanjavur by Nayaka Kings in the 16th century CE in Thanjavur. In 1855 CE, the Maratha Kings had this library within their palace complex. Sarfoji II, the Maratha King, had thousands of books as part of his personal collection. Today, the Saraswati Mahal library has around 60,000 out of which around 4,500 rare and old books and palm leaf scripts are from the collection of this King.
This library is considered as one of the oldest libraries in Asia continent.
Apart from the library section, Saraswati Mahal has a big hall, which acts as the museum. The statue of the Goddess Saraswati, big Tanjore painting of Rama Pattabhishek, few more beautiful Tanjore paintings of the other deities such as Ganesha and Lakshmi, miniature paintings of various Tanjore Maratha Kings, two big portrait paintings of Sarfoji II are all found in the hall. There is a section in the museum, which has a lot of old and rare collections that include the ancient books on medicine, ancient Ramayan, Mahabharat and other Sanskrit texts, manuscripts, palm leaf scripts, very small sized palm leaf scripts, scroll scripts, the paintings of Indian cities by a Dutch traveler done in 1795 CE, the book published in 1804 CE explaining various kinds of punishments given by the Chinese governments in those days, old paintings, 18th century Tanjore paintings, set of paintings depicting the resemblance between humans and various animals and birds, etc.
The Royal Museum is a section in the palace, which displays the utensils and other artifacts used by the royal family. It is not very attractive.
Sarfoji Maharaja Memorial Hall
Few artifacts, paintings and coins, which were collected or used by Sarfoji II are displayed in this section of the palace.
Durbar Hall is the main attraction in Thanjavur Maratha Palace. It was renovated and reconstructed in the current structure by the Maratha King Venkoji in 1684 CE.
There are actually two courtyards, smaller one and the larger one. The smaller one has the wooden roof and a adjoining garden. The larger courtyard has colorful paintings and stucco sculptures from Nayakas and Marathas all over the walls and ceilings. The paintings make the durbal hall look like a colorful art gallery. The royal throne of the Maratha Kings is also placed in the Durbal Hall.
The 190 feet high temple Vimana like building is called as Gooda Gopuram. It was used as the watch tower and armoury of the Maratha Kings till 1855 CE.
The six storied tower, which rises from the roof of the palace beyond the Gooda Gopuram is called Mada Maligai. It was used by the Nayaka Kings to get a glimpse of Sri Rangam temple tower.
Art Gallery and Bronze Gallery
A lot of stone sculptors and bronze idols that belong to the Chola period, Vijayanagara period and later period are found here. This section is comparatively interesting in the palace complex.
A dead whale's skull is found in this section. From this tower, one can get bird view of Brahadeeswara Temple Vimana.
There is nothing particularly found in the Bell Tower. People use this place to climb up and get aerial view of Thanjavur city.