October to February
Cuisine & Culture, History & Architecture
An important agricultural centre, Thanjavur or Tanjore was the cultural capital of the ancient empire of the Cholas and its past splendor is evident in the majesty of the thousand year old temples in and around the town. Once the ancient capital of the great Chola Empire with an awe-inspiring historical legacy, Thanjavur is now a chaotic, modern Indian town. Yet, through the dust there are remnants to be found of this former glory, often better preserved than you would expect. Antiquity still lives on amidst evolving modernity.
One can visit the Brihadeeswarar Temple, also called the ‘Big Temple’, the crowning jewel of Chola temple architecture. This temple is one of the three ‘Great Living Chola Temples’ all together designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Later, visit the Thanjavur Maratha Palace. In the Durbar Hall there is an incredible profusion of unrestored, yet wonderful murals portraying scenes from Hindu legends.
Staying for a night would not do justice to Tanjore, next day go on a short drive out of town to the remainder of the three temples. The first stop can be the village of Darasuram. This village is home to the Airavateswara Temple, the last of the three temples. Later, drive to Gangaikonda Cholapuram, meaning “the town of the Chola who took the Ganges”. The town has the elegant temple of Lord Siva, also called Brihadeeswarar like the deity in the Big Temple, that was erected by the Chola King RajendraChola I (c. 1012-1044 CE).
Visit Karaikkudi, the heart of the region of Tamil Nadu called Chettinadu. The town is dotted with wonderfully preserved colonial and medieval palatial mansions belonging to several Chettiar families. These mansions are built with a unique design, built on a rectangular traversal plot that stretches across two streets, the front door opening into one street and the backdoor into the other.
You can also pay a visit to the Kanadukathan Palace that was once the royal palace of the Chettinad kings.
Explore the nearby villages like Thiruvaiyaru, Oothukadu and Thiruvarur which give one a perspective of the cultural significance of the place. Many medieval musicians and composers were born and have lived in these villages leaving a long legacy. Beautiful temples adorn these villages and they give one a sense of rural life in Tamil Nadu.