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Thanjavur ( (tañcāvūr), also known by its anglicised name Tanjore, is a municipality and the headquarters of the Thanjavur district in the Indianmarker state of Tamil Nadumarker. It has a population of a 221,185 (2001 census).

The name Thanjavur is derived from "Tanjan", a legendary asura in Hindu mythology. Thanjavur is one of the oldest cities in India and has a long and varied history dating back to Sangam period. The city rose into 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 the Pandyas, Vijayanagar Empire, the Madurai Nayaks, the Thanjavur Nayaks, the Thanjavur Marathas and the Britishmarker. 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 Templesmarker, an UNESCO World Heritage Monument are located in an around Thanjavur. The foremost among the Great Living Chola temples, the Brihadeeswara Temple, is located in the center of the town. Thanjavur is also the home of the Tanjore painting, a painting style unique to the region. The town 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.

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 Tiruchirapallimarker located at a distance of 56 kilometres and the nearest seaport in Nagapattinammarker which is 84 kilometres from Thanjavur.


The name Thanjavur is believed to have been derived from Tanjan, an asura in Hindu mythology, who is believed to have to have been killed at this spot by the Hindu god Vishnu. 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.

Origin of city name

It is a known fact that Thanjavur was founded as capital city and ruled by a Munaithirayar alias Moovaraiyar king of kallar community. Since Thananjayarayar is one of the surnames of kallars / Munaithirayar alias Moovaraiyar is living at Orathur and the surrounding village of Thanjavur District in Tamilnadu today. One Formerly Deputy Commissioner of H.R& C.E. of Srirangam Temple Tr.N.Srinivasan and their family also living at Thanjavur with the title of Moovarayar, the city seems to be named as "Thananjaya Ur" after the name of the king Thananjayarayar (Dhananjaya Rayar). The Munaithirayar alias Moovaraiyar were the descendants of Kalabhras and Kalabras were Jain and Buddhist kings who antogonised Hindu Brahmins. The city name seems to be gradually modified as Thanjavur and also Thanjai. The Brahmin legend which says that the city was named after a demon "Tanjan or Tanjam" was purely a cooked up story to bury the historical facts out of their vengency and old rivalry with the kings.

Another one known fact that Thanjavur town is inside Two gates (1.East Gate, 2.North Gate), Four Ram parts (1.East Rampart, 2.West Ram Part, 3.South Rampart, 4.North Rampart), Four Main streets(1.East Main street, 2.West Main street, 3.South Main street, 4.North Main street), Two streets (1.Ellaiyamman Koil street,2.Manojiyappa street) and hundreds of lanes was situated as a round town and also fully rounded by Fort. Next to the fort moat (akali) was filled by lakewater. The Bragadeeswara Temple also situated in side the fort and moat. In-back of Bragadeeswara temple and the moat there was one Lake(Reservoir)was Connected with that moat. The lake was constructed by Sevappa Naickan. After the construction the town was called as Than Sei OOr. Than means Cooled (Thanneer means cooled water), sei means do, Oor means village. The city name seems to be gradually modified as Thanjavur and also Thanjai.


The Thanjavur area has a rich historical heritage and is a prism of ancient as well as the modern south Indian civilizations. The city was once the stronghold of the historic Cholas and at one time was also the capital of the Cholas, Moovarayars and Marathas when they were at the peak of their power. Since then, Thanjavur has been one of the chief political, cultural and religious centres of South India.

Thanjavur contains over 90 temples, as it was favored by the Chola rulers between the 1st - 12th centuries, the Nayakas in the 16th century, and the Marathas in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Under the Cholas

Brihadishwara Temple built by Rajaraja Chola I
Thanjavur, or Tanjapuri as it was called in the ancient times was chosen by the Moovarayar king and later conquered by Vijayalaya Chola. Vijayalaya built a temple for his favourite goddess Nisumbhasudani in the city. Although subsequent emperors made Kanchipurammarker a subsidiary capital, Thanjavur maintained its position as the chief city. The great Brihadeeswara Temple, built by Rajaraja Chola I was completed around 1010 AD. It remained the centre of the Chola administration for many years, channelling the state revenue into a number of civic projects. It also acted as a repository of the empire's records, as the great Rajaraja had its walls covered with numerous inscriptions recording his conquests and his endowments to various charities. The impression we get from the inscriptions is of a wealthy, progressive city, although totally dominated by the temple.

The inscriptions tell us about a number of royal palaces in the city and of the districts where palace servants lived. We also learn the names of a number of streets: the big street of Virasola and the big market of Tribhuvanamadeviyar. During the reign of Rajaraja we learn that the city was divided into two parts: Ullalai (inner) and Purambadi (outer) city. Purambadi could have been an extension to the city built during Rajaraja's reign. Among the new streets built by Rajaraja were two running east to west in front of the Brihadeeswara Temple and called Northern and Southern Talichcheries. People who worked in the temple occupied these streets. There were other temples then, such as the Jayabhima temple and Tanjai Mamani found in the inscriptions, which do not exist anymore. There was also a public hospital attached to a Vishnu temple named after Sundara Chola called Sundarachola Vinnagara Salai which was endowed by Kundavai, the sister of Rajaraja Chola.

The influence of Thanjavur began to diminish when Rajendra Chola I built a new city named Gangaikonda Cholapurammarker and moved his capital there.

Under the Nayaks and Marathas

Thanjavur town in 1955
After the Cholas the Pandyas conquered the Chola country. Maduraimarker was the Pandya capital and Thanjavur remained in the background, as a province of Vijayanagaramarker empire.

Later in 1535,the Vijayanagaramarker king installed a Nayak king hence the era of Tanjore Nayaks which lasted till mid-17th century, until attacked by the Madurai Nayaks. 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 with a view to the restoration of a deposed raja 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, on whose death in 1855 without an heir the house became extinct.


Thanjavur is located at approximately in the centre of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The town is located in the centre of the Cauvery delta, about 320 kilomtres from the state capital Chennai and 56 kilometres from Tiruchirapalli. Some of the nearby towns are Kumbakonammarker (40 km), Pattukkottaimarker (45 km), Mannargudimarker (37 km), Pudukkottaimarker (55 km), Tiruvarurmarker (58 km),peravuranimarker (80) and Nagappattinammarker (84 km) The municipality has an area of about 36 km2. The township and its exterior suburbs extend for an area of about 100 km2. The town has an elevation of 57 metres above mean sea level. It is drained by the rivers Vadavar and Vennar in the north.

Places of interest

Bell Tower
Thanjavur is famous for the Brihadishwara Temple (or Brihadeeswara temple) built by Rajaraja Chola during the 11th century The Handbook of India By Publications Division, India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The Brihadishwara Temple, also known as the Big Temple, is one of UNESCOmarker World Heritage Sites. 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 Vijayanagaramarker 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. Also built by Serfoji II is the Manora Fort, a monumental tower, 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 which is also one among the tourist places in Thanjavur, Thanjavur is in the second place next only to Chennai in attracting more tourists.

Arts and culture

Thanjavur is one of the chief political, literary and religious centres of southern India, known for its contribution to Carnatic music, it has produced many classical musicians and Bharathanatyam dancers. It has become the second most important site for the annual Natyanjali dance festival.

Tiruvaiyarumarker, which is close to Thanjavur, is the place where the great musician Saint Tyagaraja lived. Here in Tiruvaiyaru every year in the Tamil month of 'Thai' (second half of January) Thyagaraja Aradhana will be held where musicians from all over the country will participate.

Tanjore is well known for bronze sculptures and its unique painting style called Tanjore Painting, a percussion instrument called the Thavil, a divine classical string instrument Veenai and the Bobblehead Thanjavur Dolls.
Thanjavur Bobblehead Dolls - Animated Version
Thanjavur Rocking Doll - Animated Version

The Tanjore paintings are very popular and are renown around the world. The artists use a combination of canvas background with glass, metals, etc. to depict and decorate various scenes from Hindu mythology.

Tanjore plates which are made of color glass pieces which are aesthetically cut and embedded on velvet cloth. It will have god image or birds at the center.

Sacred Heart Cathedral in the city is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tanjore.

The South Zone Cultural Centre

A South Zone Cultural Center (SZCC), corresponding to the North, West and North-East zone cultural centres, was moved to Thanjavur after functioning initially from the town of Tiruvaiyarumarker. It is the only one of its kind in South India and is dedicated to the promotion of fine arts, dance, drama, music, theater and other arts by providing opportunities for the artists, documenting dying art forms and ensuring the participation of the youth in cultural activities.It organizes special programs and collaborative programs with the Lalit Kala Akademi, Sangeet Natak Academi, Sahitya Akademi and National School of Drama.


Thanjavur's economy is mainly agro-based. The town acts as a focal point for food grains transported from the adjoining areas of the Cauvery Delta. The town also has some medium and small-scale enterprises. Tourism constitutes a major portion of the town's revenue. Prominent supermarket chains such as Food World, Nilgiris, Spencers and Subhiksha have their branches in Thanjavur. There are also a few local supermarket chains of which Punniyamoorthi Pillai Departmental Store (PPDS) is the largest.


Thanjavur is the eleventh largest city in Tamil Nadumarker with a population of 221,185 (est. 2008). Males constitute 50% of the population and females 50%. Thanjavur has an average literacy rate of 80%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 85%, and female literacy is 76%. In Thanjavur, 9% of the population is under 6 years of age. Tamil is the most widely spoken language while Telugu, Saurashtrian and Thanjavur Marathi are also spoken. The Tamil spoken in Thanjavur constitutes the Thanjavur dialect which is the standard lingua franca of the Cauvery delta. Hindus form the majority, but the town has substantial Muslim and Christian minorities.
Street life in Thanjavur


Crowded bus

Thanjavur is well-connected with Chennai, Coimbatore, Tiruchirapalli, Madurai, Tirunelveli, Kumbakonam, Pattukkottai, Bangalore, Ernakulam, Marthandam, Nagercoil, Tirupathi, Thiruvananthapuram, Ooty and Mysore through regular bus services. Previously, Thanjavur had a single bus terminus located at the heart of the town. However, recently a new bus terminus has been constructed outside the town limits in order to handle the passenger traffic. Thanjavur also has a well-maintained domestic public transport system. Government and private buses operate frequently between Old Bus Stand and New Bus Stand and between Old Bus Stand and outlying towns as Vallam and Budalurmarker and villages as Pillaiyarpatti, Vallam Pudursethi, Sengipatti and Kuruvadipatti. There are also minibus services between Old Bus Stand and Reddipalaiyam and share auto services along the Thanjavur-Trichy national highway.

Thanjavur is an important railway junction of Southern Railways. Thanjavur is connected by rail with most important cities and towns in India.


In early 1990s, Thanjavur was connected with Chennai via the Vayudoot Flight Service, which was stopped due to poor patronage. Now a full fledged Air Force Station is coming up at Thanjavur to station Fighter and Sukhoi jets and is expected to include civil service for passengers.


City officials, as of September 2007

Deputy Chairperson
Saleem Ahamed

Thanjavur is a Special Grade municipality administered by a municipal corporation. The municipal corporation is headed by a Chairman assisted by a Deputy Chairman. The general administration of the town is headed by a Commissioner. The municipal corporation consists of six departments: general administration, revenue, accounts, engineering, town planning and public health. The legislative powers are held by an elected council of 51 members.


Thanjavur is renowned for its culture of education. It is home to the famous Saraswati Mahal library which dates back to the end of the 16th century and contains over 30,000 rare manuscripts. It has now been fully computerized.One of the famous school in the city is Don Bosco MMS. St.Antony's Hr sec School. St. Peter's, founded in the 18th century by Schwartz, is a renowned school. Currently, Thanjavur has four universities, viz., the Tamil University, Shanmugha Arts, Science, Technology & Research Academy, Ponnaiyah Ramajayam Institute Of Science & Technology and Periyar Maniammai University and several colleges including the renowned Thanjavur Medical College.There are other Engineering Colleges namely the upcoming Parisutham Institute of Technology & Science & St Joseph's College of Engineeringand Teacher educational colleges like Dr.S.R.J College of Education. There are also many research centres, including the Paddy Processing Research Centre (Now Indian Institute of Crop Processing Technology) and Soil and Water Research Centre.

People from Thanjavur

  1. Kalki (Tamil: கல்கி) was the pen name of R. Krishnamurthy-Author of famous Tamil novels such as Ponnniyin Selvan, Alai Osai, Paarthiban Kanavu (பொன்னியின் செல்வன், அலை ஒசை,பார்த்திபன் கனவு), Kalvanin Kaadhali
  2. "Muththamizh Vallal" Rao Bahadur A.Y. Arulanandhaswamy Nadar - Co-Founder and Second President of Karanthai Thamil Sangam. Philanthropist.
  3. S.Sridhar, CEO of Two Wheelers, Bajaj- Head of Pulsar Team
  4. A Balasubramanian, CEO of Birla SunLife MF
  5. Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi, Chief Minister, DMK supremo, born in Tirukuvalai, later Thanjavur Dt.
  6. Sir A.T.Panneer Selvam - Barrister-at-law, Minister in the erstwhile composite State of Madras (Presidency) and Justice Party Leader. Co-Founder of Karanthai Thamizh Sangam.
  7. Thiru. Uma Maheshwarar, Renowned Tamil Scholar & Founder of Karanthai Tamil Sangam.
  8. Nadigar Thilagam Padmashree Sivaji Ganesan - Actor
  9. Thiru P.A.Yagappa Nadar - Donor of the lands now occupied by the Thanjavur Medical College, Rajah Serafoji College and the New Bus Stand.
  10. Thiru Chaandilyan - Tamil Writer - Author of kadal Pura, Yavana Rani..
  11. Thiru T. Janakiraman (Thi. Jaa) - Tamil Writer - Author of Moha Mul, Mara Pasu..
  12. Thiru A.Y.S. Parisutha Nadar - Long time M.L.A. and Municipal Chairman of Thanjavur, Philanthropist
  13. Prof Ku.Sivagnanam - Orator, Tamil scholar and Ex-Director of State Government's Dept of Tamil Development.
  14. Hema Malini -Famous Actress
  15. Shankar - Famous Tamil Film Director
  16. Madan - Cartoonists
  17. Late Shri.Subburama Bhagavadhar
  18. Bhagavadha Sironmani Shri. Kovai S. Jayaraman
  19. SVe.Shekar - Actor, Politician
  20. Thirumathi Manorama- Tamil Actress
  21. Dr.S.Janikiraman - Well known Child Specialist.
  22. Thiru G. Ramaswamy - ex. Attorney General of India.
  23. Late Dr. N. Ramanathan - The first M.B.B.S Doctor after whom a landmark, Ramanathan Hospital bus stop, is named.
  24. Dr. R. Radhakrishnan - Well known Physician, ex. Dean of Thanjavur Medical College.
  25. D.Rajasekar IFS, Secretary, Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI)
  26. Late R. Venkataraman- Former President of India(1987-1992)
  27. Krishnan Iyer- Senior Turtle farmer of Fiji
  28. G.M. Akbar Ali B.Sc. M.L. - Tamil Nadu Chief Judge born in Vallam, Thanjavur
  29. Dr.A.Srinivasan - Senior Paediatrician & social activist
  30. S.D.Somasundaram B.E., - Formerly Minister of Tamilnadu
  31. Vellur T.Veerasamy M.A. - Formerly Minister of Tamilnadu.
  32. K.Thulasiayya Vandayar B.A.(Honours),Kalvikavalar,Formerly Member of Parliament.
Thanjavur also famous for fine arts, music instruments, paintings, artplates etc


External links

See also

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