Trail to Tanjore

Thanjavur Travel Blog

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The gopura at Chidambaram Temple

We left the land of croissants and cops with red kepis and headed for Tanjore (aka Thanjavur) through the Cauvery delta. Busy workaday small towns and palm-thatched villages ran into each other. The rice harvest is on with hundreds working in the fields and lines of people carrying the cut rice in bundles on their heads to the roadside. There it's threshed, mainly by hand.

We stopped at Chidambaram to visit the vast (55 acres) Nataraja Temple, with its 4 huge gateways covered in garish sculpture. It is maintained by the Dikshitar Brahmins. White robed, bare chested, hair in top knots, they conducted the midday fire ceremony at the gold roofed sanctuary.

Tanjore is a manageable and relatively prosperous looking place.

Shiva and Parvati - Chola bronzes
We've eaten various good value thali meals, dosas and idli. Thalis are generally served on a banana leaf. Locals eat with their right hand. We've been given a spoon in pity! The roads are busy with the usual bikes, motor bikes, autorickshaws, cars and overfull buses, all driven rather wildly, but mainly on the left. But unlike Rajasthan there are virtually no horse carts or hand carts and very few cows roam, so the streets are much cleaner. The central shops sell beautiful fruit and there's lovely fresh veg on the market stalls. Flower sellers make garlands of jasmine and many women and girls wear them in their hair. There's a mix of small grocers, mobile phone shops, hardware shops, cake shops, jewellers and clothing shops, all doing business. Many men of all ages wear the lunghi, folding them up to the knee to ride their bikes.
Tanjore Big Temple

In town, the main sights are the Royal Palace Complex and the Brindiswara Temple, known as the Big Temple. The Palace is ramshackle and run down, but contains some marvellous treasures from the Chola period (8th - 11th century AD), notably beautiful cast bronzes and a fine library of ancient books and manuscripts. The heirs of the Chola King Rajaraja I need a lesson from the Rajasthan maharajas in how to make money from their assets.  On the other hand the Temple is magnificent. The 11th century central tower in unpainted sandstone and 61m high is covered in carvings of the gods. Inside is the main sanctuary, the Shiva lingam with a huge gold plated cobra behind , covered in garlands. Priests give devotees white powder to mark their foreheads and then to paste on the wall in the form of a swastika. In the inner courtyard a huge statue of Nandi the Bull looks towards the sanctuary. In the outer courtyard the temple elephant greets visitors (who pay) with a tap of its trunk on the head. (We declined!)

A very attractive place.

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The gopura at Chidambaram Temple
The gopura at Chidambaram Temple
Shiva and Parvati - Chola bronzes
Shiva and Parvati - Chola bronzes
Tanjore Big Temple
Tanjore Big Temple
Tanjore Big Temple
Tanjore Big Temple
Tanjore - temple elephant
Tanjore - temple elephant
Thanjavur
photo by: jose28