• Monika Lakshmanan

The Historical Hub of Thanjavur

Thanjavur which is the temple city, very well known for the incomparable heritage and marvelous temples. This city was and is considered to be one of the most important heritage cities in the country. Many temples in Thanjavur has more than 1000 years of history and chronology to talk about. Most of the Great Living Chola Temples, of which three are UNESCO World Heritage Monuments, are located in and around Thanjavur.

It is definitely a privilege to feel the art and architecture of Thanjavur mixed with the divinity of heritage and culture. As an initiative we had a basic literary study on Thanjavur, its evolution, chronology, present scenario, basic requirements for conservation etc.

Out of our eagerness soon, six of us from Chennai departed to Thanjavur on June 16. It was a wonderful 10 days conservation trip. There were 88 temples taken care of by the Palace Devasthanam along with HR&CE (Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments) Department under the Government of Tamil Nadu, which has to be properly documented and conserved. One of these 88 temples is Brihadeshwara Temple.

On the first day we started with Punnainallur Mariamman koil and eventually continued with other temples every day. Mr. Natarajan of HR&CE took us to all the temples and was very helpful in explaining us the details of the temples. We had a wonderful learning on temples. We learnt the chronology of each building, materials used, period and method of construction etc.

Moreover, stay in the Thanjavur palace which is also a heritage place to visit added motivation to our journey. We looked into the defects and new additions of each temple and gained knowledge of DO’s and DONT’s of a temple.

We visited Brihadeeshwara temple. Study on Brihadeeshwara is not a small task to do. To feel the architecture of this temple itself will take few days. So we were not able to feel the temple completely, but we visited this temple for two days. The marvelous and intricate sculpture amazed us. It’s really such a beautiful temple to visit.

We were even given permission to go to the gopuram of the temple. As known, it is a hollow gopuram having 7’ walkway inside. The outer part is the raja gopuram which is built at 60 degree slopes, but there are no traces of the method of construction. Only the possibilities of how it could have been done can be assumed. The calculative architecture of the hollow gopuram is unbelievable.

I consider Architecture in Thanjavur temples as one of the inspiring element to learn due to their intricate detailing, carvings, scale, proportion, form, spirituality and massiveness.

Our enthusiasm and interest may even take us to the next level. I am looking forward to learn more such opportunities in the future.

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© Benny Kuriakose & Associates 2021

Architectural Designers & Conservation Consultants

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