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  • Monika Lakshmanan

The Historical Hub of Thanjavur Temples

Thanjavur, the temple town, is very well known for its incomparable heritage and marvellous temples. This city was and is considered to be one of the most important temple towns in the country. Many old 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.


The Temples of 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, 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 the 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 the Punnainallur Mariamman kovil 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 the details of the temples. We had wonderful learning about these Thanjavur temples. We learnt the chronology of each building, the materials used, period, method of construction, etc.


Punnainallur Mariamman Kovil
Punnainallur Mariamman Temple

Moreover, staying in the Thanjavur palace which is also a heritage place added motivation to our journey. We looked into the defects and new additions of each temple and gained knowledge of the dos and don'ts of the conservation of a temple.


Brihadeshwara Temple in Thanjavur


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


Thanjavur temple
The Marvelous and Intricate Sculptures of the Gopuram

Thanjavur Gopuram


We were even given permission to go to the gopuram of the temple. As known, it is a hollow gopuram having a 7’ walkway inside. The outer part is the raja gopuram which is built at a 60-degree slope, 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.


The Rajagopuram at Thanjavur Periya Kovil
The Rajagopuram at Thanjavur Periya Kovil

I consider the architecture of Thanjavur temples as one of the inspiring elements 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 learning more from such opportunities in the future.


- Monika Lakshmanan


Have a look at other blogs on Thanjavur temples:

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