Thanjavur derives its name from Tanjan - an asura (demon) who according to lore, caused a lot of devastation and was killed by Sri Anandavalli Amman and Sri Neelamegapperumal. Tanjan's last request, that the city might be named after him, was granted. It is one of the older cities in Tamil Nadu and has a lot of significance in Dravidian history. Thanjavur District is known as the "Rice bowl of Tamil Nadu".
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, Mutharayars 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, or Tanjapuri as it was called in the ancient times was chosen by the Mutharayar king and later conquered by Vijayalaya Chola. Vijayalaya built a temple for his favourite goddess Nisumbhasudani in the city. Although subsequent emperors made Kanchipuram 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.
Later in 1535,the Vijayanagara 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 Venkaji, 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.
The Downtown (known simply as Town) is the business district. The largest residential area is the Medical College area, which is a relatively new neighbourhood and is separated from the Town by a flyover (Membalam). The other major neighbourhoods are Palliagraharam, Karanthai, Keezhavasal, Vilar, Arulanandha Nagar, Nanjikottai Road, Manambuchavadi, Pookkara Street, Old Housing Unit, New Housing Unit, Gnanam Nagar and Srinivasapuram. The total area of the city is 36 km2.
The urban agglomeration encompasses Vallam to Mariamman Koil (west - east) and Vayalur to the Air Force Station (north-south) for an area of about 100 km2.
The Grand Anaicut Canal (Pudhaaru), Vadavaaru and Vennaaru rivers flow through the town.
Thanjavur is famous for the Brihadishwara Temple (or Brihadeeswara temple) built by Rajaraja Chola during the 11th century . The Brihadishwara Temple, also known as the Big Temple, is one of UNESCO 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 Vijayanagara 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.Raja Rajan Manimandapam which is also one among the tourist places in Thanjavur, nearby which, The Bronze Idol of Padmashree Sivaji Ganesan, a renoved actor's Idol has been Established, who is the "Son of this Soil"
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.
Tiruvaiyaru, 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 Thanjavur Dolls.
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.
In the city of Thanjavur there are a large number of doctors due to the presence of a 50-year old medical college. The first M.B.B.S. doctor of this city was the late Dr. N. Ramanathan, who served as a general practitioner of medicine from 1938 to 1988. There is a bus stop with his name, near his hospital. The South Rampart area around the Old Bus Stand has one of the largest concentration of doctor's offices in all of Asia. There are also a large number of professors working in the various professional and arts colleges around the city.
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. 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 also many research centres, including the Paddy Processing Research Centre and Soil and Water Research Centre.
Thanjavur is well connected with other parts of the state by Road. Three National Highways connect Thanjavur to various parts of the country like Chennai, Tiruchirapalli, Coimbatore, Mysore, Madurai etc.
The Thanjavur-Trichy segment of NH67 is currently being converted to a four-lane highway which would be followed by the Thanjavur-Nagapattinam segment.
Thanjavur City has excellent town bus service. There are two bus termini, one for Town buses (Old Bus Stand) and the other for mofussil buses (New Bus Stand), from where there are frequent buses to Chennai, Trichy, Madurai, Kumbakonam and various other parts of the state. The Thanjavur-Trichy mofussil bus route is the most travelled in the state and there are frequent buses from both cities 24 hours of the day.
The State Express Transport Corporation operates buses to Chennai, Bangalore, Ernakulam, Marthandam, Nagercoil, Tirupathi,Thiruvananthapuram, Ooty and to various other parts of the southern states.
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 (aircraft) and Sukhoi jets and is expected to include civil service for passengers. The Thanjavur Air Force Station will likely start its operation by the end of 2008.
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8.http://www.srjcolleges.comDistrict Development Authority, Thanjavur