Saturday, May 7, 2016

Thanjavur Maratha Palace, Thanjavur

Thanjavur Maratha Palace, Thanjavur
The Thanjavur Maratha Palace Complex, known locally as Aranmanai, is the official residence of the Bhonsle family who ruled over the Tanjore region from 1674 to 1855. The original name of Thanjavur Palace is Sivaganga Fort, which is rarely used these days. If you observe carefully, there is even a small moat around it which provided security against enemy access. Often mistakenly called the "Thanjavur Maratha Palace" was not built by Maratha Kings, but by Thanjavur Nayaks. However, the Marathas made some enhancements to suit their needs. It is more popularly called "Thanjavur Aranmanai" by the people of Tamil Nadu.

Thanjavur’s royal palace is a mixed bag of ruin and renovation, superb art and random royal paraphernalia. The maze-like complex was constructed partly by the Nayaks who took over Thanjavur in 1535, and partly by a local Maratha dynasty that ruled from 1676 to 1855. The two don't-miss sections are the Saraswati Mahal Library Museum and the Art Gallery.

Seven different sections of the palace can be visited – and you'll need three different tickets to see them all. The Art Gallery and Saraswati Mahal Library Museum are included in the ‘full’ ticket, along with the Mahratta Darbar Hall, the bell tower, and the Saarjah Madi. The main entrance is from the north, via a lane off East Main Street. On the way in you’ll come to the main ticket office, followed by the Maratha Palace complex.

Past the ticket office, a passage to the left leads to, first, the Royal Palace Museum, a small miscellany of sculptures, weaponry, elephant bells and rajas’ headgears; second, the Maharaja Serfoji Memorial Hall, commemorating the enlightened Maratha scholar-king Serfoji II (1798–1832), with a better collection overlooking a once-splendid, now crumbling courtyard; and third, the Mahratta Darbar Hall, where Maratha rulers gave audience in a grand but faded pavilion adorned with colourful murals, including their own portraits behind the dais.

As you exit the passage, the fabulous little Saraswati Mahal Library Museum is on your left. Perhaps Serfoji II’s greatest contribution to posterity, this is testimony both to the 19th-century obsession with knowledge accumulation and to an eclectic mind that collected prints of Chinese torture methods, Audubon-style paintings of Indian flora and fauna, world atlases and rare medieval books. Serfoji amassed more than 65,000 books and 50,000 palm-leaf paper manuscripts in Indian and European languages, though most aren’t displayed.

Leaving the library, turn left for the Art Gallery, set around the Nayak Palace courtyard. This contains a collection of superb, mainly Chola, bronzes and stone carvings, and one of its rooms, the 1600 Nayak Durbar Hall, has a statue of Serfoji II. From the courtyard, steps lead part of the way up a large gopuram - like tower to a whale skeleton said to have been washed up in Tranquebar. The renovated Saarjah Madi is best admired from East Main Rd for its ornate balconies.

Thanjavur, the capital city of Cholas, is a flourishing city from the 7th century CE. At present there are two important forts namely Chinna Kottai (Little fort) and Periya Kottai (Big fort). Thanjavur Palace is situated within the Big Fort Complex. After the fall of Cholas in 1279 A.D, and a few centuries of Pandyan occupation, Sevappa Nayak captured Thanjavur and became the King in 1532. 

The Thanjavur Maratha palace was originally constructed by the rulers of Thanjavur Nayak kingdom. The construction of Thanjavur Palace began in 1534 and was completed in 1535, thanks to plenty of local prisoners of war who provided manual labor.

The Palace was officially called "Sivagangai Fort" and was held by the Nayak family until April 1674, when the Maratha ruler Venkoji captured it. After the fall of the Thanjavur Nayak kingdom, it served as the official residence of the Thanjavur Maratha. The Marathas enhanced the original structure and expanded the palace complex.

When most of the Thanjavur Maratha kingdom was annexed to the British Empire in 1799, the Thanjavur Marathas continued to hold sway over the palace and the surrounding fort. The Bhonsle family continued to hold on to the palace even after the last king Shivaji II was deposed as per the Doctrine of Lapse.

The Thanjavur Palace is a huge complex that has many architectural features. The massive complex consists of huge halls, wide corridors, multi-storied observation towers and a shady courtyard. As you walk across, you can see that some parts of the complex are in ruins while other parts show that restoration work has been taken up to revive and protect the monument.

Plenty of tourists expect a gigantic, luxurious and ornamented interior and get disappointed. The complex was built as a fort, not a palace. The Nayaks chose the site carefully and there is even a moat around the complex to protect it.

Another intriguing feature is the extremely narrow staircases with short steps, sharp turns and low ceilings. This was a measure to prevent enemies' rapid advance. Cavalry advances would be impossible through the stairs, and the foot soldiers cannot climb up with great speed. The enemy foot soldiers would be easy prey to the men waiting for them above. Again: this was built as a fort, not a palace.

The State Department of Archaeology protects the important monuments in the palace complex, such as Arsenal Tower, Bell Tower, Darbar hall of the Marathas and Sadar Madi (Sarjah Madi). The Raja Serfoji Memorial Hall and the Royal Palace Museum are situated in the Sadar Mahal Palace. The Saraswathi Mahal Library is situated with the Thanjavur palace complex.

Thanjavur Palace with its architectural beauty reflects the ‘Marathas’ and ‘Nayaks’ patronage towards art and culture. Paintings in the Darbar hall depict the scenes from epic Ramayana and stucco figures of Gods and Goddesses are well projected on the walls and ceiling.

The royal objects that are on display in the museum include royal clothing, headgear and hunting weapons. On the upper floor is a skeleton of a 92-feet whale that washed ashore near Tranquebar in 1955. Thanjavur Palace has the famous Saraswathi Mahal library, an art gallery and the Royal Museum with an interesting collection of artifacts, paintings, books and other memorabilia. The paintings in the Darbar Hall retell the stories from the epic Ramayana. The walls and ceilings are covered with detailed stucco figures of gods and goddesses. 

Major Attractions in the Palace Complex are briefed below;
Arsenal Tower (Gooda Gopuram):
For further details, please refer below link;
Art & Bronze Gallery:
For further details, please refer below link;
Baleen Whale Skeleton:
For further details, please refer below link;
Bell Tower (Maadamaaligai):
For further details, please refer below link;
Durbar Hall & Sangita Mahal:
For further details, please refer below link;
For further details, please refer below link;
Raja Serfoji Memorial Hall:
For further details, please refer below link;
Royal Family’s Temple:
For further details, please refer below link;
Saraswathi Mahal Library:
For further details, please refer below link;
For further details, please refer below link;
Secret Chambers:
For further details, please refer below link;
Sharja Madi:
For further details, please refer below link;
Underground Tunnel:
For further details, please refer below link;
Royal Museum:
The Royal Museum is a section in the palace, which displays the utensils and other artifacts used by the royal family. It is not very attractive.

Entry Fees & Timings
Entrance fee
Phone Number
9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.
Adult Rs.2.00,
Child Rs.1.00.
+91 – 4362 – 235268
No holiday
Useful Information
Address: East Main Street, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India (1.2 K.M from Brihadeeswarar Temple).
Phone: +91 – 4362 – 223384; +91 – 4362 – 230984
Car Parking: Available; Free
Restrooms: Available
Average Visitor Time: 3 Hours
It is located at the heart of the City and located very near to the world famous Brihadeeswarar Temple. Autos and Buses are available to reach this place from Bus Stands & Railway Stations. Nearest Railway Station is located at Thanjavur & Nearest Airport is located at Trichy.


Ashwin said...

Very nice post about Tanjore Maratha Palace. Thanks for sharing about this place. Loved to read this post. Well written about this place. If anyone wants to travel this place, book your bus tickets in SRM Travels.

farheen s said...

A trek to Thanjavur can't be finished without going to the Brihadishwara sanctuary!
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