The Forgotten Kingdom of Tanjore – An Ultimate Budget Travel Guide

Thanjavur, ‘Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu’ is the capital of art and literature of Tamil Nadu state in India. During the Chola rule, Tanjore was the bustling capital of the empire. This city proves to be a perfect destination for an art and architecture lover considering its major attraction of the Thanjavur Big Temple. The smiling people of the city add to the beauty of the city along with dancing dolls called Thanjavur dolls or Bommai and Thanjavur paintings. It is said to have been named as Tanjor after a demon named “Tanoj”, who wished the town to be named after him. Reaching to this city is quite easy from Chennai and Bangalore through direct trains and buses. There are many amazing places to visit in Thanjavur Even if it is your One day tour to Thanjavur.


Temples of India, Temples of South India, places to visit at Thanjavur, Things to do in Thanjavur, Thanjavur, places to visit in Thanjavur, Tanjor, Shivagangai Park, Thanjavur paintings, Brihadeshwara Temple
The entrance to the Brihadeshwara Temple – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Places to Visit in Thanjavur in One Day

The moment you reach the city you will get yellow color sharing auto-rickshaws (6 INR  from the Railway Station) most of which go to the famous “Big Temple” called….


Thanjavur Temple – The Big Temple or Brihadeshwara Temple

The Thanjavur temple is the specimen of the architectural brilliance during the rule of Chola Kings. The city’s art and architecture reached its zenith during the rule of the king Raja Raja Chola I. He built this stunning Shiva temple showcasing the Dravidian art in the very heart of this city which is at a walkable distance from the old bus stand and the new bus stand.  It is one of the three Living Chola Temples. Intricately carved huge entrance on the main road will take you to the Thanjavur temple complex which seems to be a spiritual heaven with a 60 metre tall shikhara shrine of Shiva and the classical songs and hymns describing the glory of God. The early mornings and the evenings are the best time to visit this temple. Do not be surprised if you find any visitors singing to the Goddess in the Parvati Temple as it is a normal phenomenon to please the goddess with their sweet voice.

It is quite well maintained as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You need to walk a bit to reach the main shrine. On the front-right side of the temple, there is a Parvati (the wife of Shiva) Temple which has the lion pillars common in most of the South Indian Temples. Outside the Parvati temple, exactly in front of the Shiva Temple is a 13 ft tall monolith of Nandi (Bull) facing His Lord. The garden in the temple complex is quite well maintained where you can sit and gulp in a few sips of the surrounding spiritual vibes.

 Thanjavur Temple
A 13 ft tall Nandi in front of the temple constantly remains in service of the Lord

The main temple has the carvings of the Natraja form of Shiva, Vishnu, Lakshmi surrounded by their respective favorite animals, Goddess Durga, Kaali and other ornamental designs on the pillars and the outer walls of the temple. The main Sanctum has a huge 3.66-meter tall linga representing the Lord. This temple should be at the top of your list of places to visit in Tanjore.

Pro Tips:

  • Visit the temple twice; once in the early morning and after the sunset when it turns cooler and witnesses the wonderful silhouette of the temple.
  • Sharing auto rickshaws are available from across the railway station (6 INR)
  • Another option is to take the local bus from outside the Thanjavur and reach the old bus stand. From there, the temple is just a 5 minutes walk. (4 INR)
  • Direct auto-rickshaw would charge you 60-70 INR. But you can always bargain for lesser charge considering that the temple is just at a distance of 1.5 km.
  • A cloakroom is available inside the temple premise. (10 INR per bag)
  • Carry enough water and energy as you would be walking a little too much in the complex.

After taking the blessings of the Lord early in the morning, you can relax and enjoy the Sun at Shivagangai Park located right beside the temple.

If you are fascinated by the Temple you must read 

The Secret of Chidambaram

Shivagangai Park
Visit Places in Thanjavur . Shivagangai Park
Shivagagai Park is famous for its fun activities like a cable car ride, train ride and a swimming pool that attract tourists to spend some time in the garden and relax

The park has a lot to provide you apart from its beautiful garden and fountains. You can enjoy the cable car ride across the Shivaganga Tank or can have a toy train ride in the garden. A small swimming pool has also been made for the enjoyment of the tourists on a hot day. If none of these interests you then you can just take a leisure walk in the naturally shaded avenues of the garden or can just sit and relax on the lawns. Enjoying a boat ride in the lake is another option.

As the Sun reaches overhead you can move towards the old bus stand to have some delicious food.

Pro Tips:

  • If your taste buds are addictive to North Indian taste, you can go to ‘Bombay Sweets’ that serves all variety of food.
  • In case you would like to try the local food, Ariya Bhavan is the perfect place to binge on dosas and a variety of spicy, tangy chutneys.

The immediate left after Ariya Bhavan will take you to the Palace Road. It is advisable to take an auto-rickshaw if it is too sunny. While returning, you can take a walk through the road and see the beautiful Tanjore Paintings.



Thanjavur Palace (Aranmanai)
Visiting Places Thanjavur - Thanjavur Palace
The Thanjavur Palace was once the royal residence of the Bhonsle family who ruled Thanjavur

The huge Thanjavur palace complex comprises of a few artillery museums, a handicraft shop, Darbar Hall, Saraswati Mahal Library, Bell Tower and an ancient artifacts’ museum. It was the royal residence of the Bhonsle family, the Maratha ruler who ruled Thanjavur.

You can start with the beautiful Darbar Hall which is in a dilapidated condition, but still look beautiful with vibrant paintings on its walls, ceiling, and pillars. The paintings and the wall art has Shiva family, Vishnu and other gods and goddesses as its main theme. The carvings on pillars also depict the luxurious life of the kings and their consorts in dancing posture. An old horse-cart, Thanjavur dolls and a Royal statue of a lion are also kept at the entrance to the Darbar Hall. Do not forget to take a look in the garden for the ancient stone statues of consorts and gods.

Places to see in Thanjavur
The ceiling of the Darbar Hall is beautifully painted with Indian design which is now very much famous in Indian textile industries

On the way to Darbar Hall, you would see the entrance to the museum for which you would have pay extra. I personally feel it’s not so worth visiting. You can opt to buy certain craft articles from the handicraft exhibition cum shop.

Thanjavur, places to visit in Thanjavur, Tanjor, Shivagangai Park, Thanjavur paintings, Brihadeshwara Temple
The pillars are carved depicting the lifestyle of the kings and the dancers of the court… The side walls also have the depiction of prayers offered to Lord Shiva and his family
Explore Saraswati Mahal Library

Further, you can visit the Saraswati Mahal Library which is one of its kinds in the world that is open for public. The old Tamil literature has been preserved here in Bamboo manuscripts. For the convenience of the researchers and students, each leaf has been scanned and stored in the digital media library. Thousands of years old books have been preserved here and are also being translated in certain local languages for the understanding of the people. A few books about the library and its history have been put up for sale in the corridor of the library. Don’t forget to notice the colourful ceiling at the library entrance. After getting mesmerized by the excellent collections and the conservation, you can move to the art museum on the right side of the library. (You will have to ask for the direction to the art museum)

Places to Visit in Thanjavur
The Saraswati Mahal Library is famous for its thousand years old literature written on bamboo manuscripts and was made open to the public during the British Era



The Art Museum of Thanjavur and the Bell Tower

The art museum, located beside the Thanjavur Palace, showcases the ancient stone sculptures all around its garden. You can also climb the bell tower and can have a stunning view from the top. The terrace at the bell tower showcases a carcass of a huge whale. After moving down, you can enter the bronze statue gallery that has the collection of age-old bronze statues of Natraja, Ganesha, Lord Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi, other dancers, musicians and the wedding pose of Shiva-Parvati marriage. The beautiful Indian design can also be seen on the ceiling of this hall.

Places to Visit in Thanjavur
The Bell Tower located in the art gallery is accessible for the public and one can have the sky view of the whole palace garden from this tower


Thanjavur, places to visit in Thanjavur, Tanjor, Shivagangai Park, Thanjavur paintings, Brihadeshwara Temple
The sculpted scene of Indra Sabha in the art gallery is a point of attraction that shows apsaras (the celestial dancers) on one side and the musicians on the other side


Thanjavur, places to visit in Thanjavur, Tanjor, Shivagangai Park, Thanjavur paintings, Brihadeshwara Temple
The art gallery also has the unique collection of finely made bronze statues of gods, goddesses and other figures

The entire stroll through the Thanjavur palace complex would at least take an hour. Be sure to arrive at the audio-visual room at 4:30 pm in the Saraswati Mahal Library for a documentary on the history, art, architecture, and culture of Thanjavur. The documentary takes you through the city and its surrounding places in just half an hour.

  • Timing: 9 am to 6 pm
  • Entry fee: 50 INR
  • Still Camera Charge: 50 INR

While moving back towards the temple, opt to walk through the palace road that has end number of art galleries. Being a tourist town, the prices might be too high but bargaining always works at tourist places.



Thanjavur Bommai or Thanjavur Dolls at Tanjore Art Gallary

A small shop on your right while moving towards the bus-stand sells the Thanjavur Bommai (The dancing dolls) at a reasonable price. The dancing dolls are the specialty of this town that wouldn’t fail to grab your attention. At Tanjore art gallery, you would get the same dolls with ornamental stonework on it. The dolls are made of plaster of Paris and are made in such a way that they keep on dancing with even the slightest blow of wind.

Thanjavur, places to visit in Thanjavur, Tanjor, Shivagangai Park, Thanjavur paintings, Brihadeshwara Temple
Thanjavur Bommai, the dancing dolls, will surely attract you on your way to the palace.

Pro tip:

  • The dolls can be bargained for 500 INR a pair. And 250 INR for a single plain doll.
  • The dolls with stonework would cost you around 450-500 INR.
  • These are worth buying as a souvenir of your trip to Thanjavur.



Thanjavur Paintings 

The Thanjavur paintings are famous for their gold plate work and the painted figures in between. The flat plates are hammered to engrave designs on the plates that can be filled with the paint. It is interesting to see the artists diligently engrossed in the paintwork at their workshops.

Thanjavur, places to visit in Thanjavur, Tanjor, Shivagangai Park, Thanjavur paintings, Brihadeshwara Temple
Thanjavur paintings are prepared by intricately engraving the designs in a golden metal plate. It is done by hammering on a plate that is further molded into a design and this requires a lot of concentration of the artist

Apart from these paintings, Thanjavur is also famous for its bronze production which is exported in different parts of India as well as abroad.

If you plan to extend your trip for more than a day, you can plan to visit, Manor, the port fort built by the Thanjavur Marathas and the Kallanai Dam also called Grand Anicut built to cross the river Kaveri. If you are on a long journey in South India, you can also visit the other Chola Temples at Kumbakonam or the famous Ranganathaswamy Temple at Sri Rangam in Tiruchirapalli (Trichy) or visit the birthplace of Natraja at Chidambaram to find out ‘The Secret of Chidambaram’.


Travel Tips:

  • Traveling to and from the railway station to any other town is the best mode of transportation.
  • Passenger trains run from Thanjavur to nearby places in the morning as well as in the evening.
  • Local transport is easily available from outside the station.
  • Public transport buses to nearby towns might a bit crowded and uncomfortable.
  • Remember and look out for big yellow auto-rickshaws that run on sharing bases.
  • Cross the main road to get the sharing autos from the Big Temple to the Railway Stations.
  • Sharing autos for the bus-stands will be available at the exit of the temple.
  • Be sure as to which bus-stand you wish to reach as there are two bus stands, the old and the new.
  • Traffic police or the tourist information desk outside the temple and at the Railway station are the best places to put forward your queries related to transport within and outside the town.
  • If you do not know Tamil, Muslims can be approached for help as they might know Hindi/Urdu, whereas English is partially understood by everyone in the town.
  • The one day tour of Thanjavur can be completed within the budget of 400-500 INR including food and excluding the travel expense to reach Thanjavur.



Where to Eat Local Food in Thanjavur:

Don’t forget to try the famous “Ghee Roast” (Butter Dosa) at Ariya Bhavan which is typically served with three types of chutneys. On the same lane, which is very much near the bus station, you would find a number of other food joints serving vegetarian food.

Best time to visit Thanjavur:

August to October and January to March

How to reach Thanjavur from Chennai and Bangalore:
  • By Road: Direct buses ply from Chennai (approx. 7 hrs.), Tiruchirapalli (1 hour), Bangalore(8 hours) and Madurai (4-5 hours).
  • By Rail: Regular trains run from Chennai, Hyderabad, Trivandrum, Bangalore, Tiruchirapalli, Chidambaram (in case you are on a temple run in South India).
  • By Air: The nearest airport is Tiruchirapalli from where Thanjavur can be reached just in an hour. A car can also be rented from Tiruchirapalli to travel to nearby places and towns.

Enjoy this forgotten Chola Kingdom of the South and travel easy following the pro tips in the blog. Stay tuned to Travel Hippies…. and follow me on Instagram for the beautiful pictures of my journey.

Found it helpful? Pin it now 

Places to Visit in Tanjore

Follow me on





27 thoughts on “The Forgotten Kingdom of Tanjore – An Ultimate Budget Travel Guide

  • July 11, 2017 at 8:43 am

    Thanks Purvi ji for ur suggestion… It was a blissful experience… Those who are going to thanjavur should also go to Airavateswara temple at darasuram,also a part of the world heritage site Of UNESCO…It is 38 kms away from Thanjavur..

    • July 11, 2017 at 10:01 am

      Thanx Nikhil. Glad that it was an amazing experience for you. And Airateshwara Temple must be visited if you plan for an extra day. Stay tuned. Keep traveling.

  • July 31, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    Purvi are you sure about the price of the dolls??

    • August 4, 2017 at 5:59 am

      Hey Giri Prashath, this is what I had bought a doll for. Do not go to overtly fancy shops or you may find the dolls costlier. I had bought a simple coloured one just for 250 bucks. But, your better bargaining skills can also make it even lesser.

  • December 2, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Your photos are so nice 🙂 And this is a really worth a visit the place your post is about 🙂 I really liked it and whole your blog 🙂
    Good luck 🙂

  • December 2, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Brihadeshwara Temple looks such amazing destination , I wonder how pretty it must be in historical times. Great tips and story .

  • December 2, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    Oh my, the architectural details of the Thanjavur Maratha Palace are fantastic! I’m a little lost though (probably need to google after this X_X) but where exactly is this? I mean relative to more popular cities? I know where Chennai is, is that the closest city?

    • December 2, 2017 at 5:58 pm

      Hey, thanx for the words. 🙂 I have mentioned how to reach and where it is in the travel tips section. You can refer to that, but yeah, the closest city is Chennai.

  • December 2, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    Interesting architecture and beautiful post. To be honest, I have nver heard about thanjavur.

  • December 2, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    Very well written! Everything you need to know about Tanjore is here! Nice photos too, he architecture is crazy beautiful!! 😀

  • December 2, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    Okay the Saraswati Mahal Library looks like an absolutely incredible place to visit. Amazing history and this book nerd in me is in love with the idea of being in a place with that.

  • December 3, 2017 at 9:02 am

    So much culture and so much to explore. I’ve never been to South India but I’m definitely going to visit Tamil Nadu. I love the look of Brihadeshwara Temple and if it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s definitely one to see! Awesome post and pictures Purvi!

  • December 3, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Wow, it looks beautiful! I especially love the picture of Shivagangai Park 🙂

  • December 28, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Thats a great experience Purvi. I hope you enjoyed your Thanjore trip. There are loads of old golden temples and beautiful architectural temples and palaces are available in the surrounding cities nearby Thanjore such as Papanasam, Dharasuram, Kumbakonam, Sirkali, Chidambaram, Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Madurai, Trichy and more… A biggest Nel kalanjiyam still available in the temple of Papanasam. It is used to save Nel for village peoples in the olden years.

    Plan to visit for 10 days will better to see all the architectural temples at one time.

    Karthik Linga

    • December 28, 2017 at 5:00 pm

      Hello Karthik,

      Thank you for the information. I would love to explore all the ancient temples. Trichy and Chidambaram Temples are truly mindblowing. Would surely consider the other suggestions and would visit soon. 🙂

  • December 29, 2017 at 9:18 am

    Well written and nice photos! This is one of the places I want to visit so bad!

  • September 19, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    I love heritage sites like these that take me to a different era. Thanjavur is now on my list. What a beautiful palace!

    • September 26, 2019 at 1:21 am

      Yes Sinjana, it is definitely a place that leaves you awestruck of the architectural intelligence of the Cholas. You must visit it. Let me know in case any help needed 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Please comment only with your real name and not your company's or blog's name. Any added links or spams will be deleted.