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Encyclopedia > Tanjore

Thanjavur, also known as Tanjore, is a city in Tamil Nadu, in southeastern India. The city lies on the south bank of the Kaveri River (Cauvery), 218 miles south of Chennai. Thanjavur is also the capital of the Thanjavur District.

Thanjavur derives its name from Tanjan-an asura (demon) who according to local legend caused 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.


Thanjavur is famous for the Brihadeeswara Temple built by Raja Raja Chola, the first sailor king of India. The Brihadeeswara Temple also known as the Big Temple is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The temple is enclosed in two courts, surmounted by a lofty tower and including the exquisitely decorated shrine of Subrahmanya. Among the other historic buildings is the Vijayanagara fort, which contains a palace that was expanded by the Maratha raja Sarfoji with an armoury and the Saraswathi Mahal Library, which contains over 30,000 Indian and European manuscripts written on palm leaf and paper.


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 is also well known for its unique painting style called Tanjore Painting, a percussion instrument called the Thavil, and the Thanjavur Dolls.


The city was once the stronghold of the historic Chola dynasty and was later ruled by the nayaks of Vijayanagara and Maratha rajas.

Tanjore was conquered by the Marathas in 1674 under Venkaji, the half-brother of Shivaji the Great; his successors ruled as rajas 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. In this they failed, and a subsequent expedition was bought off. The Maratha rajas held Tanjore until 1799. A Protestant mission at Tanjore was founded in 1778 by the Reverend Christian Friedrich Schwarz.

In October of that year the district was ceded to the British East India Company in absolute sovereignty by Raja Serfoji, a pupil of the missionary Schwarz. The raja retained only the capital and a small tract of country round. He died in 1833 and was succeeded by his son Sivaji, on whose death in 1855 without an heir the house became extinct.

The mission establishments were taken over in 1826 by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which subsequently founded new stations in several parts of the district. Roman Catholic missions date from the first half of the 17th century. St. Peter's College, founded by Schwarz as a school, is now a college affiliated to the University of Madras. His church dates from 1779.

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica.

  Results from FactBites:
Tanjore Paintings (401 words)
Tracing its roots to the historical golden era of the early 18th century, Tanjore artwork is one of the many indigenous art forms for which India is noted.
Originating in Tanjore about 300 kms from Chennai(Madras), which was the then capital of the Gupta empire, this form of art developed at the height of cultural evolvement achieved during that period.
The characteristics of the Tanjore paintings are its brilliant colour schemes, decorative jewellery with stones and cut glasses and its larger-than-life figures.
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