The ancient charm of Madurai meets the country life of Tamil Nadu in Tanjore; a significant cultural hub, an ode to the glorious legacy of the Dravidian era, and the agricultural rice bowl of the state, all rolled into one.

Tanjore, also called Thanjavur, came into limelight between the 10th and 14th centuries as the capital of the Chola dynasty that reigned over lands as far south as Sri Lanka and as far west as the Mekong Delta. Today, beneath the mask of a busy and boisterous town, Tanjore celebrates the heritage, art and architecture of the Cholas, and revels in the lost glory of the Cholas and the other powerful dynasties that made it a significant center of culture and learning. The most notable remnant of this heritage is the iconic Brihadeeswara Temple, better known as the Big Temple. Built in 1011 AD, today, this temple is upheld as a masterpiece of Dravidian architecture. The temple has been declared a World Heritage Site, and is worshipped to this date by thousands of devotees. Equally prominent is Tanjore’s grand royal palace, an ode to the Marathas, Nayaks and other major empires that bestowed their legacy upon the town.

The Cholas lent Tanjore the art of making exquisite bronze statues, a skill that has survived for generations, and made it a centre for bronze sculptures, stonework and paintings. For shoppers and the artistically inclined, it is also worthwhile to seek out the town’s silk weavers for exclusively hand-woven silk sarees.

Tanjore is best reached by road or train from the rest of India, a journey that takes you through the state’s farming countryside. The nearest airport is at Trichy. The city is best avoided in summers, and the light monsoon rains in July and August are a good time to beat the winter crowds, who descend upon the town from October to March. Tanjore, like much of coastal Tamil Nadu, also receives the northeast monsoon rains in November and December.

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