Also known as, 'Tanjore,' the city of Thanjavur has an interesting history to relay. It might interest you to know that this city of temples is actually named after demon Tanjan, who was annihilated by Sri Anandavalli Amman and Lord Vishnu. Legend has it that the behemoth demon expressed his last desire to have the city named after him and hence the name. One of the oldest towns in Southern India, the history of Thanjavur dates back to the Sangam era. Although the city existed right from the time of Tamil Sangam Age, it rose to popularity only during the Chola dynasty. Serving as the important capital of the empire, the city of Thanjavur was endowed with many breath-taking sculptures and stunning temples that breathe of Cholas artistic grandeur and architectural refinements. Most of the surviving Chola shrines that you get to see in Thanjavur today are all ranked under UNESCO World Heritage Monuments. Read the article to know more about the magnificent history of Thanjavur.
Under The Chola Dynasty
From 9th century to 12th century, Thanjavur was dominated by Chola Kingdom. Erstwhile known as 'Tanjapuri,' the land was first ruled by Vijayalaya Chola. Apart from being mighty warriors, the Cholas were feted for their architectural brilliance, which explains how the city got its stunning array of unique temples. Each of these places of worship not only exhibits the talent and architectural prowess possessed by the Cholas, but also unveils their innovation in grounds of painting, wooden carvings and unusual sculptures. One classic example of Cholas architectural brilliance is the Brihadeeswarar Temple built by Rajaraja Chola I. The temple served as a main governmental centre during his time. The inscriptions on the walls acted as a state record of the emperors numerous subjugations, civic development projects, contributions to the local people, religious dominances, state wealth and progressiveness of the city. During the peak of the Chola Empire, the place saw an incredible growth in the field of politics and cultural development.
Other Hindu Rulers
The decline of the Chola dynasty began in the 13th century. However, historians disagree stating that the powers of Thanjavur ebbed when Rajendra Chola I moved his capital to the newly built city of Gangaikonda Cholapuram. After the end of the Chola dynasty, the city saw the authority of the Pandya Empire for a brief period. During the Pandya era, Madurai became the administrative centre, giving rise to the growth of the city while Thanjavur remained stagnant in terms of development. The rise of a civil war led to the downfall of the Pandya kingdom. Alba-Ud-Din Khilji, a Muslim leader from Delhi, took advantage of the situation and overruled the Pandya kings after which the governance of the place was passed on to the Vijayanagar Empire. It is said that the Vijayanagar king crowned a Nayak as a future king that gave rise to the Nayak kingdom. The reign of the Nayak dynasty lasted until the 17th century. After that Madurai Nayak, who belonged to the Balija community, ceded the place. In the year 1674, the Marathas, under the chief commander Venkoji, who was the half brother of the emperor Shivaji, subjugated the place. The district continued to be ruled by his descendants as the Maharaja of Thanjavur until the East Indian Company started to control the internal affairs of the sub-continent.
East Indian Company
When the British invaded India in the 18th century, Thanjavur too had to face the consequences of the English rule. The year 1749 saw the British invade the state. The main aim behind this invasion was to reinstate the lost lineage of the Maharajas of Nayaks in the province. The East Indian Company made subsequent expeditions to the old city but the Marathas dissuaded their intervention. On October 1799, Raja Serfoji II, who was a student of a Christian missionary of Schwartz, surrendered Thanjavur district to the East Indian Company. Thanjavur, by then, was completely under the colonial rule. The Raja, on the other hand, was allowed to control a very meager portion of the surrounding areas. After the death of Raja Serfoji in 1833, his son Shivaji took over the management of the nearby tracts until his demise in the year 1855. The late Raja Shivaji passed away without naming an heir to his property, which in turn fell into the hands of the British. The Thanjavur district was a part of the British India until 1947 after which it became an important city in Tamil Nadu.