Thanjavur is the headquarters of the Thanjavur District. The city is an important agricultural centre located in the Cauvery Delta and is known as the "Rice bowl of Tamil Nadu". Thanjavur is administered by a municipal corporation covering an area of 36.33 km2 (14.03 sq mi) and had a population of 222,943 in 2011. Roadways are the major means of transportation, while the city also has rail connectivity. The nearest airport is Tiruchirapalli International Airport, located 59.6 km (37.0 mi) away from the city. The nearest seaport is Karaikal Port, which is 94 km (58 mi) away from Thanjavur.
According to local legend, the word Thanjavur is derived from "Tanjan", an asura (giant) in Hindu mythology who was killed in what is now Thanjavur by the Hindu god Neelamegha Perumal, a form of Vishnu. The word Thanjavur is indeed a Tamil name."Than"-cold, "chei"-farmland, "ur"- city, a city surrounded by cold farmlands. The word "Thancheiur" has become "Thanjavur".
There are no references to Thanjavur in any of the Sangam period (third century BC to fourth century AD) Tamil records, though some scholars believe that the city has existed since that time. Kovil Venni, situated 15 miles (24 km) to the east of the city, was the site of the Battle of Venni between the Chola king Karikala and a confederacy of the Cheras and the Pandyas. The Cholas seemed to have faced an invasion of the Kalabhras in the third century AD after which the kingdom faded into obscurity. The region around present day Thanjavur was conquered by the Mutharayars during the sixth century, who ruled it up to 849.
The Cholas came to prominence once more through the rise of the Medieval Chola monarch Vijayalaya (841–878) in about 850. Vijayalaya conquered Thanjavur from the Mutharayar king Elango Mutharayar and built a temple dedicated to Hindu goddess Nisumbhasudani. His son Aditya I (871–901) consolidated the hold over the city. The Rashtrakuta king Krishna II (878–914), a contemporary of the Chola king Parantaka I (907–950), claims to have conquered Thanjavur, but there are no records to support the claim. Gradually, Thanjavur became the most important city in the Chola Empire and remained its capital till the emergence of Gangaikonda Cholapuram in about 1025. During the first decade of the eleventh century, the Chola king Raja Raja Chola I (985–1014) constructed the Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur. The temple is considered to be one of the best specimens of South Indian temple architecture.
When the Chola Empire began to decline in the 13th century, the Pandyas from the south invaded and captured Thanjavur twice, first during 1218–19 and then during 1230. During the second invasion, the Chola king Rajaraja III (1216–56) was set in exile and he sought the help of the Hoysala king Vira Narasimha II (1220–35) to regain Thanjavur. Thanjavur was eventually annexed along with the rest of the Chola kingdom by the Pandya king Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan I (1268–1308) in 1279 and the Chola kings were forced to accept the suzerainty of the Pandyas. The Pandyas ruled Thanjavur from 1279 to 1311 when their kingdom was raided and annexed by the forces of Malik Kafur (1296–1306) and Delhi Sultanate. The Sultanate extended its authority directly over the conquered regions from 1311 to 1335 and then through the semi-independent Ma'bar Sultanate from 1335 to 1378. Starting from the 1350s, the Ma'bar Sultanate was steadily absorbed into the rising Vijayanagar Empire.
Thanjavur is believed to have been conquered by Kampanna Udayar during his invasion of Srirangam between 1365 and 1371. Deva Raya's inscription dated 1443, Thirumala's inscription dated 1455 and Achuta Deva's land grants dated 1532 and 1539 attest Vijayanagar's dominance over Thanjavur. Sevappa Nayak (1532–80), the Vijayanagar viceroy of Arcot, established himself as an independent monarch in 1532 (1549, according to some sources) and founded the Thanjavur Nayak kingdom. Achuthappa Nayak (1560–1614), Raghunatha Nayak (1600–34) and Vijaya Raghava Nayak (1634–73) are some of the important rulers of the Nayak dynasty who ruled Thanjavur. Thanjavur Nayaks were notable for their patronage of literature and arts. The rule of the dynasty came to an end when Thanjavur fell to the Madurai Nayak king Chokkanatha Nayak (1662–82) in 1673. Vijaya Raghunatha Nayak, the son of Chokkanatha, was killed in a battle and Chokkanatha's brother Alagiri Nayak (1673–75) was crowned as the ruler of the empire.
Thanjavur was successfully conquered in 1674 by Ekoji I (1675–84), the Maratha feudatory of the sultan of Bijapur and half-brother of Shivaji (1627/30-80) of the Bhonsle dynasty. Ekoji founded the Thanjavur Maratha kingdom which ruled Thanjavur till 1855. The Marathas exercised their sovereignty over Thanjavur throughout the last quarter of the 17th and the whole of the 18th century. The Maratha rulers patronized Carnatic music. In 1787, Amar Singh, the regent of Thanjavur, deposed the minor Raja, his nephew Serfoji II (1787–93) and captured the throne. Serfoji II was restored in 1799 with the assistance of the British, who induced him to relinquish the administration of the kingdom and left him in charge of Thanjavur fort and surrounding areas. The kingdom was eventually absorbed into British India in 1855 by the Doctrine of Lapse when Shivaji II (1832–55), the last Thanjavur Maratha ruler, died without a legitimate male heir. The British referred to the city as Tanjore in their records. Five years after its annexation, the British replaced Negapatam (modern-day Nagapattinam) with Thanjavur as the seat of the district administration. Under the British, Thanjavur emerged as an important regional centre. The 1871 India census recorded a population of 52,171, making Thanjavur the third largest city in the Madras Presidency. After India's independence, Thanjavur continued as the district headquarters.
Thanjavur is located at 10.8°N 79.15°E / 10.8; 79.15 The tributaries of river Cauvery, namely, the Grand Anaicut canal (Pudhaaru), Vadavaaru and Vennaaru rivers flow through the city. Thanjavur is situated in the Cauvery delta, at a distance of 314 km (195 mi) south-west of Chennai and 56 km (35 mi) east of Tiruchirappalli. While the plains immediately adjoining the Cauvery river have been under cultivation from time immemorial, most of Thanjavur city and the surrounding areas lie in the "New Delta" – a dry, barren upland tract which has been brought under irrigation during the early 19th century. To the south of Thanjavur city, is the Vallam tableland, a small plateau insterspersed at regular intervals by ridges of sandstone. The nearest seaport is Nagapattinam which is 84 km (52 mi) east of Thanjavur. The nearest airport is Tiruchirapalli International Airport, located at a distance of 56 km (35 mi). The city has an elevation of 57 m (187 ft) above mean sea level. The total area of the city is 36.33 km2 (14.03 sq mi).
The period from November to February in Thanjavur is pleasant, with a climate full of warm days and cool nights. The onset of summer is from March, with the mercury reaching its peak by the end of May and June. The average temperatures range from 81 °F (27 °C) in January to 97 °F (36 °C) in May and June. Summer rains are sparse and the first monsoon, the South-West monsoon, sets in June and continues till September. North-East monsoon sets in October and continues till January. The rainfall during South-West monsoon period is much lower than that of North-East monsoon. North-East monsoon is beneficial to the district at large because of the heavy rainfall and the Western ghats feeding the river Cauvery. The average rainfall is 37 inches (940 mm), most of which is contributed by the North-East monsoon.
Thanjavur is an important pilgrim centre and a major tourist destination of Tamil Nadu. South Zone Culture Centre in Thanjavur is one of the regional cultural centres established by the Government of India to preserve and promote cultural heritage of India. There were 2,002,225 Indian and 81,435 foreign tourist arrivals in 2009 to Thanjavur. The most visited monument in Thanjavur is the Brihadeeswarar Temple, whose construction, the historian Percy Brown described as "a landmark in the evolution of building art in South India". Built in the 11th century by the Chola king Raja Raja Chola I (985–1014), the temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The walls of the sanctum are covered with wall paintings from the Chola and Nayak periods. The temple was designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It is replicated in the Gangaikonda Cholesvarar Temple constructed by Raja Raja's son Rajendra Chola I (1012–44).
The Thanjavur Maratha palace was the official residence of the Bhonsle family who ruled over the Thanjavur region from 1674 to 1855. It was originally constructed by the rulers of Thanjavur Nayak kingdom and after their fall, it served as the official residence of the Thanjavur Marathas. When most of the Thanjavur Maratha kingdom was annexed by the British Empire in 1799, the Thanjavur Marathas continued to hold sway over the palace and the surrounding fort. The southern side of the third quadrangle of the palace has 190 ft (58 m) tower like building, called the Goodagopuram.
The Saraswathi Mahal Library, established around 1700 and located in the premises of the palace, contains over 30,000 Indian and European manuscripts written on palm leaf and paper. Over eighty per cent of its manuscripts are in Sanskrit and many of them are on palm leaves. The Tamil works include treatise on medicine, and commentaries on Sangam literature. The Rajaraja Chola art gallery is located inside the palace – it has a large collection of stone and bronze images from the ninth to 12th centuries. Most of the idols present in the gallery were collected from various temples in the Thanjavur district. The Sivaganga Park is situated to the east of the Brihadeeswarar Temple and encompasses the Sivaganga Tank believed to have been built by the king Raja Raja Chola. It was created as a people's park by the Tanjore municipality in 1871–72. It has a collection of plants, animals and birds and serves as a zoo for children within the city.
Schwartz Church, a historic monument located in the palace garden, was built in 1779 by Serfoji II as a token of affection for Rev. C.V. Schwartz of the Danish Mission. There are five museums in the city namely Archeological Museum, Tamil University Museum located with the Tamil University premises, the Saraswathi Mahal Library Museum located inside the Saraswathi Mahal, Nayak Durbar Hall Art Museum and Rajaraja Chola Museum. Raja Rajan Manimandapam is one of the tourist attractions in Thanjavur, built during the Thanjavur Tamil Conference in 1991. "Sangeetha Mahal" has a permanent handicrafts exhibition centre. Thanjavur is the cradle for many of the arts and crafts in South India. Carnatic music was codified in Thanjavur and the art flourished during the Nayak rule in the 16th century. Bharathanatyam, a classical dance form of South India, had its major styles developed in Thanjavur.
Sathaya Thiruvizha is the annual birthday festival of Raja Raja Chola held during October every year. Thanjavur is the base for the Tyagaraja Aradhana, a Carnatic music festival held annually during January – February at Thiruvaiyaru, located 13 km (8.1 mi) away from the city. Thanjavur painting is a major form of classical South Indian painting from Thanjavur. It dates back to about 1600s, the period of Nayakas of Thanjavur, who encouraged art, classical dance, music literature, both in Telugu and Tamil. The art is usually a combination of raised and painted surfaces, with the Hindu god Krishna being the most popular image depicted. In modern times, these paintings have become souvenirs of festive occasions in South India, wall decors, and collectors' items for art lovers.
The major occupation of the inhabitants of the city is tourism and service-oriented industry, while the traditional occupation is agriculture.
Thanjavur is known as the "Rice bowl of Tamil Nadu". Paddy is the crops and the other crops grown are blackgram, banana, coconut, gingelly, ragi, red gram, green gram, sugarcane and maize. The total percentage of land fit for cultivation is 58%. There are three seasons for agriculture in Thanjavur – Kuruvai (June to September), Samba (August to January) and Thaladi (September, October to February, March). The total rice production has been maintained at 10.615 L.M.T and 7.077 L.M.T. The city acts as a focal point for food grains transported from the adjoining areas of the Cauvery Delta. Organic farming is gradually being known to the farmers of Thanjavur. To maximise agricultural produce organic farming is being implemented. Though agriculture is the main economic activity, only 7% of the population is involved in it. There is a lot of agricultural related trading that forms the key economic activity in the city.
Thanjavur is an important centre of silk weaving in Tamil Nadu. There were 200 silk weaving units in the city in 1991 with around 80,000 people working in them. The sarees produced in the villages surrounding Thanjavur are sold in Thanjavur and neighbouring towns. Increasing production costs and competition from large-scale producers have reduced the number of people involved in the production. The city produces bell metal craft like Thanjavur metal plates, bronze images bowls, napkins and powder boxes made of copper and bronze. The city is a major manufacturer of pith works consisting of models of Hindu idols, mosques, garlands and other bird figurines. Manufacture of musical instruments like veena, tambura, violin, mrithamgam, thavil and kanjira is another economic activity in the city.
All major nationalised banks such as State Bank of India, Indian Bank, Central Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Indian Overseas Bank and private banks like ICICI Bank, City Union Bank have their branches in Thanjavur. All these banks have their automated teller machines located in various parts of the city.
According to 2011 census, Thanjavur had a population of 222,943 with a sex-ratio of 1,042 females for every 1,000 males, much above the national average of 929. A total of 19,860 were under the age of six, constituting 10,237 males and 9,623 females. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes accounted for 9.22% and .21% of the population respectively. The average literacy of the city was 83.14%, compared to the national average of 72.99%. There were a total of 78,005 workers, comprising 803 cultivators, 2,331 main agricultural labourers, 2,746 in house hold industries, 65,211 other workers, 6,914 marginal workers, 110 marginal cultivators, 235 marginal agricultural labourers, 322 marginal workers in household industries and 6,247 other marginal workers. As per the religious census of 2011, Thanjavur (M) had 82.87% Hindus, 8.34% Muslims, 8.58% Christians, 0.01% Sikhs, 0.01% Buddhists, 0.06% Jains, 0.11% following other religions and 0.01% following no religion or did not indicate any religious preference.
As of 2008, a total 2,013.34 ha (4,975.1 acres) (55.4%) of the land was used for residential, 11.32 ha (28.0 acres) (3.06%) for commercial, 82.68 ha (204.3 acres) (2.28%) for industrial, 320.2 ha (791 acres) (8.81%) for public & semi public, 108.11 ha (267.1 acres) (2.98%) for educational and 996.85 ha (2,463.3 acres) (27.47%) for agriculture. Tamil is the widely spoken language, with the standard dialect being Central Tamil dialect. Telugu, Thanjavur Marathi and Saurashtra are other languages spoken in the city. Thanjavur is the cultural and political center of the Thanjavur Marathi people. While Hindus form the majority, the city also has a substantial population of Muslims and Christians. Roman Catholics in Thanjavur are affiliated to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tanjore and Protestants are affiliated to the Trichy–Tanjore Diocese of the Church of South India. The workforce is predominantly involved in service industry involving trade and commerce. With the expansion of the city area, the opportunities for agriculture is limited and only 7% of population is involved in it.
The National Highways 67, 45C, 226 and 226 Extn pass through Thanjavur. The city is connected with Chennai, Coimbatore, Erode, Karur, Tirupur, Vellore, Perambalur, Ariyalur, Mysuru, Salem, Cuddalore, Viluppuram, Tiruchirappalli, Madurai, Kumbakonam, Mayiladuthurai, Karaikal, Mannargudi, Pattukkottai, Dindigul, Pudukkottai, Karaikudi, Tirunelveli, Bengaluru, Ernakulam, Nagercoil, Tirupathi, Trivandrum and Ooty through regular bus services. Thanjavur had a single bus terminus located at the heart of the city. An integrated bus terminus, called New Bus stand was constructed in 1997 near Raja Serfoji College to handle the passenger traffic. Thanjavur has a well-maintained sub-urban public transport system. Government and private buses operate frequently between the two bus termini and other towns and villages like Vallam, Budalur, Mohamed Bunder, Nadukkavery, Pillaiyarpatti, Vallam Pudursethi, Sengipatti, Vadakkur North and Kuruvadipatti.
The railway line connecting Tiruchirappalli Junction railway station to Chennai Egmore via Thanjavur, the Main Line is a historical line established by South Indian Railway Company in 1879. The Great South Indian Railway Company (GSIR) operated a broad gauge rail service between Nagapattinam and Tiruchirapalli via Thanjavur between 1861 and 1875. During 1875 it was converted to a meter gauge line (MG line). Modern day Thanjavur railway junction has three rail heads leading to Tiruchirapalli, Kumbakonam and Thiruvarur. Thanjavur is connected by rail with most important cities and towns in India. There are daily express trains to Chennai, Mysore, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Coimbatore, Erode, Tiruppur, Tiruchirapalli, Salem, Karur, Madurai, Tirunelveli, Rameswaram, Tiruchendur, Cuddalore, Dharmapuri, Viluppuram, Chengalpattu, Mannargudi, Bengaluru, Dindigul, Pudukkottai, Karaikudi, Sivagangai Manamadurai and weekly trains to Tirupati, Nellore, Itarsi, Visakhapatnam, Hubli, Vasco da Gama, Goa, Vijayawada, Nagpur, Jabalpur, Satna, Katni, Allahabad, Varanasi and Bhubaneswar. There are frequent passenger trains from the city to towns like Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Karaikal, Tiruchirapalli, Kumbakonam, Mayiladuthurai and Nagore.
In the early 1990s, Thanjavur was connected with Chennai via the Vayudoot flight service, which was stopped due to poor patronage. A full-fledged air force station is operational at Thanjavur. Thanjavur Air Force Station was to become a major air base by 2012, to handle Fighter, Transport aircraft and also refuelling aircraft. However, the establishment and activation of air base has been delayed as of March 2013. The IAF will base a squadron of its Sukhoi Su-30 Supermaneuverability Fighter aircraft at Thanjavur, making it the first fighter squadron in Tamil Nadu. The nearest airport is Tiruchirapalli International Airport. The nearest Seaport is located at Nagapattinam.
The municipality of Tanjore was created in 1866 as a third grade municipality as per Town Improvements Act 1865 and initially consisted of 12 members. The number was increased to 18 in 1879 and 24 in 1883. In 1897, the members were empowered to elect a Municipal Chairperson to lead them. Tanjore was upgraded to a second grade municipality in 1933 and first grade in 1943. Since 1983, Thanjavur has been a special grade municipality. a As of 2008, the municipality covers an area of 36.33 km2 (14.03 sq mi) and has a total of 51 members. The functions of the municipality are devolved into six departments: General, Engineering, Revenue, Public Health, Town planning and the Computer Wing. All these departments are under the control of a Municipal Commissioner who is the supreme executive head. The legislative powers are vested in a body of 62 members, one each from the 62 wards. The legislative body is headed by an elected Chairperson assisted by a Deputy Chairperson.
On 10 April 2013, the state government announced in the Assembly that Thanjavur municipality will be upgraded to a Municipal corporation. Thanjavur City Corporation is likely to have an area of 110.27 km2 (42.58 sq mi) of area, with a population of 3,20,828 and an income of ₹411.8 million (US$6.4 million). The villages Pudupattinam, Nanjikottai, Neelagiri, Melaveli, Pillaiyarpatti, Ramanathapuram, Pallieri, Vilar and Inathukanpatti are likely to be added to the municipal corporation limits. Thanjavur became City Corporation on February 19, 2014.
Thanjavur comes under the Thanjavur State Assembly Constituency and it elects a member to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly once every five years. From the 1977 elections, the assembly seat was won by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) six times during the 1977, 1980, 1989, 1996, 2001 and 2006 elections, the Indian National Congress party once during the 1984 elections and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) twice during the 1991 and 2011 elections. M. Karunanidhi, who served as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for a record five terms, was elected from the Thanjavur assembly constituency in the 1962 elections.
Thanjavur is also a part of the Thanjavur Lok Sabha constituency and elects a member to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Parliament of India, once every five years. The Lok Sabha seat has been held by the Indian National Congress for Seven terms during 1951–56, 1957–62, 1962–1967, 1980–84, 1984–1989, 1989–91 and 1991–96, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam for Seven terms during 1967–71, 1971–77, 1996–98, 1998–99, 1999-04, 2004–09 and 2009–present and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam for one term during 1977–80. R. Venkataraman, who served as the President of India from 1987 to 1992, was elected from the Thanjavur Lok Sabha constituency in the 1951 elections.
Law and order in the city is maintained by the Thanjavur sub division of the Tamil Nadu Police, headed by a Deputy Superintendent (DSP). The Thanjavur district level police administration is headed by a Deputy Inspector General of Police, whose office is located in the city. There are six police stations in the city, one of them being an all-women police station. There are special units like prohibition enforcement, district crime, social justice and human rights, district crime records and special branch that operate at the district level police division headed by a Superintendent of Police (SP).
Thanjavur has a total of four Universities, namely the Tamil University, SASTRA University, PRIST University and Periyar Maniammai University. The Tamil University is a state run institute, started during 1981 and obtained its statutory recognition from the University Grants Commission in 1983. It is the only one of its kind for the Tamil language doing higher research in Tamilology and advanced study in various allied branches like linguistics, translation, lexicography, music, drama and manuscriptology.
Thanjavur has a total of 15 arts, science & management colleges and nine engineering colleges. The Thanjavur Medical College was established in 1961 and is one of the oldest medical colleges in Tamil Nadu. The Paddy Processing Research Centre (PPRC), which later became the Indian Institute of Crop Processing Technology (IICPT) in 2008, is a hub for food processing research. The Saraswati Mahal Library which dates back to the end of the 16th century and the Central Library, managed by the district administration are the two most prominent libraries in the city.
There are 20 registered schools in Thanjavur, catering to the primary, secondary and higher secondary educational needs of the city. St. Peter's Higher Secondary School at Thanjavur was established by Rev. C F Schwartz during 1784. Originally established as a college, it was the first school in South India which taught English to the local populace. St. Antony's Higher Secondary School, established in 1885 by the Diocese of Thanjavur, is one of the oldest schools in Thanjavur district. Christian Missionaries played a prominent role in promoting English education in Thanjavur. Kalyanasundaram Higher Secondary School, established in 1891, is one of the oldest schools in the city.
Electricity supply to Thanjavur is regulated and distributed by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB). The city along with its suburbs is a part of Trichy Electricity Distribution Circle. Water supply is provided by the Thanjavur Corporation from the Vadavar Canal, supplied through overhead tanks located in various parts of the city. During the 2000–01 period, a total of 31 million litres of water was supplied everyday for households in the city.
About 110 metric tonnes of solid waste are collected from Thanjavur every day by door-to-door collection and subsequently the source segregation and dumping is carried out by the sanitary department of the Thanjavur Corporation. The coverage of solid waste management had an efficiency of 100% as of 2001. The underground drainage system covers 70% of the city and the remaining sewerage system for disposal of sullage is through septic tanks, open drains and public conveniences. The Corporation maintains a total of 155 km (96 mi) of storm water drains: 53.27 km (33.10 mi) surfaced drains and 101.73 km (63.21 mi) unlined drains.
There are 37 hospitals and seven clinical labs in Thanjavur that take care of the health care needs of the citizens. There are a total of 9,745 street lamps: 492 sodium lamps, 2,061 mercury vapour lamps, 7,180 tube lights and twelve high mast beam lamps. The Corporation operates three markets, namely the Serfoji Market, Amarar Swaminathan Market and Kamaraj Market and another market, the Subramaniya Swami Koil Market, is maintained by the Subramania Swami Temple authority. Thanjavur comes under the Thanjavur Telecom circle of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), India's state-owned telecom and internet services provider. Apart from telecom, BSNL also provides broadband internet service. The Regional Passport office, Trichy, operates a Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) in Thanjavur, which PSK covers the Nagappattinam, Thiruvarur, Thanjavur, Pudukkottai, and Ariyalur revenue districts.