The Thanjavur palace complex was our next stop not very far from the Brihadeeshwara temple itself. Do note that it too closes from 1pm – 2pm for lunch, so do plan your trip accordingly.
Saraswati Mahal Library : This is definitely a unique legacy of the truly interesting character the King Serfoji II seems to be. A collection of books, manuscripts, palm leaves of everything from the epics to botany books of the time, Chinese torture methods, physiology. Apparently when the English were taking valuables away from the palace, the King’s only request was to leave his collection of books right there in Tanjore for the future generations to read.It’s quite a fascinating. Colorfully decorated exterior make it an attractive pit stop even for the not-so-avid reader.
Just beside it is a small theater where the history of the monuments in Tanjore is shown every hour which is worth a watch for a short introduction to its grandeur of the architecture and legacy.
Art Gallery : A statue of the King Serfoji welcomes visitors at the entrance to this gallery of bronze and stone carvings from the Chola , Nayak and Maratha dynasties that ruled Tanjavur at various times.
Multiple areas in this palace complex are earmarked as museums/galleries and they are worth exploring and wondering about the lives and times of the past. The Nayaks Durbar hall now houses bronze images, a hall just for Nataraja depictions in bronze, and the Sefoji Museum found with some effort was one with the attire and weaponry of the Maratha royalty.
Despite all of these varied displays, perhaps the the most unexpected one was on the upper floor of one of the courtyards of the Arsenal Tower – a skeleton of a 32 ft long whale found washed ashore Tranquebar. It is seemingly both off place and apt at the same time.
The Tanjore Maratha palace was my favorite of the structures in this complex. It was a bigger explosion of hues though reminiscent of the Rangeen mahal in Bidar with exquisite colors , that could cheer up the most dreary day.
We made our way out and there was still daylight, so like we hadn’t seen enough museums we decided to stop at the Collectorate museum on our way back that we just happened to notice.
Something one can’t miss as soon as one enters is a spiral stairwell constructed more than a 100 years ago, which a handrail only on one side and a pole on the other- making it interesting and confusing as one climbed up.
It was more a museum-in-the-making with some items up for display in different halls – information on rice cultivation, a collection of musical instruments and even more stone sculptures. However the most interesting part of the museum was from the terrace, a view of the 3 towers of the Brihadeeshwara temple with which we had started the morning, and what will always be the grandest display of all – a sunset amidst the gorgeous backdrop of the sky. Follow that up with getting Anand to finally try the famed drink Jigarthanda, and one couldn’t expect a better end to the day.
Up next : Tamil Nadu : Of abandoned seaside towns and gilded limbs of a God