Thanjavur Maratha Palace
Located in the heart of Tanjavur town, The Tanjavur Maratha Palace is currently the residence of the Bhonsle family that occupied Tanjore from 1674 to 1855. The palace locally called Aranmanai, was originally built by the Nayaks but after their defeat against the Marathas, the palace was taken over by the Marathas. The Department of Archaeology protects the important monuments present in the palace complex.
History of the Thanjavur Maratha Palace
The construction of Tanjavur Palace began in 1534 during the reign of Sevappa Nayak, and was completed in 1535. The Palace was called “Sivagangai Fort” and was under the Nayak family until April 1674, when the Maratha ruler Venkoji captured it. The Marathas, who expanded the complex, used it until 1799 after which it was finally annexed by the British.
Inside the Palace Complex
The Palace is divided into eight different sections – Royal Palace Museum, Serfoji Memorial Hall, Darbar hall, Saraswathi Mahal Library, The Art Gallery, Bell Tower, Sangeet Mahal and Sarjah Madi. Once past the main gate, you first reach the Ticket counter wherein you can pay for the entry tickets and camera fee. Separate tickets counters are available outside the Royal Palace Museum and Serfoji Memorial Hall.
Royal Palace Museum:
The Maratha Palace complex now owned by the Bhosle family has the Royal Palace Museum as its first section. It has a collection of royal headgears, weaponry, beautiful sculptures and many more items used by the royals.
Maharaja Serfoji Memorial Hall:
This hall is right next to the Palace Museum. Tourists have to get separate entry and camera tickets at the entrance. This hall commemorates the Maratha King Serfoji II (1798-1832). The place is a large hall with crafts items and photographs.
The Maratha Durbar Hall:
The Maratha Durbar Hall is the royal court hall which currently houses the Tanjavur Art Gallery. The hall has a beautifully painted ceiling and walls adorned by several paintings of yesteryear Maratha rulers and images of deities such as Shiva, Vishnu, Indra with their consort.
The Saraswathi Mahal located outside the palace, is one of the oldest and finest libraries in India. A library found inside the Saraswathi Mahal displays selected books.The library has more than a million manuscripts in various languages including Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi.
Art Gallery (Nayak Palace Courtyard/Arsenal Tower):
This place was originally the Nayak Palace, built by the Nayaks. The palace was later converted into a museum with a wide collection of statues, weapons, old coins etc. In front of the palace is a big courtyard providing an extensive view of the building.
The Koodagopuram/Arsenal Tower, to the south of the courtyard, is a pyramidal structure with eight floors and is 192 feet tall. It was initially constructed in the year 1645 with two floors by the Nayaks, and was later renovated and finished by the Marathas in the year 1855. It was predominantly used for military purposes – second floor for the King’s martial arts training, first floor as a watchtower and remaining floors for storage of arms and ammunition.
The Maadamaaligai/Bell Tower:
This is a rectangular mansion as its name rightly suggests in Tamil language. The tower has seven floors and was once used as a time teller using the mechanical bell that rung every hour from the top.
Sangeet Mahal is an indoor auditorium located opposite to the Art gallery. The hall was built by Sevappa Nayak in the year 1600. It was so acoustically designed so as to bring out the pure sound of music.
Sarjah Madi (Sadar Madi):
The place is located near to the main ticket counter. It has admirable five circular balconies, each in a different size.
Intriguing Features of the Palace
- The complex having been built by the Nayaks as a fort, and not a palace. The primitive and narrow staircases with short steps, sharp turns and low ceilings, all indicate how the complex was built to disrupt the enemies’ rapid advances.
- The palace encompasses at the least 3 hidden chambers, the access to which has now been prohibited by the Government. The chambers is said to have secret interconnecting doors and are believed to have been used as torture chambers and to conduct discreet meetings.
- The palace also has two underground passages that were designed as a getaway route during war. One of the tunnels, a mile long, is said to be connecting the palace to Brihadeeswara Temple.
- The Chandramouleshwar Temple is the royal family’s temple located on the ground floor. It is a very modest temple with a Shiva Lingam and two Nandhis (sacred bulls) in front. It was constructed by Achuthappa Nayak in the year 1589. The deity is worshipped every morning by the Royal families.
- The Arsenal Tower houses a 92 feet skeleton of “Whalebone Whale” also known as the Baleen Whale. The dead whale is said to have been washed ashore on 26th February 1955 in Tharangambadi Beach. The bones were soon after brought into the palace and preserved.
- Audiovisual displays are available on an hourly basis between 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM showcasing the history, main attractions of Tanjavur.
Timings & Entry Fee
The Royal Palace is open everyday from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM , remains closed during lunch hours and is closed on public holidays.
Entry Fee – Rs. 30, Still Camera Rs. 30, Video Camera Rs. 300
How to reach Thanjavur Maratha Palace
Tanjavur is well connected to other cities. There are frequent local buses to Tanjavur, and it also has direct buses from Hyderabad, Ernakulam and Bangalore. Tanjavur Junction is the nearest rail head and Trichy International Airport is the nearest Airport.
Tourists are guaranteed a vivid experience through the display of colourful paintings, sculptures, ancient manuscripts, Indian art and history. The place is a storehouse of knowledge and information for History enthusiasts. With the assistance of guides, make sure you leave no stones unturned while exploring the amazing architecture and paintings of the primeval times.