My Travel Resolution.
discover hidden myths, taste diverse food and sleep below a sky full of shooting stars and galaxies every night
It was 12:20 am (right in the middle of the night) when my train from Rameshwaram finally reached Tanjore. According to the schedule, it was supposed to arrive at 11:25 pm, so it was more than 45 minutes late. This concerned me a bit, since I preferred to do solo travel in Tamil Nadu and would have to negotiate the dark and unfamiliar railway station by myself.

Normally, I'd take an auto rickshaw from the station to my hotel. However, to be on the safe side so late at night, I'd arranged for my hotel to pick me up (cost 300 rupees). I was staying at Hotel Gnanam and paying 2,000 rupees per night, plus tax, for a single room. It was at the upper end of my budget, and I really didn't want to pay so much.

However, I figured (hoped!) that since it was one of the best hotels in town, it would be reliable and not leave me stranded. Fortunately, the driver was waiting patiently for me. I didn't have great expectations of the hotel, as it receives mixed reviews on Tripadvisor, but was pleasantly surprised. The photos on the hotel's website were an accurate reflection of what my room looked like and it was attractive, clean, and comfortable.

I even woke up to find that I had a spacious balcony and that was an unexpected bonus! Check in and check out was smooth, there was free wireless Internet, and the staff were mostly friendly. The only thing I wasn't too pleased about was that the buffet breakfast was vegetarian, meaning no egg.

things to do in thanjavur

Since it was after 1 am when I got to sleep, I spent the morning relaxing and planning my day before heading out to do some sightseeing after lunch. The main attractions in Tanjore are the Royal Palace and its museums, and Brihadishvara Temple (affectionately known as the Big Temple). Both were situated around a kilometer from the hotel, in different directions.

I decided to walk, using Google Maps on my smartphone. I had resisted getting a smartphone until earlier in the year but was fast beginning to realize how useful it was. I would be able to roam the streets without getting lost or having to ask for directions, wonderful!

1. Thanjavur Royal Palace

Sadly, I found the Royal Palace compound to be really badly maintained (although some renovation works were going on), and it was frustrating that multiple tickets and camera fees were required to enter different parts of it. For foreigners, tickets cost 50 rupees plus 100 rupees for cameras, which gave the impression that they were trying to extract money. The highlight there is the painted ceiling of the Palace's Durbar Hall.

2. Saraswati Mahal Library

The Saraswati Mahal Library, with ancient texts from the medieval period, was dark and airless. Neither lights nor fans were on, so maybe the electricity wasn't working. It made it uncomfortable and difficult to see the exhibits, so I didn't linger.

3. Thanjavur Art Gallery

The Art Gallery contained Chola bronze statues and stone sculptures, and in another section some odd bones of a whale. There was also a bell tower, which could be climbed. If you're interested in handicrafts and Tanjore paintings, there are plenty of shops selling them in the streets next to the Palace.

The attractively restored blue Tanjore Hi boutique heritage hotel is also located there. However, according to many guests, street noise is a problem, as it's situated on the roadside (it's worth grabbing a bite to eat at its rooftop restaurant though).

4. Brihadeeswara Temple

The real masterpiece, of course, was the Big Temple (open from 6 am to noon, and 4 pm to 8:30 pm). It's more than 1,000 years old and the crowning glory of Chola dynasty temple architecture. My first impression was, Is this really real, and if so, how can it be possible?

Not only is the temple HUGE, it's constructed solely out of stone and has intricate sculpture work on it. It's hard to comprehend how it could've been made. The temple is a Shiva temple, with a large black 12-foot lingam inside and a similarly large Nandi outside. There are many smaller shrines in the complex as well.

It is worth spending a few hours there and seeing the puja at sunset. I enjoyed simply sitting on the grass in the temple's sprawling grounds and soaking up the atmosphere. It was after dark when I made my way back to my hotel, around 10 minutes’ walk away along busy roads and through a market area.

It didn't take me long to realize that a youngish man was taking the same route as me and at a similar pace. Some of the way I walked very briskly, and at other times slowly so I could check the directions on Google Maps and get my bearings. Every time I looked, he always appeared near me. He remained with me all the way to my hotel.

Was he following me? I'm not sure. Was I scared? Not really. Although I was alarmed enough to notice, I didn't think there was much he could do in a very public area. Regardless, I was glad to reach my hotel! (I have been followed by men before in India, both in Kolkata and Mumbai, and based on experience they move off promptly when aggressively confronted).

5. Kumbakonam

The region of Kumbakonam has been inhabited since the third century BC. During that time the powerful reign of Chola dynasty rose and this town was always a military and religious reference point in the region of Tamil Nadu.

In Kumbakonam and its surroundings there are almost 200 temples, in spite of their recent size, and for this reason it is known as the City of Temples. We chose the following: Nagesvara Swami, Sarangapani, Kumbersvara and Ramasvami. I grabbed a map and observed the position of the different temples.

We reached the kumbakonam market and asked a rickshaw to leave us in the most western temple of all to continue the journey in the direction of the bus station-my final destination in the city-while visiting the other temples that are disseminated by the interior of Kumbakonam.

As usual in this escapade in Tamil Nadu, hardly anyone came to harass me with their persuasive arts to sell me something or propose as a guide. Of the three that I visited the one that surprised me the most was the Adi Kumbeswarar Temple. The town is quiet taking into account the standards in Tamil Nadu and I have a well deserved night of rest.

Tired after another extensive day of walking, I went to bed early, ready to get the train to Chidambaram the next morning and get yo Tranquebar, 35 kilometers from Chidambaram, a port built by the Dutch.

The rickhaw who had to come looking for us has not appeared. By chance another stood at the door of the hotel, where we waited. It leaves us at the bus station. We bought breakfast, a maaza and some cookies. We left on time, with the music at full volume. We went through Sirkali.
Kalyan Kalyan Author


  1. If we ever have the opportunity to visit we will certainly know the tourist places to visit and see some wonderful places.

  2. It sounds like you had quite an adventure, and not all of it truly exceptional. I would love to travel to some of these places, but would be disheartened if it did not meet my expectations.

  3. Sounds like such an amazing place! I love the picture of the temple and I would love to see more images of all the things that you explored.

  4. What an adventure! The picture is stunning and the Big Temple sounds amazing.

  5. Even the Saraswati Mahal Library was dark and airless. I would love to see the ancient texts there!

  6. It sounds like and amazing please and learn all about the history of it. thanks for sharing this i really learned alot.

  7. This is a bit of an interesting narrative. I have never been to this part of the world though but I would want to be. Thanks for sharing, will keep in mind everything that you have pointed out.

  8. The Big Temple sounds like a wonderful place to visit and the marketplaces sound like fun. I'm glad that the man following you turned out to not be trouble - the last thing you need when you're a solo traveller.

  9. Now I'm curious to learn and see more of this place; the big temple sounds like an amazing place to see. Why not share some more photos?

  10. Thank you for sharing your experience...I've never heard of these places!


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