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Tanjore Palace Tour-Famous Maratha Heritage

Hotel Sangam
Hotel Sangam
Address: 19, V.G.P. Street,Tanjore
Location: District, Tamilnadu State, India
Property Type: Business And Leisure Hotel

Hotel Oriental Towers
Hotel Oriental Towers
Address: Tanjore
Location: Tamilnadu, India
Property Type: Business And Leisure Hotel

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About Tanjore Maratha Marvels

Maratha Marvels himself a teetotaller. In a glass showcase are several minor antiquities including small copper coins minted by the Tanjore Marathas.

On the advice of the Prince, we visited the Maratha royal graveyard at the periphery of the town. The memorials erected here, in honour of the different kings and queens, are elaborate structures resembling a typical Hindu temple.

After Tanjore, we stopped at Orattanad. A Maratha chattram, named after Muktambal, one of the queens of Sarfoji II, is located here. Shaped like a chariot, it displays a profusion of religious sculptures in stucco and wood.

After Orattanad, we halted at a few obscure hamlets including Rajamadam and Sethubavachattram. Each of these places possesses a typical Maratha chattram. Many of the chattrams consisted of pillared dormitory halls enclosing open courtyards or flowers gardens. One could imagine that these chattrams would have been, during the pre-motor car age, veritable oases for the weary traveller during the scorching summers.

Tourists attraction of Tanjore Heritage

As we trekked along the endless coastline, cursing the unbearable afternoon heat, we suddenly found ourselves in a grove of coconut trees. The atmosphere around the trees was unbelievably cool; a strong breeze wiped off the perspiration on our foreheads. And, hidden between these trees, right on the beach, is the tallest and the most historic monument built by the Tanjore Marathas-the Manora, an eight-storeyed miniature fortress, hexagonal in shape and skirted by a moat, all well-preserved by the State archaeology Department. The structure was constructed by Sarfoji II in 1815 in honour of Britains victory over Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo.

We climbed up the fortress through narrow spiral stairways and from the top, one could see miles and miles of the serene, sun-kissed beach. The place is free from maddening crowed mainly because very few seem to know that the Manora is a unique specimen of architecture and is the only structure outside Europe erected in honour of the British. To us, Manora was the most memorable of our experiences. It was worth the long hours of arduous travel.

Imperial, Yet Secular

The Chola dynasty, in the medieval period, which ruled for about 430 years (850-1279 A.D.) brought glory to the rulers and the ruled in more ways than one. It is true that the Cholas were staunch Saivites. But that did not deter them from fostering other beliefs. They were truly secular in their outlook. While waging wars and occupying enemy or conquered territories, there were some excesses. These acts of aberrations have however to be dismissed as over-enthusiasm or as an attempt to leave a mark of their belief, rather than acts of vandalism or imposing their faith on other or trying to convert people from one faith to another.

Mr. S.R. Balasubramanian in his book Early Chola temples says that according to tradition, there were 275 Siva temples and 108 Vaishnavaite temples in the ninth century A.D. in Tamil Nadu. Of these, 230 temples were in the original Chola Desa (Page XV). This statement alone could make the Cholas the greatest single dynasty, which had built the largest number of temples in India perhaps in the world.

Thirumangai Alwar one of his hymns (Thirunaraiyur Pathikam-8) says that Kochchengannan built 70 temples along both banks of the Kaveri. Thirumangai Alwars period is reportedly mid 8th century A.D. Appar in one of his songs mentions 78 temples but does not mention the kings name. Appars period is about 7th century A. D.

There is no reason to doubt the veracity of the statement in these two songs of the Saints; one thing is obvious, namely, both during the time of Thirumangai Alwar and Appar, there were many temples. As they focus that they were not made of granite; it may also be true that they were not as big as they are now, or that they did not have such beautiful sculpture or painting. But, one thing is certain, that is, above all, there was temple worship and people had faith in a Supreme Power. People preached good conduct, love and affection for one another for better living.

That the temples in the pre-Pallava days were made of mud, bricks, wood, mortar, etc. is well known. Sembian Madevi, the grand old lady of the Chola dynasty, mother of Uttama Chola and queen of Kandaraditya Chola, had a large number of such temples renovated and rebuilt with granite stones (late 10th century and early 11th century A.D.).

Similarly, the temple heritage prior to the Pallava period and during the early Chola period were not as big as we see them today. Except those like Brihadishwarar temple, Tanjore, Gangai Konda Cholapuram temples and such masterpieces, many temples were renovated, expanded by succeeding rulers.

The sculpture also underwent a progressively more beautiful form. There is a wide difference between the sculpture and painting of early centuries of the Christian era to the medieval period. The growth is breathtaking. The engineering and architectural skill also showed considerable improvement. If some of the temples are still intact after about a thousand years, it is no mean achievement. The range and the skill were such, that the knowledge and experience were used to build a network of storage tanks for irrigation in Chola Nadu. The Kallanai (grand Anaicut) near Trichy is about 1000 feet long and measures about 60 feet at the base and about 18 feet on top. This help in regulating the excess flow of water in the river Kaveri and permits diversion to Kollidam (Coleroon)- a surplus drain. British irrigation experts who had occasion to study the tanks-embanked reservoirs, frequently commented upon the near completeness with which surface irregularities had been exploited for irrigation long before their time and found no scope for any improvement or expansion. (Pesant State and Society in Medieval South India-Burton Stein page 24).

Thus, while acknowledging the lact that the Cholas built grand temples, bestowing their personal attention, wealth and all other resources at their command, they were equally tolerant about other faiths. Raja Raja Chola-I built temples not only for Siva but also for Vishnu. He permitted a Buddha Vihar to be built at Nagapattinam and also donated large grants. Some of his chieftains donated money to build Jain temples (ibid-page 194).

During Rajaraja Cholas time and thereafter during Rajendra Cholas rule, there have been expeditions across the sea. Ceylon was under the spell of Chola rule during the 11th century. During this period, the Chola rulers damaged the Buddhist worship places particularly at Anuradapura.

The Chola also built a Siva temple at Polannuruva, in a place where there was a Buddhist Vihar. Such indiscreet acts of religious Vandalism heritage cannot be directly ascribed to the Cholas or their policies. These were actions undertaken by over-zealous subordinated, perhaps, to please their Kings.

Kundavai, Raja rajas daughter, built a Jain temple at Tirumalavdi in Tiruchirapalli district. Kulottunga-I is reported to have donated land to a Jain temple at Kuhur in Tanjore District. Like these, scores of references are available to indicate that the Chola Kings, their family members, and senior officers of the King had donated gifts to Jain and Buddhist places of worship. This was the position despite the fact that the Hindu revival movement was already gaining ground and Buddhism and Jainism were on the wane in South India at that time.

Kandaraditta Chola (950-957 A.D.) was a devout Saivite. But, his faith in Saivism did not stop him from patronising Jain and Vishnu temples. There was a Jain temple in his name at Pallichandal (South Arcot District, Tamil Nadu). Similarly, there was a Thirumal temple known as Kandaraditta Vinnagaram (page 76-Cholamandalathu Varlarru Nayakarkalin Sirpankalum, Oviyankalum Kudvayil Balasubramanian, Tamil University.

In spite of the striking differences between the various religions of that time, there was a general attitude of tolerance and mutual respect. This is evidenced by the fact that Jains authored a good number of great Tamil works like Sivaka Sinthamani. But for a cordial atmosphere, such literary work was not possible. Also, it indicates that the society was willing to accept and promote such literary works from any quarters without reservation.

The Society being what it was in those periods, it shows that the ruling kings were favourably disposed to such religious tolerance. On the other hand, if the Kings did not show any neutrality or tolerance in such matters, one can hardly expect the people to follow suit. Thus, Cholas in Particulars were secular in their religious outlook. Compare this with later-day Muslim rulers who imposed tax on non-Muslims, and built mosques near temples just to harass Hindus.

Ghola Kings were followers of Saivism. But, they had no ill will against other beliefs. Kulothunga Chola-III (1178-1218) who ruled for 40 long years encouraged Vaishnavism as well. He donated a village for the Vishnu temple in Vellore.

Sudamani Varman began building a Buddhist Vihar at Nagapattinam and this was completed by his son Maravijayathunga varman of Kadaram. This Vihar was known as Sudamani Vihar. But Rajaraja Chola did not mind this Vihar to be named as Rajaraja perumpalli and donated Anaimangalam Village-with a potential yield of 8943 kalam of paddy (about 450 tons) from 97 veli wet land (about 646 acres).

It is not as if the Cholas were found to be secular in their homeland alone. They were so even in foreign countries, which were part of their kingdom. When Ceylon (Sri Lanka) was annexed to the Chola Empire, a lot of Change took place in the Island-nation. It is true that the marching army had destroyed the Anuradhapura palace and other buildings including some religious edifices. This must have been due to both the military compulsions and over-zealous local commanders of the king. Otherwise, Tamil inscriptions dating 9th and 10th Centuries which register donations to Buddhist institutions do not make any sense. (A concise history of Ceylon-University of Ceylon Press Board (page 173).