Thiruvaiyaru

Situated on the banks of River Cauvery, this town lies on the outskirts of Thanjavur. The main attraction is Panchanatheeswar Temple that is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Surrounded by lush paddy fields and groves, the temple has a very serene atmosphere. Devotees can also take a dip in the Cauvery river here, which is believed to absolve one of their sins. Another attraction is Thiruvaiyaru Temple, which is one of the seven temples called Sapta Staanam. This temple is associated with the wedding of Nandi (bull god), the mythical vehicle of Lord Shiva.

 

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Thiruvaiyaru

Tiruvarur

The town of Tiruvarur is renowned as the birthplace of Saint Thyagaraja, the composer of Carnatic music and one of the members of the musical trinity. The main attraction is Thagyarajaswami Temple, one of the largest in South India. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is noted for inscriptions and sculptures that tell the story of King Manu Neethi Cholan, who ordered for his own son to be crushed under the wheels of a cart because he had killed a calf by driving his carriage negligently over it. Lord Shiva is said to have intervened at that point and saved the boy and revived the calf. The temple hosts a grand Chariot Festival in March-April every year. It is a larger than life celebration and a must-visit. Adjacent to the temple is the Kamalalayam Tank in a 25-acre area and since 1997 the State Tourism Department has been providing boating services there. Thiruveezhimalai, Thirupampuram, Tirumeichur, Srivanjiyam, Tillaivilagam and Thirukkannamangai are some other temples worth a visit.

Tiruvarur

Schwartz Church

One of the oldest churches in the region, Schwartz Church is an important landmark of the city. Noted for its neoclassical, 18th century architecture, it houses sculptures made by renowned Italian sculptor, John Flaxman. It was commissioned in 1779 AD by Raja Serfoji II, the last ruler of Bhonsle dynasty. It was his token, a way of showing respect for his tutor CV Schwartz, who was a Danish missionary. The missionary was also an expert in Tamil language and had taught the Maratha king during his childhood. During the colonial era, the church had been used as a prayer hall for the British military. When CV Schwartz died, the king also commissioned a statue to be made in his memory and took the finances of the church under his wing.

Schwartz Church

Swamimalai

Lying in close proximity to Thanjavur, Swamimalai Temple, dedicated to Lord Murugan, is perched on a hillock. One needs to climb 60 steep steps to reach it that represent 60 years of the Hindu Years Cycle. Legend says that Lord Murugan himself taught the meaning of the pranaya mantra meant to worship his father Lord Shiva, at this site once. Swamimalai is also believed to be one of the six holy abodes of Lord Murugan. It is known as the Padai Veedugal (Battle Camps) of Lord Murugan. There is also a shrine of Lord Shiva situated just a little below the temple on the hillock. The best time to visit the temple is during Temple Car Festival, held in April and Panguni Uthiram Festival organised during the month of March.

Swamimalai

Darasuram

Lying on the outskirts of the city, the town of Darasuram is best known for the Airavateshwara Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple was built in the 12th century by Raja Raja Chola, a great Chola ruler. It houses shrines of Goddess Parvati, Lord Yama (god of death), Lord Subramanya and Goddess Saraswati, apart from an idol of Lord Shiva. Tourists can also admire the sculptured representations of Saptamatrikas and various Shaivite devotees. Right in front of the main shrine is a mandapa (open tent of sorts) of Alankara. The colonnade of piers at the mandapa has square panels on their sides, and each panel is covered in scenes sculpted from Shaivite traditions. On the south end of the mandapa, each base has large stone wheels supporting it and a horse to top it all, giving the mandapa the look of a chariot. During the 14th century, the temple's architectural designs were changed to brick-mortar statues in order to resemble the format used at the Big Temple in Thanjavur.

Darasuram

Mayiladuthurai

Rooted in history, Mayiladuthurai is a popular pilgrimage site. Situated on the banks of River Cauvery, the town is dotted with temples, the most prominent of which is the Mayuranathaswami Temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is worshipped as Mayuranathar, the temple has an interesting legend associated with it. As the story goes, Goddess Parvati had been cursed to be turned into a peahen and she came here to worship Lord Shiva in that form. Thus, the town was named Mayiladuthurai or peacock town. Devotees can also set on a temple trail of nine shrines dedicated to navgraha. These nine temples are dedicated to the nine planets of Hindu astrology, which are Sooryan (Sun), Chandran (Moon), Sevvai (Mars), Budhan (Mercury), Guru (Jupiter), Sukkiran (Venus), Saneeswaran (Saturn), Rahu (North Lunar Node) and Kethu (South Lunar Node).

Mayiladuthurai

Brihadeeswarar Temple / Peruvudaiyar Kovil Temple

Built in 1010 AD by Raja Raja I, a great Chola ruler, the Brihadeeswara (Brihadishwara ) Temple has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Its outer fortifications were later put up by the Nayak rulers, for extra protection. Thanjavur's most prominent landmark, it is also known as Peruvudaiyar Kovil or the ‘Big Temple’. It is a fine example of Chola architecture and was constructed using some of the most advanced techniques of that time. The temple houses inscriptions that give detailed accounts of the town and its life from a 1,000 years ago. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is a towering structure at 212 ft, and houses one of India's tallest shivlings, about 13 ft high. Another highlight is India's second-largest monolith of Nandi (bull god), which is 12 and a half ft high, eight ft long and five ft wide. It stands at the entrance of the temple, as a protector of the land. The Big Temple celebrated its 1000th year of construction in 2010. The major festival celebrated here is Maha Shivaratri during the second week of February.

Brihadeeswarar Temple / Peruvudaiyar Kovil Temple