- Encounters with locals
- Place or Religious Monument
- Archaeological Site
- Place or Historical Monument
- Unesco World Heritage
- Off the beaten track
Tanjore is on the tourist trail for anyone traveling through Tamil Nadu. It has amazing temples, most of which can be visited. Temples aside, this countryside town is, in itself, a superb place.
That said, what interested me most during my travels in India, was visiting temples that were full of life and activity, such as the one in Madurai. But even so, if you love architecture, sculpture and history then you'll find all you need in Tanjore.
The town of Tanjore is an enjoyable place to stop for a day or two, if you want a break from India's noisy cities. The town has a large selection of guest houses and little restaurants that suit all budgets.
It was in Tanjore that I first discovered the delights of Indian food when on my trip to India. Best thing to do, is to go into the first canteen that catches your eye and discover what typical Indian food tastes like. You'll eat with your hands and your plate will be a big banana leaf. The waiters are happy to serve you and are often surprised to see Westerners in their canteens. A menu to try: Thali. Rice, dhal (lentils), a selection of sauces, both curried and yoghurt based, alongside chutneys. Be careful of the latter...they can be really hot if green chilli has been used! And all served with a pile of chapatis. Even better, you can eat as much as you like. The amused waiters watched me eat throughout my meal. And laughed their heads off when I tried the spicier sauces. They walk around the room holding big platters and continually serve you as they pass your table. Once I was full, I decided to 'nourish' my soul.
The Brihadeeswarar Temple (also known as The Big Temple) is a grandiose, stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built during the Chola Dynasty and is dedicated to Shiva. 66 meters high. Not only is it enormous, but also decorated with elaborate sculptures. A much appreciated moment of peace and quiet. A Hindu priest applied a red tika mark to my forehead. It represents Shiva's third eye and will no doubt protect me and bring me luck up to the end of my days. And as I left, an elephant blessed me. He placed his wet trunk on my head and then took a coin from my hand to give to his keeper. I just love Tanjore!
I managed to escape from the everyday world – in the figurative sense I mean – inside this splendid structure, built in the time of the Chola Empire between the 11th and 13th centuries. More than simply an elegant, refined construction, the whole site impresses, as much for its surface area as for the number of lingams. Fans of architecture will not be disappointed – the temple lives, the temple dances, and it feels good to sit down in the shade of the old stone structures and watch the incessant activity of the faithful, who you may see drawing water from the wells … or answering their cellphones.
Exploring Tanjore when visiting India,is also to walk its streets in search of other temples – the city has around 100 in total – and a wander around the Maratha Palace Museum between two tchai teas and a thali is the perfect way to fill in the gaps in your cultural knowledge!