Unique Arts

Thanjavur is Called the ‘Cradle of Arts’  

9 Reasons Why Thanjavur is Called the ‘Cradle of Arts’ in Tamil Nadu

Thanjavur is known for being home to some of the most famous historic structures in Tamil Nadu, including a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Brihadeeswarar Temple.

The reasons for Thanjavur being the “South India’s cradle of Arts” are as follows:   

1.Birthplace of the ‘Trinity of Carnatic Music’  

Thanjavur being the ‘Birthplace of Carnatic Music’ took its pride for legendaries born. The region around the town was home to three of Carnatic music’s greatest composers/saints – Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, Syama Sastri, and Muthuswami Dikshithar, who would together come to be called the ‘Trinity of Carnatic Music’. The three composers were contemporaneous to each other, having lived and composed in the second half of the 19th century. Saint Thyagaraja, in particular, is credited with popularising the art form and bringing it to the masses.  

2. The historical centre of culture  

While the history of art and poetry in Tamil Nadu dates back to the Sangam era, centred in Madurai, records suggest Thanjavur too has a history dating back nearly two millennia.The historical importance of Thanjavur illumined light in the second millineum under the rule of Chola Kings.The era is well known for its poetry,dance and sculpture.But it took a long step in architecture which is obviously seen in the sculptures of Brahadeeswara Temple under the rule of Raja Raja Chola.  

3.Confluence of Cultures  

What really sets this historic city apart is the fact that over the course of the second millennia, it was ruled by at least five different dynasties and empires, such as the Vijayanagara Empire, Nayaks of Thanjavur, and the Maratha empire. It was the confluence of these various empires and their cultures that shaped the art forms of Thanjavur. While the Vijayanagara kings were famous for their patronage of the arts and influenced local architecture through maintenance of historic structures, the Maratha kings brought in their own architectural and artistic styles through palaces and other structures.  

4. Tanjore Dolls  

Eventhough the art of “Doll making” goes back centuries,one of the prominent varieties are the Bobblehead dolls which are native to this region. The tradition of making and displaying these dolls is closely associated with the Indian festival of Navaratri in which Tamil families celebrate by decorating their homes with various dolls and idols of gods and goddesses.The Tanjore Dolls have seen a resurgence in interest in recent decades, especially as a handicraft item and have been identified as a geographical indicator. These Bobblehead dolls captivate the eyes of people crossing Thanjavur market opposite to Brahadeeswara Temple.  

5.Sculptures and architecture  

Thanjavur being home to the prominent temples in the state,is noted for its sculpture and architecture.Brahadeeswara Temple is well known not only for its architectural and engineering methods but also set as the benchmark for sculpture-work in Tamil architecture  

6. Bhagavata Mela  

The Melattur Bhagavata Mela is unique in the annals of South Indian performance art tradition in more ways than one. With a history going back to the 16th century, this theatrical performance has been held annually without break for more than 300 years in the tiny hamlet of Melattur in Thanjavur district. While the festival takes place in Tamil heartland, it is performed in Telugu and has its roots in the Kuchipudi style of dance from Andhra Pradesh.The theatrical performance usually portrays Hindu gods and goddesses and revolves around themes of Hindu mythology.  

7. Home of the Tanjore Paintings  

Tanjore Paintings depicts the tradition of South India and is recognised as a geographical indication by the Indian government.It portrays Hindu Gods and Godddesses with glass beeds,semi-precious stones and gold foil embossed on it.

Unique features of Tanjore painting

Tanjore Painting is known for the EMBOSSMENT work.This is the only painting which has areas ELEVATED from the surface and Real Gold Foil –( 22 carat gold) is sticked on to the EMBOSSED areas -.As it is made of real gold it never fades.

Tanjore Paintings on Fabric:
Tanjore Paintings are named after the town of Tanjore or Thanjavur. These paintings which were originally made on wooden planks and then on cloth canvas backed by a wooden frame were adapted onto South Indian silk textiles.The bold and rich look paintings when printed on silk results in a grand outfit suitable for any formal occasion.


Thanjavur Paintings originated in the reign of Vijayanagara Rayas.However, modern forms of Thanjavur paintings evoked from Maratha rulers and was widely practiced between 1676 and 1855 AD.The artists of thse paintings came from the Chitragar and Naidu communities.

Sources of Inspiration

Tanjore paintings took the form of depiction of Hindu religious life i.e. gods, goddesses, episodes from religious texts such as the Puranas and even saints.In later years, the Tanjore paintings also included some depictions of Jain, Muslim, Sikh and festivals along with flora and fauna.

The body of the fabric features one main character at the center of the designated area while the corners are bedecked with peripheral characters from the episode.

Tanjore paintings influenced Deccan, Vijayanagara, and Martha, chronologically.

The influence of South Indian Art movements can be seen in the works of legendary artists Raja Ravi Varma and C Kondiah Raju.Tanjore art also inflenced the style of Kalamkari and Tirupati.  

8. Thiruvaiyaru and the Thyagaraja Aradhana   

Thiruvaiyaru Thyagaraja Aradhana acts as the cultural epicentre of Carnatic style of music.Held on the river banks of Cauvery, singers ,musicians and Carnatic music lovers gather at the place to enjoy the kirtans.Particularly,Pancharathna Krithis  led by musical fans and devotees is musical feast rendered to receive the blessings of Thyagaraja Bhagavadhar.  


Bronze Icons

Swamimalai a village in Kumbhakonam in Thanjavur is famous for making bronze icons or “panchaloha” in Chola style.  The Satapathi’s who belong to the “Vishmakarma” community, includes five sub-castes, practices this art: carpenters, blacksmiths, coppersmiths, goldsmiths and sculptors. Around 45-50 families of stapathis, living in Swamimalai village, have been practicing metal casting across generations.

Art Plates

Thanjavur art plate is an artifact and is particularly made in Thanjavur.The art plates are circular in shape made of metals such as silver, copper and bronze. These metals are usually embossed with the figures of gods and goddesses at the centre of the art plate with figures of gods and goddesses embossed at the centre of the plate.This artwork has been registered for the protection under the Geographical indication of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.It is listed at item 63 as “Thanjavur Art Plate” of The Geographical Indications of goods (GI) Act 1999 of the Government of India with the registration confirmed by the Controller General of Patents Designs and Trademarks.
The Thanjavur art plate made in 20th century was displayed at the Government Museum in Thanjavur during 2011. This art plate made of proposed metals had the relief images of lord Nataraja, the sage Pathanjali and the goddess Sivakami in a standing posture over a lotus flower, encrusted at the plate’s central part. And as per the rules and regulations of modern day legislation, those who wish to initiate the art of making ‘Thanjavur art plates’ should be legally registered and certified producer of this craft. Thus the producer must also possess an authorized user logo that has to be imprinted on all the metal art plates, to ascertain its genuine and authentic description.

Bell Metal Lamps

The Vastu Sastra has an entire chapter devoted to the features, classification and production of temple lamps. The  Agamas (scriptures) describe the objects necessary for puja. Details can be obtained in them about the different types of lamps for different types of worship, and how the most important endowments of a devotee to the temple was a lamp. Much of the spirit of worship for the devotee is defined by the ambience created by these traditional lamps.

In Thanjavur Brahadeeswara temple, 10th Century AD Chola emperors endowed details such as 32 cows,92 sheeps,16 buffaloes or three gold sovereigns ,local shepherds for the maintenance of cattle to supply ghee to keep the lamps glowing.The most important centre for artisans practicing this one thousand-year-old craft is Nachiarkoil.The Tamil Nadu handicrafts development corporation ‘Poompuhar’ has a brass and bell metal production centre which imparts training to artisans from Nachiarkoil and many of whom have moved on to set up their own private units

Thanjavur Musical Instruments

Thanjavur Veena is the first Indian instrument to get ‘made in Thanjavur’ tag.

The veena’s history dates back to the Vedic times. Identified with goddess Saraswati, the veena also finds its place in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.  But the current form of the Saraswathi Veena with 24 fixed frets evolved in Thanjavur during the reign of Raghunath Nayak.
The veena is about four feet in length consisting of a large resonator (kudam), a wooden bridge (kudurai), a tapering hollow neck (dandi) and a small resonator. It is unique to Thanjavur because the instrument is made from a particular strain of matured jack fruit tree found only in that area.

And today, even less than 100 artisans in Thanjavur are involved in the profession.
If granted, Thanjavur Veena would become the 19th product to obtain ‘Geographical Indication’ recognition from Tamil Nadu.


Tanjore art have a super power to spread cosmic energy in house as it depicts Indian Mythology too. Let’s join hands and save this art form.
Thanjavur is Called the ‘Cradle of Arts’