Thanjavur Royal Palace is an excellent piece of architecture and was initially built by the Nayak rulers in the sixteenth century. Later on the construction was continued by the Maratha rulers. The local people call it ‘Aranmanai’ and it is the official residence of the Bhonsle family. The palace is open to the public from 9 am to 5 pm and the entry fee for Indians is Rs.5 and for foreign nationals Rs.50. There are two large and impressive gateways to the palace on the North and East, through which I could see many tourists entering the palace. Walking through the courtyard we entered a large hall with many pillars. The Palace complex consists of Sardar Mahal Palace, Queen’s courtyard and Durbar Hall.
First we went to the Sardar Mahal Palace. It contained the Raja Serfoji Memorial Hall and the Royal Palace Museum. The Royal palace Museum is open from 9.00 am to 1.00 pm and from 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm. It tells you a lot about the history of Thanjavur, its rich heritage and culture. I could see many statues, paintings, manuscripts and much more. The bronze statues of Cholas were from 9th to 13th century. We also saw some idols from the temples of Gangaikondacholapuram and Brihadeswara. There were also many works of glass which looked very attractive.
The Maratha Durbar Hall looked very beautiful with many pillars and fresco paintings on the ceiling and stucco paintworks. We saw many beautiful paintings decorating the walls of the hall. On the southern side of the palace was Goodagopuram, which served as a watch tower during the rule of the kings of Thanjavur. It is about 190 ft high and has eight storeys. Madamaligai is a tower that rises from the roof of the palace and it is believed that the Nayak rulers prayed here.
Saraswati Mahal Library is another attraction here and was established in 1700 AD. I could see many palm leaf manuscripts in Sanskrit and other vernacular language, printed books and journals. They were well kept and awe inspiriting with their antiquity. The palace is said to have many secret underground passages used in emergencies.