Thanjavur Art Gallery - 1000 Years Of Indian History

Thanjavur Art Gallery, located in the Thanjavur Palace has an exquisite collection of ancient sculptures and coins. It is officially called the "Raja Raja Chola Art Gallery" and locally known as "Thanjavur Kalaikoodam" (Tamil:தஞ்சாவூர் கலைக்கூடம்). These bronze sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses range from 9th century A.D to 19th century A.D. Some very unique deities and saints can be seen. Early Indian lifestyle, their clothing, ornaments and even hairdo are carved in these statues. Another interesting feature is the collection of old coins. Coins from as early as 300 B.C are exhibited here, which is quite astonishing.
Essential Information:
Address: East Main Street, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India ( 1.2 K.M from Brihadeeswarar Temple )
Phone: +91-4362-239823 
E-mail: Not Available
Timings: 9 A.M to 1 P.M ; 3 P.M to 6 P.M; Open 7 days a week
Entrance Fee: Indians - 5 Rupees; Foreigners - 20 Rupees
Note: Thanjavur Palace has a separate entry fee. Click here to read about Thanjavur Palace
Camera Fee: Still Camera - 30 Rupees; Video Camera - 300 Rupees.
Car Parking: Available; Free
Restrooms: Available
Average Visitor Time: 1-2 Hours
Bronze Parvati - 11th Century A.D
Artifacts are placed in a hall which used to be the Kings' royal court (Durbar Hall). The walls and the ceiling of Durbar hall are superbly ornamented with paintings and statuettes. Even the pillars and arches are decorated with fascinating scenes from Hindu epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. The highlight of the art gallery is of course, the collection of ancient bronze statues. To see the pictures of all the bronze statues, click here. Let us take a look at a few unique ones below:
Enthol Mukkan Emman, 11th Century A.D
Enthol Mukkan Emman (Tamil: எண்தோள் முக்கண் எம்மான்): A very rare depiction of Lord Shiva as a demon. In this form, he has eight shoulders (enthol) and he has opened his third eye (mukkan). If you look closely, you can see two sharp teeth coming out of his mouth. He is shown without any clothes, with 2 serpents around his waist. If you have time and curiosity, try to find out how many snakes are carved in the sculpture. It is said that this is the only statue ever found with a diabolical representation of Shiva.
Rear view of a bronze sculpture, shows ancient Tamil hairdo
Early Tamil Hairdo: I managed to sneak behind the bronze statues, which gave me this remarkable picture. This statue shows the hairdo of a common Tamil man during Raja Raja Chola's time, i.e., 1000 years ago. He has long hair which has beautiful curls at the end. At the top it looks like he is wearing a turban, but it is how he has styled his hair - like a modern day Rastafarian. This hairdo is also shown in paintings of Raja Raja Chola, found in Brihadeeswarar temple.
On the right is the statue of Brahmadhirayar, 10 -11 Century A.D
A fascinating bronze statue titled Brahmadhirayar (Tamil:பிரம்மாதிராயர்) is exhibited, found in 10-11th century A.D. This could be Aniruddha Brahmarayar, a minister of Parantaka Chola II. But more likely, this could also be Krishnan Raman Brahmarayar, the commander-in-chief of  Raja Raja Chola and Rajendra Chola. The portrayal shows that he is an obese man, wearing a loin cloth and minimal ornaments. He has a small tuft of hair styled in the front, typical of Brahmin men at that time.
Ancient burial urns called Mudhumakkal Thazhi - 100 B.C
Mudhumakkal Thazhi: A 6 feet long burial urn made in 1st century B.C is exhibited here. These earthen vessels called "muthumakkal thazhi" were used to bury the dead (or sometimes even people alive?). To read more about this, click here.

There is an excellent collection of old coins, some of them made over 2000 years ago. It is deplorable that they are not being well preserved or arranged in chronological order. To see pictures of the entire coin collection, click here. Below, let us see a few interesting coins.
Pudukkottai Amman Coins also known as "Amman Kaasu" - 1899 A.D
Can coins save a king and his kingdom? Pudukottai Amman Coins are examples of brilliant political and theological propaganda, which saved King Martanda Bhairava Tondaiman's throne. In 1889, King Thondaiman was barely 14 years old and faced a rebellion from his close relatives. Fearing a Coup d'état, his minister Seshayya Sastri came up with an ingenious idea to save the kingdom. According to the plan, Tondaiman announced that the princely state of Pudukottai would be ruled by Goddess Brahadambal. Tondaiman would only act as her "humble servant" and implement her plans.  Furthermore, anybody acting against Goddess Brahadambal's rule would not only be facing charges of rebellion, but also blasphemy. These copper coins were issued in 1889 and distributed all around the state, to spread the message. Needless to say, the trick worked and his enemies were too afraid to overthrow him fearing public backlash.
Paisa copper coins of Tipu Sultan (circa 1787 A.D)
Mysore Tipu Sultan's copper coins (around 1787 A.D). These coins have an elephant figure on one side, and Arabic numerals on the other. Tipu Sultan minted Paisa, Half-Paisa and 1/4 Paisa coins during his regime. To my disappointment, I could not find his gold coins, known as Pagodas. Tipu Sultan's other achievements include inventing rocket artillery, and making Ambalappuzha temple famous overnight. There are plenty of other interesting coins in the art gallery. You can see all the pictures here.
Statue of Raja Serfoji II in the Thanjavur art gallery
As mentioned before, the art gallery is located at what used to be the King's royal court. In the middle of the royal court (durbar hall) is a statue of King Serfoji II, reminding us of the royal scene that would have existed centuries ago. Serfoji was a brilliant King who spoke 10 languages fluently, built the first zoo in the state of Tamil Nadu, and even performed cataract surgery! Locally referred to as "Sarabhoji Raja", he is credited with implementing educational, administrative and social reforms. He also created an underground drainage system for the city of Thanjavur.
A statue of Raja Raja Chola, recently erected in the art gallery
It is rumored that some of the sculptures were stolen here and sold to the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore. While visiting the art gallery, make sure you take a look at the stone carvings in the Thanjavur Palace as well. There are only a few tourist attractions in Thanjavur, and the art gallery is definitely one of the top 10 things to do in the city.

1 comments:

All are very Buatiful. I would like to know can buy any idol from here?

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