Thanjavur old Bus stand and row over Chola - era fort wall near the heritage site - Big temple!!

Under the Smart City project envisaged by the central government to promote tourism and improvement of infrastructure which will boost the economy of the place, the Thanjavur Municipal corporation has been working hard in the last one and half years  or so and making  rapid progress as the funds keep coming in instilments. Already the new bus stand complex and Thiruvaiyaru bus stand complex were nearing completion. So was the Ranee's Park (Rajappa Poonga)  and the old Clock Tower built  from  funds provided by the Maratha queen.  The present commissioner, being active and energetic,  has undertaken several bold  steps with a view to giving  a  impressive facelift  to this old city which was in the late 1800s one of the few big towns  in the then Madras presidency.

Digging and foundation work in the place where theater stood.

Regarding South Rampart of the Fort area, on the  south side of the road  entire buildings including shopping complexes, Thiruvalluvar theater, several shops and the old bus stand (built in 1959) were razed to the ground a couple of years ago to be replaced with modern buildings with necessary  amenities.  
Thanjavur city location map.

As a senior citizen I know very well  prior to 1958  the entire stretch on the south portion  of Therkku Alangam (South Rampart) from the old bus stand up to the  road close to Cauvery Angadi) on the west (that connects the RM hospital road) was  a  wide moat  - 10 to 15 feet deep covering up to the hospital road. 

Do you know where the first bus stand in Thanjavur  town was operating? The first ever  bus stand  with thatched roof  supported by thick casuarina  wooden poles and 5  to 7 bays  (for the buses) was functioning in the place where the Thiruvalluvar theater  had stood until  it was razed to the ground in the recent past. The buses covered  mostly nearby places  like  Thiruvaiyaru, Vilangudi, Mannargudi and Kumbakonam, etc  and only a few buses ran on these routes.  We never heard of long-distance buses in those days. It was a small bus stand  (right across Bogi Lakshmana Naikar lane) and occasionally one could see buses that ran on coal gas. 

.Thanjavur old bus stand.

Toward 1957-58, the  scenario  on the south side of South Rampart had changed. The entire moat (Akazhi)  area was reclaimed  and well levelled with earth filling when late R. Venkatraman was the Industries minister under the Congress regime.  The old bus stand with many bays came up  in 1959 with modern facilities including Veg and non-veg  restaurants and   was inaugurated  by  C M  K. Kamaraj Nadar.  Sri A.Y. S.   Parisutha Nadar  was Chairman of Tanjore Municipality  and  MLA at that time. It was named after  Sri Ayyasamy Vandayar,  a prominent landlord, congressman and former Municipal Chairman of Tanjore Municipality.  It was one of the best well- maintained  bus  stands in those days. 

After 1970s  the bus stand  came a nasty and chaotic  place because of illegal encroachment by  shoppers.    A few years later  a new bus stand came up  near the  bus stand abetting the RM  Hospital road. It was exclusively for express buses covering   distant destinations like Madras (Chennai), Madurai, etc. Again it was minister RV who took the initiative to run the long distance  government buses for the first time in Tamil Nadu  to meet the public demand. Then  MLA  Sri  AYAP. Nadar's contribution to Thnjavur town was vast.

As part of the Smart city project Thanjavur Municipal Corporation (TMC) already initiated the Mall- theater cum parking lot project after demolishing the old Thiruvalluvar theater. The theater itself was in bad shape and the interior was shabby.  Part of foundation had already been completed recently. 

.Thanjavur big temple

While the foundation work was on  to build the Mall  complex, an unexpected thing had happened and it is about the unearthing of a linear wall which seems to be several centuries old. Heritage enthusiasts  now want the project stopped as the structure -  wall was the sidewall of a Chola-era moat. This particular project covers 0.70 acres and the  Chola era moat, surfaced in the southern boundary of the site.

.Thanjavur fort area vintage image.

The site is   about 700 meters from  Brihadeeswara temple built by Chola ruler Raja Rajan in 1010 CE.  Also known as Peruvudaiyar temple, it is a UNESCO  recognized world heritage site and ''it is a non-combat zone even if there is war."  The  50 meter long  wall  is visible at  about 10 feet from the ground level abutting the backyards of commercial establishments on the RM Hospital road. With multiple decks including two layers of  stones,  “Post-Independence, the moat must have been encroached and buildings raised over it due to ignorance.,'' according to Dr S. Udhayashankar of Chola research group.  In Thiruvisaippa, the great siddhar Karur Thevar sang in praise of moat infrastructure.

The TMC has stopped the work temporarily pending enquiry from ASI of Thiruchi circle. Corporation officials feel, the foundation work having been almost completed, shifting the project to a new location is an impossibility.

/ Chola Era wall southram part

G. Deivanayagam, former professor and founder of Department of Architecture, Tamil University, is of the view that  the entire Thanjavur fort area is a heritage zone. So there should not be any new construction. Preservation and restoration is only allowed. A ‘smart city’ need not stand on the ruins of our rich heritage which is the main identity of Thanjavur.’
Heritage enthusiasts  view that constructing a mall-theater complex with  a parking lot near the moat of the temple  may cause danger to the base of the heritage structure.  They further contend that  it is  mandatory to get permission from the Archaeological Department as the site is close to the heritage temple.  The newly found Chola era wall is made of red granite (Geologically called Charnokite or Hypersthene rich granite (rich in iodine), commonly used in the big temple.  This might be the outer fort wall of the moat built during the reign of Cholas. It needs research study.

The  general consensus has been that  the heritage of Thanjavur needs to be preserved and at the same time infrastructure like proper long lasting  well-laid roads without pot holes, parking spaces in specific areas, etc will help the residents a lot.  No doubt,  infrastructure development  will boost tourism potential  and improve the economy of the  city. 

 A balance has to be made  to give importance to  compliance of ASI regulations as much as possible without opposing the on going project totally, as considerable money and time had already  been  spent.