''The Marathas of Tanjore saved Saraswati Mahal library, palace and many temples from the British company's 'trap

1890 Thanjavur big temple oldindianphotos.in
 In the recent past in the wake of Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan movie the splendor of intricate Chola sculptures and architectural finesse snot only hogged the limelight but also brought lots of tourists to this world famous UNESCO World Heritage Site of Thanjavur city.

In the early part of 2023 on a few occasions  I went past the towering Big temple in the morning  and  the temple was unusually over crowded  with big parking lot (abetting RM Hospital)  on the other side of the road was full - mostly vans and buses. Upon enquiry I realized  the unusual rush was due to the recent release of the film ''Ponniyin Selvan'' (by the popular  novelist late Kalki) directed by famous film director Mani Ratnam.  Now, it is not only getting more attention than before but also  the film and the temple had  become a talk of the city  time.

1855  Thanjavur Brihadishvara temple merepix.com/

   Soon many complaints were raised by the public  -much was  much had been written about Tamil Nadu politicians' (who never played a role in India's freedom struggle) in the school textbooks but not so much about Tamil rulers of past era.  Why the school text books did  not include details about the great Chola kings and  their war exploits, etc?  

Apart the great Chola ruler  was in the center of a storm over his religious  affiliation which was raised by none other than actor and politician Kamal Hassan.  His off the cuff remarks sometimes  create  controversies.  A few years ago he faced a barrage of criticism when he  branded  Gandhiji's assassin  Naturam Godse as a Hindu terrorist (his killing of Gandhiji is not justified, but he was not a terrorist, according to  many critics). The Chola rulers were ardent  followers of God Shiva, but they did patronize lots of Vishnu temples.  Obviously they were Hindus (though the term Hindu was not is use 1000 years ago) but Shaivism is part of Hinduism.  As a matter of fact there are stone images of Sri Krishna and Sri Vishnu on the gopuras of the big temple.   

These above  latest events made the people become more  curious and  the number of people visiting the big temple had increased  manifold.

Queen Kamtach bai, maratha kingdom of Tanjore

Above: Queen Kamatch bai of Tanjore Maratha Bhonsly family photo credit: heindianportrait.com
The  Brihadeeswarar Temple, originally called Rajarajeswaram   in Tamil was  built by the great King Raja Raja Chola (985 -1012 A.D),  and here the tall vimana symbolises the holy Meru, Mount Kailash, the sacred abode of Shiva; hence referred to as Dakshina (southern) Meru, and the Lord was known as Dakshina Meru Vitankar All bronze icons, gold lamps, etc., donated by queens and nobles are also mentioned in the inscriptions. But only the Nataraja icon often called  Adavallan, the symbol of his empire remains, It is his most favorite idol.   

 A couple of The bronze idols of Raja Raja and his consort were redrived a few years ago by the TN Idol wing led by none other than dynamic Pon. Mannikka vadival,IPS(now he is retired). They were retrieved from a private collector and now stand near the sanctum. That the big temple was without the two idols for more than 6 decades is  a sad one. The irritating  thing is the main  culprit(it is believe to be from a well-read family)  is not yet behind the  slammer. 

1890Thanjavur big temple. credit  James Kerr. oldindianphotos.in

Raja Raja knew the value of contributions made by  Tamil saints     Nayanmars, The lost hymns (Thevaram) were literally rediscovered and propagated throughout his empire by him. The temple has a statue of Kannappa Nayanar,

One among the few temple in Tamil Nadu that has  the earliest and largest illustration of dance movements and postures, described in the Natya Shastra, They are  well inscribed sculpted on the  stone in this temple

The Shivalinga in the sanctum,  one of the biggest and did not see any worship for decades when British troops /French? occupied the temple and made it a fort and garrison for artillery weapons  and ammunition. 

In 1801 the Maratha ruler of Thanjavur went on a two-month pilgrimage  covering more than one hundred temples situated along the  Cauvery river. The king performed the consecration of 108 shiva lingas in a colonnade of the 11th century Brihadisvara temple. 

After the pilgrimage, a court poet called Siva wrote a poem in Marathi titled “Sri Maharaj Sarabhendratirthavali” (sequence of king Sarabhendra's sacred places).  It bore testimony to the initiatives the king undertook to legitimize his sovereignty as the ruler of Tanjore' and  no ruler of Thanjavur before Serfoji  had undertaken a long pilgrimage covering a slice of the Chola Nadu heartland in its entirety

Many of the people not aware that It queen  Kamakshi Bai Saheba, the last Maratha queen of Thanjavur was responsible for retrieving countless temples, Saraswati Mahal Library and their palace within the town of Tanjore and neighboring areas over which they had sovereign rights.


Doctrine of Lapse brainly.in

Using the the Doctrine of Lapse (authored by Lord Dalhousie) as a ruse the British annexed in 1799 most of the kingdom as the last Maratha king had no male heir. Like a Phoenix rising out of the ashes, it was Queen  Kamakshi Bai challenged this unethical annexation. by taking the case to the London's  Privy Council. Her British  lawyer was a doyen in the field John Bruce Norton, and through him she not only  retrieved all the palaces and properties and innumerable Hindu  temples including the Perudiyar temple and Punnainallur Mariamman temple. the latter  is about 7 km from Brihadeeswara temple within their jurisdiction. This temple was built by the first Maratha king of Thanjavur Venkoji in the year 1680 and it was consecrated by Saint Sadaashiva  Brahmendral whose samadhi is near Karur, TN,

The sprawling parking complex and   the entire hospital area were called  a Bagh (garden) once owned by the Maratha family covering  40 acres donated by Maratha Queen Kamatchi Bai for the hospital. District Collector H.S.Thomas 1874 to March 1877 in  1879 laid the foundation stone for a self contained hospital,