Chariot mantap (Thernelai mandam) on east main street, built by Maratha rulers recently recovered by the TMC

 Across India  encroachments on the government land (in local parlance Puram pokku or Nathham land) have been a menace in the last several decades owing to population increase and lack of interest among the govt  officials to safeguard the historical structures, lands and lakes. In the past decade and half. with the open discussion and participation of heritage lovers and history buffs, the awareness to preserve the places of historical value for the future generation  is increasingly gaining currency. Ever since the new Corporation took charge of the municipal administration countless illegal occupations, govt lands have been taken over by the government and it has brought cheers among the natives of this city who were sick with illegal encroachments  that went on unabated for a long time with no one to raise his voice against the law-breakers. 

Thanjavur city of Tamil  Nadu  is one of the few ancient cities of India and during the colonial period under the Madras presidency, comprising present day Tamil Nadu, Andhra,  Telangana, Karnataka and Kerala,  it was one of the most populous towns.  Once a seat power under the mighty Cholas, Nayaks and finally Marathas (controlled by half brother  of Chatrapati  Shivaji  Maharaj ), this city and the neighboring places  are dotted with many temples choultries ( chatrams/ inns). structures of great antiquity water tanks, etc.  After India's freedom  in August 1947 in view of lack of protection and safeguard  (no barricades were put up  around them) against such old structures, temples, mosques, churches, palaces, etc., with the passage of time many of them were partly taken over by the people with no scruples. In the fort area of Thanjavur within the confines of the four main Raja Veedhis - streets including lanes and bylanes   there remain many old historical structures in bad shape that  need to be  recovered by the local administration. 

.Thanjavur, The(chariot) mantap on East main street,

Thanjavur Big temple chariot near the

Ther(Chariot) mantap, West main st. Thanjavur.

Above images. The Chariot mantap (Thermutti)  across Kanchi Mutt office, West Main street, Thanjavur - the main venue of annual ther festival;  close to it is the Chariot shed under lock and key.  The TMC in the recent past has recovered many  Ther (Chariot) mantaps built by the Marathas  on all four main streets and  structurally they were very much similar to the one partially visible in the images above. The one at Samanthan kulam lane and East main street once looked like the mantap shown in the picture............

Under the project ''Smart City'', the young and energetic Commissioner of Thanjavur Corporation,  wielded with enormous powers, is singularly  with a spirit of dedication along with his team- comprising  duty - bound officials is taking quick action on illegal occupants.   

The recovery of pretty old Chariot mantap (Thernelai mandam) on the east main Street by the TMC is a welcome news and I understand plans are afoot to restore it to its past old glory.  On all four main streets there are   mantaps called ''Thermutti'' and they were built as part of annual Big temple Chithrai festival (normally held in April) event during the Maratha period. They were decoratively  built on a high platform with beautiful paintings, etc and the masonry used was a traditional one - made of small size bricks with ground lime as mortar. These  dome shaped mantaps  look more or less like Chhatris of Rajasthan (Umbrella shaped domes

Barah Khamba Chhatri at Jalsen Talab in Hindaun

Above image: Rajasthan Chhatris - dom-shaped pavilion, an element of Indo-islamic architecture. In the case of maratha structures pillars are mostly plain supporting arched opening .................

One on the east main street  was under illegal occupation for more than half a century. is a shocking revelation to countless heritage lovers    In the olden days the utchava moorthis (processional idols) of near by temple would be brought from the near-by temple and kept there for darshan.  Further tradition has been that the big temple chariot during the Chithirai  festival would stop at these mantaps on the four streets and prayers and deep Aradhana would be held for the people living in that neighborhood. 

  Similarly several Chariot mantals belonging to Snkara Narayanan temple, Konganeswar temple,  Sri ramar Kovil, Sri Anjaneyar (Hanuman) temple, were seized by the govt and now they are under the care of ASI - Archaeological Survey of India. After a long scrutiny the city officials found out that the chariot mantap on East main st was right across the Perumal temple  on the east side at the corner of the street and Samanthankulam lane and it comprises roughly 696 sq. feet A tea shop had been functioning there for a long time and  under illegal occupation for decades. Being an old timer in the  early 1950s,  I remember having seen this big mantap on a raised platform. In those days Samanthan Kulam was well   maintained; no trashes, no garbage along the boundary wall and this kulam (tank) had an  underground  channel linking  with Sivaganga garden kulam. The water used to be pale reddish in color and was potable. The water level in Samandankulam used to change with respect to water level in the  Shivaganga park  water tank (this tank, it is said, was built for the big temple for rituals, etc). 

There is also a ''Ther mantap'' adjacent to Kaliamman kovil/ Canara bank building on South main street. This beautiful mantap was in a dilapidated state;  at many places plastering came off exposing the highly weathered  bricks. Like other old mantaps, it is also made of traditional masonry.