The palace was built by the Nayak rulers around 1550 A.D. and subsequently renovated and enlarged by the Maratha rulers of Thanjavur. Though a portion is in ruins, much of it is still in its original beauty. Some government offices are located inside besides an art gallery, a library, the hall of music, the audience hall and even today in a portion lives the present legal heirs of the Thanjavur Marathas.The entrance of the palace has a large quadrangular courtyard. There are big gateways to the northern and eastern walls. The courtyard leads to a big multi-pillared hall. There is also a Vimanam like building. The Vimanam is 190 feet high and is an eight storied building called the Goodagapuram. This Goodagapuram was the watch tower for the palace and also the armory of the Thanjavur Kings till the first decade of the 19th century.
The Tanjavur Palace is a massive structure with huge halls, wide corridors, observation towers and a shady courtyard. As you walk across, you can easily see many sections of the palace in ruins and also the restoration work that has been taken up to protect the monument. The palace is home to a library, an art gallery and a museum. The Royal museum has a display of items from the past rulers. The royal memorabilia is a real eye catcher and fascinates one and all. The royal clothing, headgears and hunting weapons are some of such items that draw the attention of visitors. The two Durbar halls, where the rulers held public meetings, are in good shape.
The Art Gallery is housed in the Nayak hall of the Thanjavur palace. This gallery has a superb collection of artifacts of the 8th and 9th century, belonging to the Chola dynasty. The bronze and granite statues displayed inside the art gallery speak volumes about the craftsmanship during those days. The bell tower, which has been restored, stands very different from the rest of the structure after renovation.
The Saraswathi Mahal Library stands next to the art gallery. This library has an amazing collection of manuscripts written on palm leaves and paper. There are over 46,000 rare palm leaf and paper manuscripts in Indian and European languages inside the Saraswathi Mahal library. Of all the manuscripts, over eighty percent are in Sanskrit. The Tamil work, at display in the library, includes treatises on medicine and commentaries on works belonging to the Sangam period. A small gallery there displays some of the more oddball and entertaining of the library’s holdings (no cameras allowed), including some quaint books on nature and physiognomy.
The Marata Durbar Hall is beautiful and over-the-top, with primary-color stripes on the columns and ornate designs on the arches. Nearby is the seven-story bell tower, with impressive views of the temple and the rest of Thanjavur.
Royal Palace Museum is one of the ancient museums in the town which holds ancient items, images, paintings, sculptures. Apart from the stone work, there are bronze sculptures. The ancient work of art, the glass paintings are the most attractive features of the museum. The most important fact is that this museum gives every detail about the earlier period. The idols and the old sculptures from the age old temples like Brihadeshwara Temple and Gangaikondacholapuram Temple decorate the museum and allow the tourists to get an idea of the past.
The ancient work of art, the glass paintings are the most attractive features of the museum. The sculpture of ‘Bhikshatanamurti’ popularly known as Shiva in his different form as a beggar is an uncommon statue of Hindu God. The image of Shiva and Parvati at the time of their marriage can be seen in the museum. Apart from these main images there are sculptures, statues and paintings of other Hindu God and goddess.
The wooden furniture and the intricate wooden work show the heritage and background of art and crafts of Thanjavur. The colorful paintings, the jewelry, costumes and reflect the lifestyle of the people of that age and are displayed for the visitors.
The objects that people will find here are textiles, photo, oil paintings, pencil paintings, drawings, musical instruments, wooden objects, ivory, furniture, Thanjavur paintings, copper manuscripts, palm leaf manuscripts, porecelain, miniature paintings, dolls and stone sculptures.
Apart from these objects, there are also plates, coconut shell carvings, coins, beadwork, arms and bronzes.