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Thiruvaiyaru: Indian Music’s Holy Ground

Situated on the banks of the River Cauvery, in Tamil Nadu, Thiruvaiyaru is a small, quiet town. However, its modesty belies its importance as a pilgrim centre. Home to the ancient Panchanadheeshwara and Aiyaarrappar Temples, this town is flocked by pilgrims throughout the year. That being said, Thiruvaiyaru is most renowned for its association with Saint Thyagaraja, who, along with Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Sastri, were the flag bearers of the ancient art form of Carnatic Music. They are now popularly referred to as the Trinity of Carnatic Music and are the prolific composers of the genre. Thyagaraja spent a major part of his life in Thiruvaiyaru and some of his magnum opuses, which now form the foundation of this art form, were envisioned and created on this sacred ground. Saint Thyagaraja’s samadhi is also located on the banks of the Cauvery where musicians and music lovers from all over the country and across the globe visit to pay their respects and hold an annual festival in January called Thyagaraja Aradhana.

This region was the main centre of the famous Chola dynasty who ruled here as early as 300 BCE. Thiruvaiyaru and its surrounding towns are home to some of the most magnificent and well preserved art and architectural marvels of these times, which further enrich the cultural sanctity of this part of the country.




Festival of Sacred Music and Prakriti Foundation

Now in its 6th year, the Festival of Sacred Music (FOSM) is a 3-day festival that takes place in Thiruvaiyaru and celebrates the cultural importance of this holy ground. Festival Of Sacred Music showcases stand out performers who are the true torchbearers carrying forward the tradition of music in IndiImage 1a. Starting out as a community initiative by the Prakriti Foundation, the festival introduced the people of the Thanjavur district to exceptional performances and new worlds of music and that too gratis.

The festival now opens its doors to people all over the country and the world, inviting them to experience the art, culture and glorious heritage of this special place and become etched in its fascinating history. The best part being that it is still gratis!

Founded in 1998, the Prakriti Foundation is a Chennai-based non-profit organization that hosts events enquiring into India’s rich art and cultural heritage.

Around Thiruvaiyaru

Music is certainly not the only experience at the Festival Of Sacred Music. As a precursor to the evenings concerts, there are a ton of sites featuring the pristine art and architecture of the Chola period, which are only a day’s trip or less away from Thanjavur/Thiruvaiyaru and can be regaled at leisure during the day:

1. Airavateshwara Temple, Darasuram image2

This temple is one of the finest examples of Dravidian architecture located near Kumbakonam. This temple is a storehouse of art and architecture and has some exquisite stone carvings. Although this temple is much smaller than the Brihadeesvara Temple, it is more exquisite in detail. This is because this temple is said to have been built with nitya-vinoda, “perpetual entertainment”, in mind. [source: Wikipedia]


2. Big Temple, Thanjavur image3

This is the largest temple in India and one of India’s most prized architectural sites. The temple stands amidst fortified walls that were probably added in the 16th century. The vimana (or temple tower) is 216 ft high and is among the tallest of its kind in the world. The Kumbam (apex or the bulbous structure on the top) of the temple is carved out of a single stone and it weighs around 80 tons.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been preserved in immaculate form since its creation in 1010 BC. [source: Wikipedia]

3. Muchukunda Murals at the Tyagarajaswamy Temple, Thiruvarur image4

The ancient Tyagarajaswamy Temple houses the Muchukunda Murals, which happens to be one of Prakriti Foundation’s main preservation/restoration projects. These are a collection of incredible art depictions from the 17th century commissioned by the Chola king and grace the ceilings of one of the pavilions of this temple.


4. Mangala Guest House, Thirupugallurimage4

 If you are looking for a quiet getaway and an authentic village experience of Tamil Nadu, visit the link below to read more about Mangala Guest House which is a typical village house that has been tastefully refurbished and renovated with the comforts of urban travellers in mind.



venue 1 Diwan Wada
Is the beautiful ruin-like remnant of the Maratha Husoor palace. It is dotted with some typical architectural signatures such as the Pura Koondu – dove cote inspired by the Chinese Pagodas – and overlooks the Cauvery.




venue 2 Pushya Mahal Ghat
Is an exquisitely designed ghat on the banks of the river Cauvery. It flaunts unique architecture and is neighboured by other interesting heritage buildings of Thiruvaiyaru.





venue 3 Panchanadeeswara Temple
This temple is the major landmark of the town and is one of the more ancient Shiva temples from the Chola Dynasty built in the first century BC. The temple and the deity gets their name from the river Cauvery and its tributaries (5(pancha) in total).This temple is built in an area of approximately 60,000 sq. meters, has five ‘prakarams’ (outer precincts used for religious purposes) and many ‘mandapams’ (great halls).




Travel & Accomodation

Thanjavur is the best place to be located around Thiruvaiyaru as it has a number of hotels and guest houses to choose from and is conveniently located to all the ‘to do’ sites of the region.There are a number of ways to get to Thanjavur depending on what mode of transport you choose.

By Air:

The nearest airport is at Tiruchirapalli (Trichy), which is located at a distance of about 71 kms.
There are flights from all major cities with a layover in Chennai.

[Click here for flight listings]

By Road:

Thanjavur is well connected by an extensive network of National and State Highways to Chennai(Tamil Nadu) and Bangalore(Karnataka).
Please check Google Maps for suitable routes.

By Rail:

A number of trains operated by Indian Railways connect this region to the rest of the country.

[Click here for train listings]


Recommended Hotels in Thanjavur:

[Click here for a list of our recommendations]