Brihadeesvara temple looks like a fort from outside

This is rare for a temple. This landmark, which is among the Great Living Chola Temples, is in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu

The Brihadeesvara (Brihadisvara) temple in Thanjavur is among the Great Living Chola temples in Tamil Nadu. It is supposed to be one of the biggest temples in the world that has seen continuous worship since it was built over a 1,000 years ago, in 1010. That’s pretty impressive. Enough to plan a trip to Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu.
Thanjavur is about 400 km from Bengaluru (aka Bangalore). The journey can be completed in a day. But I wanted to reach Thanjavur for lunch. I am very keen on the thali (meal) in Tamil Nadu. To make this possible, I left home at 5.30 am.
This timing achieved two additional objectives. A bandh had been called in Karnataka from 6 am to 6 pm. I made it to the inter-State border close to 6 am. At that time, traffic on the National Highway leading to Hosur was light. So, not only did I manage to get out of Karnataka before the bandh, but also did not get stuck in a long queue at the toll booth on the border.
As I was passing the border, police were stopping trucks from entering Karnataka and the line of vehicles validated my choice of timing. In the line were several overnight buses. Now, this is something you want to avoid on a road trip.

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You will come across several toll booths, but I had no complaint about the road

Up to Salem, the journey was smooth. In Salem, you have to pass through the town, which slows you down. Once you get past Salem, the next choke point is Namakkal. You have to go through the town to get to Tiruchirapalli, or Trichy.
Going past the Namakkal fort without stopping is a difficult decision to make. The fort looks very majestic and is right in the middle of town. You can almost reach out and touch the walls. The decision was tougher for me because the fort came as a surprise. I did not know about the fort.
After seeing the fort, you might want to ponder over this one. In my case, the constant honking on the narrow and busy road forced me to make a decision quickly. My choices were the fort or lunch.
I put my mind to tackling the traffic and putting Namakkal behind me.
On the way, I stopped at an A2B for a snack. Nice, clean place. You will need to stop somewhere cos this is a long journey. After stocking up on water and some snacks, I resumed the journey.
Once you have got past the maddening traffic in Namakkal and are a few kilometres out of town, you get rewarded for your troubles.
Running with the Cauvery
The road runs beside the Cauvery (or Kaveri) river. Offers a lot of photo-ops. The interesting part about the road is that it is two lanes, but so smooth that you can maintain 80 kmph and 120 kmph on some stretches. That’s how good roads in Tamil Nadu are, even in the interiors. Perhaps, that’s why people living nearby have put speed-breakers. This was in October-November 2016.
But if you really want to enjoy this part of the journey, drive slow, stop at shops or by roadside vendors, of which there are many. This is apart from the photo opportunities by the river.
I am guessing the river would be most attractive after the monsoon. But for a photographer with a good eye for set pieces, even a river bed can offer a lot of opportunities.
The next choke point is Trichy because again, you have to get into the town. I knew of the fort in Trichy, but the landmark did not fall in my route, in direct contrast to Namakkal.
Trichy to Thanjavur
It would seem that the road from Trichy to Thanjavur was meant for a lot of traffic. It has four lanes and seemed to have been newly laid, but has very little traffic.
Thanjavur is like any small town — narrow roads, lots of two-wheelers and traffic, and people crossing the road at random. Went straight to the temple, not that I had other options cos that’s the centre of all activity. I parked outside and looked for lunch options.
I found one. It had decent parking space. Now, this is important cos parking is not easy in those narrow roads. If you stop for a few moments to as much as look at a promising spot, your train of thought will be derailed by a burst of honking.
That’s why I propose we stop putting horns in vehicles.
Anyway, I found my parking spot and lunch. The lunch was good, but nothing to write home about. Post lunch, I went to the Ideal River View Resort, which is about 10 km out of town.

Accommodation in Thanjavur
I had taken a chance with this booking, but what a resort it turned out to be. Nothing short of a five-star for this town. Spacious rooms. The bathroom is bigger than a 1BHK in Bombay. Lots of open space outside and the resort is right next to the river. And, they have a river facing restaurant.

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Top – To the right is the river. Below – A row of rooms facing the garden beyond which is the river

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After a short break, I went back to the temple in the evening.

The big temple
It is all that it is made out to be. From outside, it is less of a temple and more of a fort. So thick is the wall that it was definitely meant to keep a check on hostile armies. Wonder if it had anything to do with the frequent attacks on this town over the centuries.
The temple is majestic. Very tall, and set in a courtyard that could accommodate, maybe, three football grounds. Everything about the place is definitely huge. Including the Shiv ling.
For dinner, I began looking for some small eatery. After some searching, I zeroed in on one. And, what a choice it turned out to be. Simple rotis and parathas with burji. But very tasty. That’s what I like about these small places — no ambiance, but just can’t beat them on taste.
I have not mentioned the name of the places where I had lunch or dinner. In the first, it was not a memorable place. To be honest, I was disappointed with lunch. It is a big place, but the toilet sucks. Even the hand wash basin had not been cleaned properly.
In the second, I got immersed in the meal and did not think of noting down the name till I got down to writing this.

Back in the resort
Returning to the resort, I wanted to check out their restaurant. That turned out to be another revelation. Very tasty fish fry and a dessert I had not seen before. I had to make space for these two items.

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One of the two desserts I tried

The restaurant is by the riverside, but sadly, there was no water.
They have drinks in the menu, but the choice is limited. You might want to consider carrying your own drinks, or at least calling in advance to find out what’s available and place a request.
If I have not mentioned the names of the dishes and dessert or posted more photographs of the food, it is because I never had a plan to write about these things. Often, I am at a loss when friends ask about the restaurants or eateries I had been to and would recommend.
For that reason, I started this blog — to keep a record of the places I went to and the dishes I tried. It is not comprehensive, but I think it will do. I am not an authority on driving, vehicles, food or places, but if this blog helps a fellow traveller, its purpose is served.
The next day, I got up to see water streaming down the river. That was something. Can’t help wonder what sight awaits visitors post the rains, which would be in November to January.
After breakfast, I went to the Maratha Palace. Worth a visit.
Left town around 2 pm wishing we had more places like Ideal River Resort.

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The garden beside the river
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Facing the garden

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Places nearby

Trichy (Tiruchirapalli) – 60 km

Madurai – 190 km

Coimbatore – 270 km

Chennai – 350 km

Bengaluru – 400 km

Dhiraj Shetty