In this fascinating study, in words and images, Pradeep Chakravarthy and Vikram Sathyanathan narrate the cultural history of Thanjavur-starting from its early days of grandeur during the Chola Empire when the Chola ruler Raja Raja I built the Rajarajeswaram temple, now known as the Brihadeeswara temple, which celebrates its 1000th year of consecration in 2010. They weave together known and unknown histories of the various rulers-the Cholas, the Nayaks, the Marathas and the British- and of the Big Temple into a rich tapestry of cultural heritage that is Thanjavur. They reveal to the readers the treasure house of the Sarasvati Mahal Library and lead them into the narrow lanes, or sandhus, where the painters who created the now famous Thanjavur style lived beside bangle-sellers, textile merchants, perfumers and the devadasis. They invite the reader on a long trip on the fertile river bank of Kaveri where Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam as we know them today were created and flourished alongside drama forms like the bhagavatha mela and yakshagana.
The temples, the palace, the bronzes, the paintings, the frescoes, the cuisine, the weapons of war and ivory dolls, the kalamkaris, and literary genres like the abhyudayamus, the prabandhams and the kuravanjis-they are all brushstrokes that make up a colourful painting, which tells the story of the city of Thanjavur.