Rajarajan of the Chola dynasty was an outstanding ruler of one of the greatest dynasties to have ruled southern India. Emperor Rajarajan I (947-1014) ruled over medieval Tamil Nadu, parts of northern India, Maldives, two-thirds of Sri Lanka and parts of East Asia. Within the first ten years of his reign which lasted between 985 to 1014 CE, he fought many battles and expanded the limits of this great empire.
He was well-known and respected for his royal endeavors, military conquests, efficient and just administration as well as for the promotion of arts and culture. Emperor Rajarajan exalted the glories of the Chola dynasty to greater heights, paving the way for continued grandeur for further centuries. He was also the force behind the construction of a grand temple known as the Rajarajeswaram temple (Brihadeeswara temple) or simply as the ‘Big Temple’ in Thanjavur, the capital of the kingdom. It was built in the typical Dravidian style of architecture and over 130,000 tons of granite was used to create this glorious temple that is visible from all parts of the city.
In 1984, the government of Tamil Nadu built a museum to commemorate the 1000th birth centenary of this great king. Known as Rajarajan Manimandapam, the large structure is built in the typical style of the Chola period with a high central dome. The ground floor of this monument celebrates this great emperor of Thanjavur and visitors can view beautiful collections of sculptures in stone, bronze statues, ancient paintings and coins as well as other artifacts related to his reign. Aside from this valuable collection, there is a huge statue of Rajarajan Chola on a horse with its forelegs in the air that catches the eye. All-in-all, this is a great place for those interested in Indian cultural history and in the Chola dynasty.
The building is surrounded by small but beautifully manicured gardens and there is even a children’s park with swings and slides to keep them engaged. It’s a great place to visit in the evenings when the lights come on and the tinkling fountain takes on an ethereal feel, giving the area a mesmerizing charm. The museum is open between 10 am and 5:45 pm on all days except Wednesdays and requires a token entry fee.
Thanjavur with its great cultural heritage is an amazing place to visit and is well-connected by highways and railways with the nearest airport being 50km away in neighboring Trichy. You could stay over at the classy Sangam hotel and enjoy true heritage in contemporary settings.