Thanjavur’s Ancient Tunnels

Thanjavur is a small, multi-cultural town in Tamil Nadu where almost all the religions of the world are represented; this diversity is due to the ever-changing dynasties that ruled this town. It was the capital city of the ruling Chola Empire from 846 Ad till 1225 AD. Magnificent palaces and exquisite temples were built during this era. Sadly, many of these monuments were subsequently destroyed during the 14nth century when the Pandya Dynasty took over as a symbol of their rage against the Chola kings.

Famous temples here that come under the UNESCO World Heritage Site as the ‘Great Living Chola Temples include the ‘Big temple’ or the Brihadeeswarar temple as well as the nearby Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Airavatesvara temples. The Brihadeshwara temple is among the largest temples in India and is dedicated to Shiva. It was built around 1010 AD and some of the paintings and murals are still as colorful as in the earlier days. What titillates the curious mind is the tunnel system or the more than 100 underground passageways that are believed to exist under this temple! There is believed to be a whopping 40km long underground tunnel from the Thanjavur Brihadeeswarar temple to the Ganagaikonda Cholapuram temple built by the Gangaikonda Chola king; to this date, the mind wonders why such a long underground tunnel was made! The entrance and exit tunnels are still visible when visiting the temples, but due to suspected cave-ins, visitor’s excitements are curbed as they aren’t allowed into the tunnels.

Another important tunnel is known to exist between this temple and the Thanjavur palace which was later built by the Thanjavur Nayaks in 1535 AD. It’s also known as the Sivaganagai Fort and isn’t as grand or magnificent as a palace is expected to be. It was originally meant to be a fort and was later on added to by subsequent dynasties and elaborated upon. There are two underground tunnels known to exist under this palace. One is short and visitors are allowed in to feed their curiosity with goosebumps of an era long gone by. The second passageway is longer and leads to the Brihadeeswarar temple.

An amazing and must see location for the tourists interested in cultural history and artifacts!

There are two underground passages in the palace, only one of them is partially accessible by tourists. This is a relatively short passage and the Government is renovating it as of 2014. Another secret tunnel which is a mile long, connects the Brihadeeswara temple and the palace. It is wide enough to ride 2 horses in parallel and was designed as a getaway route by Kings during war times.