The Serfoji Sarasvati Mahal Library, Thanjavur

Visitor Information

  • Famous For: Rarest of rare Midieval libraries of the world, treasure trove of culture, irreplaceable archive of wisdom passed down by the past reigning dynasties of Thanjavur (Marathas and Nayaks). From books to manuscripts to tarampatras maps and paintings all archive the Art and Culture of India, stark reminder of the pride of Indian Culture.
  • Entrance Fee: The entrance to all those who seek experience and knowledge at this Mahal is just a price of Rs50 and an additional of Rs50 for taking in a camera.
  • Visiting Time: This repository of cultural charm and archaic knowledge is open from 10AM to 5:30PM all through the week, Wednesday being a holiday. Ticket counter reopens after lunch break at 1:30PM.
  • Visiting Duration: The ideal duration of your visit to Serfoji Sarasvati Mahal Thanjavur to be able to precisely imbibe the rich essence and to be able to admire the books, the paintings would be from 2-3 hours. But if you are not particularly a fan of history, you can jot this place done in about 30 minutes.

If you are fond of History and like diving into the depths of the past to distill out the way a particular kingdom functioned or the nitty gritty details of dynasties- their strategies and the ups and downs, or marvel at the arts and paintings that the veterans of the past have left for us, you’ll be taken aback at how much the Serfoji Sarasvati Mahal, Thanjavur has to teach you.

Sarasvati Mahal Library
Photo by Wiki-uk, CC BY-SA 3.0

Traveler Tips

  • Handle the manuscripts with utmost care and caution because of their delicacy and importance.
  • It is important to maintain the decorum of this library when here and kindly refrain from creating chaos.
  • Make sure to include the Art Show that is staged in the evening for an amazing historic extravaganza.

Things to Do

  • Take a sneak peek into the past and grasp some archaic wisdom from the books (both capturing Indian and foreign stories and incidents), manuscripts entailing victories and strategies of the Ramayana, Vedas and Upanishads, Gita, Chola era, really beautiful paintings of renowned painters from Ravi Verma.
  • Sound and light show in the evening at around 6PM which elucidates the historic and cultural significance of Thanjavur.

Availability of Guides

There are no guides available to lead you through the library at each point. Except the manuscripts and paintings that are open to each’s own discretion and interpretation.

Best Time to Visit

The expanse of winters and the onset of summers are extremely conducive for sightseeing as the climate is pleasant and comfortable. So the months from October to March are most suitable.

How to Reach

The nearest airport to Thanjavur is in Thiruchirappalli which is approximately 48 kilometers away from the center of city. Reach the library by means of public transport (buses or autos). Pondicherry is 138kms from here. You can take a road trip to reach from Pondicherry to Thanjavur or catch a train to reach the Thanjvur Junction. Fully air conditioned buses are also available from Chennai, Madurai and Pondicherry. The library is in the premises of the Thanjavur Royal Palace which is just 2kms away from the Railway junction and 0.5km away from the old Bus station.

Interesting Facts and Trivia About the Serfoji Sarasvati Mahal

  • The Sanskrit Manuscript Collection of this Library dates back to the 16th Century A.D. The most amazing thing here is that the manuscripts used by the Poets and Kings even during the Nayaks and especially the Maratha Periods of reign, are still here intact.
  • The premier catalogue for the Sanskrit Palm Leaf Manuscripts was prepared during the reign of Maratha ruler King Serfoji II by Sadasiva Bhatta alias Gangadhara Bhatta in the year 1801 A.D.
  • Around 1879, two more volumes were published that had been prepared by Dr. A.C Burnell who had studied the existing catalogues and under the help of Pandits complied it into the present volumes.
  • Wooden Paintings exhibiting typical Thanjavur painting style housed here range from the paintings of Goddess Saraswati to Adi sankara to Ramadoss, Balakrishna and Yashodha.
  • Beautiful illustrated manuscripts like Asva Shastra, Gaja Shastra, Balabhoda Muktavali, Science of birds.
  • The Encyclopedia of Britannica in its survey of the libraries of the world has acclaimed this one as the ‘most remarkable library in India’.
Sarasvati Mahal Library Tanjor
Painting, Photo by Wiki-uk, CC BY-SA 3.0

Nearby Attractions

The places to visit around the library are mainly temples, forts and museums, making Thanjavur the cultural and historic hub of Southern India. It is also a heaven for handloom silk and cotton saree shopping.

  • Brihadeeswara temple
  • Chola Big Temple
  • Handicrafts at Poompuhar
  • Gangoikonda Cholapuram
  • Thirnullar Temple
  • Thanjavur Royal palace and Art Gallery
  • Swami Malay Temple
  • Alangudi Temple
  • Shivganga Gardens
  • Manora Fort
  • Sangeetha Mahal

Nearby Restaurants

There is a myriad of little eateries in and around Thanjavur that offer primarily South Indian cuisine. Since Thanjavur is also a pilgrimage site, there are a lot of options for pure vegetarian or Sathvik Bhojanam. But there are also options for non-vegetarians.

  • Sathars Restaurant
  • Karthik Restaurant
  • Raja’s Curry Restaurant
  • Hotel Thangam Chettinadu
  • Thevar’s Biryani
  • Hotel Mullai
  • Mohal Biryani
  • Open Deck Restaurant
  • Hotel Murutham
  • Sree Ariya Bhava

Club the visit to this library along with the Royal Palace for the perfect journey into the past and acquire so much knowledge about our cultural and artistic history.

About Rohit

An architect by profession, Rohit Agarwal is a curious traveller, seeking out the minutest detail about the places he travels to, and that’s what one will find in his writings. His writings have appeared in various blogs, he’s currently trying to bring forth as many different places a traveller who shares the same level of curiosity like him would like to visit through his writings.

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