The Royal Palace of Thanjavur was built by the Nayak rulers after they took control of the city in 1535 but was added onto by the Maratha rulers during their rule from 1676 to 1855. The result is a sprawling complex in various states of upkeep. Several areas of the palace are open to visitors in three different ticketed areas.
Just past the ticket office lies the Royal Palace Museum, where ceremonial costumes, weaponry and a few sculptures are on display. The Maharaja Serfoji Memorial Hall commemorates the Maratha scholar-king of the same name, while the Mahratta Dharbar Hall was where the Maratha rulers gave audience — you can still see their portraits behind the dais.
Two of the highlights of the palace complex are the Sarawasti Mahal Library Museum and the Art Gallery. The former displays pieces from Serfoji II’s collection of books, manuscripts and naturalist paintings of Indian plants and animals, while the latter houses a magnificent collection of bronze (mostly Chola) and stone carvings.
The grounds of the royal palace suffer from lack of posted information, so consider visiting with the assistance of a guide who can fill you in on the history and significance of what you’re seeing.