Thanjavur was the ancient capital of the Chola Kings whose origins, ( like those of the Pallavas, Pandyas and Cheras with whom they shared the tips of the Indian Peninsula), go back to the beginning of the Christian era. Power struggles between these groups were a constant feature of their early history, with one or other gaining the ascendancy at various times. The Cholas' turn for empire building came between 850 to 1270 AD and, at the height of their power, they controlled most of the Indian peninsula south of a line drawn between Mumbai and Puri, including parts of Sri Lanka and, for a while,the Sri vijaya Kingdom of the Malaya Peninsula and Sumatra. Probably the greatest Chola Emperors were Raja Rajah, who was responsible for building the Brahadeeshwara Temple, and his son Rajendra I (1014-44), whose navy competed with the Arabs for control of the Indian Ocean trade routes and who was responsible for bringing Sri Vijaya under the Chola control.
Thanjavur wasn't the only place to receive Chola Patronage. Within easy reach of Thanjavur are numerous enormous Chola Temples- mainly Thiruvaiyaru, Dharasuram near Kumbakonam and Gangaikonda Cholapuram. The Cholas also had a hand in building the enormous temple complex at Sri Rangam near Tiruchirapalli- Probably India's largest.
Thanjavur is also famous for its distinctive art style, which is usually a combination of raised and painted surfaces. Krishna is the most popular of the Gods depicted. It is also known for weaving silk sarees.