Thanjavur – City of Ancient Art, Literature and Temples

Thanjavur (or Tanjaur) in Tamil Nadu was once the capital of mighty Cholas. It is said that the kingdom was so fertile that elephants used to thrash paddy here. To this day, one can see stately ancient buildings and their ruins on almost every street of the city. Tamil Nadu is known for nurturing literature, classical music and arts for hundreds of years. Thanjavur is not untouched by the sophistication, culture and knowledge that Tamilians are so proud of. Thanjavur paintings use semi-precious stones and gold foil to create deities in a style unique to the region. Since genuine antique Tanjore paintings are extremely rare, you will find only newer ones (perhaps with antique finish) in the market.

Thanjavur is also famous for its Tanjore plates – brass places with silver inlay work, Indian musical instrument known as Veena, and colorful papier mache dolls known as Thanjavur thalayatti bommais which nod their heads like Bharatanatyam dancers. There is an interesting story about how the city of Thanjavur originated. It is believed that Lord Vishnu slew a demon or asur named Thanjan on the banks of River Cauvery. Just before dying, Thanjan prayed to Lord Vishnu that a beautiful and great town named after him rise on the spot of his death and his wish was granted. Thus, Thanjanasur (which later became Thanjavur) came into being.

Though some of the temple sites claim to be thousands of years old, the earliest of the present structures date back to 7th century CE. Home to some of the world’s finest temple architecture, Thanjavur has as many as 24 ancient temples that are worth a visit. However, three most celebrated and revered temples at Thanjavur are:

o Brihadeesvara Temple: Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the name of the temple literally means ‘Big’. The massive temple precincts have an enormous entrance arch and are surrounded by a moat that looks awe-inspiring. The grand temple does not have loud colored frescoes and has been purposefully given a sandstone-color finish to keep it unobtrusive and low key. The 13-tiered entrance tower to the sanctum carries a single block of granite stone weighing 80 tonnes on its top. Other notable features here include a 4-mile long ramp that was built to set the cupola in such a manner that its shadow never falls on the ground; the 12-foot tall monolithic idol of Nandi; and a 12 ft high lingam with a circumference of 54 ft. The beautiful frescoes of the shrine of Goddess Brihan Nayaki; the cave-like temple of Saint Karuvurar; and the Murugan shrine built like a chariot are a must-see at this temple.
o Bangaru Kamakshi Amman Temple: 2 kms from the Big Temple, this temple of Goddess Bangaru Kamakshi has an idol made in real gold, which is believed to have been brought here from Kanchipuram during Muslim invasion.
o Mariamman Temple: Goddess Mariamman, a manifestation of Mother Goddess, is believed to have curative and healing powers. Though the temple was built in the 18th century, the goddess was worshipped here in the form of an anthill since times immemorial. Descendants of the royal family of Thanjavur maintain the temple to this day. Devotees believe that goddess provides relief from measles, chicken pox and skin sores and that drops of moisture appear on the face and head of the idol from time to time.

Besides temples, Thanjavur has some beautiful architectural specimens at the Sivaganga Fort such as the 18th century Schwartz Church and the Royal Palace. The Rajaraja Museum and the Art Gallery are known for their rich collection of Chola bronzes and stone sculptures while the Saraswati Mahal Library in the palace complex has a large collection of rare manuscripts. You can also see panoramic views of the city from the ornamental balconies of the six-storey Sharajah Madi and the biggest cannon in India – Rajagopala Beerangi – at the fort.

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Teaching About the Election to Elementary Students Using Literature and Technology

Teaching about the election can be an interesting process. Of course the best way is to hold a mock election, or even better, a school election with children running for various offices. As with all curricular areas, experiencing the learning by participation cements the concepts.

Other ideas for teaching about the election include:

For Kindergarten and Grade 1

Read a book about an election and discuss the elements of election. Books I choose to use are “Duck for President” by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin (2004) and “My Teacher for President” by Kay Winters and Denise Brunkus (2008.)

After discussing the election process we make campaign posters. Students use a drawing program on the computer (I use KidPix) and type “Vote for ______” in huge letters. They add decorations to complete the poster. We print in color and staple to construction paper. Hanging this campaign poster on their bedroom doors will remind them of what they learned about the election.

For Grades 2 and 3

I read an election book such as “Pete for President” by Daisy Alberto (2004). We discuss election procedures but also emphasize telling the truth during the election process. During the story there is a page where there is a debate. I stop the story, have two kids join me up front, and simulate a debate. Sometimes I even tell one of the students to make outlandish claims about what he or she would do if they were to win. We finish reading the book and then discuss ways that students can improve the school.

The second graders make campaign posters just like the younger students but they add four ways they can make the school/world a better place. Examples might be: Eliminate bullies from the playground, Pick up Litter on the Playground, Be Nice to All People, Help Raise Money for New Library Books, etc.

In Grades 3 through 5

As the children get older I begin to teach about the electoral college. The best book I’ve found for this is “Grace for President” by Kelly Dipucchio and Leuyen Pham (2008.) After reading this story I send the students to explore an online simulation game at the Scholastic News website.

Grade 6: By the time students are in grade 6 they are ready to explore the issues of the candidates. To do this I ask the students to choose six issues to research on the websites of the candidates. The information that they gather can be presented in any manner; for instance, a 2-column display comparing the issues or using an organizing software such as Inspiration to create a web of information.

Overall, the more concrete examples you can give to students about the election will assist them in learning about the process that we embrace within our country.

For more information, samples, and a list of websites, download a free packet of Election materials at []

Kathy Cothran is an elementary media specialist committed to helping teachers turn toys into learning tools. Her vast teaching experience ranges from preschool through Master’s level education classes.

For years Kathy has been a “Gadget Girl.” She loves technology! Tie that to he

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