The district's most important pilgrim centre is located in an island just 7 km from Trichy. Srirangam, surrounded by the waters of river Kaveri on one side and its tributary kollidan on the other, is a 600 acre island-town enclosed within the seven walls of the gigantic Sri Ranganathaswami Temple. There are 21 gopurams, among which the Rajagopuram is the largest in South India. The 72m high 13-tiered gopuram was built in 1987 and dominates the landscape for miles around, while the remaining 20 gopurams were built between the 14th and 17th centuries. Originally, there was just a small shrine where the temple is today, but it was added on to and expanded by the Cholas, Cheras, Pandyas, Hoysalas, the Vijayanagar Kings and Nayaks of Madurai and today Srirangam stands as the biggest temple complex in the country.
This is located on Bharathidasan Road. Bronze and stone sculptures are on display here. Admission is free, the museum is open on all days except Fridays.
The Siva temple here has some interesting inscriptions as well as beautiful sculptures. One of the inscriptions deals with the musical treatise of Mahendravarman Pallava and his experimentation with an eight-stringed instrument called Parivadini.
In this village are the remains of a 2nd century B.C. Jain cave temple. Fresco paintings reminiscent of Ajanta adorn the walls. Many of them are typical of the 9th century Pandyan period and include exquisitely detailed pictures of animals, fish, ducks, people gathering lotuses from a pond and two dancing figures. There are also inscriptions dating back to the 9th and 10th centuries. Fresco paintings from the 7th century can be seen on the ceiling of Ardhamandapam. There are many pre-historic burial sites around Sittannavasal and among the relics unearthed are burial urns, cists and Kungupatarai.
The eight-storeyed victory tower here was built by the Maratha King Serfoji in the year 1814 to commemorate the victory of the British over Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo. The name 'Mannora' is derived from the word minaret meaning small minar. From this 30 metre high tower one can have a panoramic view of the palm fringed Bay of Bengal. This tower also served as a light house.
The Brahadeeswarar temple at Gangaikondacholapuram was conceived and constructed by the Chola King Rajendra - I after his victory over the kingdoms bordering the river Ganga. Apart from the huge Nandi, there are some beautiful sculptures including a dancing Ganesha, a lion-headed well and a stunning figure of King Rajendra being crowned by Siva and Parvati.
The capital of the imperial Chola dynasty a thousand years ago. The magnificent Brahadeeswarar temple dedicated to Lord Siva bears witness to the glory of Chola architecture, sculpture and paintings. A museum in the temple countyard has interesting Chola artefacts.The Saraswathi Mahal Palace was started by the Nayaks of Madurai around 1550 AD and completed by the Maratha rulers of Thanjavur.
The Palace Library instituted by Maharaja Serfoji has a collection of 30,000 palm leaf manuscripts and many rare European books. The Thanjavur Art Gallery has priceless collection of bronze icons and granite sculptures dating from the 9th century AD. Thanjavur is a good place to shop for Thanjavur Art Plates, handicrafts, handwoven silk, bronze icons, intricately inlaid brass work and bejewelled paintings.
This church built in 1812 has louvred doors which open to convert it into an airy pavillion and is located near the Theppakulam.
Grand Anaicut - Kallanai (24 km)
The Grand Anaicut built by Karikalan Chola in the 2nd century A.D. to harness the waters of the Kaveri. Made of stone, the dam is 329 m long and 20m wide and still very much in use. Additions have been made in the form of a road bridge on top of the dam. This is a good picnic spot.
Mukkombu (Upper Anaicut) (18 km)
At the head of the Srirangam Island, there is another dam called Upper Anaicut or Mukkombu which is about 685 m long. Constructed in the 19th century across Kollidam, this dam has been forced into three sections instead of one long stretch because of the shape of the island. This is also good spot for picnics.
Narthamalai (17 km)
Narthamalai has some of the oldest structural stone temples, built by the Mutharaiyars. This temple has six large skillfully carved statues of Vishnu in the central hall. A 9th century Pallava cave temple dedicated to Siva lies to the south, and in front of this is the Vijayalaya Choliswaran temple. Vijayalaya was the first of the Later Cholas and as such, this Siva temple is one of the earliest Chola creations, but not as grand as the ones that were to follow. However, glimpses of an artistic greatness that was still to come can be seen in the beautiful figures of the dancers in front of the vimana, the elegantly carved dwarapalakas and the figures of other gods.
Tirumayam (79 km)
Tirumayam is one of the most interesting places around Pudukkottai. There are a couple of rock cut cave temples and an old fort, both of which are worth stopping for. The cave temples which lie side by side are dedicated to Siva ( Sathyagireeswarar ) and Vishnu ( Sathyamoorthy ) and were built by Mahendravarnan and Narasimhavarman Pallava. Atop the hill is the old fort called OOMAIYAN KOTTAI where captured rebels were imprisoned by the British. It was built in the year 1687 by King Sethupathi of Ramanathapuram. The Siva temple has some inscriptions of music. There are two shrines in the Vishnu temple, and one where the Lord is represented in a reclining posture is particulary remarkable as it is the largest of its kind in the country. On the walls behind the idol are beautiful carvings depicting Vishnu and the serpent Adisesha chasing away rakshasas (demons) by spewing fire and poison.