Thanjavur attained prominence under the Chola rulers who were paramount in South India during 9th to 12th centuries. They were not only excellent rulers but also mighty builders, who erected a large number of exquisite temples in their empire, some of which constitute the finest specimens of architecture. Hence the district stands distinguished in the state even in its large number of temples, whose legends extend deep into early historic times. Many of these temples reflect the power, genius and architectural grandeurs of their authors displaying the unique and magnificent proficiency in sculpture, painting and wood carving. Art gallery the great Saraswathi Mahal library, the ‘Sangeetha Mahal’ (hall of music), the thriving of classical music and dance known as ‘Bharathanatyam’ and the celebration of grand annual music festival at Thiruvaiyaru, in honour of the great Saint Thiagaraja, all bear testimony to the cultural heritage.
The period of Chola Kings was not only considered as epoch-making but also an era of the cultural renaissance. Thanjavur under the Chola rulers was the cradle of Tamil Culture. Literature and civilisation and the rare Tamil manuscripts in the Thanjavur library corroborate this fact. Another notable feature is that in spite of several alien invasions, onslaughts and internal conflicts, the ancient culture and civilisation have not suffered much devastation. The inhabitants have successfully concentrated their histrionic talents in the field of art, literature, drama, music and dancing and are known for their rich cultural and religious fervour. They live in close harmony as a well knit community and the three main religious groups viz., Hindus, Muslims, and Christians, celebrate their fairs and festivals with a sense of mutual respect. On festive occasion, the Hindu devotees out-number all other participants in the shrines belonging to other religions. Similarly, in the case of some Hindu festivals, the temples are thronged by a substantial number of persons belonging to other religious group as well, who have a staunch faith and come in full reverence to pay homage to the presiding deities.