About a dozen Pallipadai temples, mausoleums of Maratha kings and queens who ruled Thanjavur for 175 years, are in a shambles in the historic town.
Located at Raja Ghori, the temples, built to perpetuate the glory of the rulers, today stand as symbols of neglect and decay. A classic case is the temple of Pratapa Simhan, which is characterised by broken pillars and weeds. Pratapa Simhan was the king of Thanjavur from 1740 to 1764 AD.
N. Selvaraj, president of the Centre for Historic Research, Ayyampettai here, who carried out research and identified the Pallipadai temple of Pratapa Simhan, says 11 Maratha kings ruled Thanjavur between 17th Century A.D. and 19th Century A.D.
Aesthetically constructed, the Pratapa Simhan temple stands on a 10-foot foundation made of bricks and stones. With a 50-foot-high vimana (tower), the temple has a mandapam, pillars and shrines for Lord Shiva and Goddess Amman.
In its vicinity are the temples of Shivaji II, the last Maratha King (1832-1855), and 11 queens of the Maratha dynasty in one complex, which too is in a state of ruin.
In olden days, when a king died, the last rites were performed on the bund of a tank at the entrance of the east gate (Keezha Vasal) of the palace. Before the burial at Raja Ghori, the body was taken in procession through the north gate (Vadakku Vasal).
The practice of Sati was prevalent and smaller shrines were constructed in memory of the queens.
Today, the area around the temples has been taken over by people who have built houses. The land still remains private property and is with Babaji Rajah Bhonsle, senior prince of Thanjavur, a descendant of the Maratha dynasty. He is willing to hand it over to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) or the State Archaeology Department for renovating the temples and making them heritage sites.
Once renovated, the temples will certainly draw a large number of tourists, says S. Muthukumar, Secretary, Thanjavur unit of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).