Heritage buildings are defined as notified structures of historical, architectural, or cultural significance. The erstwhile chennai Moore Market building fire in 1985 gave a fillip to the heritage activism in Tamil Nadu and in 1997, the state government, realizing the importance of heritage sites and their usefulness to the posterity, initiated action to conserve heritage buildings. It was on 2nd September 2008 special rules for conservation of heritage buildings/precincts with respect to Chennai City came into force. The government in the later years introduced additional rules regarding heritage monuments in the metropolitan area of Chennai. Important criteria considered for notification as heritage structure include period of construction, exhibited trend, events or persons associated with the structure, and design.
There are countless heritage buildings sites, including churches, temples, and mosques across India and also in Tamil Nadu that need immediate attention and adequate funds to restore them back to their old glory. There are many historical buildings in Thanjavur district that are in dire need of preservation and restoration. The one that needs an urgent attention of the government is the old Clock tower in the city of Thanjavur.
Thanjavur city is one of the oldest cities in India steeped in history. It was ruled by the Mutharayars beginning with the Cholas. After the last Chola reign in the 8th and 9th centuries, the Pandyas of Madurai ruled it briefly. In 1534, the Vijayanagara rule was established in part of Tamil Nadu, ending the Muslim rule. The Nayaks, (ie Sevappa Nayak 1540 – 72, first king of Nayak dynasty) reconstructed the town. Their main contributions are Mahamaham water tank in Kumbakonam and additional structure at Srirangam Ranganathar temple.
After the rule of Nayaks, Marathas came and ruled Thanjavur beginning in AD 1676. Venkaji alias Ekoji (half-brother of Shivaji, the great) of the Bhonsle Clan of Satara, Maharastra defeated the then ruler Alagiri and established the Maratha dynasty here. This dynasty enriched the cultural fabric of this delta region and adjacent places. British rule, under the East India company, was established when the Marathas were ruling Thanjavur. In AD 1799, Tanjore became a British Principality, one of the oldest one in Tamil Nadu.
The heritage building, Raanee’s (Rani’s) clock tower a red painted slender octagonal brick building roughly as tall as a 8 story structure adjacent to old bus stand at the busy intersection of Gandhi Road and Hospital road is a valuable heritage building built in 1883 when Serfoji II ruled Thanjavur. The elegant tower has a clock fitted on it with marble framework. The clock was brought from London.
There are four clocks connected to one common pendulum, The clock used to chime once upon a time up to the 1950s. The restoration of the clock and the tower was done some time ago in the recent past in 2011 (thanks to the efforts made by the Rotary Club of Thanjavur Kings) and now it has become defective and needs to be replaced with a quality clock that will last for a long time. When it chimed every hour, in the 1950s and earlier, the sound could be heard at a far off distance.
Presently, on all four sides, the clock dials are either broken or fallen apart, leaving big holes in their places. The wooden green painted ornate balconies with a roof on all four sides are in a dilapidated state. To get to the top, one has to use the spiral wooden stairway built inside the structure. That plants growths are visible at several places and they may promote root-wedging is a sad story. This might cause additional damage to the historical structure. The small park around it, used to be lush green and tidy several decades ago. Now, it is a dumping ground for barricades etc., as a traffic police station is located there. The ground is not leveled and part of it has become a garbage dump. The park needs revamping so that people who go shopping nearby can relax there. The park has a library in the name of Venugopal Naidu, former chairman of the Thanjavur Municipality.
According to S.M Somansudaram vide his work entitled ‘The great temple at Tanjore,’ 1935 published by the Thanjavur palace Devastham, a sum of Rs. 19,000.00 was spent on the clock tower that came up in 1833 during the reign of Raja Serfoji. Out of the total construction cost, Ranee’s contribution was not less than Rs. 12,000.00. It was a gift from the Rani; her contribution being a big one, it was called Raanee’s Clock tower. The entire building built in an Indo-European style is made of brick with lime mortar.
The clock tower carries a plaque saying 14 persons (a few reports mention 60 people!) went from Thanjavur to fight along with the British for the First World War between 1914 and 1918 out of whom four died.
It became a war memorial later. There is a bust of King George V and the inscription below the bust reads: “His Imperial Majesty King George V, Emperor of India. 6th May 1935 Silver Jubilee. Presented by Mr. T.N. Kalidoss, B.A., B.L., an humble and loyal citizen of Tanjore Shri. T. N. Kalidoss was a practicing lawyer at Thanjavur and his father was a famous lawyer Sri. Naganatha Sastry attached to the Thanjavur Bar Council.
The pedestal below the famous King’s bust is shabby and one could see molds on it. King George, who died on 20 January 1936 (aged 70), appears with a bald head (notice the Indian coin image), perhaps, this bust in the park depicts his old age beyond 50s.
It is located at the heart of the City and located very near to the world famous Brihadeeswarar Temple. Autos and Buses are available to reach this place from Bus Stands & Railway Stations.
The nearest airport is Tiruchirappalli Airport (60.2 Kms) from Ranees Clock Tower.
The nearest railway station is Thanjavur Railway Station (1.8 Kms ) from Ranees Clock Tower.
Ranees Clock Tower (Rajappa Park) is (120 Meters) from Thanjavur old bus stand, (6 Kms) from Thanjavur New bus stand, (61 Kms) from Trichy Central Bus Stand.