Category Archives: India

The Maruti Story

Do you remember the feeling of looking out for something in your room and being surprised by seeing an item you had purchased with lot of interest but somehow got hidden from view and you end up wondering how you left it there? That’s the feeling I got when I stumbled on this book “The Maruti Story” by R.C.Bhargava (Published in 2010) in my own library during the recent Pongal holidays.

For Indian Middle class families of 1970s or earlier, life was of simple choices not exceeding two. Personal transportation for the family meant (then) ubiquitous “Hamara” Bajaj or old “Vespa” scooters. Little well to do families upgrading to a car had two choices – Premier Padmini (Fiat) or Ambassador (Morris Oxford) cars.

In India of 70s, Population growth was the biggest problem facing the country, food shortages and rations were not far from memory, nationalisation was the trend, general public were used to behaving subservient to those in power. A company selling a product or service considered itself to be doing a favour to the customer, with the customer feeling privileged to be given a chance to buy it (ironical for a country whose Father of Nation has penned a famous quote about how to treat a customer).  If this was true for Private companies, State owned companies (called PSUs or Public Sector Units in India) performed (the word itself here feels ironic) more badly. Everything was controlled by licenses and quotas, Political interference was the norm, making common man feel they were freer before Independence. Most of the companies that were born in this hot chamber died immediately once the economy was liberalised in 1991. The Maruti story is an attempt by a veteran Indian Civil servant in narrating how in this hostile environment a PSU called “Maruti” was born and is thriving even today after three decades to tell its story.

My personal experience as a school kid in late 1970s when my family upgraded to a new model Ambassador car which was what my father called as buying “nothing more than a new metal box & four Wheels”. The process of buying a car in those days involved paying money upfront to book it and then waiting for months at the mercy of the dealer for the delivery. To make the new vehicle usable meant visits to over half-a-dozen outside vendors to improve it. For the Ambassador we bought this involved doing a complete chassis rust-proofing, changing the poorly performing Petrol engine to a Diesel engine from matador, changing the seats and doing interiors (it came barren) to something that’s comfortable, finally if you had the money adding an audio system & Air conditioner. Many of that changing (the waiting period was still there) when I bought my first car nearly a decade and half later, and it was a Maruti 800 (the first car produced by Maruti).

R.C.Bhargava starts his story soon after the nationalisation of Sanjay Gandhi’s Maruti Motors Limited to Maruti Udyog Limited as a PSU in 1981. If Mrs.Indira Gandhi’s vision for Maruti was to fulfil her late son’s (Sanjay Gandhi) dream of producing world class cars in India, then Mr.Bhargava and his boss Mr.V.Krishnamurthy were the most unlikely candidates to have even found a place in the team. To produce world class cars in a country where there was no Automobile industry in its true-sense meant first changing the system. The obvious choice for this would have been to import an established Automobile CEO to India, but that was politically unpalatable for a government proclaiming self-reliance and this was few years after India had kicked out multinationals like Coco-Cola and IBM. Instead of expatriates Mrs.Gandhi had drafted Mr.Sumant Moolgaokar (then Chairman of TELCO a commercial vehicle manufacturer from the house of TATA) as Non-Executive Chairman and Mr.Krishnamurthy from BHEL (another PSU) as Managing Director to head Maruti. Mr.Krishnamurthy then assembled a leadership team for Maruti comprising mostly of other insiders (Civil Servants and PSU employees) including the author. When Mr.Bhargava became a Maruti employee in 1982, he had spent nearly twenty six years in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) known for its Red Tape culture of bureaucracy and outdated processes inherited from its colonial rulers. In his wildest dream the author wouldn’t have dreamt that 30 years from that start, he will be serving as Chairman for a Maruti that’s private and majority owned by Suzuki Motor Corporation.

The Chairman & other Directors of a PSU in India get to enjoy luxurious Lutyen bungalows in New Delhi complete with garden, staff, butlers, chauffeur driven car and status in society. This is the mental image we carry of what’s it to be a director in a PSU when we open the book. Instead the author starts with a long safety message of what’s it like to be in the management of a Government owned entity in India. The Directors turn out to have limited powers where it really matters which is in the board roam of the company they head. Whether it is capital investments, pay scale, service terms of employees, entering into partnerships, investing surplus funds, all the decisions are taken external to the board by the ministry and the bureaucracy. Adding to this handicap, PSUs directors are governed by the same rules as public servants and are subject to Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) 1988 which has contrary objectives to running a profitable enterprise. An example of good intentions turning out to have unintended consequences. The act with its power to prosecute even after a person retires from civil service is perceived as a hanging sword by those covered by it, preventing them from taking any decisions. There are more restrictions placed by being a PSU including audits by Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Equal Opportunity rules to be followed in every transaction which can turn out to be an impediment for promoting talent over quotas, and PSU Directors spending considerable time and effort to answer numerous parliamentary committees which oversee their working.

Though the parentage of Maruti had raised concerns then, it got lucky on several fronts. The very political interference environment of India and its Babus (Indian Civil servants) turned out to be its best new born gift. It got assigned Mr.Arun Nehru (second cousin’s son of then Prime Minister Mrs.Indira Gandhi) as its point men who navigated the project through the maze of government corridors. Second was a hard set date (December 1983) for production and a PM who was committed to see through it as a memory of her late son. Third was inheriting from Sanjay Gandhi’s Maruti over 297 acres of prime land along with 1 million square feet of covered factory which meant work can start without spending years on land acquisition. Last and most important was getting Suzuki Motor Corp (SMC), Japan as its partner. SMC as the partner not only gave Maruti the Automobile technology, but brought with it the much needed Japanese work culture & ethos which was in those days anti-thesis to what was prevalent in India. Maruti also got lucky with getting full support of Mr.Osamu Suzuki who was the CEO of SMC, who ensured Maruti’s management team had direct access to him at all times.

Continuing with Mr.Bhargava on the journey we first encounter the Market survey called for by Maruti and conducted by Indian Market Research Bureau to understand the market needs and the consumer (a term unheard of in India till then) which influenced the team to move away from Ministries choice of Renault to explore Japanese small car manufacturers. When the author quotes one of the earliest minutes of meeting off the company board he drafted “should produce cars and commercial vehicle in accordance with the decision of the government and that immediate should action be taken to collect all relevant information on the various options which could be examined by the board for selecting the specific models to be assembled/manufactured by the company” he pats himself in his back by saying this to be his bureaucratic experience cutting in to keep all options open, we are left with a smile on how Governments functions. There are many examples recalled by the author on how Maruti’s team navigated the bizarre laws of India without falling foul to any of them. One was how they managed to share the power from their captive Gas turbines with their vendors (Joint venture of component manufacturers) when the law in those days prevented from sharing power to anyone outside. The solution was to transfer the Gas turbines to a subsidiary and issuing equity in that subsidiary to all the Joint venture companies making all of them part owners of the turbine.

In any technology partnership when you are in the knowledge transfer phase there is no replacement to having your engineers travel onsite to the principal’s location. Maruti in its first fifteen years had sent over 979 workers to Japan to get trained and it was helped greatly by the subsidy it got for those travels from Japanese Government under Association of Oversears Technical Scholarships (AOTS) scheme. Next to having best technology was to have a good working culture, Maruti’s workers got their example set in the days of commissioning itself by a Director of Production from Japan Mr.Shinohara who picked up a broom, a bucket of water cleaning the shop floor without waiting for a sweeper.

The author talks of various board decisions that helped Maruti .The huge booking advance it got from thousands of customers which saved the company from paying interest for working capital needs, the decision to voluntarily include workers union on major policy decisions, decision to have one common uniform for blue & white collar employees, having common restrooms for all (yes you read it correct – restrooms!), common lunchrooms, open cubicles for managers, hiring Diploma holders for shop floor, and productivity (and production) based metrics for calculating bonuses and.

Two examples in Maruti story I enjoyed which exemplifies Indian creativity/workaround called Jugaad. One was how the quality plywood that SMC used in wrapping painted SKD (Semi Knocked Down kits) after getting discarded by Maruti ended up in streets of Delhi with boards in front of shops announcing “Maruti Ply sold here”. The next one was a fine idea of clever thinking, on how a crack team headed by one Joga Singh solved the problem of moving a heavy vehicle inspection equipment from Anzen of Japan weighing several tons into large pits in the floor without having modern machineries which were common in Japan. The Indian team without waiting for the Japanese engineers had brought huge blocks of ice and filled the pits with them, then rolled the equipment over the ice, then in the night the ice melted and the machines went down and settled in the pit automatically.

Not everything was rosy in the Maruti story. The author writes about the delay in 1994 and 1995 over the issue of extension of licensing agreement between Maruti & SMC preventing it from getting access to latest Japanese technologies. How then Secretary of Industries Ministry Mr.T.R.Prasad and then minister Mr.K.Karunakaran turning out unfriendly, with the ministry and Maruti involved in several collisions. Many decisions got affected then and following years even after Secretary and Minister changing to Mr.Anup Mukherji & Mr.Murasoli Maran respectively. The decisions that got stuck included the choice of location for the second factory to increase production, appointment of Directors in the board by Government and on the issue of SMC brining in fresh capital for capacity expansion. There were other missed opportunities including in early days of Maruti, Indian Railways a Government of India undertaking refusing to invest in adapting its coaches to carry Maruti cars which would have resulted in huge benefits for both the arms of the same government.

The book switches to high gear after this, around the time when Government of India starting to dilute its stake eventually exiting entirely and SMC increasing its stake above 50%. This meant Maruti’s export to Europe happening in small volumes started to grow exponential. The author goes into detail on Maruti invested heavily in preparing their vendors, even playing midwife in getting its vendors to partner with their Japanese counterparts ensuring best technology flowed from Japan to India at all levels of its manufacturing, with some of those vendors grown to Billion Dollar multinationals today. We learn on how Japanese were obsessed with following to the dot written instructions (in contrast to Indian habits) and on how SMC was looking for reduction of costs at every level continuously. Maruti in its early days had to develop the whole idea of marketing cars, show rooms, dealers and even train extensively on the attitude of its own sales departments. And any mention of Japanese is not complete without mention of their quality processes and inspections, the author walks us through of what Maruti implemented which includes establishment of Quality circles and Job rotations between cross functions.

The-Maruti-Story

As you come to the end of the book you are left wondering on the huge strides India has made in the last three decades in which Maruti had grown and on how many of the things remain stubbornly the same in the way her Government functions. As a consumer I have time travelled from an India where to get a car allotted(!) I needing a letter from a MP (Member of Parliament), to an India where I could get sales representatives of all major car companies to my door step waiting for me. On the things that remain the same are the inefficiency of Indian Bureaucracy and corruption which having resided in the decade after the end of license raj in1991 seem to have made a comeback with a vengeance in the last 5 years.

As I put down the book I feel it to be a nice read just like the comfortable cars manufactured by Maruti, whose cars are not premium, not luxurious but certainly Made for India and value for money.

Doing business in India

This seems to be a topic that I write often in this blog due to my personal experience of running a business in India. In the past I have detailed how difficult it is to setup a business in Tamil Nadu (valid for rest of India), how to run a software product business in India, my views on Foreign Investment in Retail industry in India and referenced Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s listing of 3 main ailments of Indian businesses.

Over the last few quarters the Indian economy has slowed down, the euphoria over India by rest of the world has stopped, many businesses in India have turned inwards kind of rethinking their strategies & expansions. In this background I have been taking notes from many interviews & articles on the subject by industry veterans, in this blog post I would like to list them. The list based on materials I came across & I agree with overall theme of these materials. Its not meant to be an endorsement (as I don’t think I am qualified for doing anything like that)  and is aimed to serve as a reference for all interested.

Shriram Group chief and Padma Bhushan awardee, R. Thyagarajan talks to The Hindu (PDF version) earlier this year (February 2013). He says “The most painful experience is being in business in India. The ease of doing business is one of the worst in India. The difficulties and pains associated with doing business is probably the highest in India as opposed to most other countries. It’s like getting on to a tiger, and you can’t get off

I couldn’t agree more with Mr.Thyagarajan on this. He may have put it bluntly, but it’s the fact. The sad part is that, it need not be this way in India, the country has huge potential and resources to make the environment better for all.

Economist newspaper observes on how economic activity that should be within the country is shifting out of India. The article cites Cyrus Mistry (Tata Sons chairman) having an Irish passport, most of the Indian planes are being serviced not in India but in Dubai/Malaysia/Singapore, Indian owned companies being headquartered in Dubai or Singapore, Indian e-commerce firms having their datacenter in Singapore.

This has been something I have been thinking for sometime now. Doing a businesses in India from outside the country is lot easier than within. And the process of investing in to a company headquartered outside is doable with the liberal fund flow regime for Indian individuals, a policy reinforced (rightfully) by subsequent finance ministers for last 15 years. Once you have your company headquartered say in Singapore or Dubai, you can outsource all the operations to local firms in India. With the digital era, operating a business in India sitting anywhere in the world is easy and practical. Why would you want to do this?

First you get a a predictable tax regime, unlike India which passes Retrospective Income Tax act in 2012 dating back from 1962 after Vodafone’s Supreme court victory case. I am not highlighting here the lower tax rates (as eventually when you bring profits to India as individuals you will end up paying India tax rate) which at around 30% in India is not extreme. I do believe that future Indian Finance Ministers have good scope to bring it to attractive levels of 20%.

Second, you get a speedier resolution of legal issues, in Singapore (businesses) court cases are disposed of faster than in India.Adding to this you get advantage of simplified tax rules and business friendly interpretation of laws (when laws are ambiguous especially in areas where you are pushing the boundary through innovation)

Third, if you are generating even modest local employment in those countries the benefits start pilling up. There are concessions and credit available for Tiny & Micro businesses.

Mckinsey on the occasion of the release of “Reimagining India: The Book” having publishing a series of insightful interviews on Indian business environment. I liked three of those interviews.

1. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt observing “So the problem is not the Indians, the problem is the country. And the country appears to be relatively dysfunctional politically, and has some corruption issues. You can see the potential when the Indians come here. Imagine if they were there and they were doing the same things with the same kind of structure. They’d change the world”

2. Coca-Cola chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent summary on how to succeed in India “The key to this success has been learning to see the Indian market as it is, not as we wished it to be

3. The dean of the Lee Kuan Yew Schoo,Singapore Kishore Mahbubani saying “More open the global competition is, the better the Indians will do”

Apart from the above resources, I am currently reading Microsoft India’s former Chairman Mr.Ravi Venkatesan’s book “Conquering the Chaos: Win in India, Win Everywhere” which puts forward a strong argument on why Multinationals can’t ignore India even if they don’t want to do business in India.

Reserve Bank of India Governor Mr.Raghuram Rajan has been making all the right noises on how to help Indian Small & Medium businesses. First it was his plan to offer credit to 3.6 crore Micro, Small & Medium enterprises for good that they sell to big industries in India and wait for 90 to 120 days for their payments. Second was his talk on making it easy to start a business in India. In a talk on 11th Dec, addressing Delhi Economic Conclave he noted that “Currently, about 40 permissions are required from various statutory authorities to open a business, We need to review our regulations and bring them in tune with current times”

I will just end this post by saying I hope and pray what Mr.Rajan says in public appearances gets implemented by the Government, which unfortunately is not in his hands but in the hands of India’s lawmakers and bureaucrats.

Update on 28th March 2014:

This article published today in Economic Times reports on how Technology firms are fast moving out of India to Singapore. Software & Internet sites are digital bits, for them national boundaries make no difference. Its NOT ABOUT AVOIDING TAX, that these firms are leaving India. Singapore is not a Tax-Free state, but it offers stability in Tax laws, hassle free bureaucracy, low corruption rates, faster arbitration rulings in their courts  - all of which India can only dream for next several decades.

If the incoming central government in May 2014, doesn’t solve these urgent issues, India will soon have millions of educated middle-class urban youth on streets without the jobs they aspire for. A situation no political party can enjoy happening on its watch.

While holidaying abroad don’t shop for TVs

When it comes to Indian Politics or Government Policies, I am worse than a Armchair critic. If not doing anything is bad, I am not even theoretically qualified on these subjects. That’s why you won’t find me writing in this blog on these topics that often. But this recent announcement by Indian Government cried out to be talked that I decided to write about it and expose my ignorance.

Yesterday Hon’ble Finance Minister of India announced the ban of import of flat panel TVs as part of free baggage allowance for returning India’s from abroad trips. As of Budget 2012 (Guide from Indian Customs), after a trip exceeding 3 days returning Indian’s can bring Duty Free Items worth up to Rs.35,000 (~$550). Though this amount is not lavish, its OK for doing gift & souvenir shopping. Last year, I had availed this concession while returning from Dubai after a vacation. I purchased for my sister a 40″ Samsung LCD TV costing about Rs.32,000 in UAE which I was able to bring in hassle free through Green Channel as it was within limits.

Till about a decade back when latest Electronics like Mobile or Laptops were not available in India I used to buy them abroad and bring them. Nowadays these are in fact cheaper in India and they come with local warranty, saving the trouble of Forex conversions and exceeding your baggage weight limits. As someone travelling abroad for more than 15 years, I found in 1990s the last leg of your journey was the most tiring – which was landing in India and doing your baggage collection & customs clearance at Indian Airports. As Indian Economy opened up and Government liberalized, import of items became easier. This had a big indirect benefit of reduced crime by almost eliminating Illegal imports/smuggling. As a result in recent years Customs officials in India won’t even look your way unless they have any intelligence or suspicion against you.

Now with Government bringing back restrictions on import of Gold & TVs, the experience of Air travelers returning home are set to take a turn for worse. India gets about 24 Million International Passengers per year (including returning citizens), assuming 5% (generous estimate) of them bring a US$600 TV with them, at 20% tax (loosely any form of tax – Excise Duty or VAT doesn’t exceed this) this mean a revenue to exchequer of only $144 Million/Year. This is miniscule compared to the CAD (Current Account Deficit) of $89 Billion.

Instead of benefitting Government with increased revenue through import taxes & reduced Forex outflows, this policy reversal will push the imports underground. This will have an unintended (I like to believe when I say this) consequence of benefitting the crime networks and lining the pockets of corrupt officials at Airports.

The medicine Indian Economy needs now is not more Red Tapes but super speed liberalization and economical reforms. Reforms across sectors will simulate the economy, reverse the sentiment of foreign investors towards India and convince Indian Enterprises to spend the huge cash they have been hoarding in their balance sheets. If anything the years after 1991 has taught it is that nothing improves Growth, lifts millions out of poverty for sure than cutting Bureaucracy and eliminating Red Tapes. Unfortunately both the Hon’ble Finance Minister and Hon’ble Prime Minister both seem to be going back with a “vengeance” on their own same policies of 1990s which got them famous.

Bureaucracy

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev on Entrepreneurship in India

In today’s Mint newspaper there was an interview by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev of ISHA Foundation titled “Indian businesses don’t understand branding”. He precisely lists what’s holding back Indian businesses – Branding, friendly finance  & Marketing capabilities. Being an entrepreneur myself I couldn’t agree more with what Sadhguru has said.
He continues that for some of them them language is the issue-the language of business; Unless a transaction benefits both the parties, it will not be sustainable, whether it’s marriage or market place; how to train businesses to be sure of themselves to take the next big jump for growth (its like in a trapeze bar, unless you are sure you can catch the other bar you won’t leave this one); a leader should understand that he must have something to contribute to everybody’s lives.
Watch the Bloomberg TV interview for an insight into the subject:
Part 1 of the video is above, here are Part 2 and Part 3.

Thula Masam–Ganges comes to Kaveri

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If you are wondering what is the above photo of water bottles mean?

They have water from Kaveri river brought to our house in Chennai by my uncle after his visit to Trichy this week. It is believed bathing in Kaveri river during this month washes your sins and brings you divine blessings. In Tamil calendar, this month is called as Aypasi (ஐப்பசி) alias Thula Month (துலா மாதம்). In this month it is believed by Hindus that all rivers in India including Ganges, Yamuna, Narmada, Sindhu come to South, to Kaveri to cleanse themselves of the sins people bath away in them. Interesting legend!

To read more about this, you can refer these websites (All in Tamil):  Maduraiyampathi Blog, Nakkheeran, Dinamani.

Small Indian companies that have stood over time

We all have read Jim Collins’ Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, learning about companies in USA which are truly exceptional and have been running for over one hundred years. But how much we know about Indian Companies that have lasted that long or more, especially the small and regional companies. Apart from general curiosity my interest is enhanced due to my family business at LIFCO Books (Little Flower Company). Founded in 1929, LIFCO publishes its famous Dictionaries and Religious books on Tamil. 

I was happy to see Hindustan Times’ Mint newspaper address this need. Today’s Mint section “Lounge” carries this report on small, regional pre-independence companies which braved liberalization and have left an imprint on our local, collective memory. Read Survivors from the 1800s to Now. Companies featured include Higginbothams, DuckPack, Kalimark, Nilgris, HMV and more.

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NILGIRIS621

My trip to Tanjore-Part 5

This is the final post in my mini series on visit to Tanjore – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4.

After our visits to must go places in Tanjore – the Palace and Museum the next day after the wedding we went to another popular destination which is the PunnaiNallur Mariamman temple which is 5Kms from Tanjore. It is always crowded, we could get darshan in about 1 hour or so.

THANJAVUR - PunnaiNallur Mariamman temple

Just like in every other temple in India you have shops selling everything for Pooja (Coconuts, Flowers, Turmeric, Kumkum, BeetleNuts, Banana), Pictures of the main deity, cool drinks and biscuits.

THANJAVUR - PUNNAINALUR MARRIAMMAN (1)

Our final destination was to shopping area in Tanjore around Anna Salai.

Anna Salai, Thanjavur

The below photos were taken near shops in Burma Bazaar, near Abraham Pandither Road & Jupiter theatre in Thanjavur.

Burma Bazaar in Tanjore

Jupiter Theatre, Thanjavur

When we went there was a book fair happening in the historic Sri Besant Lodge in Tanjore.

 Sri Besant Lodge, Thanjavur

Book Fair in Tanjore in Sri Besant Lodge

My trip to Tanjore-Part 4

This is the fourth part in my series on my visit to Tanjore in January 2012 – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. I am writing about my visit to the historic Tanjore Big Temple – Brihadisvara Temple. This is a living temple with poojas being offered daily for last thousand years.

We went to the temple in the evening few hours before sunset and could get some lovely photos taken.

THANJAVUR BIG TEMPLE (8)

THANJAVUR BIG TEMPLE (14)

THANJAVUR BIG TEMPLE (15)

THANJAVUR BIG TEMPLE (22)

THANJAVUR BIG TEMPLE (31)

THANJAVUR BIG TEMPLE (36)

In the evening sunset light the 216 feet tall tower was so beautiful and breath-taking.

THANJAVUR BIG TEMPLE (45)

We went inside and had a good darshan at the main sanctum-Santorum (no photos allowed there). The below lingam is one of the many in the complex.

THANJAVUR BIG TEMPLE (48)

You will find many old scriptures in Tamil all around the temple complex

THANJAVUR BIG TEMPLE (62)

Finally by the time we came out it was night time and there was buzzing activity in the night bazaar setup opposite the temple complex.

THANJAVUR BIG TEMPLE (1)

You can see the entire set of photographs I took of Big Temple here (these were taken before my Photography training, so many will not make the cut for clean pro version)

My trip to Tanjore-Part 3

This is sequel to my visit to Thanjavur Palace.

Inside the Tanjore palace apart from the main Art Musuem you can see few other places of interest. There is Saraswathi Mahal Library, Serfoji’s Memorial Hall Musuem, Mahratta Dharbar Hall & Royal Museum. Each of these are maintained by different parties – ASI / Tamil Nadu Government, The Descendants of Serfoji and so you need to buy over half-a-dozen tickets. Each of these tickets costs between Re.1 to Re.20, if they combine it and make it a single entry it will make it easy for tourists.

Thanjavur Palace (123)

Thanjavur Palace (133)

Thanjavur Palace (134)

Thanjavur Palace (148)

Tanjore-Bills1

Saraswathi Mahal Library is one of the main attractions here. The Library contains books collected from the period of Nayaks in 1535 A.D. and enhanced during King Serfoji II during 1798 A.D. The books collection exceeds over 60,000 and many rare European language books are present here. I found it interesting to find on display pages from a book titled Chinese prisoner tortures – unbelievable and inhuman.

Saraswathi Mahal  Library

Celing paintings in Saraswathi Mahal  Library

The next stop was the Royal Museum which houses some utensils, elephant bells, turbans (head gear) and weapons used in the olden days. 

Thanjavur Palace (140)

 

Thanjavur Palace (138)

Thanjavur Palace (145)

The next was Serfoji’s Memorial Hall Musuem. The path to the place is poorly maintained, vegetation’s grown all around threatening the survival of the palace.

Thanjavur Palace (154)

Thanjavur Palace (155)

Inside the museum there is not much of interest in display, other than old furniture’s, coins and daily use items. 

Thanjavur Palace (161)

Thanjavur Palace (166)

Thanjavur Palace (172)

There was a sign saying path to secret passage subway, we walked down few steps and found the place to be not lit at all with all kinds of sounds coming from beneath. Not wishing to go further and encounter bats or rats we retraced our path back.

Thanjavur Palace (174)

The last stop was the Mahratta Dharbar Hall (assembly hall). I couldn’t help comparing with the Dharbar Hall I have seen in Mysore Palace or Jaipur palace – both being maintained in fine condition compared to this. 

Thanjavur Palace (189)

Thanjavur Palace (195)

Overall the trip to Tanjore palace was interesting and useful to get a feel of history in this part of my India. You can see the full set of photographs I took from here.

My trip to Tanjore–Part 2

This is follow-up to my earlier post – Part 1.

On the first day of our visit to Tanjore after morning breakfast we went to Thanjavur Palace.  It was good we had over half-a-day to spend in the palace visit, for you to appreciate the artefacts and history you need to go around without rush. And for us taking photographs took quite a bit of time as well.

After you enter the main courtyard of the palace which is now an Art Musuem maintained by Archaeological society of India you are welcomed by hundreds of statues and sculptures which were unearthed by researches over the centuries in this part of Tamil Nadu. Most of them had names plates for you to understand but there was no guide or information to explain more about the palace and the displayed artefacts. 

Art Musuem in Thanjavur Palace

The view of the tall tower inside Tanjore palace

Thanjavur Palace (23)

Just like in Chennai’s Egmore Museum I saw many fine bronze statues of Nataraja and other gods in display at the museum here.

Nataraja Bronze Statues inside Tanjore palace

There were many winding steps you can take to climb the tower to the top (about six levels I think)

The many staircases leading to top of the tower in Tanjore palace

Tower in Thanjavur Palace

And from the top you get wonderful view of the surroundings and city, you can see the Big Temple as well:

View from top of tower in Thanjavur Palace

There were many boards warning not to damage or write on walls of the tower insides, but few seem to care about it. I felt pain seeing many scribbling’s all across the walls of what is a national historic treasure. It is believed that growth in Literacy and Economy will make a population and culture respect and protect its history but that seems to be not true in India. We seem to have a blatant disregard in preserving.

Scribblings across walls in Thanjavur palace

See the sorry state of maintenance of the walls and structures (see in the right of the picture below) in many places around the palace.

Sorry state of maintenance of the walls and structures in Thanjavur Palace

At the first level they have kept a display of skeleton of a 92 feet Whale that washed ashore near tranquebar in 1955. It is displayed in poor condition. Other than occupying an empty hall it doesn’t fit into the theme of the other displays and the place.

Whale skeleton in Thanjavur Palace Museum

You can see all the photos I took from here and here is a blog post by Richard Clarke who has posted some fine photographs of Thanjavur Palace.