Tamilnadu is bounded by Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in the north and Kerala in the west. The eastern and western tips of the Tamilnadu are defined by the Point Calimere and Mudumalai wildlife sanctuaries while the northern extreme is Pulicat lake and the southernmost tip is Kanyakumari, the land’s end. Tamil Nadu is principally washed by the Cauvery, originating in Coorg in neighbouring Karnataka. Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu is known for its beautiful beach resorts.
Cities of Tamil Nadu
Popularly regarded, as “The Gateway to the South India” Chennai is the fourth largest and the capital city of Tamil Nadu. It presents a culture that is distinct from that of the northern part of India and is famous for its traditional yet modern outlook.
Chennai, previously called Madras, is comparatively a new city, about 350 years old. The erstwhile villages of Mylapore, Triplicane, Ezhambur (Egmore), etc., all now a part of Chennai, have a recorded historical past centuries older than Chennai. Chennai is a gracious city that has a clear skyline, long sandy beaches, parks, historic landmarks and tourist infrastructural facilities which make it a convenient entry point or base to start a tour of Tamil Nadu and South India. Music, dance and all other art forms of South India are cherished and nurtured in this city. Although the city has long been an important center of textile manufacturing.
Coimbatore- “The Textile Capital Of South India” Or ” The Manchester Of The South” Coimbatore is one of the most industrialised cities in the state. Popularly known as “The Textile Capital of South India” or “The Manchester of the South”, the city is situated on the banks of the river Noyyal. Located in the shadow of the Western Ghats, Coimbatore enjoys a very pleasant climate the year round, aided by the fresh breeze that flows in through the 25-km long Palakkad gap. The rich black soil of the region has contributed to Coimbatore’s flourishing agriculture industry and, it is in fact that the successful growth of cotton.
Kanyakumari (also spelt as Kanniyakumari) district is bounded by Tirunelveli district in the north and northeast, by Kerala state in the northwest and confluence of Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean in the west and south. The coastline is almost regular except for some points of land projecting into the sea at Cape Comorin. Kanyakumari is the district headquarters of the district of the same name. Kannyakumari has been named after the Goddess Kannyakumari Amman who is the popular deity of the area. Legend has it that the Goddess Parvati in one of her incarnations as Devi Kanniya .
Kodaikanal located amidst the folds of the verdant Pali hills is one of the most popular serene hill stations in India, which mesmerises any visitor. With her wooded slopes, mighty rocks, enhancing waterfalls and a beautiful lake, Kodaikanal is a charming hill station. Kodai is situated at an altitude of about 2,133-m high and covers an area of 21.45-sq-km. The hill town is renowned for its educational institutions of international repute. The pride of Kodaikanal is the ‘Kurinji-flower’, which blossoms once in 12 years. The hill-plantain fruits and plums are known for their freshness and taste.
Madurai or the “city of nectar” is the oldest and second largest city of Tamil Nadu. This city is located on Vaigai River and was the capital of Pandyan rulers till the 14th century. The Pandyan king, Kulasekhara had built a gorgeous temple around which he created a lotus shaped city. Mythology says when city was being named; Lord Shiva blessed the city and its people. On the auspicious occasion some Divine nectar (“Madhu”) fell from the matted locks of Shiva and hence the city was named “Madhurapuri”. This sacred town of south attracts thousands of pilgrims and visitors from India as well as abroad.
The history of Mahabalipuram dates back to two thousand years, it contains nearly forty monuments of different types including an “open air bas relief” which is the largest in the world, for centuries it has been a centre of pilgrimage, it figures in the early annals of the British search for the picturesque in India in the 18th century, today it attracts shoals of foreigners in search of relaxation and sea bathing, and most strange of all, it has an atomic power plant for neighbour. A small library has been written on it. Over its history and that of its monuments a number of scholarly controversies rage.
The temple of Sri Ramanatha, which has over the centuries grown into its present gigantic dimensions, stands on the eastern shore of an island, which is shaped like a conch, which Lord Vishnu bears in one of His hands. No field is ploughed or oil presses any where in the island. A magnificent railway bridge, over a kilometre long and constructed at the beginning of the twentieth century, connects it with the mainland. To help the pilgrims walking incredible distances, philanthropists used to construct rest houses at intervals along the way.
Situated in Tiruchirappalli district, on the banks of the River Kaveri (also spelt as Cauvery) is Tiruchirappalli, a city known for its educational institutions, industries, and temples. It is shortly called as “Tiruchi” or “Trichy”. Trichy is the district headquarters of the district of Tiruchirappalli and has its name for tourist attraction. The city is a thriving commercial centre in Tamil Nadu and is famous for artificial diamonds, cigars, handloom cloth, glass bangles and wooden and clay toys.
Udhagamandalam (Ooty), the capital of Nilgiri district, is popularly known as the “Queen of hill stations’ among the tourist circuits. It is situated at a distance of 105 km away from Coimbatore. The height of the hills in the Nilgiri range varies between 2280 and 2290 metres, the highest peak being Doddabetta at a height of 2623 metres. The establishment of numerous tea estates made Ooty famous. Lofty mountains, dense forest, sprawling grasslands and miles and miles of tea gardens greet the passengers on most routes. The annual Tea and Tourism Festival attracts crowds in huge numbers.
Pilgrimages in Tamil Nadu
Kanchipuram is a small, rural town about 75-km from Chennai in the state of Tamil Nadu. With the Sankara Mutt acting as the hub of Hindu activities and the temples, Kanchipuram is one of the most highly visited pilgrimage spots in India, and can rightfully be called the “Religious Capital of South India”. Kanchipuram was under the Pallavas from the 6th to 8th century AD and later became the citadel of the Cholas, Vijayanagar Kings, the Muslim and the British. It has been a center of Tamil learning, cultural and religious background for centuries. Kanchipuram has magnificent temples of unique architectural beauty.
TEMPLE OF GODDESS BHAGAVATHI
Few temples in India are more picturesquely located than that of Goddess Bhagavathi in Kannyakumari. It stands near where three oceans meet: the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. In its early form the temple seems to have been built by the first Pandyas. The Nayaks expanded it later. There are three Prakaras. The image of the Goddess in the sanctum is marvellous in its serenity and beneficence. She carries a necklace in Her right hand. The eastern gate, facing the Bay of Bengal is opened only five times a year.
THE TEMPLE AT SUCHINDRAM
Tradition connects the Kannyakumari temple with that in Suchindram (13-km from Kanyakumari). This is a fine, large fane, with a beautiful tank. It is one of the few temples in the country where the Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Isvara, are worshipped. The Linga, named “Sthanumalaya”, is in three parts; the top represents Lord Shiva, the middle Lord Vishnu, and the base Lord Brahma. “Sthanu” is a name of Shiva, “Mal” of Vishnu, and “Ayan” of Brahma.
The life of Madurai revolves around the Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple. This magnificently carved temple is the main attraction of Madurai and its huge Gopurams towers over the city. Meenakshi temple has a thousand pillared ‘Mandapam’. Precisely there are 985 pillars and each of them is delicately and exquisitely carved. Among these are the musical pillars, which produce music when tapped. Surprisingly, these musical pillars are carved out of a single granite rock. The temple has been a hub of Tamil culture and has been sponsoring literature, art, music, and dance in the region for a long time. The temple also has an art museum.
The Shore Temple occupies a most extraordinary site, by the very margin of the Bay of Bengal so that at high tide the waves sweep into it and the walls, with their sculptures, have been eroded by the winds and waves of thirteen centuries. The European name for Mahabalipuram, since the first western visitor wrote of it in the 16th century, is the “Seven Pagodas”. There are not seven temples here. The number has been made up fancifully and even whimsically. Some of the Europeans believed that the sea has overwhelmed a part of the town containing some temples. But, there is no sunken city in the waves off Mahabalipuram.
Beaches in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is known for its natural beauty especially its blue beaches and clear skies. Some of southern India’s nicest beaches dot Chennai’s long seafront, the Marina beach is a 12-km long strip of fine sandy foreshore and is known as the ‘Pride of Chennai, the Covelong beach is quiet and far away from the distractions of the city and the Elliot’s beach is the preferred destination for those with a clean atmosphere in mind.
A short 20-minute drive from Chennai City, VGP Golden Beach Resort offers a serene and relaxing atmosphere in today’s stress-driven world. 58-km south of Chennai is the Mahabalipuram beach, famous for its unique 7th century Shore Temple.
The other famous beaches of Tamil Nadu are the Chunnambar Beach, the Kanyakumari Beach, Pichavaram Beach, Rameshwaram Beach and the Poompuhar Beach.
Kerala is known throughout the world as one of the world’s best beach destinations. The beaches of Kerala are beautiful stretches of clean sand, fringed by swaying palm trees on one side and rippling waves on the other. You can have a memorable beach holiday on the beaches of Kerala on Kerala tours with Kerala Backwater.
Golden sand, good surf and a shimmering clean blue sea, this in a nutshell, is Marina beach. This beach is counted among one of the longest beaches in Asia. Its 12-km long stretch was made beautiful by the wonderful facelift given by Governor Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff in the early 1880’s, and is a major tourist attraction today. Marina beach is located on the eastern side of Chennai, adjoining the Bay of Bengal. Watching the sun set and rise from the beach is an enthralling experience. Though bathing and swimming can be dangerous, as the undercurrent is very strong, even then people come for swimming here.
Mahabalipuram, also known, as “Mamallapuram” is 58-km, south of Chennai, nestling on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, was once a port of the Pallavas. The Pallavas have created many marvellous monuments with Sculptural Panels, Caves, Monolithic Rathas (chariots) and Temples. Once a thriving port trading with many distant nations, Pallava chisels have breathed life into stone. The Pallavas art at this place emphasises robust earthly beauty, imbibed with life. These monumental splendours and the sunny beach resorts attract tourists from all over the world.
At the southern most tip of India, where the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal meet, lies Kanyakumari (also spelt as Kanniyakumari), an important pilgrim center. Kanyakumari is also famous for its spectacular sunrises and sunsets, especially on full moon days. The beach is a beautiful sight with multi-coloured sand, but it does not really offer one the opportunity to sunbathe on soft golden sands, or to frolic in the waves either. The seashore is rocky and dangerous, and there is a manmade wall running along it. People are warned to stay off the rocks.
Monuments in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu has many marvellous monuments, which attract tourists from all over the world. Mahabalipuram is noted for the famous Arjuna’s Penance, an enormous relief made on two huge boulders. Chennai possesses many ancient monuments such as the Bharathiyar Illam, Kamaraj Memorial House, Madras War Cemetery, Senate House, Rippon Building, Vivekananda Illam and the Valluvar Kottam.
Thirumalai Nayak Mahal, a classic example of Indo-Saracenic style is the most visited monument in Madurai. The Padmanabhampuram Palace is a guided tour through the maze of 108 rooms leaving visitors breathless at the artistic expression and sheer opulence of these magnificent rooms.
A sculptured marvel at Mahabalipuram, often called “Arjuna’s Penance”, is an enormous relief made on two huge boulders. One of the biggest open-air rock canvases in the world, this bas-relief is 31m long and 9m high. The surface of the rock has detailed carvings, showing the most endearing and natural renditions of animals. Arjuna, one of the Pandava brothers and a consummate archer, is shown standing on one leg, doing penance to obtain a boon from Lord Shiva. There is a forest with tribal people and all forms of animal life, just as they would appear in their habitat. Women are clothed in an aura of indescribable grace.
ROCK FORT TEMPLE
The Rock Fort temple complex in Tiruchirappalli is a collection of three temples – the Manikka Vinayaka temple at the foot of the hill, the Uchhi Pillayar Koyil at the top of the hill and the Taayumaanava Koyil (Shivastalam) on the hill. This Shivastalam is a rock cut temple on a hill in the most prominent landmark in Tiruchirappalli (Trichy); reached by a flight of steps on the way to the famous Ucchi Pillaya temple. This shrine houses Kangaala Moorthy, one of the 64 manifestations of Shiva. The approach to the temple is through a flight of covered stairs. Towards the end of the climb
The Valluvar Kottam, on the corner of Kodambakkam High Road and Village Road, Chennai, is a standing memorial to immortal Tamil Poet-Saint Thiruvalluvar. It is a massive auditorium, constructed on reclaimed land from an unused lake filled with the city’s garbage and debris. It was opened in the year 1976 and the auditorium is said to be the largest in Asia and can accommodate about 4000 people. All 1330 verses of the poet’s epic – the Thirukkural, are inscribed on the granite pillars that surround the auditorium and it has got no pillars for support. There is a 101-feet high temple chariot structure with a life-size image of the poet in it.
Wildlife in Tamil Nadu
The topography of Tamil Nadu is delightfully varied and diverse. Of the 1,30,058 sq-kms land area, 17.6% is covered with forest area. These spread over the plains and on mountain slopes. Dry lands are bestowed with dry-deciduous forests, thorn forests, scrubs and mangroves. The Western Ghats and a few cooler regions are endowed with moist deciduous, wet evergreen forests and grasslands. There are 5 national parks and 17 wildlife sanctuaries in Tamil Nadu. The famous wildlife sanctuaries are the Anamalai (Indira Gandhi) Wildlife Sanctuary, Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary, Kalakadu Wildlife Sanctuary, Mundanthurai Tiger Sanctuary, Kunthakulam Bird Sanctuary, Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park.are the most visited national parks in the state. Anna Zoological Park in Chennai is one of the latest and modern zoos of India. The Snake Park and the Crocodile Bank also located in Chennai are known for their collection of reptiles
CALMERE WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
Sprawling on 17.26-sq-kms surrounded by sea and shore, comprising forests of tidal swamps, dry evergreen forests of mangroves, this coastal sanctuary also known as “Kodikkarai”, is 90-km southeast of Thanjavur in a wetland which juts out into the Palk Strait separating India and Sri Lanka. It is noted for the vast flocks of migratory waterfowl, especially flamingos, which congregate here every winter. The sanctuary is vast, mostly shrub-land, shaped by the violent monsoon winds and treated mercilessly by feral cattle, horses and the graceful buck. At present cultivation of lobster has been started as the number of birds is decreasing.
Located 42-km from Chennai (Madras) is a farm where several species of Indian and African crocodiles and alligators are bred in captivity. This crocodile bank is on the way to Mahabalipuram and is run by Romulve Whittaker. About 5,000 species are kept in their natural surroundings in open pools. They can be viewed from a safe distance. The Crocodile Bank occupies an area of 3.2 hectares and has been established with an aim to protect and conserve the endangered reptile s such as Crocodiles, Alligators, etc. Tourists in large numbers visit the crocodile bank to see a variety of reptiles, all in one place.
KUNTHAKULAM BIRD SANCTUARY
Kunthakulam bird sanctuary is situated 33-km south of Tirunelveli in Nanguneri taluk. Kunthakulam is a small and natural scenic village, which is covered with natural forests and ponds. During the season January to April every year more than 10 thousand birds from various countries like Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, USA, Australia migrate here and when the season is over the birds return. Every day more than 5,000 people come here and enjoy. Ariyakulam, 13-km east of Tirunelveli has another bird sanctuary.
RAMNAGAR WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
Sprawling over an area of 31 sq km, Ramnagar Wildlife Sanctuary provides shelter to several wildlife species such as barking deer, nilgai, wild boar, rhesus monkey etc. Some of the avian species found here are Indian Mynah, blue rock pigeon, peafowl, red jungle fowl, jungle crow, golden oriole, white cheeked bulbul etc. The most propitious time to visit this wildlife sanctuary for sighting mammals is from September to March and for birds is from March to May. The sanctuary is located only 6 km from the city of Jammu.
Hill Stations in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is famous for having the most beautiful hill stations of the country. Udhagamandalam, the chief hill station of Tamil Nadu is popularly called “Ooty” and is described as ‘The Queen of Hill Stations’. Not far away are two smaller and quieter hill resorts Coonoor and Kotagiri – in the same range. Ketti is a tiny village located on the road to Coonoor, which is the home of tribes such as the Badagas and the Todas. Kodaikanal located amidst the folds of the verdant Pali hills is also a popular hill station, which mesmerises any visitor. Yercaud also called as “Ooty of the Poor ” is known for Coffee plantations and Orange groves and is comparatively more peaceful and cheaper than the major southern resorts of Ooty and Kodaikanal.
Kodaikanal located amidst the folds of the verdant Pali hills is one of the most popular serene hill stations in India, which mesmerises any visitor. With her wooded slopes, mighty rocks, enhancing waterfalls and a beautiful lake, Kodaikanal is a charming hill station of South India. Kodaikanal is situated at an altitude of about 2,133-m high and covers an area of 21.45-sq-km. The hill town is renowned for its educational institutions of international repute. The pride of Kodaikanal is the ‘Kurinji-flower’, which blossoms once in 12 years. The hill-plantain fruits and plums are known for their freshness and taste.
Nilgiri means “Blue Mountains”. The entire area of the Blue Mountains constitutes the present district of Nilgiri. The height of the hills in the Blue Mountain range varies between 2,280 and 2,290 metres, the highest peak being Doddabetta at a height of 2,623 metres. Nilgiris derives its charm from its natural setting. The steep hills and fantastically narrow valleys with numerous rivers and rivulets running in all directions with a few fine waterfalls here and there provide beautiful scenery. The temperate and most equable climate further heightens the attractiveness of the place. The major tea growing areas in the South are the Nilgiris and these tea gardens are beautiful to watch.
Yercaud is a lesser-known hill station when compared to Ooty and Kodaikanal. Yercaud is situated at an altitude of 1,500 metres (4,920 feet), on the Shevaroy hills of the Eastern Ghats. The lofty hills are of extraordinary scenic beauty endowed with a salubrious climate. Although close (33-km) to the bustling industrial town of Salem, Yercaud has a spirited charm of its own. Yercaud is also called “Ooty of the Poor ” and is known for Coffee Plantations and Orange Groves. Yercaud is still comparatively more peaceful and cheaper than the major southern resorts of Ooty and Kodaikanal, but every year the influx from the plains is growing larger.