Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tamil Nadu – The Land of Multiple Hues

Tamil Nadu, often referred to as the ‘Land of Tamils’ is a favourite haunt for domestic and global tourists. Set in South India, Tamil Nadu shares boundaries with states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. One of the most picturesque coastal states of India, Tamil Nadu is washed by the waters of the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal. Chennai is the capital of Tamil Nadu, other important places are Madurai, Ooty, Kodaikanal, Coimbatore, Kanyakumari, Thanjavur, Trichy and Rameshwaram.

Tamil Nadu is a historic place, boasts of rich cultural heritage and traditions. Monolithic chariots, peculiar styles to build temples, mosques and churches and the depiction of numerous deities are the hallmark of Tamil Nadu’s legacy. Besides, the ornate temples and massive forts & monuments present a perfect example of the Dravidian culture, art and architecture. You will find a great diversity in the state, people of many beliefs live together, worship and respect all other religions.

Boasts of 900 kms long coastline, Tamil Nadu is home to a number of fine beaches, including the Chennai’s Marina Beach, the world’s second largest beach. Rich and varied wildlife, dry and evergreen forests, charming mountains, meandering lakes and shimmering waterfalls, add more to the beauty of Tamil Nadu. On the whole, a trip to Tamil Nadu is once in a lifetime experience and you should plan your next vacation to this charming state.

World Heritage Sites in Tamil Nadu : Tamil Nadu has five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Mamallapuram is perhaps the most important of the five Heritage Sites. Situated between a beach and lagoon, Mamallapuram is easily reachable from Chennai within an hour by car. Mamallapuram is famous for its five exquisite rathas (chariots) and the elegantly carved bas relief depicting Arjuna’s Penance. Among the temples, the 17th century Shore Temple, constructed by King Rajasimha is unique as it has both Shiva and Vishnu Shrines.

Pilgrimage in Tamil Nadu : Tamil Nadu is popular known as the land of temples. In Tamil Nadu the temples are more than a thousand years old and they were built in the Dravidian style of architecture with huge gateways (gopurams) and towering vimanas. You can travel from Chennai down to coastal town of Kannyakumari to see hundreds of places of worship, each having its own interesting legend. Chidambaram Temple and Kannyakumari Temple are important temples of the town. One of the five holiest Shiva temples, Chidambaram temple is abundantly decorated with sculptures and different postures of Bharatanatyam are pictures on its walls.

Meenakshi Temple in Madurai is famous for its sheer size and it has 12 magnificent gopurams which are elaborately sculptured and painted. Ramanathswamy Temple in Rameshwaram is one of the most sacred shrines of Hindus. Just 45 kms from Chennai, the Tirupporur Temple is an ancient Pallava temple. For those who believe in astrology, Navagraha temples are an important pilgrimage. Sri Ranganathaswami Temple (Srirangam) is most important shrine for Vaishnavas and houses a reclining form of Lord Vishnu.

Tamil Nadu was also an important place for Christians and it is home to a number of churches. San Thome Basilica in Chennai and Velankanni Church at Nagapatinam (350 km from Chennai) are prominent churches of the state. The Nagore Dargah of Meeran Sahib is a famous pilgrimage centre for Muslims. Set 4 km north of Nagapattinam, the dargah is visited by Muslims and people from other religions as well.

People and Culture of Tamil Nadu : Tamil Nadu has a very hoary history and its culture is rich in its diversity. Folk dances, way of dressing, rituals and behaviors and a sumptuous platter provide a rich texture to the state. Every household begins the day with the ritual cleaning of the front threshold and the ground is decorated with intricate rangoli and kolam patterns.

Dressing of the state people is unique, the men wear the dhothi (unstitched cloth), a shirt is worn on the upper part and an angavastram (upper cloth) slung over the shoulders. Muslims wear lungi as formal wear, while the women wear traditional nine yards sari. As People of Tamil Nadu celebrate a number of festival all through the year. Despite the religious differences, people celebrate each others festivals with great pomp and gaiety. Pongal is the most important festival of Tamil Nadu, which marks the beginning of Utharaayanm, when the Sun enters the sign of Makaram or Capricorn on January 13. Food also form an important part of the state’s culture that include a wide range of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.

Art and Craft : Tamil Nadu is the place where various vibrant and creative art forms existed over the centuries. Tamil Nadu’s range of handicraft is endless, in fact, every region produces a unique product of its own. From exquisite silk sarees and metalware lamps to terracotta horses and stone-encrusted jewellery, Tamil Nadu’s treasure include a wealth of handicraft. Tamil Nadu is also famous for leather craft, jewellery, pottery, metal ware, Tanjore paintings and Sarees. Kanchipuram, Kumbakonam, Coimbatore, Madurai and Arani are famous for its exquisite sarees in silk and cotton. Sandalwood carvings and sculptures, bronze statuses and highly popular amongst the travellers. Tanjore paintings which originated in the 10th century depict images of Hindu gods and goddesses embossed with plaster and covered with gold foil and precious stones.

Wildlife of Tamil Nadu : Of the total area of Tamil Nadu, about 18 percent is covered with rich and varied flora and fauna. Tamil Nadu has 17 wildlife sanctuaries and 5 national parks, that house a variety of wildanimals including tigers, elephants and many other wild animals. Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary, Kalakadu Wildlife Sanctuary, Mundanthurai Tiger Sanctuary, Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, Snake Park and Crocodile Bank are the prominent wildlife sanctuaries and national parks of the state.

Beaches of Tamil Nadu : Tamil Nadu’s Coromandel coast has some of the finest beaches of world. Chennai’s Marina Beach is the second longest beach of the world. Mahabalipuram Beach, Rameshwaram Beach, Kanyakumari Beach and Covelong Beach are other important beaches of Tamil Nadu.

Hill Stations of Tamil Nadu : India’s famous mountain ranges, western ghats and eastern ghat meet in the Nilgiri ranges of the state. You will find a number of picturesque hill stations on these mountain ranges. Ooty or Udhagamandalam), Kodaikanal, Coonoor, Kotagiri, Yercaud and Velliangiri are the famous hill stations of Tamil Nadu

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