Tamil Nadu - the land of Tamils is a state in Southern India known for its temples and architecture, food, movies and classical Indian dance and Carnatic music. The languages spoken here are predominantly Tamil (also written as Thamizh) and English in the larger cities and metro capital Chennai. It is the historical home of the famous Chera, Chola, Pandya and Pallava kingdoms which thrived in ancient and medieval India.
Chennai (Madras) - the capital of Tamil Nadu. One of India's four metropolitan cities.
Coimbatore - on the banks of the river Noyyal, and the textile capital of South India or the Manchester of the South
Kanchipuram - 75 km from Chennai, one of the seven holy cities in the country, and a visit is believed to bestow salvation; renowned for its silk sarees
Kanniyakumari - The southern most tip of the Indian mainland, it is famous for its conjunction of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal into the Indian Ocean. Also well known for its beaches, the Tiruvalluvar Statue and the man made island Vivekananda Rock. Very nearby is the Padmanabhapuram palace which was the erstwhile palace of the King of Travancore (Kerala).
Madurai - on the banks of the River Vaigai, known as Athens of the East, a place of great historical and cultural importance, and the oldest city in Tamil Nadu
Mamallapuram - though no longer a port, Mamallapuram has retained its fame in stone, thanks to the great contribution of Pallava artisans, and is amongst the most outstanding examples of Dravidian art and architecture and a jewel in the crown of Tamil Nadu
Thanjavur - also called the Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu, is well-known throughout the world for being the home of the Brihadeeswara temple, the magnificent palace, Rajah Serfoji's Saraswathi Mahal Library, Art Gallery and also for its exquisite handicrafts like the Art Plate, pithwork, bronze icons, Thanjavur paintings and the classical South Indian musical instruments
The Nilgiri mountain range on the east coast is home to many hill-stations that are good for weekend trips.
Tamils are fiercely proud of the Tamil language, one of the few still living classical languages, with two millennia of written tradition. Unlike many other Indian languages, it belongs to the Dravidian language family that includes the other major South Indian languages - Telugu and Kannada. For historical reasons, there is some residual hostility to Hindi, so try to pick up some instant Tamil here.
Madurai - one of the oldest cities of Tamilnadu, documented since 4th century BC, seat of Kadai Sangam (a sort of ancient conference on the Tamil language). Once the capital of the ancient Pandiyans, the city is famous for the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Shrine.
Kanniyakumari (Cape Comorin), the southern-most tip of peninsular India, where you can find the Kanniyakumariamman temple on the sea shore where the mookuthy (nose stud) which is in the face of goddess shines so much that it guided ships passing by.Vivekanandha Rock,Saint Thiruvalluvar Statue
Here is the link to temple route map for the travellers visiting Navagraha temples in Tamilnadu.
GINGEE FORT-This is one of the historical ports in Tamil Nadu, 120 km from Chennai.
Pongal, a harvest festival celebrated during the Tamil month of Thai (mid-January), is an important festival for Tamilians irrespective of their religion. It is celebrated over three days. On the first day, Bogi Pongal, discarded household items (brooms, mats, etc.) are burnt before sunrise and delicacies are offered to the Gods. On the second day, melagu pongal is cooked in earthen pots and offered to the Gods along with sarkarai pongal. The third day, Maatu Pongal (Maatu - Cow), is for paying respect to cattle. Cows are washed, their horns are painted, and they are taken to a nearby temple. Challikattu competitions are also held. On the fourth day, kaanum Pongal, family and friends are visited and new clothes are given to maids and servants.
Ayya Vaikunda Avatharam The incarnational day of Ayya Vaikundar from the sea at Tiruchendur. This is the most important festival of Ayyavazhi and on this day the celebrations in Swamithoppe is considered to be of high religious importance. Though it is celebrated with processions all over Tamil Nadu, celebrations are in grander in the south. Two processions, one from Tiruchendur, connected with the incarnation of Vaikundar, and another from Thiruvananthapuram, noting the relese of Vaikundar join at Nagercoil and then proceed towards Swamithoppe, the geographical focus point of Ayyavazhi.
Krishna jayanti or Gokulashtami A celebration of Lord Krishna. Women pray to Lord Krishna and offer foodstuffs to him.
Aadi maadam is celebrated on Tuesdays and Fridays from july 16th to aug 15th in Amman Temples all over Tamil Nadu including the Mundakaniamman temple in Chennai and Karpakamaal. Foodstuffs and bangles are served as offerings to the gods. People prepare good food and sit in the banks of river cauvery and pray for their family welfare.
Varalakshmi pooja On this day, married women keep kalasam, they pray, they dress-up and they decorate the temples.
Navaratri is a festival in honor of the three goddesses Laxmi (prosperity), Sarasvati (learning), and Durga (strength). In Tamil Nadu, women prepare elaborate arrangements of dolls based on these goddesses and visits are made to see and compare these arrangements. As with all festivals, sweets and food feature in a large way.
Saraswati pooja, the ninth day of Navaratri, is in honor of the goddess of learning. Students and elders place their books in front of the goddess and neither study nor play musical instruments in honor of the goddess.
Vijayadashmi is the 10th day of Navaratri and is considered to be the day for starting new things like learning to play a new instrument or the start of a new school year.
Deepavali (Diwali), the festival of lights, is the time for new clothes, oil baths, bursting crackers, and eating sweets.
Karthigai is a festival in honor of Lord Muruga. It is celebrated in the month of November to December every year.
Karthigai deepam chariot festival this is one of the oldest festivals in south-india, honoring Lord Muruga, also known as kaarthikeya. In the month of Karthigai thousands of devotees assemble in Thiruvannamalai, Tamil-Nadu, to take part in the many street and temple ceremonies and to offer prayers to Lord Muruga.
Gowri PoojaSimilar to varlakshmi pooja is done on the eve of vinnayakar chaturthi,for all these amman festivals karugumani is mandatory to be offered to goddess,and even in maangalyam ladies can wear in addition to gold and is safe nowadays because gold is capable of getting stolen.
'Vinayaka Chaturthi Known as Ganesh Chaturthi in other parts of India, this festival is in honor of the elephant god Ganesh. An idol of Vinayaka is immersed in the sea or in a temple tank on the third day of this festival.
Purataasi Maadham famous for lord venkatachalapathy,many slokas,dance programmes,music concerts are all done in praise of lord narayana and brahmotsawam is done in thirupathi in grand scale.
Id Tamil Nadu has a large muslim population and Id and Ramzan are celebrated here.
Christmas, Good Friday and other Christian festivals are also celebrated.
Panguni Utaram utsavam in Ranganathar temple
Music and Dance festivals
Natyanjali is celebrated in many Hindu temples at the end of February and beginning of March, and includes daily classical Indian dance and music performances.
December Festival (Kacheri) at various locations in Chennai is dedicated to classical Indian dance and music performances. It attracts large crowds and performances often sell out early.
Mamallapuram Festival of dance is held in Mamallapuram in the months of January and February.
New Year's Eve Special prayers are offered in churches in the form of midnight services. Women light villaku to goddesses at home or candles to Christ or Mother Mary, and prayers are offered in Mosques.
Tamil Puththandu (Tamil New Year) The 1st day of the Tamil month of Chitirai. Usually in mid-April. Now it is being changed to the 1st day of the Tamil month of 'Thai'.
Akshaya Tritiya On the third day after the new moon day that follows the tamil new year. Locals believe that anything done on this day is equivalent doing it a thousand times over and it is believed that buying gold on this day will ensure prosperity throughout life. Curd rice made with curds from fresh milk is offered as a service prasadham.
Karadaiyaa nonbu just when maasi maadham and panguni join they celebrate preparing kaaradai as offering to god,ladies do this pooja to protect their maangalyam.
Tamil Nadu provides the visitor with a wide variety of delicious food both for the vegetarians as well as the non-vegetarians, though most food in Tamil Nadu consists of grains, lentils, rice and vegetables. Spices are added to give a distinctive taste.
Breakfast or tiffin includes idli or steamed rice dumplings, dosai is a crisp pancake made from a batter of rice and lentils, vada is a deep fried doughnut made from a batter of lentils, pongal is a mixture of rice and lentils cooked together and seasoned with ghee, cashew nuts, pepper and cumin seed), uppuma is semolina cooked, seasoned in oil with mustard, pepper, cumin seed and dry lentils.
Lunch usually consists of rice with Sambar, rasam, and yogurt along with a number of spicy side dishes. This is called meals. A decent meals costs less than a dollar.
There are 2 types of meals Limited and Unlimited.
There are several variations of the dishes mentioned above which are eaten with coconut chutney, sambar which is a seasoned lentil dish and mulaga podi which is a powdered mix of several roasted lentils and red chilli blended with oil.
Meat Madras- This is a spicy but delicious curry is named after Chennai, the metropolis in southern India perhaps because in the humid south, people rather eat hot food. Strange though it may seem, this is because hot and spicy food makes one perspire thereby cooling the body.
Plain idlis- Plain Idlis are similar to rice cakes, but they are eaten with a coconut side dish made out of beaten coconut white mixed with a little spice. Its called Coconut (Thenga in Tamil) Chutney. Also typically served are Tomato chutney (the difference is here tomato pulp is used) and Dal sambar. The Idlis are served steaming hot. They are meant to be eaten with hand.
Kancheepuram idlis - Hot and spicy. These differ from the normal Idlis due to the extra ingredients added usually to make it a little more spicy.
Pal payasam (rice pudding) - This is a sweet dish made from rice and thick milk.
Dosai or dosa - This is Indias answer to the French Crepes, though the answer could arguably have been given much before the question was asked. It is made from rice flour. Rice flour is mixed with an optimum level of water. Finding the optimum level is an art which most of the Indian women are born with. As too much or too less can make your Dosa non-appetizing. Dosas again come in a variety of forms and sizes. A dosa with potato curry stuffed inside becomes a Masala Dosa. A Dosa made from Rice flour and Fine semolina (Rawa) becomes a Rawa Dosa. Like idlis, dosas are usually eaten with coconut chutney, tomato chutney and sambar.
The famous Filter Coffee special to Tamil Nadu is carefully made from chosen coffee beans, and roasted to preserve the original aroma of the beans.
These roasted beans are powdered and the flavour of rich ground coffee powder is used to make filter coffee, enjoyed by every one. The water that you add has to be at boiling point so for the coffee powder to release its flavour. It is not possible to make coffee with tepid water.
Tamilnadu has a wide range of accommodation to provide to its visitors, be it the class-conscious tourist or the budget-backpacker. Seeing the success of Homestay type accommodation promoted by the Kerala Ministry of Tourism, the Tamilnadu counterpart introduced the "Bed and Breakfast" scheme.
Under this scheme accommodation is provided at nominal rates and at the same time with hygienic conditions. And as a bonus you can experience the local life style. "Bed and Breakfast" scheme was introduced by Tourism Department Tamilnadu in 2001-2002. The scheme derives inspiration from a quote of Late Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, which goes like this "Receive a guest and send back a friend ". Under this scheme, a house owner can let out a few rooms to tourists. During the stay of the tourists in his house, the tourists will be provided with accommodation and food by the house owner. A detailed booklet containing the Names, addresses, Telephone Nos. etc. of the Bed and Breakfast scheme providers was published during 2001-2002 and this information was also put on the website of TTDC.
During the period 2001-02 to 2003-04 as many as 3,258 tourists had availed of this scheme. The Bed and Breakfast service providers are scattered throughout the length and breath of Tamil Nadu as stated below.
Madurai - 12
Tirunelveli - 6
Kanniyakumari - 4
Thanjavur - 2
Kodaikanal - 1
Virudhunagar - 1
Salem - 1
The house owners require the services of helpers to attend to the needs of the tourists. Hence, in 2004-2005 a project was established to train such helpers in the field of health and personal hygiene, cleanliness, basic service techniques, basic nutrition values etc.
Apart from this the Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) has 36 Hotels in Tamilnadu that are hygienic and suits the budget to middle category travellers. TTDC Corporation was incorporated during the year 1971. It made a modest beginning with Five Tourist Bungalows and with two coaches. It has made rapid strides since then, and today has earned the proud distinction of owning the largest chain of Hotels in South India numbering 36. The bed strength has increased from 253 in 1971 to 2504 in 1998. 24 fleet of coaches are in use at present. Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation has established the following Tourist's amenities in the State:-
1. Hotels : 36
2. Youth Hostels : 8 (intended for Budget Tourists)
Decent budget categories abound from Rs 300 ($7) to Rs 700 ($20). The former will get you a Non-Ac room with clean bed, TV and most probably a shared bathroom in most parts of Tamilnadu. The latter will fetch you a Ac single room with basic ammenities like TV, Bed, Room service and attached bathroom. If travelling as a couple expect to pay around Rs 500($10) to Rs 1100 ($23). Though you might be lucky to find a decent English speaking concierge at this range, you will find lots of people well-versed in Tanglish (a concoction of Tamil and English) which can be understood quite clearly if you listen hard and pay attention. Please take due precautions with your luggage and other essential documents and money. It is advisable to not leave any money in the room and to always carry your passport in person. Bring a good lock both for your luggage and the hotel door. If you are carrying Laptops or Digi-cams, keep them under lock and key when not taking them on person.
Meduim category hotels can be had from Rs 1500 ($27) to Rs 4000 ($80). These will be your 2 to 4 Stars rated Hotels. You will most probably be given a well furnished (by Indian standards) Air conditiobed room with good lightings, bed, TV, attached bathroom with a bathtub and warm water during most of the day and hot water from 6AM-10AM and 6PM-10PM and a good concierge (who will serve you well provided you tip him the moment you see him rather than the last moment). Follow this advice when it comes to tipping. If you have reserved or kept in mind a certain ammount for tipping, tip 20% of the ammount at the beginning itself and the rest of the ammount should be watered down subsequently on each tip with the final 20% as the last tip. Do not pay a flat rate tip all the time.
Safety in this category of hotels is more, though it is always advisable to be a little paranoid if you are carrying very expensive items. The safety issue is not a constant and will vary according to the city you are visiting and the hotel you are staying.
Most of the hotels in this category will have an in house restaurant and a bar. If you are lucky or choose well you might even get one with a Pub and a Discotheque around which the nightlife of the city is centered, though these kind of hotels are limited to the major cities which will serve you as a stop-gap in between visiting places of tourist interest. Expect a buffet breakfast to be thrown in as a compliment.
Individual cottages at beach resorts can be had within this budget.
Unlike Rajasthan, you will not be finding any Heritage Hotels (ancient Palaces that have been converted in to hotels) in Tamilnadu. You will have to splurge on 5 star and 5 star deluxe hotels. They will cost you anywhere from Rs 5000 ($110) to Rs 20000 ($450). They are usually run by an international chain and so needs not much description as checking into them here is akin to checking into them in San Francisco or Amsterdam.
These hotels are mostly limited to in and around the city of Chennai and a few in Madurai & Coimbatore. Generally speaking Tamilnadu is a haven for the back-packers and the medium-budget travellers. As a result in the more tourist oriented cities, good hotels with good food and service come cheap. You will be hard pressed to find a hotel where you can splurge these ammounts. But of course what you save on your stay can be channelled into some good Kancheepuram silk sarrees for the beautiful ladies or into stone carvings of beautiful women for the Gentlemen.
Generally, Tamil Nadu is one among the safest places in India. But like any other tourist destination, there are a few problems. Beware of pickpockets and thieves in Buses and Trains. If you travel via Train, think twice before eating anything offered by co-passengers.
Also, when travelling with someone from the opposite gender, it would be advisable to avoid too much of physical intimacy, as it may invite unwanted attention and comments.
It is also best if you do not talk about the sri lankan civil war beetween the mainly sinhalese government and tamil fighters.