Chennai - An Impeccable Blend of Culture And Creation
The fascinating story of the capital spans 2000 years. Once a serene cluster of fishing hamlets, today Chennai bears a distinctive new look with a proud culture, and music and dance that forms the pulse of daily life. Famed to be the fourth largest metropolis and the third important port in India, Chennai is flanked by the Marina beach on the eastern side where you can enjoy your hearts out on the silver sands and the city skyscape with its eclectic mix of temple towers and star hotels where you can bang your head all the night through.
Don't miss to see the famous St. George Fort, named after the patron saint of England. You can also visit St. Mary's Church, reputed to be the oldest Anglican church in India, nestling inside the fort premises. Enjoy the unsurpassable feeling of power while visiting the fort museum that houses rare weapons, coins and costumes from the colonial period. An interesting excursion from Chennai is Crocodile Bank, 44 km away enroute Mamallapuram, where crocs are bred in captivity to increase their population. Enjoy seeing their eating and sitting lifestyle while on an afternoon break. In the evening, put your footmarks in the Cholamandal Artist's Village, an exquisite art school that overwhelms every visitor. The awe-inspiring art gallery together with the charm of childrens' poetry reading and dance recitals surely makes for a refreshing holiday evening.
If you are interested in rock sculpters, then Mamallapuram is the balloon to prick. Roosting at 60 km south of Chennai, this bygone capital of the Pandava dynasty offers some of the finest rock-cut caves in the world. Drive to Kancheepuram, the city of a thousand temples, and you will be amazed to see the most magnificent of them all, the Ekambareswar Temple. Embellished with exquisitely carved 1000 pillars and massive gopurams, this ancient temple is indeed a place to visit. If you are a shopaholic, then this is indeed a dangerous place for you. Kancheepuram's famed silks are very tempting and no visit here is complete without a trip to the homes of silk weavers to buy some. Turn the wheels of your car towards the oldest existing city of India, Madhurai, built sometime around 2500 years ago.
The Tamil Thirst For Temple Architecture
The Tamils have often been acknowledged as the greatest of temple builders. There is no other state in India where you can find so many temple towns as in Tamil Nadu; Tanjore, Kanyakumari, Rameswaram, Madhurai, Kanchipuram.. and the list is endless. Each town or city is dedicated to one deity or another and are as famous for their architectural and historical splendour as for their sacredness. Each of these is not only a testament to the artist's skills but also proof of the region's cultural accomplishment over the past centuries. The holy town of Rameswaram has one of India's most revered temples - the Ramanathaswamy Temple - counted as one of the sacred Char Dhams in Hinduism. Renowned for its magnificent corridors and magnificently sculpted pillars, the temple houses the longest corridors in the world. Walk through them and you will feel like walking through an eternal corridor to heaven.
Drive to the famous Brahadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur, a mind-blowing specimen of Chola architecture. The most impressive feature of the temple is hidden in its architecture and we are sure you will be amazed to know that. Today, a UNESCO heritage site, the tower of the temple is an engineering marvel as the construction was made in such a way that the shadow of the cupola never falls on the ground! Turn the wheels of your vacation by visiting the city of nectar, Madhurai. The Meenaxi Temple, dedicated to both Lord Shiva and his consort, Meenakshi, is the most well-known attraction, and has no less than 12 temple towers and a 1000 pillar hall. No doubt, you will lose yourself in the sanctity before even realising the euphoric drift in your soul. Foreign non-Hindu tourists might not get permission to enter the sanctum sanctorum, but you can enjoy the exquisite architecture of these sacred halls that swiftly quenches the religious thirst. Remember to pick up miniature replicas of the temple available in the corner stalls outside the temples.
Heights of Beauty on Tamil Nadu Hill Stations
Screened in the mist-clad Nilgiris, Ooty is South India's premier hill station. The route to the green paradise is equally enchanting. You will travel on a steam train amidst lush greens and floating dews to a dream destination. Renowned as the Scotland of the East, Ooty is a leisure place that lingers the best of everything; sun lighting up one hill with the best colour even as the other beside remains shrouded in green velvet, mountain ponies chomping the best grass by the kerbside, and above all you will relish the best of hot filter coffee and even hotter 'sambhar'. Remember to scale the highest peak of the Nilgiris (Blue Mountains) at 8,606 ft - Dodda Betta - a mere 10 km from Ooty to behold the best of the views of south. Tourists can also go for hand-gliding courses organised by the Tourism Department from March to May. Enjoy flying over the shimmering rivulets and emerald lakes that are an angler's delight underneath. Spend your mornings at the Ooty Gymkhana Golf Club with as many rounds of golf as you want. The Ootacmund Derby is the climax of the season and attracts top Indian jockeys and is a must visit for every traveller to Ooty.
Marina Beach - Colonial Sands of Fun
With a long coastline along the Coromandel, it is little wonder that the beaches of Tamil Nadu have attracted one and all, down the years. The beauty is that the long palm-fringed shoreline has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and to everybody's surprise, many of them are yet undiscovered. Of Chennai's beaches, the most popular is Marina. The second longest in the world, this 12 km long beach is an open stretch of sparkling azure vision under the horizon. Take a leisure walk along the coast and you will be overwhelmed to see magnificent statues, including the highly regarded labour statue, and colonial buildings - Senate House and Chepauk Palace - dolling up the side of the road.
Bharatnatyam - A Classical Way To Express Feelings
Tracing its origin to quite a few centuries back, Bharatnatyam, the most popular dance form of South India is a unique staircase that takes you to a spiritual domain. It is the most ancient of all the classical dance forms in India, which are based on Natya Shastra, said to be the Bible of Indian classical dance. The creation of impressive dance steps, swinging and swirling to the euphonic beats of 'mridangam' is indeed a thing to behold. You can also visit numerous Bharatnatyam dance programmes that are held all around the state. The gorgeous dance forn starts on a slower node with 'Ganesh Vandana' (Prayer of Elephant God) and eventually takes the beholder to another dimension on faster beats. At present, not only the Hindus but many Christians and Muslims learn it, bringing it beyond the rigid forms of religious boundaries.
Tamil Cuisine - A Southern Taste For Your Buds
You might have heard enough about the ubiquitous 'dosa-vada-sambar' as soon as you have entered South India, but Tamil Nadu offers a fascnating array of non-vegetarian delicacies too. Savour the mouth-watering Chettinad chicken, an internationally acclaimed food item. Other must tries include 'appam', 'kal dosai', 'kuzhi paniyaram' with exquisite side dishes like 'poondu kozhambu'. Tamils like their coffee filtered, never instant. Try it by the metre for the authentic experience - coffee is poured out from one tumbler into another for that 'espresso' effect. The distance it goes determines its name.. call it metre or half-metre coffee.
Exclusive Tamil Nadu Offerings For You
Bharatiyar, the famous Tamil poet had said that all the wealth that is there in the world lies in Tamil Nadu. The reality is, you will find the wealth in its festivals, when the whole of Tamil springs up to life to celebrate those merry moments. Plan your vacation trip in January,and you can be a part of the famous Pongal, the four-day harvest festival of Tamil Nadu. Centred around the preparation of delicious 'pongal' - boiled new rice with milk and jaggery, this festival is indeed a thing to behold. Unlike other Hindu festivals, dates for this festival are calculated according to the solar calander, and hence it falls on January 13-16 every year. Each day of this festival bears a special significance and is unique in its own way. The festival is celebrated more grandly in the villages, while the city folk mainly celebrate on the second day only. You can see people in colourful new clothes, singing and dancing on the tunes of musical instruments. You can also hear yells of 'Pongal-o-pongal' and children make songs of this phrase.
If you happen to visit a Hindu 'Pooja', the paintings that tell you the story of an impressive artistry along with an unsurpassable religious sanctity, you can be sure that they are from Tanjore. This ancient place lies east to Trichy and is world famous for its exquisite craftsmenship of Tanjavur paintings, that carries an aura of opulence and auspice in their colours. The paintings usually portray Hindu Gods and Goddesses because this superb cult of art flourished at a time when fine-looking and striking temples were being constructed by rulers of several dynasties. The most awe-inspiring effect lies in the three dimensional effect created using impeccable blend of glue and limestone, layer upon layer to augment the richness in expression. Painted with primary colours, one can also find ample use of gold foil and semi-precious stones in the paintings that only enhances their beauty. Pick up a few of these magnificent paintings for your near and dear ones, or to give a new look to your house.