Area : 130,058 sq km
Population : 55.8 million
Capital : Chennai
Climate : Summer (Mar to June) - Warm Winter (November to February)- Warm and Pleasant
Languages spoken : Tamil
Best Time to visit : December to February
The southern state of Tamil Nadu is referred to as the cradle of Dravidian culture, an ancient culture distinguished by unique languages and customs. The cultural icons are everywhere - huge temples with their towering gopurams (spires) not seen anywhere else in the country, intricate rock carvings, evocative music and, of course, the complex classical dance. Tamil Nadu is a bastion of Hinduism at its most vigorous, whose past endures into the present.
Temples in Tamil Nadu were the fulcrum of society and even today art forms that have their origin in religious worship continue to colour daily life. Notable among these are splendid bronzes of deities, painting on glass and Bharatanatyam, an evocative dance form.
Tamil Nadu offers the traveller excellent value, particularly in accommodation. Hotel prices are generally lower than they are further north and standards are often higher.
The Aryans never brought their meat-eating influence to the extreme south of India, so Tamil Nadu is more or less totally vegetarian. Dosas (crispy pancakes) and idlis (steamed rice dumplings) have become enormously popular all over the country. Mounds of rice accompany every meal, sweets are a favourite, and coffee is more popular than tea. Alcohol is more likely to be available in non-vegetarian restaurants.
Chennai (formerly Madras)
Tamil Nadu's capital is a major metropolis, the centre for Tamil films, the most convenient point of entry to South India, and a fast-growing software and retail center. Chennai has an international airport, a sea port and a rail and road network that links it to all major towns and cities. It also has several deluxe hotels and others to suit modest budgets. Visit:
» The Art and Bronze Gallery (closed on Fridays and Public holidays)
» The Flower and Fruit market
» High court
» Fort Museum
» Marina Beach
» Santhome Cathedral
» Snake Park
» Film Studios, try your luck at 'being discovered'
» Kalakshetra Arts Village, to see skilful performances of traditional dance
This inland district on the east coast is a modern city thriving on its textile, engineering produce and synthetic gems industries. It is famous for its elephant training camp on Varaghliar and Tirumurthi hill forests. Annamalai Sanctuary, rich in wildlife and teak forests, tea and coffee plantations is an added attraction.