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.
- North - Dharmapuri, Thiruvannamalai, Vellore and Krishnagiri districts
- North Coastal - Ariyalur, Chennai, Cuddalore, Kanchipuram, Nagapattinam, Tiruvallur and Tiruvarur districts
- West - Coimbatore, Erode, Nilgiris and Tirupur districts
- Central - Karur, Namakkal, Perambalur, Salem and Tiruchirappalli disticts
- South West - Dindigul, Madurai, Theni and Virudhunagar districts
- South Coast - Pudukkottai, Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga and Thanjavur districts
- Far South - Kanniyakumari, Tuticorin and Tirunelveli districts
- North East - Villupuram district
- Chennai (Madras) — the capital of Tamil Nadu; one of India's major metropolitan cities; Also known as "Detroit of India" and a global IT BPO hub
- Coimbatore — known as the Manchester of the South and major producer of engineering goods, textiles, auto components, pumps and wet grinders
- Madurai — place of great historical and cultural importance; oldest city in Tamil Nadu (documented since 4th century BC)
- Tiruchirappalli — a city of agricultural and religious importance
- Salem — a major industrial center
- Erode — major producer of turmeric, milk and textiles
- Tirunelveli — gateway to far southern part of Tamil Nadu
- Tirupur — global textile and knitwear hub
- Tuticorin — a major port
- Ooty, Kodaikanal and Yercaud - Hill Stations
- Kanchipuram, Tiruvannamalai, Kumbakonam, Chidambaram, Rameswaram, Thanjavur, Palani, Srirangam - Temples
- Poompuhar, Mamallapuram - Historical
- Mudumalai, Pollachi, Gobichettipalayam - Reserved forests, wildlife and movie shootings
Tamils are fiercely proud of the Tamil language, one of the few living classical languages and is over three thousand years old. Unlike the North Indian languages, it belongs to the Dravidian language family that includes the other major South Indian languages - Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. Tamil Nadu was the site of violent anti-Hindi riots in 1965 when the union government tried to impose Hindi as the sole official language of India, and there is still some residual hostility towards Hindi, so try to pick up some instant Tamil here. Even if you are in Chennai, do not try to speak to locals in Hindi, as many will find it offensive. English works in almost all the cities. However, if you don't speak Tamil, most educated Tamils speak English fluently, while many others know some basic English, so you shouldn't have a problem getting by with English in the major cities.
Chennai International Airport in Chennai is one of the major airports in the country. It has connections with most Asian cities, major European cities including Frankfurt, Brussels, London, Paris and United States. Coimbatore International Airport is the second major airport in the state with a major domestic network and international connections to Sharjah, Colombo and Singapore. There are also flights from Tiruchirapalli to Sri Lanka and Singapore. Other domestic airports in Tamil Nadu include Madurai, Salem and Tuticorin.
Tamil Nadu is served by Southern Railway and is well connected to all major railway stations across the country. The major junctions are located at Chennai, Coimbatore, Erode, Salem, Madurai and Tiruchirapalli.
Chennai is one of the vertices of the Golden Quadrilateral project, a network of highways that connect the major cities of India. All other major cities are also well connected by national and state highways. Public transport system is well developed with seven different state owned corporations operating buses to and from various destinations within South India. Several private players also operate air conditioned buses between most important destinations. Most intercity buses are fully occupied and it's better to reserve a ticket in advance. Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses in the intra city routes. These are government-run and extremely cheap.
- Pongal , the harvest festival of the state is celebrated during the Tamil month of Thai (mid-January in Gregorian Calendar ), is an important festival for the people of Tamil Nadu, especially the farmers, irrespective of their religion. It is celebrated over four days. The festival thanks everyone - the sun god for his sunshine, cattle for their work, friends & fellow workers for their support, for the season's harvests. The first day, Bogi Pongal, is about getting the old things out of your household to make way for the new harvest. On this day, discarded household items (brooms, mats, etc.) are burnt before sunrise and delicacies are offered to the Gods. The second day, Uzhavar Thirunaal (Farmer's day), is about thanking the sun god for his sun shine. On this day Ven Pongal, a mixture of rice and lentils, is cooked in earthen pots and offered to the Gods along with sarkarai pongal, the sweeter version of the former. The third day, Maatu Pongal (Maatu - Cow), is for paying respect to cattle. Cows/bulls are washed, their horns are painted and decorated, and they are taken to a nearby temple. Jallikattu, Indian version of the Bull run, competitions are also held. On the fourth day, Kaanum Pongal, family and friends are visited and new clothes are given to maids and servants. This day is for thanking fellow humans for their support.
- Deepavali, the festival of lights marks the killing of the demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna. To celebrate the end of evil, people symbolically take oil bath, burst crackers, exchange sweets and adorn new dresses to express their joy.
- Tamil Varuda Pirappu (Tamil New Year) The 1st day of the Tamil month of Chittirai. Usually, this falls on 14th or 15th April.
- Navaratri is a festival celebrated across nine days in honor of the three goddesses Durga (strength), Lakshmi (wealth), Saraswathi (learning). Vijayadasami is the next day after Navaratri and is considered to be the most auspicious day for starting new ventures.
- Karthigai Deepam when people light a large number of oil lamps at their homes to signify the dawn of light.
- KrishnaJayanti or Gokulashtami A celebration of the birthday of Lord Krishna.
- Vinayaga Chathurthi A celebration of the birthday of Lord Ganesha.
- Aadi Perukku (18th day of the Tamil Month of Aadi) is celebrated to welcome the huge influx of water in the major river Kaveri.
- Varalakshmi pooja on this day, married women pray for the well being of their husbands.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 often less than two dollars.
Some of the famous dishes include:
- 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.
- 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.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.
- Poori Masala(Poori Kizlaingu)- It's made in fine wheat flour, quite oily food. It served as break fast or evening tiff-en with potato curry.
- Vadai- it's prepared with different lentils and fried in oil, which can be eat with or without chutney & sambar. It can be had with breakfast or evening snacks. Different types of vadai are prepared like, medu vadai(orid Dal), masala vadai(Toor Dal), etc.
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 flavor 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 flavor. It is not possible to make coffee with tepid water.
Tamil Nadu has a wide range of accommodation to provide to its visitors, be it the class-conscious tourist or the budget-backpacker. The house owners require the services of helpers to attend to the needs of the tourists. Apart from this the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) has 36 Hotels in Tamil Nadu that are hygienic and suits the budget to middle category travelers.
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 a private bathroom in most parts of Tamil Nadu. The latter will fetch you a Air conditioned single room with basic amenities like TV, Bed, room service and attached bathroom. If traveling 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 cameras, keep them under lock and key when not taking them on person.
Medium category hotels can be had from Rs 1500 ($27) to Rs 4000 ($80). These will be your 2 to 4 Star rated Hotels. You will most probably be given a well furnished (by Indian standards) Air conditioned room with good lighting, 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 amount for tipping, tip 20% of the amount at the beginning itself and the rest of the amount 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.
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 international chains 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 Coimbatore.
Generally, Tamil Nadu is one among the safest provinces 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 other passengers. Also, when traveling 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 between the mainly Sinhalese government and Tamil fighters.
Unlike Indians from most other states, most Tamils do not have family names, and instead use a patronymic system. Most Tamil names are presented in the form father's initial + given name, or given name + father's name. This means that Ramasamy, son of Govindasamy may have his name written as G. Ramasamy, or Ramasamy Govindasamy. Due to the patronymic nature of last names, they are never used in addressing an individual, and people would generally expect to be addressed by their first name. In the example mentioned, Ramasamy Govindasamy would be addressed as Mr. Ramasamy, and not Mr Govindasamy, regardless of how important he may be.