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 districts)|
|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)|
Here are nine of the most notable cities.
- 1 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
- 2 Coimbatore — known as the Manchester of the South and major producer of engineering goods, textiles, auto components, pumps and wet grinders
- 4 Madurai — place of great historical and cultural importance; oldest city in Tamil Nadu (documented since 4th century BC)
- 1 Kanchipuram , Tiruvannamalai, Kumbakonam, Chidambaram, Rameswaram, Thanjavur, Palani, Srirangam - Temples
- 2 Udagamandalam , Kodaikanal, Yercaud - hill stations
- 3 Pollachi , Gobichettipalayam - Reserved forests, Wildlife and Cinema Shootings
- 4 Poompuhar , Mamallapuram - Historical
- Tirukovilur - temple city.
- 1 Anamalai Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park — home to various species such as the Bengal Tiger, Indian elephant, Indian hornbill and lion-tailed macaque. This park is located in the Anaimalai Hills.
- 2 Guindy National Park (Guindy's Lodge) — one of the smallest parks in India located within a city Chennai. The Snake Park is next to Guindy National Park and there is a Children's Park (zoo) within the park.
- 3 Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park — mangroves provide important feeding grounds for the vulnerable marine mammal, the Dugong. This park has a large variety of plants and animals in its marine, tidal and near shore habitats. Access is limited to glass bottom boats. Coral mining has degraded parts of this park
- 4 Mudumalai National Park — offers a variety of flora and fauna plus the opportunity to go on an elephant safari
- 5 Mukurthi National Park — formerly known as the Nilgiri Tahr National Park; is home for several endangered species and its mammal attraction, the Nilgiri tahr
- 6 Palani Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park — this park has many mountains and waterfalls plus a large variety of plants, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. The plant Kurinji flowers which blossoms every 12 years is found here
- 7 Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve — part of Nilgiri biosphere reserve, the sanctuary has the largest elephant population in the country. Located amongst the Western and Eastern ghats, the park has significant tiger and leopard population as well
- 8 Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve — home to various species such as the Bengal Tiger, Indian elephant, lion-tailed macaque, leopard, and the rare Malabar squirrel. This park is located in the Southern Western Ghats in Tirunelveli District and Kanyakumari District
The Tamil people are proud of their long history, with their language being one of the oldest living languages in the world. The area has been home to many great kingdoms, most notably the Chola Empire, which is widely regarded as one of the most powerful kingdoms in Indian history.
Modern day Tamil Nadu is largely influenced by Dravidianism, a political ideology that promotes the belief that South Indians are culturally different from North Indians. This political ideology has since become a permanent feature of Tamil Nadu's politics, and it can be reflected in how the Tamils are fiercely keen on promoting their cultural distinction from the rest of India.
Since the partition, Tamil Nadu has had a turbulent, tumultuous history. During the 1940s and 1960s, Tamil politicians and leaders aimed to create a separate state, Dravida Nadu, with the hopes that all other Dravidian language-speaking states would be united into one nation. Fortunately, the movement failed to find any support outside of Tamil Nadu, and thanks to various actions undertaken by the Indian government (Organising states on the basis of language and culture), the movement died down.
It was also during that time when anti-Hindi movements gained momentum in the state when the Indian government tried to institute Hindi as the sole official language of the country. The Tamils believed that this would have made South Indians subordinate to North Indians, and there was widespread discontent. Ironically, it was actually an ethnic Tamil (C. Rajagopalachari, the last Governor-General of India) who suggested that Hindi be made mandatory throughout India.
By the late 1960s, the much vitriolic tone against Hindi began to die down, and the movements were instrumental in ensuring that Hindi and English would be used as the official languages of India.
Today, the state maintains a fiercely independent identity from the rest of India, and the state is regarded as one of the richest and most developed states in all of India.
Tamils are fiercely proud of the Tamil language, one of the few living classical languages that's over 3,000 years old. It is unrelated to the North Indian languages, and instead belongs to the Dravidian language family that includes languages such as Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. Learning a few words of Tamil will most certainly endear you to the locals.
Although Hindi has been gaining popularity lately, it is not widely understood by many of the locals. As is the case with the rest of South India, people are more likely to readily respond in English than Hindi.
English is spoken by most urban-dwellers, so English-speaking visitors should have no problem getting by.
- 1 Chennai International Airport (in Chennai). This is one of the major airports in the country. It has connections with most Asian cities, major European cities including Frankfurt Airport, Brussels, London Heathrow, Paris CDG and United States. Coimbatore International Airport is the second major airport in the state with a major domestic network and international connections from 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 Thoothukudi.
Tamil Nadu is served by Southern Railway and is well connected to all major railway stations across the country. The major junctions are in Chennai, Coimbatore, Erode, Salem, Madurai, Tiruchirapalli and Tirunelveli.
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 state owned transport corporation 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 are in the intra city routes in major cities which are cheap. You can book a bus tickets online for government buses via SETC, and for private buses you have options like Redbus, Abhibus, MyTempoTraveller and Myticketbuddy.
- Aadi Perukku (18th day of the Tamil Month of Aadi) is celebrated to welcome the huge influx of water in the major river Kaveri.
- 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.
- 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.
- Karthigai Deepam when people light a large number of oil lamps at their homes to signify the dawn of light.
- Krishna Jayanti or Gokulashtami A celebration of the birthday of Lord Krishna.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bogi Pongal (The first day) 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.
- Uzhavar Thirunaal (The second day or 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.
- Maatu Pongal (The third day -- 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.
- Kaanum Pongal (The fourth day), family and friends are visited and new clothes are given to maids and servants. This day is for thanking fellow humans for their support.
- Tamil Varuda Pirappu (Tamil New Year) The 1st day of the Tamil month of Chittirai. Usually, this falls on 14th or 15th April.
- Vinayaga Chathurthi A celebration of the birthday of Lord Ganesha.
- Varalakshmi pooja on this day, married women pray for the well being of their husbands.
- 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 Parties are hosted on New Year's Eve. Special prayers are offered in churches.
Tamil Nadu provides the visitor with a wide variety of delicious food for the vegetarians and for 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:
- Dosai or dosa - This is India's answer to the French crepes, though the answer could arguably have been given much before the question was asked. It is made from rice and black gram 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 (rava) becomes a rava dosa. Like idlis, dosas are usually eaten with coconut chutney, tomato chutney, pudina chutney and sambar.
- Pal payasam (rice pudding) - This is a sweet dish made from rice and thick milk.
- 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 called coconut (thenga in Tamil) chutney. Also typically served are tomato chutney (tomato pulp is used), pudina chutney and dal sambar. Idlis are served steaming hot. They are meant to be eaten with hand.
- Poori masala (poori kizhaingu) - It's a deep fried batter made with a mixture of flour and water and is served as break fast or evening tiffin with potato curry.
- Vada - 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 as an evening snack. Various types of vada are prepared, including medu vada (made with Urad dal) and masala vada (made with toor dal).
- Idiyappam - This dish is a staple breakfast dish. It is known by either of two names, both having the same second word which means ‘pancake’. The first part of the name comes from the Tamil word which means ‘to beat’.
- Jigarthanda — This drink consists of milk, resin of the badam tree (used originally) or substituted with China grass (commonly known as "kadal paasi" in Tamil), sarsaparilla syrup and ice-cream (vanilla flavour is ideal). It's a very famous drink in Madurai city.
- The famous filter coffee special to and very popular in Tamil Nadu is carefully made from chosen coffee beans, which are roasted to preserve the original aroma of the beans. These roasted beans are then powdered. The water that is added has to be at boiling point for the coffee powder to release its flavour. It is not possible to make this style of coffee with tepid water.
- Paruthi Paal is a very nutritious drink that is very much popular in the Tamil Nadu state of India. Paruthi Paal is regarded as “triple-nutrient” as it is a very rich source of protein, essential fatty acids, and sugars and can be called as an energy drink.
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 ₹300 to ₹700. 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 an air-conditioned single room with basic amenities like TV, bed, room service and attached bathroom. If traveling as a couple expect to pay ₹500-1100. 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. Take precautions with your luggage and other essential documents and money. Do 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 carrying them on your person.
Medium category hotels can be had from ₹1500 to ₹4000. 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. This category of hotels is safer, 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 complement. 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 ₹5000 to ₹20,000. They are usually run by international chains and so need 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.
Tamil Nadu is one of the safest states in India. Nevertheless, be aware and cautious of your surroundings.
As in the rest of India, public displays of affection are frowned upon and may invite unwanted attention.
If you are a Sri Lankan Sinhalese, never ever reveal that fact. You could easily invite unwanted attention from Tamil nationalists, or those who have strong opinions on the Sri Lankan Civil War.
Some Tamils have strong opinions about Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan Civil War, and they may get offended if you state that the Tamil Tigers are a terrorist organisation.
Tamils are often negatively stereotyped as being "anti-Hindi" or "anti-Northern". To a large extent, these stereotypes are exaggerated, and most ordinary folk have nothing against the Hindi language (it is taught at schools in Tamil Nadu) nor people from other parts of India. If anything, these issues are often sensationalised in the media and by Tamil politicians. The Tamils are strong propopents of federalism in India, and they feel it's important to differentiate themselves in a country where they are a minority.
Contrary to popular belief, you are unlikely to offend a Tamil person by speaking to them in Hindi. In most cases, they will state that they don't speak the language.
Tamil naming conventions work in a different way, and they generally follow this pattern: given name + father's name, or father's initial + given name.
For example, if someone named Ranganathan has a son named Madhavan, his son's name will either be written as Ranganathan Madhavan, or R. Madhavan. Whenever you address Tamil people, always address them by their given name. Addressing someone by their last name may come across as awkward or disrespectful.