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)
- Kanchipuram, Tiruvannamalai, Kumbakonam, Chidambaram, Rameswaram, Thanjavur, Palani, Srirangam - Temples
- Udagamandalam, Kodaikanal, Yercaud - hill stations
- Pollachi, Gobichettipalayam - Reserved forests, Wildlife and Cinema Shootings
- Poompuhar, Mamallapura - 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 located next to Guindy National Park and a Children's Park (zoo) is located 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 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. To this day, Tamil Nadu maintains a fiercely independent identity from the rest of India. Although the Tamils no longer harbour any separatist intentions these days, visitors will notice how protective they are of their language and culture, and how they are keen to promote their cultural distinction from the rest of India.
Tamils are fiercely proud of the Tamil language, one of the few living classical languages, which is over 3000 years old. It is unrelated to the North Indian languages, and instead 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. Even if you are in Chennai, do not try to speak to locals in Hindi, as many will find it offensive. On the other hand, English is spoken fluently by most of the well-educated upper class, while most urban locals know enough for basic communication, so English-speaking visitors should be able to get by in urban areas.
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, 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.
- 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 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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. Various types of vadai are prepared, including medu vadai (orid dal) and masala vadai (toor dal).
- 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 (vanila 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 flavor. It is not possible to make this style of 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 ₹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 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 ₹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.
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.