For the visitor wishing to explore southern India extensively, Chennai, the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, is the most convenient point of entry. Chennai has an international airport, a sea port and a rail and road network that links it to all major towns and cities of the region. It also has several deluxe hotels and others to suit modest budgets. Tamil Nadu is a bastion of Hinduism, whose past endures into the present. Temples with towering spires called gopurams are a common feature of this state, seldom seen anywhere else in the country. 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 Bharatnatyam, an evocative dance form.
Mahabalipuram, Kanchipuram and Thanjavur are good examples of temple towns where within the temple fortifications grew a multi layered society that preached faith and grew from social harmony. Kanchipuram, also called Kanjeevaram, is famous throughout the country as the center where lustrous silk sarees are woven. Likewise Thanjavur is an important center for bronze figure casting. Mahabalipuram, with its wealth of sculptures, is located by the seaside and has excellent resorts.
The towns of Tiruchirapalli and Madurai also contain famous temples.
Quite a contrast to the temple heritage is provided at Pondicherry, for long a French colony. French is still widely spoken, and seaside villas and cobbled streets are more reminiscent of the south of France than the south of India! Yet another facet of this surprisingly diverse state is two hillstations Ootacamund and Kodaikanal. Both are little patches of England, being much loved by the expatriate population of the Raj. Both places provide delightful relaxation during an extended tour of the south, having a wide range of hotel accommodation. The cuisine of Tamil Nadu, more or less totally vegetarian, has become enormously popular all over the country, and few towns do not have at least one eatery serving popular snacks from the state’s extensive repertoire.
PLACES OF INTEREST
- Fort St. George & St. Mary's Church
- Gandhi Mandapam
- High Court
- Anna Square
- Kapaleeswara Temple
- Light House
- Marina Beach & Aquarium
- Parthasarathy Temple
- San Thom Cathedral
- Snake Park
- Theosophical Society
- Valluvar Kottam
- Ripon Buildings and War Memorial Fort Museum (0900-1700 hrs. Closed on fridays)
- Govt. Museum & Art Gallery (0800-1700 hrs. Closed on fridays)
- Covelong 38 kms
- Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary 85 kms
- Pulicat 61 kms
- Kanchipuram 71 kms
- Ennore Beach 18 kms
- Muttukudu 30 kms
- Red Hills 14 kms
- Mahabalipuram 61 kms
- Cholamandal Artists Village 20 kms
- Elliots Beach 11 kms
- Crocodile Bank 42 kms
- Pundi Reservoir 60 kms
- Thirukkalikundram 80 kms
- Anna Zoological Park (Vandalur)
HOW TO GET THERE?
Air: Chennai is directly linked by Indian Airlines to Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Goa, Bombay, Bhubaneshwar, Calcutta, Cochin, Coimbatore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Port Blair, Madurai, Pune, Tirupati, Tiruchirapalli, Trivandrum, Puttaparthy, Vishakhapatnam and to Colombo, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore. East West Airlines also connects Chennai with Bombay
Rail: Chennai is connected by rail with Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Bombay, Calcutta, Cochin, Coimbatore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kodai Road, Lucknow, Madurai, Mangalore, Ooty ( via Mettupalayam ), Rameshwaram, Trichy, Tirupati Trivandrum and Varanasi.
Road: Chennai is connected by road with all the major towns in India. Some of the road-distances from Chennai are Bombay 1329 kms, Bangalore 334 kms, Hyderabad 669 kms, Kanyakumari 693 kms, Madurai 461 kms, Mahabalipuram 60 kms, Pondicherry 162 kms, Rameshwaram 619 kms, Kanchipuram 71 kms, Tirupati 143 kms, Ooty 535 kms, Kodaikanal 498 kms, Trivandrum 709 kms, and Thanjavur 334 kms.
External Transport: Regular buses available from Chennai to Bangalore, Cochin, Coimbatore, Kanyakumari, Madurai, Nagapattinam (Velankanni), Ooty, Pondicherry, Rameshwaram, Thanjavur, Tirupati, Trichy and Trivandrum