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Tamil Nadu

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Travel Guide Asia India Tamil Nadu

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Introduction

Tamil Nadu is a state in southern India. Tamil Nadu is perhaps less visited than some other states in India, but it has plenty of fascinating, mystical and extraordinary places of worship and plenty of culture, spice and colour.

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Geography

Tamil Nadu covers an area of 130,058 km2, and is eleventh largest state in India. The bordering states are Kerala to the west, Karnataka to the north west and Andhra Pradesh to the north. To the east is the Bay of Bengal and the state encircles the union territory of Puducherry. The southernmost tip of the Indian Peninsula is Kanyakumari which is the meeting point of the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Indian Ocean.

The western, southern and the north western parts are hilly and rich in vegetation. The Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats meet at the Nilgiri hills. The Western Ghats traverse the entire western border with Kerala, effectively blocking much of the rain bearing clouds of the south west monsoon from entering the state. The eastern parts are fertile coastal plains and the northern parts are a mix of hills and plains. The central and the south central regions are arid plains and receive less rainfall than the other regions.

Tamil Nadu has the country's third longest coastline at about 906.9 kilometres. Tamil Nadu's coastline bore the brunt of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami when it hit India, which caused 7,793 direct deaths in the state. Tamil Nadu falls mostly in a region of low seismic hazard with the exception of the western border areas that lie in a low to moderate hazard zone; as per the 2002 Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) map, Tamil Nadu falls in Zones II & III. Historically, parts of this region have experienced seismic activity in the M5.0 range.

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Sights and Activities

From the magnificent almost 'technicolour' temples of Madurai to the beach side ruins of Mamallapurum and the former French colony of Pondicherry (or Puducherry) that now has a popular yoga and ashram scene and it still celebrates the French holiday of Bastille Day. Just outside of Pondicherry you can visit the unusual and unique Sri Aurobindo Ashram founded by 'the mother' in 1926. There is plenty to explore. If you like southern Indian temple culture there are some great sites to take in. Head for Madurai (Sri Meenakshi temple complex) or Thanjavur (Tanjore) for the Brihadishwara Temple and then perhaps Trichy (Tiruchirappalli) for the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple.

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Events and Festivals

  • Holi is quite popular in the Indian sub-continent and is traditionally celebrated on the day after the full moon in the month of Phalguna (early March), according to Hindu calender. Holi is a thanksgiving festival, where people offer prayer to God for good harvest and fertility of the land. Holi is a festival of freedom from social norms and caste inhibitions are shed for a day as people indulge in fun and merry-making. Colors and 'gulal' are showered on the people dressed up for the occasion and the whole community seems to merge into one big family under the guise of colors, without any distinction whatsoever. Children with face smeared with colors run around with 'pichkaris' (big syringes to splash colored water) and play amongst themselves. People exchange good wishes, sweets and gifts. Holi is also marked by vibrant processions which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and drum beating. Parties are also organized where snacks and the traditional milk-based drink “Thandai” is served which is often intoxicated with “Bhang”. Of late, lots of foreigners have started taking interest in this festival and they even enjoy the colors and the intoxicating drink. It is advised to cover your hair with a cap and eyes with sunglasses to avoid the colors splashing the eyes and damaging the hair.
  • Republic Day - Republic Day is a national holiday in India every January 26 to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution in 1950 and the declaration of independence in 1930. The capital of New Delhi is the focus of the celebrations, including a flag raising ceremony, wreath laying, 21-gun salute, Presidential speech, and presentation of awards for selflessness and bravery. A massive military parade includes elephants ridden by children who have received national accolades.
  • Gandhi Jayanti - Gandhi Jayanti is a national public holiday commemorating the birth of the peaceful activist, Mohandas Gandhi on October 2, 1869. The celebration coincides with the United Nations’ International Day of Non-Violence. In India, Gandhi is remembered through statues, flower and candle offerings, prayers and singing the devotional hymn Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram. The Indian government issues special mint rupees and postage stamps bearing his picture.
  • Diwali - Diwali is the five-day festival of lights held in India in late October or early November each year. The widely celebrated Hindu event marks Lord Rama’s victory over the demon Ravan. Homes and streets are decorated with lights, candles and small clay lamps, and new clothes are worn and sweets are exchanged.

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Weather

The climate in Tamil Nadu differs somewhat to neighbouring Kerala. The monsoon rain in the southeast runs from October until early December which is a short, but perhaps more aggressive wet season to Kerala in the southwest.
Temperatures in Tamil Nadu range from roughly around 25 °C to 38 °C, sometimes more depending on the time of year. Temperatures and humidity remain relatively high all year round. January to April are usually the driest months and May to September tend to be the hotter months prior to the start of the monsoon. November is often the wettest month in Chennai, the capital of the state along the eastcoast.

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Getting There

By Plane

By Train

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.

By Road

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.

By Boat

Chennai has a port, but the only relevant connection is the long trip to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

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Eat

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).

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Drink

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.

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Sleep

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.

Budget

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.

Mid-range

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.

Splurge

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.

View our map of accommodation in Tamil Nadu

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Accommodation in Tamil Nadu

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Tamil Nadu searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Tamil Nadu and areas nearby.

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This is version 17. Last edited at 12:10 on Aug 14, 17 by Utrecht. 16 articles link to this page.

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