Tamil Nadu, formerly known as the Coromandel Coast , is the 11 th largest state in India occupying 4% of the country's total area. It is bounded on the east by the Bay of Bengal , in the south by the Indian Ocean ' in the west by the Arabian Sea and the states of Kerala and Karnataka and in the north by Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
The state represents the heart of the Dravidian culture in India , which precedes the Aryan culture by over a thousand years. It is generally believed that the architects of the Indus Valley Civilizations of the 4th millennium B.C. were the Dravidians, who were once spread over the whole of India , till the Aryans arrived in North India and seemed to have pushed them south. Tamil Nadu has a rich tradition of art, literature and poetry dating back centuries before the birth of Christ. Splendid temples and historic sites that dot the region bear witness to the architectural skills of the Tamils since time immemorial.
Tamil Nadu is renowned for its classical dance forms the Bharathanatyam; rich jewel coloured silks of Kancheepuram, elegant bronzes, brass temple lamps and intricately carved wood and stone pillars. With over 30,000 temples spread across the state, each with its unique rituals and festivals, they are literally living museums of an ancient culture and have earned Tamil Nadu the sobriquet" Land of Temples ." The capital city Madras was renamed Chennai in 1996.
From Chennai, the capital and gateway to Tamil Nadu, no place is too far. Good road, rail and air services take the traveller to any point in the state with ease. Spread around are the former capitals of powerful kingdoms - the Cholas, Cheras, Pallavas, and Pandyas. Very close to Chennai are two major centres of this heritage: the Pallava towns of Kancheepuram and Mamallapuram. The former is a temple town that has also lent its name to fabulous hand-woven silk; the latter, with its magnificent rock-cut temples, is a fine beach resort. Further south, in the midst of the Cauvery River delta, are to be found the impressive remains of the Chola kings' penchant for the monumental: witness the Brahadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur, listed as a World Heritage Site, and a temple of the same name in Gangaikondacholapuram. The Nataraja temple in Chidambaram draws both the devout Hindu and the historically-minded. Pilgrims are ancient visitors to the state. For Hindus, Rameswaram needs no introduction. Catholics flock faithfully to the shrine of Our Lady of Good Health in Velankanni. And scores of Muslims make the journey to the nearby Nagore dargah.
There's plenty to delight the nature lover. Crowning the cluster of hills in the north-west part of the state are the Nilgiris – or 'Blue Hills'. Udhagamandalam (Ooty) is the state's best-known hill station, with a wealth of eucalyptus trees that give the air a distinct fragrance. This 'Queen of the Hills' has a botanical garden, annual flower shows, select hotels, clubs, golf course, race course, tennis, horse-racing and shopping centres. Close by are Kotagiri, Coonoor, Doddabetta, Snowdown, Elk-Hill, Cairn Hills and Mukurti Peak. Further south is Kodaikanal, a quiet hill station, set around a lake that exudes colonial charm and showcases the coffee plantations of the south.
Those who prefer the company of birds and beasts can venture into the wildlife sanctuaries of MudumaIai or Anaimalai. Tigers, leopards, sloth bears, elephants, bison, sambar, chital, and barking deer wander on these lands in wild abandonment. The Vedanthangal bird sanctuary, not far from Chennai, hosts egrets. Cormorants,herons and even rare bird specieslike grey pelicans and painted storks. With such a wide range of destinations, activities and cultures, Tamil Nadu, offers something for everyone.