India’s southernmost state, Tamil Nadu is a treasure trove brimming with riches. While it is perhaps less visited than some of India’s more well-known destinations, it is a culturally, historically and naturally essential part of the country. Known for its spectacular monuments, jaw-dropping scenery and rich, distinct cultural identity, Tamil Nadu is well worth seeking out.
The province’s capital and largest city, Chennai is a major hub of South India in the cultural, political and economic spheres. An increasingly important financial centre in India, Chennai has seen rising tourism in recent years. Known for its abundance of museums, including the National Art Gallery, it is a major cultural capital. Chennai is also well-known for its iconic street food and is considered to be the cuisine capital of South India.
Meenakshi Amman Temple
One of the most important temples in the Hindu religion, Meenakshi Temple is located in the temple city of Madurai, a Tamil epicentre. The site has been of major importance for many centuries with the first temple being built in as early as the 7th Century. The current temple dates back to the 14th Century, with significant renovations occurring in the years thereafter. The temple has been a major pilgrimage destination, drawing over a million visitors during the major 10-day festival-the Meenakshi Tirukalaynam.
With crowds reaching an average of 30,000 people per day, Marina Beach is one of the most popular beaches in India. While this may put some people off, Marina Beach is still well worth a visit and is the main recreational hub of Chennai. The longest urban beach in the country, Marina Beach is the perfect place to sample an authentic slice of the city’s culture.
One of India’s most spectacular temples, Brhadisvara Temple is located in Thanjavur. Built at the beginning of the 11th Century around 1010 AD, it is the centre-piece of the Great Living Chola Temples, which also include the Airavatesvara Temple and the Gangaikondacholapuram Temple. Considered to be the most magnificent amongst these, the Brihadishvara Temple is renowned for being the finest example of Tamil architecture still standing today. Known for its intricate detail and spectacular visual appeal, it is one of South India’s most iconic landmarks.
Otherwise known as the Pancha Rathas, this is one of Tamil Nadu’s most spectacular monuments. Five separate monoliths carved out of rock faces along the Bay of Bengal’s Cormandel Coast, the Rathas date back to as early as the 7th Century. Little is known surrounding their purpose and origin other than that they were commissioned during the reign of Mahendraarman I and completed under that of his son Narasimhavarman I. They are amongst the most jaw-dropping sights in the country
main image: image courtesy of Marmontel, Flickr Creative Commons