Welcome to the Indian Panorama Newsletter for August 2009. This month we head south and focus on Tamil Nadu. Home to one of the oldest continuous civilisation in the world, Tamil Nadu offers a range of fascinating destinations - cultural, historical, spiritual and wilderness experiences are all to be had in the state.
Tamil Nadu is where Indian Panorama had its origins, so we know this part of India particularly well and love to share the wonders of our home state with visitors. Of course we might be a little biased, but no matter how much we see of this remarkable country, the sights and attractions of Tamil Nadu rival those of any other state or region. We hope the information which follows entices you to come and see us in our own backyard.
We've also added some new pages to our photo gallery depicting our travels in Tamil Nadu:-
One of the reasons that Tamil Nadu has such an ancient civilisation is to do with its relative isolation from the rest of India which spared it from the periodic wars and invasions which affected most regions of the sub-continent over the past 1000 or so years.
The high mountains of the Western Ghats and the vast arid plains of the Deccan Plateau to the north meant that it was difficult if not impossible for invading forces to reach Tamil Nadu, leaving its ancient culture intact until relatively recently. And the strength of the culture is such that while modernity is never far away, the sense of timelessness and connection to their history is such an element of pride for the Tamil people that this state of affairs is unlikely to change in the immediate future.
Tamil Nadu now has four international airports although the vast majority of visitors still arrive through Chennai (formerly known as Madras) which is the state capital and by far the largest city here. Chennai lacks the major monuments and places of historical interest of India's other major gateway cities- for this reason plus its reputation for some of the worst traffic jams in India we almost invariably recommend making the first stop on any tour starting in Chennai at the small beachside town of Mahabalipuram. The other international airports are at Madurai, Trichy and Coimbatore although services from these cities are more limited than through Chennai.
Click on any of the links below to visit further pages focussing on the Temple Cities of Tamil Nadu, the coastal regions of the state, the Chettinad region and a page of odds and ends.
Tamil Nadu's temples are world renowned as places of great aesthetic beauty. The likes of Meenakshi in Madurai, Brihadishwara in Tanjore and Srirangam near Trichy are vibrant, living temples which play a crucial role in the lives of local people, while countless thousands of smaller temples dot the landscape in towns and villages across the state. The entire history of Dravidian south India can be traced through the development of these amazing monuments to devotion, and time in a temple whether small or gargantuan is sure to rate as a highlight of any visit to Tamil Nadu
The Coast of Tamil Nadu is still largely undeveloped from a tourist point of view. But this allows some wonderful opportunities to visit fishing communities and places where life has been inexorably linked to the ebb and flow of the Bay of Bengal for centuries; the lifestyle of the local people is simple and the welcome they offer to visitors is warm and genuine.
At Mahabalipuram, an ancient capital and harbour is now a small resort town with world-class accommodation and fantastic restaurants serving seafood straight from the azure waters beyond the shore. And India's southernmost point at Kanyakumari possesses an almost mystical power befitting one the great Land's End points of the world
You can read more about someThe Coast of Tamil Nadu here.
Quiet villages, smiling locals, superb cuisine and a series of quite extraordinary mansions are the hallmarks of the small region known as Chettinad.
Still little visited by outsiders this is one of the great 'secret' destinations of South India and a guaranteed highlight for those who take the time to venture into this unique area.
For for information on theChettinad region, click here.
Village life is at the heart of Tamil culture and it is in these small communities that the visitor can learn something of the 'true' Tamil culture.
From tiny shrines and temples, cottage industries and local festivals, or even just enjoying a cup of chai at a roadside stall, these are the places to imbibe the essence of Tamil Nadu and take home memories you'll cherish forever.
For information on
(13 days - From the majestic living temples of Tanjore and Trichy, through the serene backwaters and on into the Western Ghat, here is a tour with a taste of South India and the chance to get up close to the culture and the natural wonders of this magical land.)Temples of Tamil Nadu
(10 days - A tour covering all the highlights and many of the places we have mentioned in this month's newsletter, Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Tiruvannamalai, Pondicherry, Tanjore and Madurai.Art and Treasures of Tamil Nadu and Kerala
(16 days - With this itinerary you can get a taste of temples, both ancient and "living", see artists at work in a variety of disciplines and have plenty of time to relax as well.