In keeping with the deeply
religious moorings of those who live around temple towns, the people of
Tamil Nadu proudly wear their caste symbols on their foreheads. Called 'naams'
and 'tilaks' these symbols are made of ash, vermilion or sandal paste in a
U-shape or horizontal lines.
However, modern Tamil Nadu is much more than
temples and prayerful people. This sunny stretch of land on India's
southeastern coastline has exquisite beaches, a booming film industry and film
stars who change overnight into stars of a political firmament. The Integral
Coach Factory that keeps the railways supplied with its wagons, and the
Kalpakkam Nuclear Power Station, which also has the only U-233 fuelled
operational reactor in the world, Kamini (Kalpakkam Mini Reactor), are all
located here; so are some of the finest educational institutions which date
back to the British period.
South India's nightingale, M. S. Subbulakshmi,
and India's "missile man" APJ Abdul Kalam, who have been honoured with the
country's highest civilian award, the 'Bharat Ratna' (Jewel of India order),
both hail from this State.
Tamil Nadu represents the nucleus of Dravidian
art and culture. The Chola, Pandya and Pallava dynasties ruled in relative
isolation in this region and Hindu architecture evolved vigorously under them.
The renowned Meenakshi Temple in Madurai with its nine gopurams, the
tallest and most-gaily decorated one being 48 metres high, is visited by nearly
15000 people every day. Other temples at Rameshwaram Temple in the far
south, Thanjavur, Srirangam, Chidambaram and Kancheepuram have
their own history and unique features.
Proud of their rich cultural
heritage, the people of Tamil Nadu do everything possible to
preserve their culture. Ancient customs and traditions, going
back 3000 years, still thrive.
Their mother tongue, Tamil, is the oldest living language in
the world. The classical dance of the 'devadasis' (temple dancers), Bharatnatyam,
which had gone into decline during British rule after flourishing
in southern India for centuries, was revived by the setting
up of Kalakshetra at
Chennai in 1936, and is now famous throughout the world. Bharatnatyam
combines melody, rhythm, facial expressions, hand gestures
and postures of the body to
portray narratives of devotional themes. A visit to Chennai
is not complete until you have attended a performance of this
bronze icons were introduced by the Cholas in the 9th century for worship
in their temples. Replicas of these icons, and granite sculptures of Hindu
deities, are still made by skilled artisans and adorn homes all across India.
The most commonly seen is Nataraja, Lord Shiva as the celestial Lord of
Dance. The rare artistic appeal of this icon has made it a symbol of Indian art
throughout the world.
A unique form of painting was developed at
Thanjavur (Tanjore) during the 16th century. Made in relief form on
canvas or glass, the paintings used gold & metal foil and semi-precious
stones to simulate the ornaments of the deities portrayed. The art form is
still flourishing, and Tanjore Paintings are considered prized
The 'city of a thousand temples', Kancheepuram, has
preserved its age-old tradition of weaving exquisite silk sarees. The
clack of handlooms is still heard amid the ringing of temple bells.
warm coastal plains in the East gradually rise to the Nilgiris (the Blue
Mountains), in the Northwest, and the Palani hills in the West. Lying at the
junction of Kerala,
Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the
Nilgiris have their own ambience - eucalyptus covered hill slopes, tea gardens,
hill stations, teak & sandalwood forests and wild
Udhagamandalam (Ootacamund or 'Ooty'), the erstwhile summer
headquarters of the British government in southern India, offers a cool
retreat, as do Coonoor and Kotagiri the other hill stations
Wildlife Sanctuary lies in the thickly forested Nilgiri
Celebrated with festivity and joy in January every year, the
harvest festival, Pongal, is the most important festival in the State,
during which people worship the sun, the earth and cattle in thanksgiving for a
Chennai (Madras) - In 1639,
a tiny fishing hamlet, Madraspatnam, was given to the East India Company by the
Raja of Chandragiri for establishing a trading post. Soon a fort started coming
up there, attracting weavers to the area. The locality came to be known as
Chennapatnam. Along with the growing fortunes of the East India Company,
Chennapatnam also grew, and today it stands as Chennai, the fourth largest city
in India and the capital of Tamil Nadu.
Though a modern metropolis with
a population of close to five and a half million, Chennai has a very open and
spacious feel to it. The city has grown more outward than upward. An efficient
transport system, supplemented by the commissioning of India's first elevated
railway in 1995, adds to the relaxed atmosphere.
The feeling of openness
is accentuated by the 12 km long Marina Beach that forms the eastern
boundary. The beach attracts health conscious walkers and joggers in the
mornings and whole families in the evenings when it turns into a fair
Chennai has a very big film industry, aided in no small measure
by the Vijay Vahini Studios, Asia's largest. Cinema halls continue to draw
large crowds despite the onslaught of television with its myriad channels.
However, the advent of cinema and television has not dimmed the people's
abiding interest in classical dance and music. Chennai hosts a very popular
month-long Music and Dance Festival from mid-December every year where
the best known exponents of classical dance and music participate.
city's early growth and long association with the British are seen in the broad
tree-lined avenues, buildings in the Indo-Saracenic style, and, ofcourse.
Fort St. George around which the city grew. The fort now houses the
State Legislature and Secretariat. The Fort Museum has exhibits from the
days of the East India Company. Also in the fort is St. Mary's Church,
the oldest Anglican church in Asia, consecrated in 1680, and still an important
place of worship.