Tamil Nadu lies to the southeast tip of the Indian peninsula. A culturally rich land, Tamil Nadu is home to large ancient temples in granite. Some of them are hewn out of a single rock face. It is also the land of classical dance form, ‘Bharatnatyam’ and has many exponents of classical music,’Carnatic music’. With strong roots in past, the state is also one of the more modern states in India.
By the last centuries Before Christ the region was controlled by three major dynasties - the Cholas in the east, Pandyas in the central area and Cheras in the west. This was also the classical period of Tamil literature - the Sangam Age - that continued for some three centuries after the birth of Christ. The Tamil Sangam is the one major source of knowledge about the administration, art, architecture and economic conditions that existed then.
Held by native dynasties, British, French and Dutch over the centuries, the princely dominions of erstwhile Pallavas, Cholas and parts of Cheras were integrated into the region called Chennai Presidency by the British.. Many Tamils played a significant part in the struggle for Independence. In 1956, the Chennai Presidency was disbanded and Tamil Nadu was established- an autonomous state based on linguistic lines.
Temples with towering spires called gopurams are a common feature of this state, seldom seen anywhere else in the country. These temples were the nodal centres in the society where religion and caste reigned supreme. The days, months and activities revolved around the temples. The classical dance and art form also found patronage in these temples. Notable among these are splendid bronzes of deities, painting on glass and Bharatnatyam, an evocative dance form. Madurai, Kanchipuram and Thanjavur are good examples of temple towns where within the temple fortifications grew a multi-layered society that preached faith and social harmony.
Quite a contrast to the temple heritage is provided at Pondicherry, for long a French colony. French is still widely spoken and seaside villas and cobbled streets are more reminiscent of the south of France than the south of India! Yet another facet of this surprisingly diverse state is two hill stations Ooty and Kodaikanal. Both are little patches of England, being much loved by the expatriate population of the Raj.
In a State where scenery and terrain is perhaps more varied than in any other part of the country, where the forested slopes of the majestic hills of the Western Ghats vie with the magnificent beaches of the Coromandel Coast, it is indeed difficult to decide which is the best feature of multi-faceted Tamil Nadu.
For the visitor wishing to explore southern India extensively, Chennai, the capital is the most convenient point of entry. It has an international airport, a seaport and a rail and road network that links it to all major towns and cities of the region.