It might be a difficult task for any traveler to find a confluence of natural beauty and history intertwined with each other just like they do in Samanar Hills. Tucked beautifully away from the bustling city of Madurai about 12 km away in Keelakuyilkudi village, the hills have become an important tourist location in Madurai for its adventure, breathtaking views and serenity for people looking to unwind. In the local language, 'Samanar' means Jains and 'Malai' means Hills, portraying that that place used to be where the Jain monks lived.
Located at the Sarabendraraja Pattinam, the fort overlooks the Bay of Bengal in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. Touted as one of the oldest forts in the whole of India, the fort is built in the Dravidian architectural style by the Maratha ruler Serfoji II. The fort was built during 1814–1815 to commemorate the proud advance that the British force was able to achieve over the force of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Kallanai is an ancient dam built across the river Kaveri in South India. This is situated in Tamil Nadu in the district of Trichy. This dam was constructed in AD 2nd century by the Chola king Karikalan which is located 15 km away from Tiruchirapalli. The dam is originally located in Thanjavur district, by approximately 20 km from Trichy across Kaveri river. Kallanai Dam is the fourth older water rerouting system in the world which is still in existence.
Tucked away on the shore of River Vaigai, Madurai is a city like no other with rich culture, the magnificent temples, more than 2500 of history and an ambience that transcends you through time to a surreal word of the old. Surprisingly, Madurai is quite a bustling city any time of the day earning it the name ‘The city that never sleeps’.
While creating an itinerary to visit Madurai, ensure that you include the following places on your must-see list to understand the city in all its grandeur and style.
Uraiyur is the un-honored capital of Cholas. By hook or by crook it not ever got the attention like its later capital, Thanjavur. The early Chola phase is scrappy since all statistics is merely based on literature and poetry. Though, it is noticeable that Uraiyur was a thriving trade center located on the banks of river Kaveri and was regularly visited by the Romans and the Greeks...
There is no paucity of reasons when it comes to the things that make Madurai so spectacularly unique. Least of all is its street names. Though this ancient city is about two millennia old, its streets are still in great condition and are still where they were laid hundreds of years ago.
It’s believed that most of the streets were laid down by the Pandya kings in the last millennium; and that’s not all as the city itself was planned beautifully in terms of architecture, buildings and roads that the residents appreciate even to this day! ...
It’s interesting how the main dish of the festival and the festival itself share the same name. The Pongal festival is believed to herald a new era of prosperity which is signified by the bringing in of the new harvest.
It is believed that when the month of Thai (the beginning of Pongal) starts, it brings in love, peace and harmony along with prosperity and joy into the life of the Tamilians. It is also the beginning of the wedding season when harvests have been sold and money is aplenty for conducting marriages. The Pongal festival is the epitome of Tamil culture when the best skills of its people are displayed; its celebrated to thank Mother Nature for her bountiful blessings of rain enabling a good harvest and hundreds of people throng the temples irrespective of caste or religion!
Trichy has been in existence since the medieval period and has been the seat of various dynasties that have ruled the area over the past two millennia. This culturally-rich city is the fourth largest city in Tamil Nadu and is a fast developing commercial and educational hub.
This historical city is also known as Tiruchirappalli or Tiruchi and is located on the banks of the Cauvery River. With its rich delta area, agriculture still forms a major part of its economy with rice, sugarcane and coconuts being some of the main products cultivated here. With its eclectic mix of people, Tamil as well as Malayalam, Hindi, English and Marathi are the languages that the keen ear can tune into. And with the influx of students from all over India into its nationally recognized universities Trichy is fast on its way to becoming a cosmopolitan center. Young people are increasingly being seen dressed in the standard western attires of jeans and T-shirts and cuisines foreign to the local culture are becoming popular in the eateries.
A visit to the Madurai hills is a big change from the hustle-bustle of city life in nearby Madurai; here, amid the bountiful lap of nature, there is peace and tranquility that rejuvenates the mind and invites you to spend some quiet time in silent meditation with the powers that be. A visit to the city should definitely be accompanied by a visit to its nearby hills.
The Samanar hills surround the ancient city of Madurai, the second largest city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu; during ancient times, these hills helped protect the city from invaders. They consist of eight smaller hillocks, of which there are three that are significant; these include the Yanaimalai (elephant hill), Nagamalai (snake hill) and Pasumalai (Cow hill), with the word ‘Malai’ referring to hill in the Tamil language.
It’s not every day or everyone who gets the honor of having a monument put up in their name. But such was the honor bestowed on the medieval Tamil poet Kavi Chakravarthy Kambar who lived in c. 1180-1250 in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India. The poet who is informally known as Kamban gained fame after writing the Kamba Ramayanam, which is the Tamil version of the Ramayana epic from the Hindu religion.
This masterpiece holds a special place in the echelons of Tamil literature and his work is believed to be unparalleled by any other poet. His work is such that one can visualize it as if watching it on a screen; the richness in his use of metaphors and similes gave his poetry special magic that others tried hard to emulate, yet there are no rivals. The Kamba Ramayanam is believed to have more than 10,000 songs and is composed of 45,000 lines, forming one of the greatest epics in Tamil.
In ancient days when wars often broke out and kingdoms had to be protected from neighboring marauders, important cities had to be walled in or be surrounded by natural barriers such as rivers or hills.
The city of Madurai was the capital of many ancient kingdoms and has been in existence since over 2000 years; the city is currently the second largest city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu and well-developed with airport, railways and major highways. It’s known as the temple city due to the towering presence of the historical Meenakshi temple located in the city center.
Southern India is blessed with the culture-rich state of Tamil Nadu along its eastern coast. It’s known as the land of temples as all sizes of temples abound in all nooks and crannies of this state. And as can be expected with so many temples around, there are an equal number of festivals to keep the Tamil people constantly preparing for or celebrating some festival or the other.
Colorful, glittering silk saris, flowers, rangolis and lots and lots of festival foods are associated with most of these festivals. Celebrations are colorful and gay and a major form of propagation of Tamil Nadu’s rich colorful from one generation to the next.
Navarati, literally translates to ‘nine nights’ in Sanskrit with ‘nava’ meaning nine and ‘ratri’ meaning night; these nine nights and 10 days are dedicated to fasting and worship of the nine avatars of the Durga goddess by Hindus all over India. There is fasting and feasting accompanied by the popular dandia dance and flowing jeweled dresses with bangles and flowers adorning the Devi as well as the womenfolk! The 10th day is a major festival called Dussehra or Dasera, depending on which part of India you are from…
The ancient city of Madurai of Tamil Nadu is home to numerous temples and other historical buildings of significance. The magnificent Thirumalai Nayak Mahal is one such place of ethereal beauty that you cannot afford to miss when visiting the city. This 17nth century palace was erected in 1636 by the then reigning King Thirumalai Nayak, of the Nayak dynasty. The building seen today is just the part where the king resided while the original structure was at least four times bigger. This palace is located about 2km north-east of the Meenakshi temple and in its heydays, was considered as one of the wonders of Southern India.
There is a hidden part in all of us that revels in the great outdoors in silent commune with the vast spread of nature; a clear skyline, lack of pollution and absence of clamouring city sounds are more than enough to heal the senses and bring tranquillity to the mind. Getting away for a trip with family and friends is a great way to unwind and create memories; for the nature-lovers amongst you, a trip to the Mudumalai National Park is a trip into the land of bounties!
This park and wildlife sanctuary is strategically located at a tri-junction of three states, namely, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. With Bandipur Tiger Reserve to the north in Karnataka and the Wayanad Wild Life Sanctuary in Kerala towards the west, the region forms a continuous wildlife habitat with the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in Tamil Nadu.
Even though the world only included the mesmerizing Meenakshi temple only as an entrant among the top 30 monuments for the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’ list, India has gone ahead and included this architectural wonder as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of India’. This is a historically protected monument in the temple city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu and the most famous monument in southern India. The temple forms the heart of the 2500-year-old city and there are strict instructions laid out that no building constructed within the city shall be taller than the temple ‘gopurams’ (gateways), such that the gopurams should dominate the skyline in this ancient city. The streets around the temple are laid out as squares within squares, thus keeping the temple as its heart.
Islam is believed to have come to the Western coast of India as early as the 7th century AD when Arab traders came to coastal Malabar and the Konkan-Gujarat coast. The historical Cheraman Juma masjid in Kerala is thought to be the very first mosque to be built in India in 629 AD and descendants of the earlier Arab Muslims are still believed to be living here.
The Kazimar Big Mosque also known as Kazimar Periya Pallivasal was the first mosque in Madurai, founded by Hazarat Kazi Syed Tajuddin, believed to be a direct descendent of prophet Mohamed. He had come from Oman during the 13th Century and received land from King Kulasekara Pandiyan to build this ancient mosque.
The mosque can accommodate around 2500 people; within its premises the mosque houses the Madurai Maqbara and the dargah (shrine built over the grave of a revered religious figure) of well-known Madurai Hazrats (Hazrat Meer Ahamad Ibrahim, Hazrat Meer Amjad Ibrahim, Hazrat Syed Abdus Salaam Ibrahim Rahmatullahi Alaihim, who are also direct descendants of the prophet Muhammad). It also has the Hazarat Kazi Syed Tajuddin Arabi Madrasasa (school) which teaches basic Arabic to around 120 students.
Of the numerous festivals celebrated in Tamil Nadu, Ganesh Chathurti is one such religious festival that is celebrated for ten days by the Hindus to honor the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha. He is known by 108 different names and is the Lord of arts and science and the giver of wisdom. Before beginning any ritual or ceremony, he is honored first by the Hindus as he is considered as the Lord of beginnings.
In Tamil Nadu, the kozhukattai snack is a must-offer dish to Ganapathy; the best part of this dish is that it can be made either sweet or savory. With many people being afflicted by diabetes these days, let’s engage on the spicy version of this dish instead!
Built around an amazing 2000 years ago, the Kallanai dam is a sight to behold; it is majestically built across the Cauvery river, about 19km away from Trichy in the Tamil Nadu state of India. This ancient dam was built by the great Chola king Karikala who had the foresight to know the gains to be gotten through building a water regulator over the Cauvery river. It is the fourth oldest water-diversion or water-regulator structure in the world that is still in functional order.
Over the past two millennia, the dam’s solid foundation and structure have withstood the passage of time and are in excellent condition. Due to its amazing engineering, this dam is a modern day inspiration to many a dam builder. Its beautiful architecture as well as its history attracts thousands of tourists every year. It’s easy to get there as Trichy is well connected by road, rail as well as by air. The nearest railway station from the dam is the Lalgudi station which is just about 4km away while the Trichy International airport is 13km away. Book into any of the majestic hotels in the city and enjoy a heritage holiday with the beautiful temples and other historical monuments in and around Trichy, aside from this ancient dam.
The majestic Nilgiri Tahr, also known as the Nilgiri ibex is endemic to the Nilgiri hills that form part of the southern area of the Western Ghats range running through Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In Tamil, it’s locally known as ‘varaiaadu’ with ‘wurrai’ meaning precipice and ‘aadu’ meaning goat. However, this ungulate animal is closer in nature to the sheep rather than the ibex or goat after which it’s been named.
The Nilgiri tahr also holds the prestigious position of being the Tamil Nadu State Animal. This southern state is the eleventh largest state in India area wise, and the sixth most populous state throughout the country. The Tamil people have a rich Dravidian culture that dates back to more than two millennia; the landscape is strewed with numerous beautiful temples of historical significance that attract tourists in their thousands throughout the year. The state is bordered on its eastern side by the sea and was a major trading port in the colonial era.
Though times are changing, and modern concepts are taking over our lifestyle, some traditions just don’t die out. Similar is the case for sports in the state of Tamil Nadu; though modern sports like football, cricket and tennis that have foreign origins are being ardently followed by the common Tamilian, ancient sporting activities like Seval Sandai are still popular among the rural communities.
Seval Sandai is basically cockfighting. It’s a blood sport that has a history of over 6000 years as can be seen from documentations, seals and decorations on walls and pottery among other things. It has been mentioned in ancient literatures like Kattu Seval Sastiram, Manu Needhi Sastiram and Sangam literatures. The origins of this blood sport were in southern Asian countries with its being a favorite pastime of ancient warriors during the peace times.
Of the many sports played in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, both traditional as well as foreign sports, kabaddi takes the honor for being the state sport. It’s derived from the Tamil word ‘kai-pidi’, meaning ‘to hold hands’. Kabaddi is an ancient contact sport which’s origins can be traced back to about 4000 years ago in Indian mythology during the Mahabharata period. Buddhist literatures also have citing of Lord Buddha playing kabaddi as a recreational sport.
It’s known by different names in different places such as ‘bhavatik’ in Maldives, ‘kauddi’ in Punjab and ‘hadudu’ in Bengal. At this point it’s important to note that some other states like Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana also recognize kabaddi as their state sport.
There is a quaint little village called Alagar Kovil nestling in the woods at the foot of the Alagarmalai hills that is famous for its ancient Vaishnavite temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple as well as its beautiful scenic surroundings is famous for a number of reasons including its intricately carved sculptures, magnificent gopurams as well as the historical ruins of a fort making for an interesting day trip to this location.
It’s located about 21km from Madurai city of the state of Tamil Nadu, the land of culture, history and temples! Madurai has an airport as well as excellent rail and road transport networks to enable you reach this destination. Book into any of the heritage hotels in Madurai city and enjoy the city of temples and its’ surroundings.
The best way to go on an adventure is to fuel up and go on a long drive in your own vehicle with no time restrictions and no particular direction to head to! But do keep a phone and GPS handy anyway…
You might have heard of hills shaped like tortoises or horse faces, but have you seen one that’s elephant-shaped? It’s a marvel to see and just in case you are interested, it’s called the Yanaimalai hill and is located in the Madurai district of Tamil Nadu, about 10km away from the Mattuthavani Bus stand; don’t be too worried about finding it as it’s easy to locate with its majestic height of 300 feet and a long stretch of almost 3 kilometers; there is no way you can miss it. You could even be forgiven for calling it the Great Wall of Madurai as it rises like a giant fort wall along one side of the city!
Srirangam is a small ancient island bounded by the Cauvery river on one side and its tributary, the Coleroon on the other. It forms part of the city of Trichy, part of Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India.
This island is home to an enormous temple complex, the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple, a major pilgrimage spot for followers of Lord Vishnu. A large number of his followers also dwell on this island. The temple complex is so large, it feels like a self-enclosed city! It also bears the distinction of being one of the largest religious complexes in the world. It covers a whopping area of 156 acres or 0.63 square kilometers and a perimeter of 4,116m with several prakaras or enclosures. Thick rampart walls separate each prakara.
There has been evidence of Marathi settlers in the northern and central parts of present–day Tamil Nadu since ancient times. The Thanjavur Marathi community is an ethno-linguistic community that originated in the 17nth century, after the formation of the Vijaynagar Empire. The earlier ancient Chola kingdom was one of the mightiest kingdoms and ruled from its capital Thanjavur to Bay of Bengal and beyond that to Indonesia too. However, after numerous wars, Thanjavur changed hands in 1674 and was taken over by Chattrapathi Shivaji’s half-brother who established the Thanjavur Maratha Kingdom; thus began the influx of Marathis into the land of the Tamilians. During the reign of Serfoji I, who ruled from 1712-1726, Marathi Brahmins were invited to settle in Thanjavur and were offered large plots of land as incentives.
These immigrant Marathis have contributed in many ways towards the betterment of the indigenous Tamil population by their contributions in the fields of arts, literature and even the cuisine!
Kolli hills form part of a range of hills along the central belt of Tamil Nadu, a state of southern India. These beautiful evergreen hills are covered with forests and farmlands that have many legends attached to them, most of which are related to Hindu mythology. Various temples in this area make this hill a pilgrimage spot for many, especially during the Valvil Ori festival in August, when many throng this area.
The best way to enjoy these hills is by leisurely hiking through the green hillsides; it’s a great place for those seeking peaceful locations for relaxing and meditational purposes. Unlike Kodaikanal and Ooty, the Kolli hills are relatively untouched and free from milling crowds and host to friendly tribes. A botanical garden, boat house, cave house as well as beautifully cascading waterfalls make up some of the other areas of interest in these hills.
Madurai is a 2,500 years old ancient city located in the southern part of India. It is the second largest city in Tamil Nadu and finds mentions in old scriptures like the Maha Bharata and Ramayana. It is known as the temple city and was once the thriving capital of the Madurai Nayak and Pandian kings.
This beautiful city of art and culture is also famous for its many fantastic tourist destinations like Kodaikanal, Suruli, Megamalai tea estates, Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kumbakkari waterfalls, etc. The fragrant jasmine flowers are cultivated abundantly here and adorn most Tamil women’s hair; they are also a major export commodity.
No matter which part of the world you are visiting, the best way to get an authentic taste of the local cuisine is by literally getting out on to the streets! The pushcarts and small shanties serve the tastiest versions of the local cuisine. No fancy dressing up of the food that detracts from its indigenous flavors. No fancy plates and cutlery or ‘great ambience’ to take away the ethnicity of the food. Just the food in totality served in the most rudimentary way possible, yet finger-licking tasty!
First it’s the aroma that pulls you towards these humble eateries. The food servers here don’t treat you with deference, but more with familiarity like an old family member. The food on offer is usually limited in variety, but the taste more than makes up for a long menu.
Tamil Nadu bears an ancient Dravidian civilization that can be traced back to the treatise ‘Tolkaapiyam’ written around 500BC. Tamilians are very proud of their ethnic culture dating back to the Sangam era; majority of Tamilians are Hindus (88%), with Christians and Muslims roughly sharing the same ratio of about 6% each.
This ancient civilization is very proud of its heritage which its members make all efforts to maintain even in the current scenario, where all cultures are becoming increasingly globalized. The Tamil women prefer to wrap themselves in the traditional 5-6 yards of unstitched rectangular cloth called the sari. It’s draped gracefully to enhance the shape of the wearer and bares the midriff; according to Hindu mythology, the navel of the Supreme Being is the source of life and creativity, hence the navel is traditionally supposed to be left exposed.
If you are one of those interested in arts, history, and culture, look no further than Madurai, an ancient city of Tamil Nadu in southern India. The history of this bustling and colorful city can be traced back to before two millennia’s in time. The reigns of the various ruling empires have left their own indelible marks on this city. The reign of the Madurai sultanate is no less even though it was for a comparatively short time and full of bloodshed.
The ruling Pandyan Empire of south India was repeatedly invaded by armies from the Delhi Sultanate during the fourteenth century, and after the third invasion, the empire finally collapsed beyond revival. The Madurai Sultanate was thus founded. This sultanate is officially known as the Ma’bar Sultanate and was officially proclaimed as an independent Muslim kingdom in 1335. The just and peaceful reign of the Hindu emperors was thus replaced by the oppressive rule of the Muslim kingdom.
Madurai, the capital of the Pandiya kingdom, is today a bustling city in Tamil Nadu, a city that never sleeps. If you are a food lover, then Madurai with its wonderful cuisine is the city to head to. It’s is well connected by rail, road and air so getting there is easy; getting away from its many charms is however pretty difficult!
The region has a rich cuisine with rice, lentils and vegetables being the main traditional ingredients; however with urbanization, meals have become a little less elaborate.
Kothu Parotta (meaning minced parotta) is a delightful street food popular throughout Tamil Nadu and best eaten from a roadside eatery with the resonating sounds of pounding with a heavy spatula as this dish is prepared in a cast-iron griddle. The first bite of this dish and you are transported to another world with its mix of crispy, flaky, peppery and delicately sweet balance of ingredients! There are many variants of this dish and you can have it as vegetarian or with eggs alone or combined with chicken or mutton.
Trichy, also known as Tiruchirappalli, a historically rich region of Tamil Nadu, celebrates a number of festivals, most of which are based on Hindu concepts and mythology. The most important festival in this culturally-rich city is the ‘Pongal’. For as long as people have been involved in farming, there has been some form of harvest festival; for Pongal, it’s a four day-long festival that’s celebrated with a lot of colorful fanfare in the month of January. The Sun God, Mother Earth as well as cattle are worshipped.
This festival is celebrated from 13nth January till the 16nth. Also known as Thai Pongal, the festival dates correspond with the last day of the Tamil month of Maarghazi and to the third day of the Tamil month of Thai. The festival corresponds to the winter harvest festival ‘Makarsankranti’ which is celebrated through the rest of India. This day marks the first day of the sun’s six-month long journey northwards towards the equinox and the beginning of the gradual warming process of the earth. The origin of this festival is believed to be about a 1000 years ago during the rule of the medieval Chola Empire.
The word ‘Thai’ refers to the tenth month of the Tamil year while ‘Pongal’ refers to overflow or ‘boiling over’. Pongal is also the name of a rice, lentils and milk dish that is ritually prepared on this festival day. A popular Tamilian belief is that knotty family issues get sorted out during the month of Thai; the month is also known as the time for weddings. For an agriculture community, harvest represents riches, which are used to sponsor the elaborate wedding ceremonies.
Madurai is a vibrant city based on the banks of the Vaigai river and is well-known today for the Meenakshi Amman temple whose 14 colorful gopurams dominate its skyline. This Dravidian-style temple is covered with enticing carvings of Hindu Gods and is a major pilgrimage site as well as a tourist hotspot.
It’s one of the oldest cities in India that also holds the soul of the state of Tamil Nadu; it is steeped in enchanting history, ancient architecture, arts and culture – a perfect blend to grasp the hearts and minds of anyone! The tourist footfalls to this medieval city are high and the hospitality industry has grown accordingly to accommodate the traveler. Numerous hotels, including the Sangam group of hotels have set up a branch here to pamper the discerning tourist.
An important mythological story about the famous poet Nakkeerar is based in this city. According to legend, Nakkeerar was born into a family of chank-cutters sometimes during the 9nth century AD. His devotion to Lord Shiva and Murugan is legendary and is depicted in the ‘Thiruvilaiyadal Puranam’; this mythical story is enacted out during the Meenakshi Sundareswarer temple festival celebrations in Madurai, where thousands come to witness the festivities.
According to Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam, an incidence was described where the Pandiyan king had a doubt whether the fragrant smell of a women’s hair was natural, or was due to flowers. He was so captured by this thought that he announced a reward of 1000 gold coins for anyone who could clear his doubts!
Thanjavur is a small town in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It was once the capital of the later Chola dynasty who ruled from 846 Ad to 1225 AD. It’s a multi-cultural town that harbors almost all the religions of the world and is archeologically rich in fascinating monuments. The forts, museums and temples can hold the seeker spell-bound for hours with the intricacy and magnificence of the craftsmanship involved in their construction.
However, it’s not just the intricate craftsmanship of the temples that can make you spellbound; there are some amazing legends also attached to these temples that can set our hearts thumping and captivate the imagination no end!
The Vajrabureeswarar temple is one such legend-bound temple located in the quaint little village called Vallam in the Thanjavur district and is located along the highway connecting Thanjavur and Trichy. Vallam became famous after excavations done about 25-30 years back proved that this habitation was once a predominant city of the early Chola kingdom. Some of the artifacts found here included copper plates dating back from 170 BC to 110 AD, so the Vallam village has a magnificent 2200 year old history.
The village also boasts of an ancient Shiva temple where the presiding deity is called Vajrabureeswarar. There is an interesting legend that has it that this deity was reverently worshipped by Lord Indira to absolve him of his sin of having an affair with Agaligai; the secret affair had resulted in Kausigar Muni putting a curse on him, which was a source of deep sorrow for Lord Indira.
There is also a dilapidated temple pond south of this temple, which’s depth has always remained shrouded in mystery. There is another legend attached to this temple that goes that when Lord Rama was returning back with Sita after defeating Ravana, Sita had felt very thirsty. Popular belief has it that Lord Rama used his Vajrayutham (celestial weapon) to dig a crater that was so vast and deep that even to this day, its depth is unknown. It has however been estimated to be more than 40 feet deep!
Another fascinating factor in this temple is the Sthala Virutcham tree growing here, which according to the priests cannot be found anywhere except in the astral world. Sounds very mystical, and enough to whet the appetite of the curious ones to have a closer look surely? It’s an easy taxi or bus ride from Thanjavur, which is well connected by road and rail as well as by air.
The Brihadeeswarar temple is an ancient Hindu temple built in 1010 CE and dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is located in the historically and culturally significant city of Thanjavur in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the largest temples in India and was built by Raja Raja Cholan and his sister Kundavai during the Chola regime. Today, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the ‘Great Living Chola Temples’ and a must-see location.
The temple tower is the highest in the world and stands at 60 meters; it is believed that the shadow of this tower never falls on the ground, especially within the premises of the temple. The dome atop the temple is believed to weigh about 80 tones of solid granite and the mind boggles at how ancient craftsmen achieved the feet of installing it! This great temple is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu and the city of Thanjavur is easily accessible by rail, road as well as by air. Numerous hotels are available in this area including the majestic Sangam hotel.
This temple was built to display the emperor’s power and vision and is a fine example of Dravidian architecture, mural paintings and scores of beautiful sculptures of dancing figures in various classical ‘Bharatnatyam’ dance poses. It’s best to see the temple in the early morning hours or around sunset when the 130,000 ton granite temple walls take on a golden hue that dazzles the mind.
What boggles the mind is that the nearest granite quarry was over 60km away which must have made transportation of the granite a really humongous task! At the entrance of the temple there is a huge statue of Nandi (sacred bull) measuring about 13 feet in height and 16 feet in length and weighing about 20 tones; it’s carved out of a single piece of granite and must have involved a lot of hardship for the movers a well as the craftsman.
The temple layout consists of an airy pillared hall and an assembly hall known as the ‘mandapam’; the inner mandapams are the most significant parts of the temple and are divided into different levels with the use of sculptures and pilasters. There is a huge idol of Shiva with three eyes in the inner mandapam; numerous sub-shrines present within the complex walls are assigned to other deities. About 250 lingams (representing Lord Shiva) are also spread within the temple walls. This temple is a beautiful treat for those interested in arts, culture and history.
Thanjavur, or Tanjore as it was earlier known after the legendary demon in Hindu mythology called Tanjan, is an ancient city in the heart of Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India. The history of Thanjavur dates back to the 16nth century when it was the capital of the Chola Empire. Today, the city is an important cultural center known for its music, arts, paintings and dance forms.
The city is located in the Cauvery delta and is known as the ‘Rice Bowl’ of Tamil Nadu; it mainly deals in agriculture and agricultural products. It’s well connected by roads and railways with an international airport located in nearby Tiruchirapalli, about 60km away. With its teeming ancient history, architectural beauty as well as famous monuments and art forms, it’s a popular tourist destination and many hotels are available for holidaying here, including the Sangam hotel.
Thanjavur is particularly famous for its paintings which are made in a unique way using multiple mediums and vibrant colors as well as gold foils, gems, glass beads, mirrors, etc. The themes of the paintings are usually Hindu gods and goddesses as well as scenes from Hindu mythology. They can be seen depicted on temple walls, pillars and as ceiling murals; their colors are almost as vibrant today as they must have been hundreds of years ago.
The Thanjavur painting method itself involves numerous steps with a canvas cloth being first pasted with Arabic gum onto a plank of hardwood such as teak or jackfruit wood. It’s then smeared evenly with a mix of chalk powder or zinc oxide. The painting is then created on this surface and decorated with gold foil, beads, lace or semi-precious stones to give a three-dimensional effect. Natural colors and minerals were used to brighten the artworks with jewel-like colors.
Due to their uniqueness, Thanjavur paintings are still very much in demand; artists these days have adapted this art form to modern times and are using cheap alternatives to recreate the beauty of these special paintings. Training programs, workshops as well as exhibitions are regularly conducted by government and private institutions to preserve this ancient art form. Due to the cost of authentic materials however, current examples of Thanjavur paintings use cheaper woods like plywood and synthetic colors and adhesives. Sadly, even the subjects of these paintings are changing these days as modern themes are being increasingly depicted.
There is a reason to cheer however as artists are unwilling to give up on this unique method of creating artwork and connoisseurs of these arts are ready to purchase such works in spite of the above-mentioned changes. So, happily, history still lives on!
Thanjavur is a small, multi-cultural town in Tamil Nadu where almost all the religions of the world are represented; this diversity is due to the ever-changing dynasties that ruled this town. It was the capital city of the ruling Chola Empire from 846 Ad till 1225 AD. Magnificent palaces and exquisite temples were built during this era. Sadly, many of these monuments were subsequently destroyed during the 14nth century when the Pandya Dynasty took over as a symbol of their rage against the Chola kings.
Famous temples here that come under the UNESCO World Heritage Site as the ‘Great Living Chola Temples include the ‘Big temple’ or the Brihadeeswarar temple as well as the nearby Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Airavatesvara temples. The Brihadeshwara temple is among the largest temples in India and is dedicated to Shiva. It was built around 1010 AD and some of the paintings and murals are still as colorful as in the earlier days. What titillates the curious mind is the tunnel system or the more than 100 underground passageways that are believed to exist under this temple! There is believed to be a whopping 40km long underground tunnel from the Thanjavur Brihadeeswarar temple to the Ganagaikonda Cholapuram temple built by the Gangaikonda Chola king; to this date, the mind wonders why such a long underground tunnel was made! The entrance and exit tunnels are still visible when visiting the temples, but due to suspected cave-ins, visitor’s excitements are curbed as they aren’t allowed into the tunnels.
Another important tunnel is known to exist between this temple and the Thanjavur palace which was later built by the Thanjavur Nayaks in 1535 AD. It’s also known as the Sivaganagai Fort and isn’t as grand or magnificent as a palace is expected to be. It was originally meant to be a fort and was later on added to by subsequent dynasties and elaborated upon. There are two underground tunnels known to exist under this palace. One is short and visitors are allowed in to feed their curiosity with goosebumps of an era long gone by. The second passageway is longer and leads to the Brihadeeswarar temple.
An amazing and must see location for the tourists interested in cultural history and artifacts!
There are two underground passages in the palace, only one of them is partially accessible by tourists. This is a relatively short passage and the Government is renovating it as of 2014. Another secret tunnel which is a mile long, connects the Brihadeeswara temple and the palace. It is wide enough to ride 2 horses in parallel and was designed as a getaway route by Kings during war times.
The historical city of Tiruchirappalli (known as Tiruchi or Trichy) is located on the scenic banks of the Cauvery river. It is the fourth largest city in the state of Tamil Nadu, India and is centrally located in the state with several beautiful temples, churches, and scenic tourist spots. Its rich cultural and architectural heritage is a major source of attraction for the first-timer in Trichy as the city provides a fine blend of the traditional and modern times. It is one of the oldest inhabited city in Tamil Nadu with earliest settlements dating back to the second millennium BC; it was earlier known as Uraiyur, the capital of the early Cholas for 600 years from the 3rd century BC onwards. Currently, Uraiyur forms part of the suburbs of Trichy.
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If you are looking to visit a city that is teeming with culture, heritage, and historical monuments, then look no further than Thanjavur (or Tanjore as it was earlier known), a beautiful historical city located in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. Set in the delta of the Cauvery river, this city is known as the ‘Rice bowl of Tamil Nadu’ and covers an area of about 36.3 square kilometers. The city is well connected by roads and railways, however, the nearest airport is in neighboring Tiruchirapalli located about 60km away. There is no dearth of hotels here as the tourist footfalls in this city of ancient architectural beauty are high and the Sangam group of hotels has a branch here too, to serve the discerning traveler’s needs.
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Madurai, the third largest city in Tamil Nadu is the cultural capital of the state. The city of Madurai and the Meenakshi temple here are believed to have been built by the Pandiyan king Kulashekar, after clearing a forest. Situated on the banks of the Vaigai River, Madurai is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, with recorded history dating back to 3rd century BC. Ancient texts of the Greeks and Romans mention the trade links with Madurai. Being culturally advanced, the city is said to have hosted the Tamil Sangam and plays a notable role in the promotion of Tamil language. Though the city is mainly associated with the Meenakshi temple, Madurai has also contributed to the Indian Independence movement. The agricultural laborers of Madurai are said to have inspired Mahatma Gandhi to wear the loin cloth. Predominantly an agricultural sector, today Madurai is a blend of cultural heritage and technological advancement. Getting around this heritage city is easy as every road ultimately leads to the temple. Designed to resemble lotus petals, Madurai city is built around the thousand pillared Meenakshi temple.