There’s no denying that Tamil Nadu occupies a distinctly unique place in India’s cultural identity and heritage. However, this southern jewel has long been overshadowed by its northern counterparts when it comes to tourism, thanks in part to its harsh summers. In recent years though, tourism in Tamil Nadu has reached new heights and the state was even featured in New York Times‘ 52 Places to Go list last year.
With a great mix of ancient heritage, urban disposition, and natural beauty, Tamil Nadu has claimed its spot as one of India’s most-visited destinations. But if you’re still not convinced whether the area deserves your attention, here are some of the best reasons why it should!
Tamil Nadu’s ancient culture is one of the most glorious ones to have existed in the world’s history, dating back more than 2,000 years. However, what sets this culture apart is that while most other such cultures of equal antiquity have perished, or are only remembered through ruins and artifacts, Tamil Nadu’s history and culture is one of the best-preserved. This is thanks in part to the fact their traditions such as Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music and the glorious body of Tamil literature they produced are still extant and can be seen or experienced first hand in present day Tamil Nadu. Listening to a recitation of Thevaram at the Chidambaram Nataraja Temple, or witnessing a Bharatanatyam performance in a temple is perhaps the closest one can get to experiencing time travel!
While Tamil Nadu has its own unique traditions and myths surrounding major Indian festivals such as Diwali, the state is also home to several distinctively Tamil festivals, such as Pongal or Karthigai Deepam, that can only be experienced in the state. Apart from these major festivals, Tamil Nadu is also home to several old festivals associated with different regions and cultures within the state. For example, the Koothandavar festival in Villupuram, which is the largest festival for transgenders and trans-people in India, and the Melattur Bhagavata Mela in Thanjavur, which has been continuously performed every year since the 17th-century.
Tamil Nadu’s coastline may only be the third longest in India, but it is definitely the country’s most-visited one. Its 900-km-long coastline is filled with unparalleled natural wonders and man-made attractions, ranging from the pristine mangroves of Pichavaram to the majestic Valluvar Statue in Kanyakumari. To add to that, the scenic coastal highway known as the East Coast Road makes sure that no matter which part of the coast you visit, the journey is equally mesmerizing.
If there is one thing that Tamil Nadu is famous for all over the world, it is glorious and ancient temples. The Great Living Chola temples such as the Brihadeeswara Temple, or the rock-cut Pallava temples at Mahabalipuram are listed as World Heritage sites and draw a great number of visitors internationally. However, these aren’t the only ones in Tamil Nadu and the entire state is strewn with great examples of ancient Tamil architecture that go as far back as two millennia! Apart from the temples, the state is also home to several historical forts and other more modern architectural marvels from its medieval heritage and colonial history.
Tamil Nadu’s long and beautiful coastline isn’t the only gift nature has bestowed on this southern state. While on the one side the state hugs the endless Bay of Bengal, it is capped on the other by the majestic Western Ghats. Listed as one of the state’s four Unesco World Heritage sites, the Western Ghats are the oldest mountain ranges in Tamil Nadu and a destination unlike any other. While it is true that the Western Ghats touch nearly five states in India, the sub-clusters of Tamil Nadu are unique thanks to their untouched nature and several indigenous cultures that inhabit them. Be it the Anamalai Hills, which reign as South India’s tallest, or the great railways of Nilgiris, the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu make the state a destination worth visiting.
Despite the meteoric rise of its cities, the Indian landscape is still largely dominated by its villages. However, if there is one state that has championed the cause of urbanization in India in the post-independence era, it is Tamil Nadu. Leaving out Union Territories, Tamil Nadu was declared India‘s most urbanized major state in the last census and continues to make strides towards retaining that tag. What this means is that, no matter how remote your travel destination in Tamil Nadu is, urban facilities such as shopping complexes, connectivity and access are never that far off.
Tamil Nadu’s pride in its language is one aspect of the state that is well-known across the country. With a vast and extant body of literature dating back to the 3rd-century BC, and an oral tradition that goes even further back, the Tamil language is one of the world’s oldest tongues and is considered to be of classical antiquity, along with the likes of Sanskrit and Latin. The influence of Tamil language is ubiquitous in the state of Tamil Nadu, making it a great destination to learn about the birth and journey of a proto-language.
While a craze for films and film stars is an overarching trait of India, it is nowhere more pronounced than in the state of Tamil Nadu. The fervor of fans during the release of their favorite film stars is in fact even more intense than during most major festivals. And if experiencing India’s unique love for cinema is something you want out of your next trip to the country, then Tamil Nadu definitely deserves to be on your itinerary.
Tamil people epitomize the Indian tradition of putting guests before oneself. And even taking into account all the natural wonders of the state, perhaps the best aspect of Tamil Nadu is its people. Sure, there is a good chance that they’ll rub you up the wrong way initially, especially if you aren’t appreciative of their culture and language. But if you’re even willing to put in a little effort to mingle and learn about this great culture, you’ll always find a welcoming home in Tamil Nadu!
The only thing about Tamil Nadu that rivals its temples in popularity is its cuisine. Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan or a meat-eater, it will take you a lifetime to try out all the options that Tamil cuisine has in store for you. From authentic simple dishes such as idli and dosa to the elaborately prepared items of the Chettinad cuisine, Tamil Nadu’s culinary experience can rival even the best in the world. In recent years, places in Tamil Nadu such as Chennai and Madurai have become international food destinations with Chennai even featuring in National Geographic’s list of Top 10 Food Cities in the world. In fact, the Indian culinary experience is most definitely incomplete without a visit to Tamil Nadu and experiencing its various local cuisines.