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Tamil Nadu: Places to See I

Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu

Anna Samadhi, Marina Beach

Chennai

Chennai is the capital of the State of Tamil Nadu. A city of Contrasts and diversities, Chennai is the forth-largest city in India. Known world wide as Madras until recently, the city was renamed Chennai, evolved from the age-old name, Chennapattinam. More....

Mamallapuram

Located 60km from Chennai, Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram was the second capital and seaport of Pallavas. The seaport was built by Mahendravarman during the 7th century AD. The Pallava chisels breathed life into stones. The sculptures in Mamallapuram emphasize on blending mythology, epics and day today life of the people. The most important of the architectural relics are the shore temple, the five chariots, Arjuna's penance and the Mahishasuramardhini temple.

Shore Temple, Mamallapuram

Mamallapuram can be reached by road that runs along the coast. Regular buses operate from Chennai. Chennai is the nearest airport. Various types of accommodation are available in plenty. But during weekends and seasons, hotels will be fully booked.

Shore Temple

This beautiful temple built in the 7th century AD represents the final phase of Pallava art. The temple has two shrines, one dedicated to Vishnu in the reclining form and the other to Shiva.

Arjuna's Penance

Arjuna's Penance, Mamallapuram

The open-air rock sculpture known, as Arjuna's Penance is the largest bas-relief in the world. It depicts the penance of Arjuna to obtain the legendary arrow Pasupathastra from Lord Shiva. The legend has been carved on a rock measuring 80x30 feet. There are others who believe that it represents Bhagiratha who brought the celestial Ganges to the earth. The natural cleft in the center of the rock is conceived as the celestial Ganges descending to earth. On the two wings of the rock are beautiful sculptures of people, gods, birds and animals.

Five Rathas (Chariots)

These are monolithic temples named after the five Pandava Brothers, the heroes of epic Mahabharata. Each temple represents different style of architecture and looks like a chariot. The architecture of these Rathas reminds one of about the ancient Dravidian temples.

Mahishasuramardhini

This cave has two superb sculptures, Goddess Durga on her lion mount vanquishing Mahishasura, the buffalo headed demon, is one of them. This is considered as the crown jewel of Pallava sculptures. The second is of Lord Vishnu reclining on the legendary serpent Anantha.

There are eight Mandapams situated in Mamallapuram within a radius of one kilometer. The most famous are those of Mahishasura and Krishna. Salivan Kuppam, a cave temple complex is four km north from here.

Sculpture Museum

The museum contains about 3000 sculptures of wood, metal, brass etc. The sculptures are made by local artisans.

On the way to Mamallapuram, one can visit Cholamandal Artist's village (18km from Chennai), Dakshinachitra (12km, Arts and crafts of Southern India), Covelong Beach (38km) and Crocodile Bank (15km).

Tiger cave

This rock cut shrine dedicated to Durga is located 5km from Mamallapuram. The shrine might have been built in the 7th century. The entrance of the cave resembles the mouth of a tiger.

Thirukkalukundram

This hilltop temple dedicated to Shiva is located 14km from Mamallapuram. Everyday two eagles, believed to be from Varanasi, visit the temple at noon.

Vedandangal

53km from Mamallapuram, this bird sanctuary attract visitors to watch thousands of water birds those congregate every year during the season from Nov - Feb.

Kanchipuram

Temple Complex, Kancipuram

Temple Complex, Kanchipuram This city of thousand temples is situated about 76km from Chennai on the Chennai -Bangalore highway. It was the capital of Pallavas during 6th - 8th centuries and during this period the best temples were built. Later it became the citadel of Cholas, the Vijayanagar kings, the Muslims and the British. Kanchipuram is one of the seven sacred cities of India. Kanchipuram is also famous for its pure silk fabrics woven from pure mulberry. The city can be reached by rail and road from different places of the state. The nearest airport is Chennai.

Kailasanathar Temple

This is the oldest and perhaps the most beautiful temple in Kanchipuram. The architecture reflects the simple early Dravidian style. King Rajasimha built this temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in the 7th century. There are 58 small shrines around the main shrine those honor Shiva, Parvati, Murugan and Ganesh.

Ekambaranathar Temple

This is one of the largest temples in Kanchi. The temple is dedicated to Shiva and covers approximately 12 hectares. The Pallavas built this thousand-pillared temple in the 7th century. Later the Cholas and the Vijayanagara kings improved it. Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagar dynasty built the 59m tall gopuram and the massive outer stone wall in 1509. The mango tree in the temple yard, believed to be 3500 years old, has four branches representing four Vedas. The tree still bears fruits.

Vaikuntaperumal Temple

This temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is built shortly after the Kailasqnathar temple. Pallava king Nandivarman Pallavamalla built the temple. The main shrine, on three levels, has images of Vishnu in standing, sitting and reclining positions. Numerous inscriptions relating to the wars between the Pallavas and the Chalukyas are found here.

Varadaraja Perumal Temple

Located on Hastagiri rock at the end of Kanchipuram town, the temple is dedicated to Vishnu. The temple provides glimpses of 16th century pillared pavilion with exuberant workmanship.

Kamakshi Amman Temple

This 14th century Chola temple is dedicated to Goddess Parvati in the guise of Kamakshi, the presiding deity of Kanchi. This is one of the three holiest places of Shakti worship in India. The other two is being Madurai and Varanasi. The temple car festival is in Feb. - Mar.

Devarajaswamy Temple

Vijayanagara kings built this temple dedicated to Vishnu. It has a beautifully sculptured pillared hall and a marriage hall. Within the large temple tank a 10m statue of Vishnu is immersed. Once in every 40 years the tank will be drained so that the statue could be viewed. It was viewed last in 1979 and said to have had visitors over 10 million.

Vellore

The small town of Vellore surrounded by the hills of Western Ghats is 135km from Chennai. Vellore is best known for its fort and the Christian Medical College. One can reach Vellore by road or rail from other parts of the state.

Vellore Fort

Fort

Built in the 16th century by a Vijayanagar Chieftain, the fort is one of the finest examples of military architecture in this part of the country. In 1676 Marathas occupied the fort for a brief period. The British took control of it in 1760 after the defeat of Tippu Sultan. Inside the fort there are several buildings and the Jalakanteswara Temple. The temple and the fort are in excellent state of preservation.

Christian Medical College

Dr. Ida Scuddar, a medical missionary started this world famous institution. This is one of the best hospitals in the country.

Vellamalai

(18km from Vellore) Named after Valli, second wife of Lord Murugan, the temple is dedicated to Murugan. Situated on the top of a hill, the main temple is carved from a massive rock.

Thiruvannamalai (85km)

Tituvannamalai Temple, By Govind Swamy (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This is a Saivite town where Shiva is revered as Arunachaleswar. The temple that covers an area of ten hectares is one of the largest in India. The temple was constructed in the 11th century. But much of the structures were completed during 17th - 19th century. The legend says that Shiva appeared on the hill as a column of fire. The Karthigai Deepam festival celebrates this legend by lighting a great fire on the sacred hilltop on the Karthigai (Full Moon) day of Nov./Dec.


Ramanashramam

This small ashram of Sri Ramana Maharishi draws devotees of the Guru who died in 1950 after fifty years of contemplation.

Thiruthani

It is 82km from Chennai on the Chennai-Raichur section of the Southern Railway. The temple is dedicated to Lord Subramanya (Murugan). The temple has 365 steps leading to the shrine and each step is supposed to be representing a day of the year.

Cuddalore

Located on the East Coast of Tamil Nadu, Cuddalore is the headquarters of the district. It was an important British trading post and port. The most important landmark in Cuddalore is Fort St. David from where Robert Clive worn his spurs during the campaign against the French. Cuddalore is 192km from Chennai. The nearest airport is Thiruchirapalli. It can be reached from any part of the state by rail or road.

Chidambaram (44km from Cuddalore)

Nataraja, the Cosmic Dancer

Chidambaram was a Chola capital from 907AD - 1310AD and the Nataraja temple was erected during the later time of the administration. The temple complex has four large gopurams. The north and south ones are 49m tall. The presiding deity is Shiva in his aspect of as the cosmic dancer.

The Chidambaram temple is situated in the middle of the town surrounded by four broad chariot streets. The temple gopurams have sculptures depicting 108 dance postures of Lord Shiva. The temple complex is another fine example of Dravidian architectural delight. The ten-day temple car festivals are celebrated in PRIL-May and Dec.-Jan. The Natyanjali dance festival is in February and prominent performers from all over the country take part in it.

Poompuhar

This ancient capital of Cholas is situated 40km from Chidambaram. Originally known as Kaveripoopattinam, it had submerged underwater except for a small village. The seven storey museum has a pictorial representation of Silappatikaram in bas relief.

Parangi Pettai

It is 25km from Chidambaram. This port town still has the ruins of the Dutch cemetery and the battlefield where the British defeated Hyder Ali.

Pichavaram

This is a 3000-acre mangrove picnic spot located about 15km from Chidambaram.

Viruddachalam

This is a major town located 45km from Chidambaram. The ancient temple dedicated to Shiva as Virudhagreeswarar with his consorts Periyanayaki and Ilayanayaki.

Gangaikonda Cholapuram

About 60km from Chidambaram and situated on the Chennai-Tanjavur highway, Gangaikonda Cholapuram was the capital of Cholas until the end of 13th century. The temple built in 1020AD is dedicated to Shiva. The sanctum tower is very large and second only to that of the temple of Tanjavur. The temple has beautiful sculptures of Shiva, Parvati and Saraswati. The lingam is one of the largest in Southern India. The temple also has some excellent bronzes of Chola age.

Tanjavur

Tanjavur town is the headquarters of Tanjavur district. It is situated on the eastern coast of central Tamil Nadu. This ancient city's history goes way back to the Sangham Age. Between 10th and 14th century this Chola capital reached the zenith of its glory. Thanjavur has about 75 temples and the most famous of them all is the Brihadeswarar temple.

Brihadeswarar temple

brihadeswara Temple

Rajaraja Chola built this great monument of Chola architecture that is acclaimed as the grandest temple in South India. This Saivite temple's tower over the sanctum rises to a height of 65.4m and has a monolithic cupola on the top that weighs 80 tons. A gigantic monolithic Nandi, the second largest of its kind in the country guards the portals of the shrine.


The Palace

This palace with huge corridors, spacious halls, arsenal towers and shady courtyards was partially constructed by the Nayaks of Madurai in 1550 and partially by the Marathas. The Royal Museum in the palace has a collection of royal memorabilia and an art gallery. It has a collection of over 30,000 palm leaf and paper manuscripts. The Sangeetha Mahal in the palace is an acoustically perfected music hall.

Archeological Museum

This is on the southern side of the temple courtyard. The museum has some unique sculptures and photographs those show the temple before restoration. It is worthwhile to have a peek at the exhibits of the museum.

Darasuram

Located 30km from Tanjavur, the main attraction of Darasuram is the Shiva temple. Rajendra Chola built this temple. The temple has some fine sculptures.

Kumbhakonam

Situated 30km from Tanjavur, this town is famous for its association with art, literature, music and dance. Kumbhakonam has four large temples; two of them are Saivite while the other two are Vaishnava. The temples are marked for their sculptures and carvings. The Mahamagam festival celebrated once in every 12 years draws thousand and thousand of devotees.

Thiruvarur(55km)

This is the birthplace of Saint Thyagaraja, the great music composer. The Thyagarajaswamy temple in Tiruvarur has the largest temple chariot in Tamil Nadu. The car festival is celebrated in April-May. During the 10-day festival, the huge chariot is hauled through the streets.

Thiruvaiyaru (13km)

It is here, the famous January international musical festival is hosted in honor of Thyagaraja, the saint and composer.

Velanganni (95km)

This renowned church dedicated to Virgin Mary is an important Christian pilgrim center.

Nagore (80km)

This is a famous Muslim pilgrim center. It has the Dargah of Hazrat Meera Sultan Sayed Shahadul Hameed, a Muslim saint.

Thiruchirapalli

This city of ancient history before the Christian Era is 319km from Chennai. Located on the banks of River Kaveri, Thiruchirapalli is the headquarters of the district. It was a Chola citadel during the Sangham age. Though the Cheras, Cholas, Pallavas, Pandyas, Chalukyas and Vijayanagar Empire contributed to the monuments of Trichi, the Nayaks of Madurai built most of them. The city is connected with other parts of the state by rail, road and air.

Rock Fort Temple

Rockfort, Thiruchirapalli

Thiruchirapalli's most famous landmark is the Rock Fort Temple. The Nayaks of Madurai built the spectacular fort on an 83m high massive rock. The temple dedicated to Shiva is located at halfway. The 344 rock-cut steps take one to the Uchipillayar temple dedicated to Vinayaka, located at the top.

Srirangam

The Sriranganathaswamy temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the reclining form is situated in Srirangam, 10km from Thiruchirapalli. The temple inscriptions date the temple's existence since 10th century. Many dynasties contributed to the construction of the temple throughout. The largest Gopuram that is 73m tall is completed in 1987. This temple at 60 hectares with its seven walls and 21 gopurams is probably the largest and most sacred Vaishnavite temple complex in India.

Sri Jambukeswara Temple:

This temple dedicated to Shiva and Parvati is as old as the Sriranganathaswamy temple. The temple is built around a partially immersed Shiva Lingam honoring one of the five elements - water.

Lourdes Church

This church built in 1896 is modeled on the neo-Gothic Basilica in France. An annual procession, the feast of Our Lady Lourdes is held on the 11th February.

Nathwerwala Darga

This tomb of the popular Muslim Saint Nath-her in an impressive building has 20m high dome with pinnacles.