Inside Tamil Nadu

Inside Tamil Nadu

TAMILNADU

The Temple Trail

Enjoying a long coastline with a large number of excellent beaches dotted along the shores of the Bay of Bengal is Tamilnadu, considered as the gateway to South India. Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and the former French colony of Pondicherry are its neighbouring states. The river Cauvery sanctifies the land before forming a delta into the Bay of Bengal at Kaveri-poopattinam (Poompuhar).

This proximity to the sea established the Tamil country on the maritime map of the world even before the dawn of the Christian era. The enterprising Tamils carried on a prosperous trade with Imperial Rome and with ancient Egypt and Greece. Along with the commercial activity, the fragrance of their ancient civilization and the Dravidian culture also spread to distant lands. The great Chola ruler Rajaraja I took advantage of this geographical factor and improved naval and military powers of his dynasty. And his son Rajendra Chola sailed across the Bay of Bengal and won fierce battles to include Malaysia, Singapore and Java under his rule - This was the only overseas conquest made by any Indian monarch.

The 4 centuries of Chola rule, hailed as the age of grandeur in the history of South India, enriched the glory of Tamilnadu in several ways. Magnificent temples came up in multitudes, the most stupendous among them being the Brihadeeshwara temple at Tanjore. The Gopurams (towers), some of the finest examples of Dravidian art, raised the Gods storey upon storey, to accomplish by their sheer beauty, the heights of excellence. It is rightly said of the Cholas that they conceived like giants and finished like jewellers.

The Cholas also made a significant contribution to the art of bronzes. Renowned for their bewitching beauty and graceful contours, the Chola bronzes speak volumes about the artistry and the skill with which they were carved. Nataraja, the dancing Shiva at Chidambaram is a classic example of the craftsmanship of the Chola carvers.

The Pandyans of Madurai and the Pallavas of Kanchipuram have also carved out their contribution to the temple heritage of the land in golden letters. The Pandyans who had the unique distinction of continuing their dynastic rule for over 2000 years built Madurai as the epitome of South Indian temple cities. The Pallava cave temple at Mahabalipuram near Madras is world famous for its shore temples. Mahendravarman, an illustrious Pallava king, was a genius in architecture, painting, music, dance, philosophy and literature.

Tamil language and literature have greater antiquity than most of the Indian languages including Hindi. The Sangam literature assignable from 2nd century B.C. to the 2nd century A.D. is considered a landmark in the literary and cultural history of India. Also assigned to the beginning of 1st century A.D. is Thirukkural, a didactic work, translated into some of the major languages of the world. Silappadikaram and Manimekhalai are among the epic literature in Tamil.

Art & Culture:

The classical form of music in South India called the Carnatic music and the traditional Bharatanatyam, essentially the treatise of Bharata owe their origin to the Bhakti movement, a devotional concept. With the temple as the focal point, these arts flowered through the ages with Tamilnadu providing the right environment and patronage. The performing artists have preserved the purity of the traditional styles even to this day. The Music Academy at Chennai and a number of cultural organizations in almost every district town offer a wide variety of performances for the discerning tourists. Life in Tamilnadu is leisurely and gracious. Accommodation facilities are excellent, the transport network is efficient and the food is comparatively inexpensive and good.

CHENNAI (Madras)

It is the capital of Tamilnadu and the fourth biggest city in India. Originally consisting of several hamlets later integrated into a city, it has witnessed phenomenal growth over the past few decades. Chennai, the present gateway to South India, is the first city of Tamilnadu and comparitivelya new city - only 350 years old.

Chennai was the first major settlement in India for the British and it was here that Robert Clive - who laid the foundation of the British Empire-lived and planned his military expeditions in the 18th century. In Madras, one can find history written in every niche and corner.

The changing moods of history are evident in the different sty les of architecture - like the Dravidian architecture in the temples, Gandhi Mandapam and Valluvar Kottam, the Indo- Sarcenic architecture in the High Court and University Senate Hall; the Moghul architecture of the Arcot Nawab's palace at Chepauk: the Victorian era architecture of the museum buildings and lastly the sky scraper civilization as represented by some of the high rise buildings and five star hotels

It is a very important rail centre of India and has connections by road, rail and air to al- most all the cities of South India. It is served by a major harbour and international air- port. For most tourists, it serves as the convenient starting point or base for a tour of South India, since it provides an excellent introduction to any of the stares in the South.

Another charming feature of Madras is its allegiance to ancient traditions, no matter how modernized it has become. With the result, it is still an airy city with several vestiges of its rural past; a city that adheres to the leisurely tempo of life of a world of yesterday, a city where the old values still survive amidst the humdrum bustle of today and most important -'a city that still retains the culture, the customs, the charm and the courtesies of the ages

Orientation:

The city may be broadly divided into two parts - the older part called George Town lies north of Poonamalli High Road Shipping & Forwarding agencies, large office buildings, bazaars, GPO, Parry's Corner (most of the fleet of the metro bus service terminate at and originate from Parry's corner) and Esplanade (long distance and interstate bus services terminate at and originate from Esplanade) are the landmarks of this part of Madras.

The other part, south of Poonamalli High Road, encompasses Anna Salai (still popularly known as Mount Road). Airline offices, theatres. banks, book shops, craft centres, consulates, tourist offices and some top hotels and restaurants are situated on Mount Road,

Egmore and Central are the two main railway termini of Madras city. Most bottom and middlerange hotels are to be found around Egmore.

Places of tourist interest in Madras:

Fort St. George: The British East India Company constructed it in 1653 AD. It was here, that Robert Clive who laid the foundation of the British Empire in India lived and planned his military expeditions in the 18th century. It is one of the finest examples in India of British military constructions. It has been a seat of administration and even today the Madras Legislature Assembly and the Government Secretariat are housed within the Fort.

St. Mary's Church:

Situated within the Fort, it was the first Anglican Church built in India in 1680 AD. Armoury, coins, medals and other artefacts used by the British and their contemporaries are displayed here. It has also kept alive the memory of Robert Clive whose wedding was solemnized here and he lived opposite the Church in 1753 AD., it now has been converted into the office of the Archaeological Survey of India.

To the north of the Fort is the light house built in 1844 AD. and the High Court which was constructed in 1892 AD.

The Marina Beach and Aquarium: This beach which is 13 kms long is the second largest beach in the world. The Aquarium on the sea front is a great attraction for tourists.

Government Museum and Art Gallery: The Government museum and the art gallery are situated on the Pantheon road in Egmore. This museum is well known for its exquisite collection of more than 2000 South Indian bronzes and Amaravati marbles. Three great buildings of architectural value - the museum theatre, the ex- tension hall and the Connemara Public Library were built in 1896 AD. Now the 4 galleries of Hindu sculpture, the Amaravathi, the bronze and National art gallery are the main attractions. Entrance is free.

Timings 9.00 to 17.30. Closed on Fridays.

Santhome Cathedral: This Roman Catholic Church built at the southern end is believed to preserve the remains of St. Thomas, the Apostle.

Deer Park and Snake Park: These two parks are in Guindy and have a large number of Black Bucks, Civet Cats, Jackals, Spotted deer, mongoose and monkeys. Timings 8.00 to 17.30 hrs. Tuesday closed.

Kapaleeswarar Temple: This temple at Mylapore dedicated to Shiva as Kapaliswara dates back to the 6th century. The name of the Lord is derived from “Kapalam" meaning forehead. It is said that the Lord appeared before his consort Uma holding the Kapalam shaped begging bowl. The speciality of this temple is that, all the 63 Nayanars (devotees of Lord Shiva) are taken out in procession around the main streets, at the same time.

The seven storeyed tower of this temple which is illuminated during the festivals and the tank in the front with floating diyas are real treats to the thousands of devotees who throng here.

Sri Parthasarathy Temple: This Vaishnavite temple in Triplicane (near the Marina Beach) is dedicated to Lord Krishna who was a charioteer to Arjuna during the Kurukshetra war. It is a splendid creation of the Pallavas of the 8th century. The usual Chakra (wheel) associated with Mahavishnu is conspicuous by its absence. Sridevi and Bhoodevi - the consorts of Lord Vishnu are seen at either side of the Utsavamurthy (mobile deity).

The special feature of this temple is the installation of the idols of the 5 avtars of Lord Vishnu. Vedavalli - another consort of Vishnu is also enshrined here. In front of the temple is the "Pushkarani" tank which has no fish.

Although Kapaliswarar and Parthasarathy temples are the principal ones in Madras, there are many other temples in and around Madras. They are Kan- daswami temple, Thiruvan- miyur temple, Vadapalani, Asta Lakshmi temple etc.

Sri Kandaswami temple is in Park Town in the heart of the city.

The Thiruvanmiyur temple about 4 kms east of Adyar beach is famous for its ancient Shiva temple. The great poet Valmiki is believed to have worshipped Shiva here. The "Papanashini" tank is in front of the temple.

The Vadapalani temple is dedicated to Lord Muruga. It is at Kodambakkam. This temple attracts a large number of devotees.

The Shiva temple at Tiruvotriyur - 12 kms north of Madras is associated with Pattinathar (a great devotee of Lord Shiva). Innumerable legends are woven around Sundarar - a staunch Shaivite saint who is worshipped with great devotion.

Kalakhsetra: Kalakhsetra or "The Abode of Arts”, is an ornament to the city of Madras. It was established by Smt. Rukmini Arundale who dedicated her entire life to the performing arts. Situated in the ancient settlement of Thiruvanmiyur in the midst of age old trees and flower gardens, this institute reverberates to the sound of music and classical dance. Its dance dramas during December are spectacular.

The Theosophical Society: Established by Annie Besant, the Theosophical Society has the most beautiful garden in the city. It is the world head- quarters of the theosophical movement founded by Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott.

8.00-10.00 hrs & 14.00-16.00 hrs.

Valluvar Kottam: This is built in memory of the great saint Tiruvalluvar and has a huge auditorium. 9.00-19.00 hrs.

The Music Academy: This academy holds an honoured place for the music lovers of Madras who are very knowledgeable in this field. There are several associations called Sabhas devoted to music and dance.

Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music occupy the place of priority, but all schools of Indian dance and music are enjoyed.

Last, but not least are the exquisite silks of Kancheepuram which have retail outlets throughout Madras. Handlooms are equally famous and are available in all parts of Madras. Besides these, the "Poompuhar", a major handicrafts centre is a ‘shoppers' delight because of the widest varieties of South Indian handicrafts.

High Court Building: Built in 1892, this red building in Indo- Saracenic style, situated at Parrys Comer is said to be the largest judicial building in the world after the courts of London.

Elliots Beach: Less crowded than the Marma, this a calm and beautiful beach.

BM Birla Planetarium: Its sky theatre is open on all days except Mondays.

Anna Zoological Park: Situated at Vandalur, 30 km from the city, its main attractions are: Safari Parks, Nocturnal animal house, aquarium, natural museum, etc.

How to get there:

Air: Kamaraj National Airport and. Anna International Airport are situated beside one another at Trisulam, about 17 km from the city, Suburban train services to/from Trisulam railway station (which is right across the road from the terminals) are available.

Madras is well connected by air with important cities and towns in India. it is also well connected with other cities.

Train: Madras is well connected by train with all the important cities and towns of India. The trains terminate at/ originate from Central and Egmore stations.

Bus: Buses operate from Madras to all important towns and cities of the state; addition- ally, services to cities and towns in other states are avail- able.

Local Transport: Autorickshaw, Taxis & Cycle Richshaw are available.

Things to buy:

The stalls cluttering the foot- paths on Mount Road and around                Parry's Comer (popularly called Burma Bazaar) offer cheap "export reject" clothes; watches and electronic goods are also avail- able here.

For conventional souverirs, visit the craft shops and the various government emporia along Mount Road.

Conducted tours:

Apart from taking you on a sightseeing tour of Madras city, the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) and Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) operate to Kanchipuram, Tirukazhukundram, Mahabali- puram and Tirupati.

Fairs & festivals:

1) Arubattu Moovar festival at Kapaleeshwara Temple in March- April.

2) Camatic music and classical dance festival in December- January; performances are held at various music academies

MAMALLAPURAM or Mahabalipuram

About 58 kms from Chennai, Mahabalipuram offers a unique combination of a superb group of monuments and a fine beach resort. This sea- port was built by Mahendra Varman of the Pallava dynasty during the 7th century who has given to the world the unique monuments of sculptural architecture and cave temples. The monuments here are hewn out of solid rocks. the Pallava chisels here have breathed life into stones and emphasize the blending of mythological episodes, epic battles, demons, men and animals, creating a pleasing harmony. The most important of these architectural relics are the Five Rathas (chariots), the shore temple, Arjuna's penance and the Mahisha suramardhini cave.

The Five Rathas: These are the five monolithic temples named after the 5 Pandava brothers - the hero’s of Mahabharatha. Each temple graced with sculptures represents different types of architecture, designed to look like Rathas. There are in fact eight Rathas and except for one - the Rathas depict types of structures which are very similar to the early Buddhist Chapels and Monasteries. The architecture of these Rathas also reminds us of the ancient Dravidian temples with their imposing gopurams and vimanas, the multi- pillared halls and sculptured walls.

The Shore temple: The final phase of the Pallava art can be witnessed in the beautiful Shore temple of the 7th century built by King Rajasimha. The unique feature of this temple is the construction of 2 shrines for Shiva and Vishnu, basically designed after the monolithic Dharmaraja Ratha - with a few modifications.

Arjuna's Penance: This open air rock sculpture known as “Arjuna' s Penance" is believed to represent a story from the Mahabharatha. The figure of Arjuna the epic hero, doing penance in order to obtain the celebrated Pasupatastra from Lord Shiva, has been carved out of a huge whale shaped rock measuring 80 ft. by 30 ft.

A natural cleft in the centre of this immense rock is conceived as the celestial river Ganga descending to earth. On the two wings of the rock are carved Gods, Saints, birds, animals, tuskers - all converging towards the centre to witness the act of Arjuna's Penance. This is a creation of supreme and unsurpassed artistic expression, pulsating with life.

Mahishasurannardini Caves and Mandapams: These are two superbly carved sculptures in these caves - the first of Goddess Durga seated on her lionmount vanquishing the buffalo headed demon (Mahishasura) considered as the jewel of Pallava sculpture. The second is of Lord Vishnu reclining on a serpent.

There are eight mandapams at Mamallapuram and these rock-cut temples are situated within a radius of one kilometre. The two famous Mandapams are those of Mahishasura and Krishna. About 4 kms north of Mamallapuram, is the cave temple complex of Saluvan Kuppam. One of these is the Tiger Cave, an excavated cave shrine with an aureole of lion heads.

Fairs & festivals:

Mahabalipuram Dance festival is held every year from January 15 to February 16. Dances from all over India are staged during this period in- chiding Kathakali (Kerala) and Kuchipudi (Andhra). Addition- ally tribal dances, puppet shows, traditional/ classical music programmes are staged.

Things to buy:

Images of deities turned out by sculptors and stonemasons, soapstone images of Hindu Gods, woodcarvings, jewellery, bangles, etc., made from seashells and leaf paintings of rural and family life.

Excursions from Mamallapuram can be taken to places like Tirukazhukundram, Vedanthangal, Covelong beach, crocodile farm.

Tirukazhukundram: This Shiva temple situated at the top of a hill about 14 kms from Mamallapuram is also called "Pakshithirtham". It is so called because two eagles (Pakshis) are believed to corne at about 12 Noon daily to eat the food ceremoniously offered by the priest, in front of the Shiva temple. The idol worshipped in this temple is known by the name Vedagirishwarar. The four peaks of the Vedagiri hill said to represent the 4 vedas.

Vedanthangal: It is the Bird Sanctuary about 53 kms from Mahabalipuram Visitors throng to this place to view the home of thousands of water birds which congregate every year during the season from November to February.

Crocodile Farm: 15 kms from Mamallapuram is the crocodile farm, where one can see crocodiles of all sizes.

Covelong Beach: 20 kms from Mamallapuram is the seashore village of Covelong. It has an ancient Dargah and a Church.

Thiruporur: An ancient temple dedicated to Lord Muruga is located here. It is 16 kms from Mamallapuram and has some fine inscriptions.

 

KANCHIPURAM

Situated 70 kms from Madras on the Bangalore- Madras highway is the "Gold- en City of Temples" also believed to be the most attractive city of ancient India. It was often referred to as the "Golden girdle of the World". Once a proud capital of the Pallavas from the 6th to 8th centuries during which time the best temples were built, it later be- come the citadel of the Cholas, the Vijayanagar kings, the Muslims and the British. The remains of a few Buddhist stupas here also bear testimony that Buddhism also prevailed here for a little while. Adi Sankaracharya established his episcopal seat here (Kamakotipeetam). It has been a centre of Tamil learning and culture for centuries and gives us a clear picture of the glorious Dravidian heritage of the Vaishnavites and Shaivites.

The city of Kanchipuram has 3 divisions - Siva Kanchi, Vishnu Kanchi and Jain Kanchi based on the dominant faith of each sect. There are about 100 temples where regular poojas are done even today. But the other temples built during the various periods provide an excellent opportunity for those who are interested in the study of temple architecture in South India.

Kanchipuram is also the home of the co-operative societies of silk industry, Kanjeevaram silks woven out of pure mulberry, have an enviable reputation for lustre, durability and contrasting colours and superb finish.

Visiting all the 1000 temples in Kanchipuram is an awesome task, but the visit to this great city of temples is incomplete without visiting the following major temples:

The Ekambareswara Temple: This 1000 pillared tall temple, with 5 prakarams is the earliest surviving structure. Originally built by the Pallavas in the 7th century and later improved by the Cholas and the Vijayanagar kings, this temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is noted for its architectural grandeur and sculptural beauty. Shiva, here is worshipped in the form of one of the elements - Earth (Prithvi). The mango tree believed to be 3500 years old, behind the sanctum still bears fruits!

Kailashnatha Temple: Built by Rajasimha the Pallava ruler in the late 7th century, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple is noted for its sculpture and architecture and is the only temple in the whole of India to retain all its classical components without alteration. There are 58 small shrines as a compound wall around the main shrine.

Vaikunta Perumal Temple: One of the important Vishnu temples built by the Pallava king - Nandivarman Pallavamalla in the 7th century. Numerous inscriptions relating to the wars between the Pal- lavas and Chalukyas are found here. Besides these incriptions, the battle scenes of the Pallavas with Gangas and Chalukyas are depicted in bas-relief around the main prakaram.

The presiding deity, Lord Vishnu is depicted in various postures.

Varadaraja Perumal Temple: This is another Vishnu temple on Hastagiri rock at the end of the town providing a glimpse of a 16th century pillared pavilion with exuberant workmanship.

Kamakshi Temple: Built in the 14th century by the Cholas, this temple is dedicated to Goddess Kamakshi - the presiding deity of Kanchi. It is one of the 3 holy places of Sakti worship in India, the other two being Madurai and Varanasi.

The Sakkiswarar Temple: This temple was also built by the Cholas, successors to the Pallavas near the Kamakshi Amman temple. The Cholas continued their predecessor's traditions and even enriched it.

Those interested in Jain art can visit Jain Kanchi (Thirup- paruthikunram) across the river. The 18th century Jain paintings on the ceilings of the main pavilion depict scenes from the lives of Thirthankars.

Apart from the visit to these famous temples, tourists can never return from this place without a visit to the showroom of silks. More than 5000 families are engaged in this industry and their spectacular creations are marketed by a number of cooperative societies located all over the town.

How to get there:

Buses (Thiruvalluvar & Pallavan) operate to important cities and towns like Mahabalipuram, Chengalpattu, Trichy, Madras, Pondicherry, Bangalore, Vellore, Tiruvan- namalai, etc, from Kanchipuram.

Trains run from Madras beach station to Kanchipuram on metre gauge; and via Arakonam on broad gauge, al- though the broad guage trains run less frequently.

TIRUTTANI

Tiruttani is 82 kms from Madras on the Madras-Raichur Section of the Southern Railway. The temple dedicated to Lord Subramanya is famous for its hill shrine of 365 steps leading to hilltop. Each step is supposed to represent a day of the year.

Lord Subramanya has been the theme of many devotional songs. Adi Krithigai is a big festival here.

VELLORE

Vellore is 130 kms from Madras and 10 kms from Katpadi and can be reached either by road or rail The historical fort of Vellore was built in the 16th Century and is considered to be a perfect specimen of military architecture. It was the scene of many historic sieges and battles.

The fort is surrounded by a moat and inside the fort is the Jalakanteshwara Temple which has some beautiful sculptures on the ceiling and some richly carved pillars and monoliths.

Recently Vellore has gained importance because of the Christian Medical College Hospital which attracts patients from all over the country for treatment.

Within 40 minutes drive from Vellore is the beautiful picnic spot of Amirthy forest.

How to get there:

"Bus: Vellore is serviced by PTC and Thiruvalluvar buses. These buses connect Vellore with Trichy, Tiruvannamalai, Madurai, Madras, Bangalore, Tirupati, Thanjavur, Ooty, Kanchipuram and other important towns.

Train: Vellore has two stations on the metre gauge line between Katpadi and Villupuram. There are daily services to Tirupati, Thiruvannamalai and Villupuram.

Katpadi, 10 km from Vellore is the nearest broad guage rail- way station, Katpadi is on the Madras Bangalore line Vellore bound buses wait outside the Katpadi railway station for trains to arrive.

TIRUVANNAMALAI

188 Kms from Madras is Tiruvannamalai - the seat of the shrine of Lord Arunachaleswar. By the side of it, is the sacred hill on top of which the Deepam (lamp) is lit on Karthigai day in the month of November/December and the Deepam sheds its light for several kilo metres around it. Thousands of devotees gather for this Karthigai Deepam festival. Because of the Deepam, it is known as the "Hill of Holy Beacon" or "Tejo Lingam". Its imposing gateway, 1000 pillared mandapam, and 61 metre high gopuram with 11 storeys are magnificent.

Tiruvannamalai is also widely known abroad because of the ashram of "Sri Ramana Maharshi" the sage of Arumachala, who lived and taught the virtues of wisdom mostly through silence. He left his body in 1950, but the flow of pilgrims from all over the world to this holy place continues.

CHIDAMBARAM

"All my thoughts on the structure of the world and its movements find a clear exposition in the image of Lord Nataraja" - Einstein.

The Lord in Chidambaram i.e. Nataraja is believed to have emerged from Sacred space and performed his cosmic dance here. The presiding deity is the Siva Nateswara in his aspect as the cosmic dancer.

It is 245 kms from Madras and very well connected by road transport.

Chidambaram is derived from the word "Chit Ambaram", meaning the sky permeated by an atmosphere of intelligence and. wisdom.

Chidambaram is a temple where kings vied with one another in adding magnificent structures; A temple where emperors have offered worship and helped it grow to be the Royal Cathedral.

The Chidambaram temple is situated in the middle of the town and surrounded by 4 broad chariot streets. The temple's tall towers have sculptures depicting 108 dance postures of Lord Nataraja. Many inscriptions recorded here give us a clear picture of the endowments and the extension of the Mandapams and temples made by the three dynasties namely Pallava, Chola and Pandyans.

The main image of Nataraja is within a rectangular shrine covered with copper and gold. The 4 Vedas, Upanishads, 6 branches of knowledge, 18 Puranas and devotional hymns are identified with one or other part of this temple symbolizing the totality of Indian knowledge.

The "Aarudra Darshanam" (sight of Shiva or Rudra) is the main festival at Chidambaram which takes place in December and January.

Close to the Nataraja shrine is the temple of Vishnu in his reclining form called Govin- darajar. Chidambaram is also well known for its Annamalai University - the first residential university in Tamilnadu. In this university campus, special stress is laid on South Indian culture.

How to get there:

Train : Express and passenger trains connect Chidambaram with important cities and towns like Chennai, Kumbakonam. Thanjanavur, Trichy, Rameswaram, etc.

Bus: Buses connect Chidambaram with towns like Pondicherry, Nagapatnam, Madurai, Chennai etc.

Tourist Information:

Govt. of Tamil Nadu Tourist Office : Railway Feeder Road, Tel. 22739

Excursions from Chidambaram:

Only 50 kms from Chidambaram lies the industrial complex of Neyveli where lignite is mined on a large scale. A number of byproducts like leco (cooking coal) and fertilisers are produced from lignite. There is a well connected bus service.

Pichavaram : This is an excellent picnic spot covering about 3000 acres of mangrove forests, is 16 kms from Chidambaram.

Poompuhar : Poompuhar, the ancient capital of the Cholas is situated at a distance of 40 kms from

Chidambaram It was originally called as "Kaveri Poopattinam." Now except for this small village, everything else has submerged under water. There is a 7 storey museum containing a vivid pictorial representation of the story of "Silappathikaram" - a classical work of Tamil literature, in bas-relief. In the art gallery here, 49 sculptural panels relate the story of Silapathikaram.

Seerkazhi: 20 kms from Chidambaram is the town of Seerkazhi. The temple here has 3 shrines.

Parangi Pettai (Puerto Novo): 25 kms from Chidambaram is the port town of Parangi Pettai, where one can still witness the ruins of a Dutch cemetry and the battle field where the British defeated Hyder Ali.

Tiruvengadu: This temple which is 28kms from Chidambaram is dedicated to the fiery aspects of Shiva as Aghoramurthi. The worship of this form is said to give victory and riches to the devotees as also relieving the Brahma Hatya Doshas.

Vaitheeswarar Koil: Here Shiva is worshipped as Vaitheeswarar - the healer of all diseases. It is 26 kms from Chidambaram and well connected by frequent buses. A bath in the Siddamritham tank is believed to cure all ailments.

Srimushnam: To the north west of Chidambaram - 30 kms away lies this small town known for its Bhuvarahaswamy temple one of the eight self- created Swayam Vyak- tamkshetras in the south. This Vaishnavite temple has some of the richest carvings in the district and is said to be very ancient. 16 pillars of grained black gneiss are remarkable pieces.

Vadalur: Near Neyveli. It is also associated with Saint Ramalinga Swamigal who preached universal brother hood. Vadalur is situated on the Cuddalore - Vriddachalam road and has a railway station too. It is 36 kms from Chidambaram. The 4 great towers of Chidambaram are visible from here.

Viruddachalam: A major town about 45 kms from Chidambaram is located on the banks of the river Manimuthar. The ancient temple here is dedicated to Lord 'Shiva as Virudhagreeswarar with his two consorts Periyanayaki and Ilayanayaki. The festival of adipinam is celebrated with great fervour in this temple.

Enroute to Tanjore:

Gangaikonda Cholapuram: 60 kms from Chidambaram on the Madras - Tanjore highway is Gangaikonda Cholapuram. The temple built by the Chola Emperor Rajendra I in 1020 AD., is called the Gangai Konda Cholisvaram. The sanctum tower is very large next only to the awe inspiring temple of Tanjore and was built 20 years earlier. This temple has beautiful stone sculptures of Shiva, Parvati and Goddess Saraswati. The Lingam is one of the biggest in the South. The temple also houses some remarkable bronzes of the Chola age. It was the capital of the Cholas till the fall of the dynasty towards the end of the thirteenth century.

TANJORE

Not very far away from Madras (334 kms) lies the great historical city of Thanjavur or Tanjore. Described as the temple city, it was once the capital of the Chola Empire since the days of Raja Raja Cholan. After the decline of the Cholas the city came under the sway of the Nayaks and Marathas who also constructed some more temples. From Chidambaram it is only 113 kms and has a very good net work of transport system. There are frequent buses to practically every town. It is also very well connected by rail. The nearest airport is Trichy.

Thanjavur represents the acme of grandeur and perfection attained by the great Cholas in the fields of administration, architecture, the arts, philosophy. Tourists can breathe Chola culture here. All these have culminated in the Brihadeeshwara temple built in 1000 A.D. by Raja Raja Cholan. Thanjavur District "The Rice Bowl of Tamilnadu" is also known for its exquisite handicrafts, pith models, South Indian musical instruments and most famous of all, its bronzes. Also one cannot forget the river Cauvery which has made Tanjore the most fertile belt.

Orientation:

The enormous gopurams of the Brihadeeswara temple dominate Thanjavur. Gandhiji Road runs between the railway station and the bus stand and a good number of hotels, restaurants, the GPO and the Poompuhar Arts & Crafts Emporium are to be found along Gandhiji Road.

How to get there:

Air Trichy, 58 km from Thanjavur is the nearest air- port and is connected by Indian Airlines. Air lanka connects Trichy with Colombo.

Train: Thanjavur is connected by train directly with Trichy, Madurai, Nagore and Chennai.

Bus: Buses connect Thanjavur with such important towns as Chennai, Poridi- cherry, Tirupati, Trichy, Madurai, Kumbakonam, etc.

Fairs & festivals:

St. Thayagaraja Aradhana Musical Festival - January.

Pongal (Tourist) Festival - January 14 to 16.

Things to buy:

Handicrafts, Musical instruments.

Tourist Information:

1) Govt. of Tamil Nadu, Tourist Office, Jawan Bhavan, Opp. Head Post Office. Ph; 23017

2) Tourist Information Centre, Hotel Tamil Nadu Complex, Gandhiji Road, T-l.

 Places of interest in Thanjavur:

The Brihadeeswara Temple: This temple built by Raja Raja Chola I (985-1012 AD) is perhaps the greatest temple ever to have been erected in India. This temple is overwhelming in its boldness of conception, perfect symmetry and finesse. It is an ex- ample of the magnificent achievements of the Chola architecture. The inner walls around the sanctum carry Chola frescoes of supreme beauty depicting the various manifestations of Shiva. The Encyclopedia Britannica describes this temple as the "grandest temple in India, built by Tamils, the greatest temple builders in the world." The tower over the inner sanctum rises to a height of 15 metres from a square of 28.8 metres and then tapers to make a total of 65.8 metres. The tower is capped by an 81.3 tonne monolithic slab adorned with winged Riches on 4 sides. This enormous piece of stone is said to have been hauled into position along an inclined plane 6 kms long.

Enshrined in the sanctum is the huge "Linga", suited to the magnitude of the temple.

The monolithic Nandi 3.7 m high, 6 mts long, 2.5 mts broad and weighing 25 tonnes chiselled out of a single rock, adorns the portals of the inner shrine.

The Palace: One kilometre from the temple is the vast palace built by Nayaks around 1550 AD and partly by the Marathas. It has huge corridors and spacious halls.

Art gallery: It is inside the palace and has over 100 Chola bronzes of outstanding merit. 9.00-13.00 and 15.00-18.00 hours.

Saraswati Mahal Library: Also in the palace, it has collections of rare and illustrated manuscripts in Indian and European languages. The palm leaf manuscripts go beyond 20,000 in number.

Timings 9.00-13.00 & 14.00- 17.00 hours. Wednesdays closed.

Sangeetha Mahal: This hall of music was built by Serfoji Maharaja. It is a hall with exemplary acoustics.

Schwartz Church: Situated near the palace, this church was built by Raja Serfoji in 1779 AD as a token of affection for the Spanish missionary Rev C.V. Schwartz.

Excursions from  Thanjavur:

Excursions are a pleasure in Tamilnadu as it has a very good network of surface transport. Buses ply from one town to the other so frequently, that tourists are not stranded anywhere because of lack of transport.

KUMBAKONAM

36 kms from Thanjavur is the temple town of Kumbakonam. It may be called the second capital of the Tanjore district. Situated on the fertile banks of the Cauvery, this town is associated with art, literature, music and dance, and above all - the proverbial shrewdness of its people. Out of the 4 large temples the Sarangapani temple and Ramaswamy temple are the Vaishnava temples and Kumbeshwarar and Nageshwara temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva. These temples are noted for their sculptures and carvings. The Mahamagham festival celebrated once in 12 years draws thousands of devotees to have a dip in the sacred Mahamaham tank to wash away one's sins. There is also a Matt of the followers of Shankaracharya - founder of the Advaita philosophy. Kumbakonam is also famous for its brassware and handloom sarees.

How to get there:

Bus: Services connect Kum- bakonam with important towns like Thanjavur, Madras, Madurai, Coimbatore, Ban- galore, Tiruvannamalai, Pondicherry, Chidambaram, etc.

Train: Services connect Kumbakonam with important towns like Madras, Chidambaram, Thanjavur, Trichy, etc.

Things to buy:

Brassware and handloom sarees.

Swamimalai: This is one of the 6 abodes of Lord Subramanya and is only 6 kms from Kumbakonam and 32 kms from Thanjavur. A few families of artists live here even today to pursue the traditional art of bronze casting. The skill of the Chola artists who lived here 1000 years ago, still pulsates in the deft fingers of the Swamimalai artists.

Thirubhuvanam: 8 kms from Kumbakonam is the 8th century Shiva temple and is an important specimen of temple art. It is a well known silk weaving centre too.

Thirukandiyur: It is only 10 kms from Kumbakonam and has the temples of Brahma and Harshavimochana with exquisite sculptures.

Thiruvaiyaru: This temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is associated with Saint Thyagaraja, one of the musical trinity. It is close to Kumbakonam being only 13 kms away. Saint Thyagaraja attained samadhi here and a music festival is held in his honour in the month of January, every year.

Darasuram: It is famous for its Shiva temple with beautiful sculptures. It is also a silk weaving centre.

Manora: 66 kms from Tanjore. Is noted for its 8 storey victory tower built by Raja Serfoji in 1814 A.D.

Velangkanni: Here is a renowned church dedicated to Virgin Mary. 95 kms away, this church attracts a number of devotees from all over the country.

Nagore: This is a famous pilgrim centre for Muslims. It has a Dargah for Hazrat Meeras Sultan Syed Shahaddul Hameed - a great Muslim saint. It is at a distance of 80 kms from Tanjore.

Apart from the Dargah, Nagore has two ancient Hindu temples one dedicated to Shiva and the other, to Vishnu. Nagore is connected by rail and bus to Thanjavur.

Vedaranyam: This is a pilgrim centre associated with the belief that Shiva and Parvati appeared in bridal attire before Sage Agastya. Festivals are celebrated here with great pomp in the Tamil months of Thai and Adi.

Tranquebar: Besides a Danish church, there is an ancient castle here built in 1620 A.D.

Nagapattinam: It is an important port in Tamilnadu, lying between Velangkanni and Nagore. It has a temple dedicated to Nagaraja.

Thiruvarur: A town in Nagapattnam Taluk, it is situated at the junction of Mayuram and Nagore-Thanjavur railway lines. This temple conducts the biggest car festival and attracts a number of devotees from all parts of the state. It is also famous as the birth place of saint Thyagaraja.

Point Calamere: It is also known as 'Kodikarai' and is an ideal beach resort. It is situated at northern point of Palk Bay. It is also well known for its migratory water fowls - particularly flamingoes.

Karaikal: It was once a French settlement and is 163 kms from Pondicherry. Today it is a famous pilgrim center on account of Karaikkal Ammayar Koil.

Tirunallar: 5 kms from Karaikkal, this ancient temple is dedicated to Shanishwara or Saturn. It is among the very few temples of Lord Shanisvara. Shani Peyarchi festival is celebrated once in 2 1/2 years.

TIRUCHIRAPALLI

Situated on the banks of the river Cauvery, 319 kms from Madras, and 55 kms from Thanjavur lies Tiruchirapalli, retaining the atmosphere of an ancient village. It is also known as Trichy and is of great historical importance. It had been a Chola citadel since the Sangam age and has a unique place in Tamilnadu's history. Being right in the heart of Tamilnadu, it is easily accessible by rail and road.

Orientation:

Trichy is scattered over a large area. In the junction (or cantonment area) most of the hotels and restaurants, bus station, railway station, tourist office, airline offices, GPO, etc. are situated. The Rock Fort temple is near the banks of the Cauvery river.

It is an international airport which is directly connected to Colombo by Air Lanka and Indian airlines. It has also flights to Madras and Trivandrum.

Trichy is also an important railway junction with services to Madras, Thanjavur, Madurai, Kanyakumari, Ban- galore, Coimbatore, Mangalore and many other cities.

By road, it is connected to all the important towns in South India.

Though the Pandyans and the Pallavas ruled this region for a short period, the greater part of the town and the historical Rock Fort, as it exists today, were built by the Nayaks of Madurai.

Today, Trichy is a blend of history and tradition, a pilgrim centre as well as thriving commercial city.

Fairs & Festivals: Mohini Alamgaram, Vaikunta Ekadasi, Garuda Sevai, Flower festival and car festival at Srirangam in December - January.

How to get there:

Airport: 7 km. Flights to Chennai, Madurai, Bangalore & Colombo.

Train: Trichy is an important Junction & Connects Chennai, Thanjavur, Tuticorin, Mangalore, Rame- swaram, Coimbatore.

Tourist Information:

Tourst Office: No.1, Williams Road, Cantonment, Tel: 460136.

Places of importance in and around Trichy:

Rock Fort: Rising abruptly from the plains to a height of 83 metres to dominate the landscape is the Rock Fort - the famous landmark of Trichy. Its 344 rock cut steps take one to the Ucchipillayar (Lord Vinayaka) temple. Half way up is the 1300 year old Thayumana Swamy (Lord Shiva) temple. A huge bell is hung between the two shrines. The Ganapathy temple was excavated in the 7th century by the famous Pallava emperor, Mahendra I. The dramatic ascent to this shrine is climaxed by a magnificent view from the summit of the city of the country side and the sacred Cauvery river.

A tank and a pavilion at the foot of the Rock Fort set the scene for the temple's Float festival.

Srirangam: (10kms) Srirangam temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu in his reclining form, is situated on the pictur-esque island between the river Cauvery and its tributary Kollidam - 10 kms north of Tiruchirapalli. It is also a place of pilgrimage to the followers of Sri Ramanujacharya, exponent of the Vishistadvaita School of Philosophy.

This holy temple of Rangantha is considered the holiest for the Vaishnavites. The most important festival is Vaikunta Ekadasi in December and January, which attract thousands of devotees.

The temple complex of Sri Ranganathaswamy built around the 13th and the 14th centuries by the Chola and Pandyan kings, is surrounded by 7 walls within which the town itself is located. It has also 21 magnificent towers and stone pillars covered with profuse carvings. In the 1000 pillared hall, the 4000 pasharams are recited by a family of devotees called the Arayars. The Horse Court is a landmark in sculpture and architecture. Srirangam is a fascinating centre of devotion and a school of art.

Thiruvanaikkaval: Also in the same island is the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, represented here in the form of a Linga submerged in water. It is 7 kms from Trichy. This temple derives its name after the legendary elephant that once worshipped the Lingam. The elaborately sculptured and painted Gopuram of this Jam- bukeswarar temple is a treat to the tourist.

Excursions from Trichy:

Grand Anaicut: This dam situated 24 kms from Trichy is a monument to the engineering skill of the Chola king Karikalan in the 2nd century.

Upper Anaicut: 10 kms from Trichy is this beautiful picnic spot.

Samayapuram: 11 kms from Trichy, this temple is dedicated to Mariamman. This temple attracts thousands of devotees, as this Goddess is believed to cure diseases pertaining to mental disorders.

Tiruvellarai: This Vaishnavite temple is a cave temple with a tank opposite to it in the form of a swastika. It is just 12 kms from Trichy.

Sittanavasal: This place (70 kms) is famous for its rock cut Jain temple, excavated during the early Pandyan period (8th- 9th century). There are very fascinating frescoes similar to those of Ajanta. This also contains bas-reliefs of Jain Thirthankar sculpted at the back wall of the shrine. This cave temple is a typical version of Mahendravarman Pallava style.

Viralimalai: A thirty kilometre journey from Trichy takes you to this place where the beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Muruga is located. Peacocks around this abode add to the attraction of the place.

Thirumayam: 79 kms away. The fort, Shiva and Vish- nu temples are the main attractions here. The Shiva temple is associated with inscriptions of musical notations in the Pallava grantha scripts. The Vishnu temple, a natural cavern is converted into a cave temple.

Narthamalai: There are two cave temples here - one of Shiva and the other of Vishnu. It is 36 kms from Trichy.

Vayalur Temple: Dedicated to Lord Subramanya, this temple is 19 kms from Trichy. Avadayar Temple (102 kms): This place is noted for the famous Shiva temple dedicated to Lord Atmanathar. This temple is elaborately sculpted and has several artistic pillars. There are no images for Shiva and Parvati. Only pedestals are worshipped. This mode of worship is stated to be in accordance with monoism.

Kudumiyanmalai: 73 kms away, this temple is dedicated to Kuduminatha or Shikhagirinatha. On the bas-relief on the rock face, tourists can view the carvings of Shiva, Parvati, Nandi and 108 Shaiva saints on either side of them - all in the form of a frieze. The inscriptions of the musical treatise found here, led to the reconstruction' of the Yazh - a precursor of the veena.

Karur: There are two temples. One is dedicated to Shiva and the other to Vishnu.

Kodambalur: 43 kms away, it is famous for its 3 shrines. The architecture and sculptures are unique.

The next important tourist centre is Madurai.

MADURAI

Orientation:

The old town of Madurai is on the south bank of the Vaigai river. Transport services, midrange and budget hotels, restaurants, tourist office and the GPO are situated in this area. Travellers however, prefer hotels and restaurants west of the Meenakshi temple.

Cantt area is on the north bank of the Vaigai river. Top end hotels, Gandhi museum and a bus station are situated here.

Few cities in the world can claim a tradition as old as Madurai. Its history relates to an era several centuries before Christ. The Pandyan kings ruled from here until the 14th century. This period was well known for the genius of the writers and patrons of Tamil learning. The city was successively ruled by the Pandyans, the Cholas and again the Pandyans, until it fell into the hands of invading Muslims. After 70 years of Muslim rule, the Hindu kingdom was re-established by the Vijayanagar rulers. After the decline of Vijayanagar rulers, the Madurai Nayak dynasty (who were subordinates to Vijayanagar rulers) became the supreme masters of Madurai and added to its pomp and splendour.

Situated on the banks of Vaigai, Madurai is 472 kms from Madras and is connected by air to Cochin and Madras. It has rail connections directly to Madras, Bangalore, Trichy, Quilon, Rameshwaram and other places. It has also good motorable roads connecting all important places of South India. Today it is a thriving commercial centre, mostly famous for its handloom materials.

How to get there:

Air: Flights connect with Madras, Bangalore, Trichy.

Rail: Madurai an important junction connects major cities.

Road: Madurai is connected with all important cities.

Tourist Information:

Tourist Office: Hotel Tamil Nadu Complex, West Veli Street, (Near Periyar Bus Stand).

Tourist Information Centre: Railway Station,

Meenakshi Temple:

Synonymous with Madurai is the Meenakshi temple whose towering Gopurams rise high above the surrounding countryside of lush rice fields and coconut groves. Dedicated to Parvati, this is perhaps the grandest temple in the entire south.

Madurai Meenakshi temple which had only a modest structure initially, was extended by Thirumalai Nayak (1623 A.D. - 1659 A.D.), the famous ruler of the Nayak dynasty. The most notable is the 1000 pillared hall carrying some of the delightful sculptures of the age. In a span of 100 years, the temple grew to its present size and shape, occupying an area of 240 to 260 square metres. There are 4 lofty Gopurams representing 4 directions all profusely carved, and restored to their original colours recently, appear as though the entire clan of Gods and Goddesses is cruising between heaven and the earth below in a state of suspended animation. The 48.8 metres southern tower is the tallest.

There is a separate shrine of Swami Sundereswarar - consort of Goddess Meenakshi. The sacred tank inside the temple called the Golden Lotus tank is held in great veneration. Life in entire city is oriented towards the temple and the deity. In the outer corridor of this temple are the unique musical pillars, which emit different notes when struck. The striking sculpture of the temple is that of the divine marriage of Goddess Meenakshi with Sundereswarar, with Lord Vishnu giving away the bride.

The highlight of this temple is the hall of 1000 pillars with remarkable sculptures and a museum of icons, photographs and illustrations.

The temple is kept open from 5 AM to 12.30 PM and 4 PM to 9.30 PM.

The Puthu Mandapam built by Tirumalai Nayak stands between the eastern tower and Raja Gopuram (which is un- finished).

The Mariamman tank on the eastern side of the city is al- most as big as the temple and the float festival during Jan / Feb each year, attracts a lot of devotees.

 

Also in the city is the Thirumalai Nayak Palace of the 17th century which is in Indo- Saracenic style with beautiful arches. Sound and light shows in English and Tamil are the highlights of this place. These shows are organized daily.

This palace is open from 9.00-13.00 hours & 14.00-17.00 hours. Entry Fee Re. 1/-

The Koodal Azhagar temple, 2 kms to the west, is an ancient Vaishnavite temple with beautiful sculptures. Here Vishnu is depicted in 3 poses - one above the other - sitting, standing and reclining.

Gandhi Museum and the Government Museum are 5 kms away consisting of paintings, South Indian handicrafts and a section on Khadi and village industries. Dedicated to the memory of Gandhiji, it has some of his personal belongings and letters. The Government Museum is also located in the same complex. 10.00-13.00 hrs & 14.00-17.30 hrs.

Fairs & festivals:

Avanimvalam festival Aug/Sept.

Float festival - Jan/Feb.

Chithirai festival- Apr/May

Govt. Chithirai exhibition - Apr/May

Excursions from Madurai:

Around Madurai there are many interesting tourist spots well connected by road, Buses ply to and fro quite frequently to all these places.

Tiruparankundram: 8 Kms from Madurai, atop a hill stands the rock cut temple of Lord Subramanya. It is one of the 6 abodes of Murugan (Sub- ramanya). It is said that the marriage of Lord Subramanya with Deivayani took place here.

Azhagar Koil: The famous Vishnu temple (21 kms away) dedicated to Lord Azhagar is at the southern end of the hill Azhagarmalai. The Lord here is also known as Soundar-raja Perumal because of his immense beauty. The location of the temple is amidst very picturesque surroundings.

Anaimalai Hillock: It has Jain temples and second century inscriptions in Brahmi script. It is only 10 kms from Madurai.

Vaigai Dam: This impressive dam is 69 kms from Madurai on the way to Periyar wild life sanctuary. It is a fine picnic spot.

Suruli Waterfalls: 128 kms from Madurai on the same way, this is another picnic spot.

Pazhamudhircholai: 25 kms from Madurai, it is also one of the 6 holy shrines of Lord Subramanya. It is said that it was here that the Lord offered black berries to his devotee Avvayar, the . great Tamil female saint.

Srivalliputhur: 74 kms away, it is famous for the Vishnu temple in which Lord Vishnu is in a reclining form. The place is also the birth place of Andal - the devotee of Vishnu whose shrine is situated next to the main sanctum. This is a huge temple with an imposing tower and the temple car is equally massive. It has a rail- way station and there are regular bus services to Madurai, Tirunelveli and Nagercoil.

Sankaran Koil: This temple (45 kms from Srivalliputhur) was built by Vikrama Pandyan. The unique feature of this temple is the synthesis of Shaivism and Vaishnavism - as Lord Shiva in this temple is in the form of half Shiva and half Vishnu. There are 3 seperate shrines for the Lingam, Gomathi Amman and Shankaranarayanan.

Kazhagu Malai: 2 kms from Sankaran Koil is the rock cut temple dedicated to Murugan and Ganapathi. The abode of Murugan is also known as Kazhagachalam. Here the idol faces west, in- stead of the usual east.

Kumbakkarai Water Fall: Good picnic spot, 8 kms from Madurai.

KODAIKANAL

Orientation:

Kodaikanal is a compact hill station. Most of the better hotels are some distance from the bazaar.

This is a beautiful hill resort 120 kms. from Madurai, amidst the grandeur of the Palani Hills - an off shoot of western ghats. The main attraction is the enchanting lake situated in the midst of wooded slopes. The pride of Kodaikanal is the Kuranji flower which blooms only once in 12 years

General Information:

Area      :               21.45 sq.kms.

Population:         27,461 (1991 census)

Altitude   :           2,133 metres above sea level

Climate :              Max.      Min.

          Summer     19. 8°C 11.3°C

            Winter       17. 3°C 8.3°C

Rainfall            165 cms (average)

Heavy rain occurs during Oct.-Dec.

Clothing: Light woollens in the evening during summer and heavy woollens during winter.

Season: April to June and September to October. But can be visited throughout the year.

Languages spoken: Tamil and English

How to get there:

Air: Airport at Madurai (120 kms.) and Coimbatore (135 kms.)

Rail: Kodai Road Railway Station (80 kms) and Palani Railway Station (64 kms.)

Road: Kodaikanal is connected by road with all important towns. Regular bus services are available from Kodaikanal to Madurai, Palai, Kodaikanal Road, Theni, Dindugul, Tiruchirappali, Kurnuli, Erode, Bangalore and Coimbatore.

 

Local transport:

Taxis and vans are available. Limited city buses are avail- able.

PALANIIt is a well known pilgrim centre and one of the 6 abodes of Lord Subramanya or Muruga. The shrine stands on top of the Palani Hills consisting of 660 steps. There are ropeways too, to take pilgrims to the top. The main deity is called Dandayudapaani. Pilgrims from various parts of the country visit this temple. Very near the Palani Hills is the Vanjapuri Tank.

Periyar                 Wildlife Sanctuary: Also known as "Thekkady", it is 155 kms. from Madurai. Located in Kerala on the border of Tamilnadu, it is a natural habitat for elephants, bisons, wild boars, Sambar and deer. It is described as the finest reserve for Asiatic elephants. The sanctuary is set around an artificial lake formed by a dam across the Periyar river. The most enjoyable part of seeing the wildlife is going around the lake in the boat. There are stumps and branches of the dead trees in the lake giving a fossilized appearance. Water birds and woodland birds are in plenty. Nowhere in India can one observe such a wide variety of wild life.

TIRUNELVELI

It is about 2000 years old and is a town of ancient tradition. Next to Madurai, it was an important Pandyan kingdom and served as their capital for some time. Situated on the banks of the river Thamraparani it is on the way to Kanyakumari from Madurai .. It is a twin town - Tirunelveli and Paalayamkottai. It is famous for its corai mats and palm leaf articles. The Kanthirnathi - Melliyappar (Parvati & Shiva) are quite well known for their rare jewels, musical pillars, 1000 pillared hall and abundant sculptures.

Excursions around

Tirunelveli: On the way to Tiruchendur, 13 kms from Tirunelveli is Krishnapuram. The presiding deity in the temple here is Lord Vishnu - called Thiruvenkatanathar. Life-size sculptures with intricate workmanship are the main attractions here.

Tenkasi: As the name implies, this town is the Kashi (Varanasi) of the South. The Gopuram of the Ulagarnrnan Viswanatha temple is known for its sculptural beauty. It is 637 kms from Madras and has a railway station.

Papanasam and Manimuthar Dams: Forty-nine and Forty-seven kms respectively from Tirunelveli are the two darns with beautiful picnic spots and excursion centres. The cascading water falls located in the midst of forests in Papanasam are fascinating.

Tiruchendur: This exquisite shore temple of Lord Sub- ramanya is 48 kms from Tirunelveli. It is also one of the 6 chosen abodes of Lord Muruga. According to mythology, Subramanya who vanquished the demon Shoora Padman worshipped Lord Shiva here. Iconography and architecture have found their ideal expressions here.

Tuticorin: 48 kms from Tirunelveli is the major harbour of Tuticorin which is well known as a pearl diving and fishing centre.

Other places of interest around Tirunelveli are the Mundamthurai wild life sanctuary (30 kms). It is a habitat of tigers, leopards, cobras etc.

Nanguneri: 3 kms from Tirunelveli. It has become famous for its temple built in the centre of four tanks.

Kalakkad: Is another wild life sanctuary 60 kms from Tirunelveli.

Panchalakuruchi: This place owes its importance to V.O. Chidarnbaram Pillai, the famous patriot of Tamilnadu. It is 30 kms from Tuticorin. Also it was from here the great Tamil warrior Veerapandya Kattabornrnan raised his voice against the British regime in the 17th century.

Kattabomman Memorial Fort: Devi Jakkarnrnal temple, the hereditary goddess of Kattabomman is located near the fort which was constructed by the Tamilnadu Government in 1974. The remnants of the old fort are protected by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Courtallam: Courtallam, the "Spa of the South" is situated at a height of 167 mts on the western ghats, in Kattabomrnan district. It is 60 kms from Tirunelveli and only 5 kms from Tenkasi. Endowed with 9 water falls, it is a big tourist attraction and is visited by young and old alike, be- cause of the herbal medicinal properties the water is believed to contain. The town is noted for its salubrious climate and natural scenery.

There are 2 important temples here. One dedicated to Shiva is called as Thirikut- salanathar. The other temple is dedicated to Lord Muruga (2 kms from Courtallam).

Courtallam is 160 kms from Madurai and 137 kms. from Kanyakumari. The railhead is Tenkasi just 6 kms away.

Another interesting place is Thirumalai - 15kms from Courtallam, where there is a beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Muruga on the ranges of the western ghats.

Srivaikuntam is another important Vaishnavite temple - 27 kms from Tirunelveli.

Another important temple for Vaishnavites is the Alwar- thirunagari about 40 kms. away.

RAMESHWARAM

Orientation:

Rameswaram is an island in the Gulf of Mannar. It is connected to the mainland at Man- dapam by train and by Indira Gandhi Bridge. Most of the hotels and restaurants, ferry jetty, railway station and post office are clustered around the Ramanathaswamy temple.

The sacred island town of Rameshwaram in the Ramanathapuram district, is located at the extreme south - eastern limit of the Indian peninsula. It is 592 kilometres from Madras and very well connected by rail to Madras, Madurai, Trichy and Coimbatore. The nearest airport is Madurai (154 kms). Mandapam, which is 19 kms from Rameshwaram is connected by road to various places in the South.

This island of Rameshwaram, in the form of a conch is hallowed by the epic Ramayana. A devout Hindu, who visits Varanasi is expected to visit Rameshwaram also, for the culmination of his quest for salvation.

According to the Hindu Epic, Rania sanctified the place by worshipping Lord Shiva here, after his war against Ravana and hence this temple here is held sacred by both Shaivites and Vaishnavites.

Rameshwaram is one of the major marine food centres in the South and much of its fish and prawns are exported. Rameswaram is noted for its pottery (Manamadurai), wood carvings, various types of shells, conches and palm leaf articles.

How to get there:

Air: Nearest airport is Madurai - 173 kms. Flights connect Madurai, Tiruchi, Bangalore.

Rail: Connects all major cities like, Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Tiruchi, Thanjavur.

Road: Connects all important towns.

Tourist Information:

Tourist Office: 14, East Car Street, Tel.: 21371

Tourist Information Centre: Railway Station

Temple Information Centre (Inside the temple) East Side, Ramanathaswamy Temple.

Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple: "If we were to select one temple which would exhibit all the beauties of the Dravidian style in the greatest perfection, the choice would invariably fall upon the temple at Rameshwaram"

The glory of the temple is in its pillared corridors. These extend to a total length of 1220 metres. The corridor is the longest among the temples. East to west it is 197 metres long and north to south the length is 133 metres. The Gopuram stands at a height of 38.4 metres. The temple, as it stands today was built by different rulers at different periods from the 12th century onwards.

According to the legend, it was Sri Rama, who built this temple and hence it is held in great reverence. There are 2 Lingams - one prepared by Seetha out of sand and the other brought by Hanuman from Kailash. The main deity is the one made by Seetha, but both the Lingas are wor- shipped.

GandhamadhanaParvadham : 2.5 kms. From the temple on a hillock, in a two-storeyed mandapam are the foot prints of Sri Rama. It is the highest point on the island and the view of the surrounding area is excellent. It is the Rama Padham (foot) that attracts pilgrims.

Kothandaramaswamy Temple: 8 kms away enroute to Dhanuskodi is this beautiful temple of Rama where Vibhishana (brother of Ravana) surrendered before Rama at this spot. There are idols of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita, Hanuman and Vibhishana here.

Dhanushkodi: The southern most tip of the island Dhanushkodi was completely washed away by cyclone in 1964. But only the Kodandararnaswamy temple remained intact. Pilgrimage to this holy place is considered complete only after a bath in Dhanushkodi.

Coral Reef: The waters around the island abound in Coral Reefs. It is in short, a paradise island of golden sands, gently swaying coconut palms and shady trees.

Kurusadai Islands: 20 kms away, these islands lie between the mainland and the Reefs and can be reached via Mandapam. It is a paradise for biologists. Completely surrounded by a chain of coral reefs, the shallow waters sustain a remarkable variety of marine life - Starfish, Alagae, Sea cucumbers, Crabs, Sponges and many more.

There is a famous shrine of Raja Rajeswari Amman about 35 kms. from Rarnnathapurarn built inside a palace.

Vettangudi Birds Sanctuary is another spot worth visiting. 52 kms from Madurai it attracts a large number of migratory birds.

Special information about Rameshwaram:

For taking tours in and around Rameshwaram, tourists will have to contact tourist in- formation centre at the railway station.

Local transport like buses, autos, rickshaws, horse carts, private vans and jeeps are available.

Thrice a week steamer service operates to and from Talaimannar (Sri Lanka). During November / December it is suspended. The journey is about three hours.

Visas can be extended at the office of the Superintendent of Police, Madurai South and Superintendent of Police, Ramnad at Madurai.

Things to buy:

Shells, beads, palm leaf articles and handicrafts.

Fairs and Festivals:

Thai Ammavasai (at Ramanathaswamy temple in January)

Masi Sivarathri (at Ramanathaswamy temple in February-March)

Mahalaya Ammavasai (at Ramanathaswamy temple in September)

Kanyakumari or Cape Comorin

Poised on the Southern most point of Peninsular India is Kanyakumari. Here the waters of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal mingle with the Indian Ocean. An important pilgrimage centre dedicated to the Virgin Goddess Kanyakumari, it has evidences of references made to it by Ptolemy and Marcopolo who probably had visited the Cape. Here both sunrise and sunset are spectacular and particularly on full moon days, thousands of people crowd here to observe the unique spectacle of the sunset and moonrise simultaneously at the dusk of the day. A dip in the congregation of the 3 oceans is considered to be very holy. The multicoloured sands with a fine beach landscape is a rare view of scenic beauty.

703 kms from Chennai, Kanyakumari is well connected by road to all the places in South India like - Chennai, Madurai, Rameshwaram, Tirunelveli, Tiruchendur etc. and has a good network of bus services.

How to get there:

The nearest airport is Trivandrum (80 kms). Kanayakumari is equally well connected by rail to Trivandrum, Coimbatore, Delhi, Bombay, Madurai etc.

Tourist Information :

Govt. of Tamil nadu Tourist Office, Beach Road, Ph : 71276

Information Centre, (Vivekananda Rock Memorial) Beach Road,

Places of interest in Kanyakumari :

Kanyakumari Temple : Dedicated to Kanyakumari the Virgin Goddess, this temple stands as a protector of India's shores. The image of Kumari the Goddess representing primordial force in its pristine form is beautiful, glorious and resplendent. Though the temple cannot be compared with Rameshwaram, Madurai or Chidambaram and Tanjore in vastness, yet it is no less sacred than any of these and anyone who enters the portals with sincere devotion, will certainly breathe the aroma of divinity and experience the very presence of the Goddess. , Legend is that Goddess Parvati in one of her incarnations as Devi Kanya performed penance to obtain the hand of Lord Shiva, but her dream could not become a reality and hence she remained a virgin. The diamond nose ring of this deity is famous for its sparkling splendour, which is sup- posed to be visible even from the sea. Locally known as Bhagawati Amman, she still stands there in all her splendour, holding the Vara-mala in her hand, awaiting the Lord. Only Hindus are allowed inside. Hours 4 AM to 11 AM;5.30 PM to 8.30 PM.

Gandhi Memorial: This is a mandapam built in memory of Mahatma Gandhi, near the temple. This memorial is built on the spot where the urn containing his ashes was kept for public viewing before its immersion in the sea. The architecture of the building allows the rays of the sun to fall on the spot where the ashes are kept and this phenomenon occurs only on 2nd October - his birthday.

Vivekananda Memorial: To the South Eastern side of the temple stand 2 rocks projecting out of the ocean which provide a vantage point for tourists desirous of viewing the tip of India. It was on one of these rocks that Swami Vivekananda sat in a long and deep meditation and became a powerful crusader with the blessings of the Virgin Goddess. Hence this rock is now called Vivekananda Rock memorial.

Boat services are operated to this memorial. It is open from 7 AM to 5 PM; closed on Tues- days.

So far as the Kanyakumari Beach is concerned, it is the only place in India where one can enjoy the unique spectacle of sunset and moonrise simultaneously on full moon days and it is an experience of a life time. It is said that on Chitra Poornami (full moon day in the

Tamil month of Chitrai - in April) one can see both the sun and the moon facing each other on the same horizon - a rare sight indeed! Another extraordinary feature of Kanyakumari is that the beach sands glow in myriad colours like sparkling white, pale pink, creamy yellow and even dark red.

Things to buy:

Handicrafts, souvenir, etc.

Fairs & festivals:

Chithra Pourrami (April- May)

Navarathri (September-Oct)

Excursions from Kanyakumari:

Around Kanyakumariabout 6 kms is the circular fort called "Vattakottai" (circular fort). Overlooking the sea it is a fine picnic spot.

Suchindram: 13 kms from Kanyakumari by road on the way to Trivandrum, is this Thanu-malayan temple, a repository of art treasurers belonging to many kingdoms. Inscriptions said to be of the 9th century are found in this temple. The presiding deities are Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.

 

 

The huge Hanuman statue and innumerable musical pillars, denoting different instruments and musical notes are proofs of the artistic skills.

NAGERCOIL

The Nagaraja temple in Nagaercoil is unique in many respects. Though Nagaraja is the presiding deity, Lord Shiva and Vishnu (Anantha Krishna) are also enshrined. The entrance to this temple resembles Chinese architecture. The images of Jain Thirthankara are found on the pillars of the temple. The prasadam distribution to the devotees is wet sand scooped out from the ground where the image of the Nagaraja deity is enshrined. The Nagalinga flower found here is also symbolic of Nagaraja. This temple is 20 kms from Kanyakumari and frequent buses run to and fro.

Udayagiri Fort: This fort is located 34 kms from Kanyakumari and was popularly known as a foundry for casting guns. It was built during the regime of King Mar- thandavarma of the 18th century.

After visiting Kanyakumari, tourists can travel northwards covering Salem district, Dharamapuri, Coimbatore and Ootacamund to round off the tour of Tamilnadu.

SALEM DISTRICT

Salem district is the home of Mettur dam, whose waters make Thanjavur prosperous. Nature has compensated Salem district by providing fairly rich deposits of magnesite, bauxite, limestone, quartz, feldspar, chromite, gamet, gypsum, mica and iron ore.

The district has just begun to use these natural gifts. Starch is produced here on a massive scale and the bulk of it is sent to the textile mills in Ahmedabad and Bombay.

There are many places of tourist interest in this district. But there is no airport. The main town Salem has to be reached by rail or road. The en- tire district can be covered with Salem as the base.

Salem: Salem town is 6 kms from Salem junction. The name "Salem" is enchanting perhaps because of the association of Jerusalem with that Apostle of Love, Jesus Christ. There are half a dozen Salems in the United States of America and one in United Kingdom. The name is derived from the word "Sailam" - meaning an area surrounded by mountains. It is rich in mineral wealth. The Indian Institute of Handloom Technology is located here. The Government Museum at Omalur contains valuable collections of terracottas and sculptures.

Excursions from Salem:

Poiman Karadu: 9 kms from Salem is this particular spot - the likeness of a deer with 2 horns, seen from the plains to the east. The mysterious vision disappears when you get nearer. Hence the name.

Belur: On the banks of the Vasistanadhi is located Belur with a ruined Siva temple. The roofing of the portico is a good specimen of the square within a square type.

Mettur Dam: One of the largest of its kind in the world, it was completed in 1934. The total length of the dam is 1700 metres. The quantity of water stored is 93,500 million cubic ft, and the height of the dam above the river bed is 176 ft. The dam provides irrigation facilities to Salem, Trichy and Thanjavur districts for 2,71,000 acres. The Mettur Hydro Electrical project is also quite large. A thermal plant is also coming up. The dam, the park, the major hydro-electric stations and hills on all sides make Mettur a good tourist attraction.

Tharamangalam: 24 kms from Salem, this town is famous for Kailashnathar temple. The rotating lotus flowers made of stone, statues of Rathi-Manmatha, Vali-Sugriva and the Yali with rotating stone ball in its mouth are some of the beautiful sculptures.

Kolli Hills: This is the second hill station in the district at an altitude of 1190 mts. The Arappateeswarar temple on Chathuragiri Hills is quite famous. This place is at a distance of 48 kms and 100 kms from Namakkal and Salem respectively and can be reached by bus. The Agasakangai waterfall is a unique scenery.

Tiruchengode: It is one of the 7 "Sirasthalams" in Kongunadu. The presiding deity is "Arthanarishwarar - half male and half female form i.e. Siva and Sakti and is worshipped as one. This type of worship at the sanctum is the unique feature in Tiruchengode.

Namakkal: 50 kms south of Salem is the town of Namakkal famous for its Vishnu temple, the fort and the massive Hanuman. The town lies at the foot of the rock, 200 mts. high and 1/2 mile in circumference. There is a fort on the rock. There are 2 rock cut cave temples dedicated to Narasim- haswamy and Ranganathas- wamy. The huge Hanuman statue is carved out of a single stone.

Yercaud: Yercaud in the Shevaroy range of Salem district is a quiet and lovely hill station with a pleasant cool climate and attracts tourists throughout the year.

Boating in the Yercaud Lake is enchanting and refreshing. The Anna Park nearby is a good picnic spot. Another place of interest is the "Lady's Seat". It provides a breathtaking view of the winding ghat roads. Also from here, one can have a panoramic view of the valley and the spectacular view at night with the twinkling lights of Salem town.

Bears Cave: It is on the way to Servaroyan temple and is an important tourist spot.

The Servaroyan Temple: It is on the top of the hill of the same name. The annual festival in the month of May is a colourful event in which hundreds of tribal people take part.

Yercaud and the entire Shevaroy Hills are known for thriving coffee plantations, pears, oranges and bananas.

The nearest airport is Trichy. It is also connected by buses to various places. Nearest railhead is Salem.

Hogenakkal: This obscure village on the Tamilnadu side of the Karnataka border is the point where the stream Sanatha-kumaranadhi meets the swift flowing Cauvery. Situated about 250 mts. above sea level, Hogenakkal is connected by good motorable roads from Salem via Dharampuri. The main attraction is the bath in the falls, dropping vertically from a height of 20 mts with a thundering sound. Hogenakkal in Kannada means "Smoking Rock", a name derived from the cloud of mist and spray that envelops the chasm. A sacred bathing place, Hogenakkal is well known for the curative powers of the water. It is located 46 kms from Dharampuri, 114 kms from Salem and 133 kms from Bangalore.

Hotel reservations can be made through the TTDC.

COIMBATORE

The third largest city in Tamilnadu, it has earned a coveted place in the industrial and agricultural map of modem India. Coimbatore city is the headquarters of the district. 493 kms from Madras city, it is connected by rail, air and road to almost all the places. Very appropriately called the "Manchester of South India", it is a .major textile and engineering centre. Manufacture of pumpsets is one of the major industries of Coimbatore. Apart from a cement factory, a Cooperative Sugar Mill, bleaching units, paper mill, small gem factories, transistors and electronic calculators are also produced here. It is also known as the "Detroit of the South", because of the varied engineering goods manufactured here.

Last but not least is the textile industry which has brought Coimbatore to international levels. Handlooms have opened up a big export market.

Places of tourist interest in Coimbatore:

The Perur Temple: 7 kms. west of Coimbatore is this temple dedicated to Lord Shiva also known as Patheeswarar. The sculptures in the hall, Kanagasabai are exquisite. This is also called Mel Chidambaram.

Maruthamalai Temple: This temple located on a hillock is 12 kms from the railway station. It is dedicated to Lord Subramanya known here as "Dandayudapani" .

Coimbatore Agricultural University is equally well known.

Excursions around Coimbatore:

Anamalai Wildlife Sanctuary: About 90 kms from Coimbatore, this sanctuary is situated near Pollachi at an altitude of 1400 metres in the western ghats. Covering an area of 958 sq. kms, it has various kinds of fauna like tiger, panther, sloth deer, porcupines, civet cats and various types of birds.

There are also places of scenic beauty like Karainshola Anaikunth Shola teak forests and waterfalls. Arrangements are available at Topship to take tourists around the sanctuary on elephant backs or by jeeps. Topship: 37 kms from Pollachi, it is an ideal picnic spot in the Anamalai Hills.

Thirumurthy Temple: Situated at the foot of the Thirumurthy Hills, it is 20 kms from Udumalpet. This temple is dedicated to the Trimurthies.

The Siruvani Waterfalls: This waterfalls and the dam are located at a distance of 37 kms west of the city. The water of Siruvani is known for its taste.

Pollachi: Next to Coimbatore, it is the leading town of the district and is 40 kms from Coimbatore. It is. an important commercial centre as well.

Tirupur: 50 kms away, it is the home of cotton and famous for its hosiery products.

Avinashi: It is a temple town of antiquity and cotton town of modernity. The ancient temple here was built by the early Cholas and is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Bhawani: Close to Avinashi is the important pilgrim centre of Bhawani. The presiding deity here is Sangameshwarar standing on the congregation of the rivers Cauvery and Bhawani. Bhawani is also famous for its colorful carpets.

UDAGAMANDALAM OR NILGIRIS

(Ooty)

Bordering the Karnataka and Kerala States, the Nilgiris or Blue Mountains is a much sought after hill station. Also called a miniature Switzerland, the entire Nilgiri District is unique for its elevation, natural beauty and tourist spots and needless to say, enjoying a salubrious climate. Comprising several types of scenery and long range of green hiils, Udagamandalam or Ooty as it is popularly called, is the chief hill. station in the Nilgiris. It is also called the Blue Mountains, an account of the blue mist that envelops the range. Ooty offers many profiles of nature, each imbued with a distinctive grandeur. Cascading waterfalls among lush green forests, slopes of tea estates, placid lakes and the aroma of the swaying eucalyptus trees would enchant any tourist to ecstasy.

7300 ft above sea level, Ooty is rightly called the "Queen of Hill Stations". It is 530 kms from Madras and has a good connecting railway from Mettupalyam, Coimbatore and Madras.

Orientation:

Ooty is spread over a large area, characterized by rolling hills and valleys. The lake and the racecourse are the important features of the town.

Potato is the major cash crop of the district. Coffee and tea are grown in abundance here.

The district is also noted for its ancient tribes - The Todas, the Kotas the Kurubas, the Panias and the Irulas.

Statistics -             Ooty

Area      :               36 sq. kms.

Population:         about 1 lakh

Altitude:              2240 metres

Climate:               Max. Min.

Summer               25°C   10°C

Winter               21°C  0°C

Season:                April to June September & October

How to get there:

Ooty is well connected to its neighbouring states (Karnataka & Kerala). There are about 8 Express Buses to Bangalore (journey 8 1/2 hours), 6 Express Buses to Mysore (journey 5 hrs). Coimbatore and Mettupalayam have buses at a frequency of about one bus every half an hour. There is a mountain train from Ooty to Mettupalayam. The nearest airport is at Coirnbatore (95 kms) which is connected to Ban- galore, Madras, Cochin and Trivandrum by Indian Airlines.

Distances from Central bus Stand/Railway station to some of the important places

(Central Bus Stand and Rail- way Station are located side by side)

Botanical Gardens           2 Kms

Lake                                    1 Km

Doddabetta Peak             10 kms

Kalhatty Water Falls        13 kms

Sim's Park                           17 kms

Lamb's Rock                    24 kms

Dolfin's Nose                     27 kms

Kodanad View Point       44 kms

Mudumalai Forest           67 kms

Tourist Office                     3 kms

Shopping.

Ooty is famous for Tea & Eucalyptus oil, there are plenty of shops stocking these items. Co-operative Super Market, Municipal Market are some of the best places for shopping for fruits and general groceries. Kairali of Kerala Handicrafts and Poompuhar of Tamil Nadu Handicrafts have their showrooms near to Super Market Buildings on Charing Cross (Opp. Nahar Tourist Home).

 

Places of interest in Udagamandalam or Ooty:

Botanical Garden: This sprawling garden of 50 acres has rare varieties of exotic and ornamental plants and is the venue of the annual flower show held every year in May. Laid out in 1847 by the Marquis of Tweeddale, this garden is not only a show piece, but more like a university for re- search scholars and students to study plant life. Dog show of the South India Kennel Club is also held here every year.

In the midst of the garden, just below the mini lake, is the fossil tree trunk which is 20 million years old!

Lake (1 km): Constructed in 1824 by John Sullivan, this artificial lake is a great attraction for old and young alike. Boating is allowed from 8 AM to 6 PM on all days. Pony rides, toy train rides are very popular. Also, near the railway station is the Children's lake garden, which attracts hordes of tourists.

Excursions from Ooty:

Doddabetta: It is the highest peak in the Nilgiris (2625 mts.) and offers beautiful vistas of the hill ranges, plateaus and plains around. Bus service is available from Ooty as it is only 10 kms away.

Kalhatti Waterfall: 14 kms. from Ooty is the beautiful Kalhatti Waterfalls.

Hindustan Photo Films: 8 kms from Udagamandalam, this factory is situated in the picturesque surroundings of the Wenlock Downs. H.P.F. manufactures sensitive photo- graphic material and is the only factory of its kind in India. Admission is only by prior per- mission and the company has established a model room to enable the visitors to under- stand the process.

View Points: Ketti Valley View, the Wenlock Downs, Lamb's Rock, Lady Canning Seat, Dolphin's Nose etc. are picturesque vantage points from where tourists can have a panoramic view of the tea estates, the Coimbatore plains, the Mysore Plateau etc.

Avanlanche, Mukurthi peak, Frog Hill and Pykara dam are other excursion locales around Udagamandalam.

Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary: Situated at an elevation of 1000 metres and extending over an area of 321 sq. mts. lies this sanctuary between Kerala and Karnataka states. This is one of India's best sanctuaries. Nature has been lavish in providing this sanctuary with thickly wooded hills, plateaus, deep valleys, waterfalls, rivers, marshes and streams. The varied flora and topography meet the ecological requirements of several species inhabiting the sanctuary and give the visitors a sense of satisfaction. Driving in the forest department's jeep or on elephant's back, everyone is bound to feel the joy of viewing elephants, deer, bisons, tigers, leopards and mammals like civet cat, mouse, giant flying squirrels and much more in the wild. Elephants are bred in captivity and also trained in timber work. Mudumalai is 67 kms from Goty on the Mysore Road. More details about the sanctuary can be had from the Wildlife Warden's office, Coonoor Road, Ooty.

Elephant rides are from 6 AM to 8 AM and 4.30 PM to 6 PM.

The ideal period is from February to May. But throughout the year, thousands of tourists and scores of biologists come to this sanctuary to study animal life. Since there are birds too, several observation towers have been built

Coonoor and Kotagiri: Coonoor is the second largest hill station in the Nilgiris. It stands on a lower ridge of the main plateau at an attitude of 1839 metres. Its climate is milder than Ooty's. Surrounding the town are many picnic spots.

In the heart of Coonoor is "Sim's Park". It is a park cum botanical garden. Many species of trees and shrubs not found in Ooty, are grown here. It is at an elevation of 1880 mts. and occupies 12 hectares of land.

Pomological Station is the fruit research station maintained by the State Agricultural Department. Law's Falls is the great attraction in Coonor.

Pasteur Institute: It is famous for research done on rabies and manufacture of poliovaccine.

Kotagiri: It is the oldest hill station of the Nilgiris. It enjoys a climatic advantage over Ooty in that, it is protected by the Doddabetta range ie from the onslaught of the south-east monsoon.

Kotagiri has a wonderful golf course, which is just a sheet of gorgeous green. There are some thick, deep impenetrable forests called "Sholas". The nearest airport is Coimbatore (105 kms). The nearest railhead is Coonoor (21 kms). By road it is connected to nearby places and there are regular bus services from Mettupalyam railway station, Ooty, Coonoor, Wellington and Kila Kotagiri.

Excursions from Kotagiri:

19 kms away is the Rangaswamy peak and is about 1785 mts high. It is considered the most sacred hill on the plateau.

Rangaswamy Pillar: This is also 19 kms away and the unique feature is its peculiar rock formation.

Kodanad View Point: It commands a panoramic view of the plains and the" eastern slopes of the Nilgiris. It is 16 kms away from Kotagiri.

Wellington: On the way from Coonoor to Ooty is Wellington, the military town with rows and rows of barracks. The headquarters of the Madras Regimental Centre, the Indian Army and the Defense Staff College are located here. Here too, the climate is very enjoyable.

Conducted tours:

Many private bus operators offer daily tours of Ooty, Coonoor, Kotagiri, Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, etc.

 

 



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