"TAMIL NADU" Top 5 Page for this destination State of Tamil Nadu by Justin_goa
State of Tamil Nadu Travel Guide: 1,411 reviews and 4,052 photos
Thousands of temples with lofty towers dot the skyline of the entire state of Tamilnadu. The Tamils have been the greatest of temple builders. Temples from the pre Christian era as well as those from the 20th century exist in this state, where the ancient rulers have made outstanding contributions to the growth of these monuments of great artistic value. The most ancient temples were built of brick and mortar. Upto about 700 AD temples were scooped out of caves. The Pallava Kings (upto 900) were great builders of temples in stone. The Cholas (900-1250 AD) have a number of monuments to their credit. Mention must be made of the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Tanjavur. The Cholas added many ornate mandpams or halls to temples and constructed large gopurams - towers. The Pandya Style Thousands of temples with lofty towers dot the skyline of the entire state of Tamilnadu. The Tamils have been the greatest of temple builders. Temples from the pre Christian era as well as those from the 20th century exist in this state, where the ancient rulers have made outstanding contributions to the growth of these monuments of great artistic value. The most ancient temples were built of brick and mortar. Upto about 700 AD temples were scooped out of caves. The Pallava Kings (upto 900) were great builders of temples in stone. The Cholas (900-1250 AD) have a number of monuments to their credit. Mention must be made of the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Tanjavur. The Cholas added many ornate mandpams or halls to temples and constructed large gopurams - towers. The Pandya Style (Upto 1350 AD) saw the emergence of huge towers, high wall enclosures and enormous towered gateways. The Vijayanagar Style (1350 - 1560 AD) is noted for the intricacy and beauty especially for the decorated monolithic pillars. The Naik style (1600 - 1750 AD) is noted for the addition of large prakarams (circumambulatory paths) and pillared halls. The above is a rather terse description of the Dravidian temple styles found in Tamilnadu. The age of a temple could be determined from the architectural features exhibitied by it, as well as from references to it in ancient literature. The Sangam period literature of the pre Christian era refers to some temples. The songs of the revered Saivite Saints (Nayanmars) and the Vaishnavite Alwar Saints that date back to the period 7th to the 9th century AD provide ample references to the temples of those days, and these are a valued source of reference in estimating the age of temples. In addition, stone inscriptions found in most temples throw a lot of light on the history , and on the patronage extended by various rulers.
Ask any Tamil what KANCHIPURAM (aka Kanchi) is famous for, and they'll probably say silk saris, shrines anti saints - in that order. A dynastic capital throughout the medieval era, it remains one of the seven holiest cities in the subcontinent, sacred to both Shaivites and Vaishnavites, and among the few surviving centres of goddess worship in the South. Year round, pilgrims pour through for a quick puja stop on the Tirupati tour circuit anti, if they can afford it, a spot of shopping in the sari emporia. For non Hindu visitors, however, Kanchipuram holds less appeal. Although the temples an undeniably impressive, the city itself is unremittingly hot, dusty and congested, with only basic accommodation anti amenities. You'll enjoy its attractions a whole lot more if you come here on a day-trip from Chennai or Mamallapuram. a two-hour hits ride east.
Kanchipuram's largest temple and most important Shiva shrine, the Ekambareshvara temple - also known as Ekambaranatha - is easily identified by its colossal white washed gopuras, which rise to almost 60m, on the north side of town. The main temple contains some Pallava work, but was mostly constructed between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and stands within a vast walled enclosure beside some smaller shrines and a large fish-filled water tank. The entrance is through a high-arched passageway beneath an elaborate gopura in the south wall, it leads to an open courtyard and a majestic "thousand-pillared hall" (kalyan mandapa), whose slightly decaying grey stone columns are modelled as nubile maidens, animals and deities. This hall faces the tank in the north and the sanctuary in the west that protects the emblem of Shiva (here in his form as Kameshvara, Lord of Desire), an "earth" lingam that is one of five lingam in Tamil Nadu that represent the elements. Legend connects it with the goddess Kamakshi (Shiva's consort, "Wanton- Eyed"), who angered Shiva by playfully covering his eyes and plunging the world into darkness. Shiva reprimanded her by sending her to fashion a lingam from the earth in his honour; once it was completed, Kamakshi found she could not move it. Local myths tell of a great flood that swept over Kanchipuram and destroyed the temples, but did not move the lingam, to which Kamakshi clung so fiercely that marks of her breasts and bangles were imprinted upon it. Behind the sanctum, accessible from the covered hallway around it, an eerie bare hall lies beneath a profusely carved gopura, and in the courtyard a venerable mango tree represents the tree under which Shiva and Kamakshi were married. This union is celebrated during a festival each April, when many couples are married in the kalyan mandapa. Believed to symbolize the four Vedas, the four branches of the tree are sup posed to yield different-tasting fruit, collected by the temple priests and given to women who come here to petition for fertility. For Rs50 you can perform a special problem-solving puja: walk three times around the tree to sort out financial difficulties or to find a husband for your daughter. Finally, don't miss the temple's other "thousand- pillared mandapa", beneath the gopura on the west wall, which houses the extraordinary "Pictorial Depication of Historical Episodes in Sound and Light by Electronic Meriods" (sic), a collection of bizarre gizmos elucidating the basic tenets of Hinduism. One involves thrusting your head into a contraption to hear electronically triggered excerpts from the Vedas. The somewhat neglected twelfth-century Jvaraheshvari temple, in leafy gardens to the south, is the only Chola (tenth-twelfth centuries) structure in Kanchipuram not to have been modified and overshadowed by later buildings. Unlike the Pallava constructions, it is built of hard grey stone and its sculpted pyramidal roof is an early form of the gopuras used extensively by the Pandyas.
CHIDAMBARAM, 58km south of Pondicherry, is so steeped in myth that its history is hard to unravel. As the site of the tandava, the cosmic dance of Shiva as Nataraja, King of the Dance, it is one of the holiest sites in South India. A visit to the Sabhanayaka Nataraja temple affords a fascinating glimpse into ancient Tamil religious practice and belief. The legendary king
Hiranyavarman is said to have made a pilgrimage here from Kashmir, seeking to rid himself of leprosy by bathing in the temple's Shivaganga tank. In thanks for a successful cure, he enlarged the temple. He also brought 3000 brahmins, of the Dikshitar caste, whose descendants are to this day the ritual specialists of the temple, distinguishable by topknots of hair at the front of their heads. Few of the fifty maths, or monasteries, that once stood here remain, but the temple itself is still a hive of activity and hosts numerous festivals. The two most important are ten-day affairs, building up to spectacular finales: on the ninth day of each, temple chariots process through the four Car streets ("car festival"), while on the tenth, abhishekaham, the principal deities in the raja sabha (thousand-pillared hall) are anointed. For exact dates (one is in May/June, the other in Dec/Jan), contact any TFDC tourist office and plan well ahead, as they are very popular. Other local festivals include fire-walking and kavadi folk dance (dancing with decorated wooden frames on the head) at the Thillaiamman Kali (April/May) and Keelatheru Mariamman Ouly/Aug) temples. The town also has a hectic market, and a large student population, which is based at Annamalai University, a centre of Tamil studies, to the east. Among the simple thatched huts in the local flat, sparsely populated countryside, which becomes very dry and dusty in summer, the only solid-looking structures are small roadside temples. Many honour Aiyannar, the village deity who protects borders, and are accompanied by kudirais, brightly painted terracotta or wooden figures of horses.
- Pros:Great old cities and temples, good hotels nice and friendly people
- Cons:The dust and heat
- In a nutshell:Must see in a lifetime....
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