Tamil Nadu, the 'land of many temples' (more than 30,000 in
total) is often referred to as the cradle of Dravidian
civilisation, very much in evidence in the shape of fantastic
temples with towering rainbow coloured gopurams (gateway towers)
and incredible intricate rock carvings.
Many of the temple complexes are more than mere places of
worship, but also for social gatherings, education, celebrations
and a place for art, in all its forms from music, dance, drama, and
handicrafts, to flourish. Definitely worth a visit are Kanchipuram,
Chidambaram, Thanjavur, Mamallapuram and Kumbakhonam.
Away from the temple trail, the Chettinad Region is full of
wonderful fortress houses. Once home to some of Tamil Nadu's
wealthiest families, many of the villages now feel like ghost towns
but with some of the beautiful houses maintained. In the 19th
century the Chettinad men were serious tradesmen with Burma and
used to ship back wonderful teak and satinwood from which they
would build their mansions.
In contrast to the rest of Tamil Nadu is Pondicherry - the
former seat of the French in India - where you will find wonderful
colonial French architecture and (if you know where to look)
delicious French food.
Finally, the state capital of Chennai will likely feature on any
itinerary and the city is worth a day or two's exploration, as is
the cultural gem of Madurai.