Historical and Heritage Travel Attractions in Tamilnadu
Tamilnadu is the southernmost state in India with a rich heritage and an unique culture. This state is my home and I keep discovering many new things about the state every now and then. I love my state for the very many surprises it holds.
Tamilnadu has managed to retain much of its heritage from the distant past since this part of the country managed to remain largely peaceful before and during the British era. So one could still find structures or buildings that have lasted well over a millennium.
Mahabalipuram or Seven Pagodas
Mahabalipuram is a coastal town located close to Chennai. The famous stone sculptures found in this town were created more than 1000 years ago by the Pallava kings. The 3 main attractions there are the Pancha Pandava Rathas, Shore temple and the Arjuna Penance.
This town got its other name "seven pagodas" from the belief that it originally had seven temples. The temples were believed to have been constructed in the seventh century. A Tsunami could have submerged six of the seven temples during the thirteenth century. Now, we have only one of these seven temples left. This is known as the shore temple. Some explorers have found evidences of old structures on the ocean floor that could well be the missing temples. Such legends add to the mystical value of this place.
Arjuna Penance offers a chance to trek up a small hillock housing numerous stone carvings. The climb is not steep as it is a small hillock. At the other end of Arjuna penance, one reaches the light house built during the British era. From the top of the light house, one can see not just the ocean but also few of the monuments.
Ideally one can plan a stay for a couple of days in Mahabalipuram. Some of the good stay options include Taj Fisherman's Cove, Ideal Beach Resort, TTDC and Radisson Blu Temple Bay. One can also plan a one day picnic to Mahabalipuram from Chennai. It takes just an hour to cover the distance.
Distance From Chennai
If you are visiting Chennai, then Chidambaram can be included in the plans. From Chennai, it takes about five hours to reach Chidambaram through the East Coast Road (ECR). Chidambaram is a coastal town in Tamilnadu and it is known for its famous Natarajar temple that was built in the tenth century.
Pichavaram Mangrove Forest
Apart from being a pilgrimage site, Chidambaram has numerous attractions nearby. The best known mangrove forest in Tamilnadu is located on the outskirts of Chidambaram. This place is called "Pichavaram". The Mangrove forest in Pichavaram is only a short drive from there. One must not miss the boat ride in Pichavaram while visiting Chidambaram. The Mangrove forests provide an illusion of being larger than what it is when viewed from inside.
The trees form a thin boundary around the banks. The boats find their way through many narrow canals where trees from either side arch towards each other. It was a beautiful little world completely cut off from its neighborhood.
Other than Pichavaram, we have another town by name "Tranquebar" reachable within a short driving distance from Chidambaram. Tranquebar is the name given by the westerners to the port town called "Tarangambadi" in Tamilnadu. This was under Danish occupation for a long time before becoming a part of British Empire in the colonial era. Fort Dansborg is the majestic seventeenth century Danish fort built on the coast of Bay of Bengal. This town is a reminder of the many connections Tamilnadu had with the western world in the distant past.
Hotel Saradha Ram in Chidambaram is a good place to stay. There is an old palace called "the Bungalow on the beach" that was used by Danish royalty in Tranquebar. Now it is converted into a heritage hotel and it is another stay option away from the hustle bustle of city life.
Do you like to know the history of the place before visiting a heritage site?
Courtallam may not feature in the plans of many outsiders but it is a favorite weekend getaway for the residents of South Tamilnadu. If one is visiting Madurai or Tirunelveli, Courtallam can be included in their plans. This is a bit far from Chennai but still worth a visit if time permits.
Courtallam is a small town located on the footsteps of the mountain range called the Western Ghats. Courtallam boasts of many rainfalls where one can take bath safely. The major water falls in the foothills are Main falls, Sitraruvi, Five falls, Puli aruvi and Palaya Courtallam. The word "Aruvi" means waterfalls in Tamil.
We went on a trekking expedition to see two more waterfalls on top of the mountain decades ago. The first one is Shenbaga Devi Falls and the second one is called Honey Falls.
The best months to visit are from June to December. Courtallam is heavily crowded during the weekends. The crowds start thinning down after September. So, it is best to visit Courtallam around October during weekdays. Most waterfalls go dry between February and May.
Ancient Kutralanthar Temple
The famous Kutralanathar temple is located close to Main falls. This temple is one of the oldest temples in India believed to have been constructed before fifth century B.C.. There is a very old Jack tree inside the temple that is believed to be several centuries old.
The town also has a park and a small boat house on the outskirts. The town is known for its good non-vegetarian food, mangoes, Jamun fruit (Naaga Pazham or Navvaa pazham in Tamil) and purple Mangosteen fruit (locally known as Mangustan). Some good stay options are Orchard Valley Resort, Ezhilagam and Hotel Kurinji.