Famous for its numerous temples, Tamil Nadu is undoubtedly the most authentic hindu state. Located opposite Sri Lanka, this region has fine sand beaches and amazing architectural and artistic resources. What will quench the taste of tourists in search of cultural and relaxing vacations. Plain shores in high plateaus and multiple landscapes unveil themselves to travellers.
Surface area : 130100.0 km2
Population : 60000000 inhabitants
Indian handicraft is very rich. At Tamil Nadu, you will find silk saris and hand-woven cotton fabrics, especially at Kanchipuram. You can buy stone and bronze statues from Mamallapuram, musical instruments, copper objects, oil lamps, an acitivity typical of Southern India, sandal wood sculptures, leather goods and jewellery decorated with diamonds and semi-precious stones from Kanchipuram. Do not forget the array of fresh spices. At Chennai, Anna Salai avenue houses the business centres of the city.
Visit the State Emporiums, government shops throughout the country offering fixed prices. In all other places, you can bargain. In large cities, shops open between 10 AM and 7 PM or 8 PM from Monday to Saturday. On Sundays and public holidays, they are closed.
It is strictly forbidden to export fur, snake skin, antiquities and to import into Europe any ivory object.
The huge diversity of dishes depend on the State, origin of the populations and their respective castes. The only shared aspect is rice and tea. Curry powder forms the base of several dishes. The cuisine of Southern India has more spices and pepper than in the North. Add yoghurt (tayre) to sweeten your dishes. At Tamil Nadu, you will find several vegetarian dishes. Enjoy the numerous fishes and crustacea. Try the traditional thalis, collection of vegetarian dishes made of rice, a variety of vegetable curries, spices, puris or chapatis (wheat pancake used as bread). Taste the chutneys (macerated vegetables or fruits); idlis (rice balls often served with spiced yoghurt sauce: dahin idli), dosas (peameal pancakes) or a masa dosa (stuffed spiced vegetables), good for snacks. Do not forget the dishes made of coconuts, mangoes and all fruits bursting with sunshine. For dessert, treat yourself to the kheer, milk rice and equally try the kulfi, a type of smooth pistachio cream. Sip a payasam, a sweet drink made of coconut milk, mango pulp, cashew nuts and spices. Don't forget to try the countless cheap dishes offered by street vendors. Avoid empty stands and restaurants.
The Hinduist India is a violent culture shock. Most human relationships are governed by the hierarchical system of castes, in which each individual has a specific role. The cow is a sacred animal.
In the Hindu and Jain temples, as well as in mosques, you should remove your shoes before entering. The same applies to Sikh temples where you must cover your head. Take off your leather objects before entering a Jain temple. Before entering a mosque, make sure visitors or women are accepted during prayers. Cover your arms and legs, and avoid dressing sloppily. Avoid touching the sculpture or statue of a divinity. In Hindu temples, the entrance to the holy of holies (central sanctuary) is forbidden to non-Hindus, except in Kailashanatha temple at Kanchipuram.
In everyday life, avoid touching anyone with your feet. Find out about the symbolism of flowers to avoid making a gaffe when offering them. A gift received is kept in a corner to be opened later on. During meals, remove your shoes if your host do not have theirs on. When eating with your hands, only use the right hand, as the left is used to wash your privates. Arranged marriages between two families still exist.
Bask on the sunny beaches of the coast and go for an excursion on the heights of the western Ghats with their cool climate. Make the most of the quiet and temperate health resorts of Kodaikanal and Udhagamandalam.
Enter the tropical forests of the western Ghats for a photo-safari.
Stop over at Pondicherry to discover the splendour of the former French trading post with its magnificient and well-kept buildings.
Take time out to wander in the temple-cities of Madurai and Chidambaram, as well as in holy cities like Kanchipuram.