A large part of the state being on the coastal edge of the country, the weather is tropical and sultry for most part of the year. The summer months of April, May, June are hottest where temperature ranges to 40 degrees.
December and January are the peak months for Chennai. The temp ranges from 20-22 degrees. To avoid peak rush October is better. The weather in these months is pleasant and easy to bear the humidity.
Located 21-km northwest of Madurai is a Vishnu temple located on a picturesque wooded hill. It is one of the few temples in the country built in tiers. The tower consists of 3 tiers depicting Lord Vishnu in 3 postures, sitting, standing and reclining. The shadow of the Vimanam never falls on the ground. The temple faces east. The southern side is bounded by a hill running from east to west, 10 miles in length and 1,000 feet in height.
Avadayar Koil (Tiruchirapalli District - Tamil Nadu)
Avadayar Koil, previously known as "Thiruperunthurai" is an important Shivasthala located 8 miles from the Arantangi railway station. The sculptural work of the temple is exquisite. It is perhaps the best architectural marvel in South India. Although the figures carved are seen everywhere in southern temples, still the workmanship and the vivid portraiture of this temple are worth seeing.
In Avadayar Koil, the God is bereft of any form. After passing through several thresholds devotees stand before sanctum and peep in hoping to have a glimpse of the Linga, as is the case in all other temples. But it is empty! Only a peeta is formed and devotees are asked to pay obeisance to it. The bottom most peeta is the Sakti peeta and it represents the fusion of Shivam and Shakti for realization of the Supreme truth. Since no Linga or idol is consecrated here, the Lord is known by the name of Atmanadha- Lord of the Soul.
Inside the temple there is an idol of Lord Vinayaka (also spelt as Vinayak) with 11 hands, an idol of Goddess Kali and an idol of Lord Virabhadra with 8 arms holding the sula athwart his body. There is also an idol of Manickavachakar, which is worshipped with all ceremonial rites and rituals. Avadayar Koil is a saivite shrine.
Aranthangi Fort (Thanjavur - Tamil Nadu)
Aranthangi is the second largest town in Pudukkottai district. Aranthangi was the most populous locality in the south of the Thanjavur district till it was added to Pudukkottai. The main centre of attraction of Aranthangi is a ruined fort.
There is a unique feature about this fort; the walls are not constructed of brick or stone. Large interstices are filled with mud. There are no ruins of palaces or any other striking building inside.
No indications are found about the history of the fort, but a line of 'Tondaimans' indicates that they built the fort. Little is known about the time of the Tondaimans, a lineage of feudal chieftains who controlled this Aranthangi region of India from the 15th to the 18th century AD.
Kailasanathar Temple (Kanchipuram - Tamil Nadu)
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Kailasanathar (also spelt as Kailashnatha) is one of the earliest temples built by the Pallava ruler Rajasimha Pallava and was completed by his son, Mahendra Varma Pallava in the 8th century AD. It is the oldest structure in Kanchipuram and the finest example of Pallava architecture in South India. The temple is situated among several low-roofed houses just over 1-km west of the town centre.
This temple is unique in its architecture. The walls and the Vimanam of this temple are filled with great sculptures and paintings. Walls in the dim interior bear traces of frescoes, and the ceilings are etched with religious verses written in Pali. A huge kneeling Nandi stands in the front facing the temple. At the entrance are eight sub-shrines. Sandstone was used in the construction of this temple. It is the only temple at Kanchipuram, which is not cluttered with the more recent additions of the Chola and Vijayanagar rulers. Fragments of the 8th century murals, which once graced the alcoves, are a visible remainder of how magnificent the temple must have looked, when it was first built.
The sanctum (inaccessible to non-Hindus) shelters a sturdy sixteen-sided black Linga, guarded by elephant-headed Ganesh and Lord Shiva's other son, Skanda, the God of war. Double walls were built round the sanctuary to support the weighty tower above; the passage between them is used as a circumnambulatory path as part of the ritual worship of Lord Shiva.
Alwar Tirunagari (Tirunelveli - Tamil Nadu)
Alwar Tirunagari is a famous Vaishnavite centre located 20 Miles East Of Tirunelveli and 17 Miles West Of Tiruchendur.
This temple covers an area of 5 acres. The temple is a grand structure with lofty Mandapams through which the main entrance leads to the inner precincts. The Tirumanjana Mandapam, the Tirumamani Mandapam and the Kannadi Mandapam are of great beauty. A number of paintings depicting scenes from the Ramayana are found here.
There are some remarkable pillars, 48 in numbers, carved out of a single block of granite. There is also a gold-plated chariot for the ceremonial drive of Lord Adinathaswamy during the Vaikasi (May-June) festival.
Brihadeeshwara Temple (Thanjavur - Tamil Nadu)
The Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur is an architectural wonder and reflects the artistic skills of the erstwhile Chola rulers who ruled peninsular India in the early medieval period. Built by the Chola king Rajaraja I in the 11th century, it is one of the tallest temples in the world. It was so designed that the Vimana never casts a shadow at noon at any part of the year. During the time of the Cholas, most of the magnificent temples as well as exquisite bronze sculptures in South India were created. The style and grace of these sculptures and temples, and an eye for the minutest of the details, till today, is without parallel.
Sama Varma was the chief architect of the Chola court and was commissioned by Rajaraja Chola to build the temple. It was to stand on a 29m square base and rise up to a height of about 65m.
A 107 paragraph long inscription on the walls of the Vimanam records the contributions of Rajaraja Chola and his sister Kundavai to the Thanjavur temple. The temple stands within a fort, whose walls are later additions that were built in the 16th century. The towering Vimanam is about 200 feet in height and is referred to as "Dakshina Meru".
The octagonal Shikharam rests on a single block of granite weighing 81 tons. It is believed that this block was carried up a specially built ramp built from a site 6 kilometers away from here. Huge Nandis dot the corners of the Shikharam (also spelt as Shikhara), and the Kalasam on top by itself is about 3.8 meters in height. Hundreds of stucco figures bejewel the Vimanam, although it is possible that some of these may have been added on during the Maratha period.
The Shivalingam - Peruvudaiya, Rajarajeswaramudaiya - is a huge one, set in a two storeyed sanctum, and the walls surrounding the sanctum delight visitors as a storehouse of murals and sculpture. The Shivalinga of Sri Brihadeeswara is probably the grandest in existence. This image was originally called "Adavallan" (the one who is good in Dance). Another name was Dakshina-Meru Vitanken. Rajaraja Cholan calls the image Rajarajeswaramudaiya, - The Lord of Rajarajeswaram.
Incidents from the lives of the Nayanmars, several of the 108 Bharatanatyam dance postures, manifestations of Shiva (Aadalvallaan, Nataraja, Tripurantaka, Dakshinamurthi etc.) are depicted in sculptured panels or in exquisite Chola murals. Both the interior and the exterior walls of the temple are replete with images of the kind described above.
The Sanctum, the Ardhamandapam, the Mukhamandapam and the Mahamandapam, although distinct, form a composite unit with an imposing appearance that awes visitors, forcing one to wonder how such timeless architectural feat was executed about 1000 years ago. Entrances to the Mandapams and the towered entrances to the Prakarams are majestic. The grandeur of the architecture and the sculptural finesse speaks volumes of the skills of the Imperial Cholas.
The Nandi, which dates back to the Nayak period, is housed in its own Mandapam and it matches up to the grandeur and size of the temple. It is a monolithic Nandi weighing about 25 tons, and is about 12 feet high and 20 feet long.
Darbhasayanam / Tiruppullaani (Ramanathapuram - Tamil nadu)
Tiruppullaani is located near Ramanathapuram. Tiru means 'sacred', Pula the great sage named Pula Maharshi and Ani means 'forest', the sacred forest abode of Pula Maharshi. The other name of the place is "Pullaranyam" (pull-shrub of grass, aranyam--forest: the forest of grass). This place is known by a third name too, "Darbhasayanam" (darbha means sacred grass and sayanam means a bed to rest on).
Darbhasayanam is one of the Sethu Stalams, on the coast of Tamil Nadu, linked with the Ramayana. It alludes to the incident in Sri Rama's life when he took rest on the sacred grass during his penance, for three days and nights, in this particular place. The main deity worshipped here is Kalyana Jagannathan or Aadi Jagannathan in a standing posture facing east and the Goddess worshipped here are Padmasini and Kalyanavalli. There is a shrine of Lord Rama in the Darbasayana pose, signifying his resting here and invoking Varuna for help in crossing the ocean, enroute to Sri Lanka in search of Sita.
This temple with two Prakarams covers an area of about 1.5 acres and is crowned with a 120 feet high Gopuram. In this temple the image of Sri Vishnu, in the reclining posture, on his couch of Adi Sesha, is very imposing to see. The place is rich with antiquities connected with divine persons, sages and saints.
Ekambaranathar Temple (Kanchipuram - Tamil nadu)
This is one of the largest temples in Kanchi. The temple is dedicated to Shiva and covers approximately 12 hectares. The Pallavas built this thousand-pillared temple in the 7th century. Later the Cholas and the Vijayanagara kings improved it. Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagar dynasty built the 59m tall gopuram and the massive outer stone wall in 1509. The mango tree in the temple yard, believed to be 3500 years old, has four branches representing four Vedas. The tree still bears fruits.
The eleven-storey structure, which is adorned with beautiful sculptures, is one of the tallest temple towers in South India. Childless couples revere the ancient mango tree in the courtyard. They faithfully strung small cradles to the branches of the tree and leave with the hope that their desire for an offspring will be fulfilled. Also in the temple, is a small panel depicting the story behind the temple's existence. Parvathi incurred Siva's wrath when she made the mistake of playing a mischievous prank on him by covering his eyes for a second. Since even that one second of hindering Siva's vision led to years of darkness for the mortals, Siva bade her to perform penance to obtain forgiveness. The temple is said to have been built at the spot where the lord forgave her.
Fort St. George (Chennai - Tamil Nadu)
Fort St. George is located on the Rajaji Salai road in Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu. The fort was one among the first few bastions that were built by the East India Company in 1640 to protect its interests in India from rival companies. This fortification also marks the making of Madras (Chennai) as a modern city.
Fort St. George's towering Flagstaff is, even today, the tallest in India. The black charnockite pillars of the building provide an insight into British military architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries. It once housed the British Regiment mess and later the lighthouse. St. Mary's Church is the first Anglican Church built in 1678-80 and it is also the oldest surviving British Church in India. St. Mary's Church is often described as the Westminster Abbey of the East.
Gangaikondas Cholapuram (Chidambaram - Tamil Nadu)
Rajaraja's son and successor, Rajendra I the mightiest emperor in the history of South India, removed his capital from Thanjavur to Gangaikonda Cholapuram. The name of this town means "The town of the Chola who conquered the Ganga." This temple was constructed during his reign.
Rajendra I during one of his campaigns to the north brought water from the river Ganges in a golden pot, and sanctified the reservoir Ponneri or Cholaganga, hence he was given the title of 'Gangaikondan' (the one who brought the Ganges). The king wanted to build a temple equivalent in stature to the Brihadeeswara Temple at Tanjavur. And thus the Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram came into existence between 1020 - 29 AD.
The architecture of this temple is an exhibition of intricate carvings on the hard southern granite stones, discarding the earlier Chola and Pallava style of subtlety and simplicity. The most striking and unique sculptures found here are The Nataraja, Coronation of King Rajendra Cholan by Lord Shiva and Parvati, the dancing Ganesh and the most interesting the Ardhanari (the man-woman manifestation of Lord Shiva).
Genji / Gingee Fort (Thiruvannamalai - Tamil Nadu)
Gingee also pronounced, as "Shingee" is 37-km east of Thiruvannamalai. Gingee is famous for a fort complex dating back to 13th century, located on the 3 different hill summit covering 3-km boundary area. The Chola Dynasty built Gingee fort. The indomitable courage and valour of its erstwhile rulers made Father Pinments, a priest to call the Gingee Fort the "Troy of the East".
The Vijayanagar emperors, Marathas and the Mughals occupied it after the Cholas and it was in the hands of the French and British rulers also for sometime.
In 1638, Gingee went under control of Bijapur Sultanate from the hold of the Vijayanagar emperors. Then it went to Maratha hero Shivaji in 1677, to Mughal in 1690, to French in 1750 and to British in 1762. Vekataramana Temple is the largest temple in Gingee, which was built by Muthiah Nayaka in 1550 AD.
Kalahasti Temple (Tirupati - Tamil Nadu)
Sri Kalahasti temple is famous for its Vayudeva temple, which is the only shrine of the God of wind in India. It was constructed in the 12th century by the Chola king, Raja Rajendra.
The story goes that the linga here was invoked by a spider (Sri), snake (Kala) and an elephant (Hasti). Hence the town was appropriately referred to as Sri Kalahasti. Besides Swamypushkarini, there are several important water-falls in and around Tirumala, namely Akasaganga, Papavinasanam, Pandava Theertham, Jabili Theertham, Chakra Theertham, Ramakrishna Theertham, Kumaradhara Theertham and Tumburu Theertham, each excelling the other in the riddance of the sins of those who bathe in them.
Kaliyar Koil (Sivaganga - Tamil Nadu)
There are 14 sacred shrines of Lord Shiva, which were visited by the three great Tamil saints, Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar. Tirukanapper, presently known as "Kaliyar Koil" is one of them and is known by many other names.
Kaliyar Koil is situated in Devakottai town, five miles away from Shivaganga on the railway line from Karaikudi to Rameshwaram. The presiding deity, Lord Shiva, is known as "Kaleesar". The Gopuram of the temple is gigantic in stature and also immensely imposing, being visible from a great distance.
The other names of Kaliyar Koil are "Dakshina Kalipuram", "Jotivanarn", "Mandaravanam", "Mokshapradam", "Saiva Kshetram", "Gandaram", "Davasiddhikaram", "Devadaru-Vanam", "Bhooloka Kailasam", 'Agastya Kshetram" and "Maha Kalapuram".
Kandaswamy Temple (Kanchipuram - Tamil Nadu)
The ancient Kandaswamy temple at Cheyur near Madurantakam, Kanchipuram district, dates back to the 11th century. The temple is built in the shape of Tamil letter "OM". That is to say, the different 'Sannidhis' are situated accordingly. The main deity - Lord Kandhaswamy with his consorts Valli and Deivanai, with his Vel and his pennant; with a mind filled with shanta swaroopam and his abhaya hastam showering grace on his devotees, is a balm to the weary mind. The utsavar, in this temple, is Shri Muthukumaraswami.
Another significance here is that, Saint Chidambara Swamigal attained his Jeeva Samadhi on the same day of Vaikasi Visakam.
Kapaleeswara Temple (Mylapore - Tamil Nadu)
Kapaleeswara temple is situated in Mylapore, a suburb of Chennai. The main deity, Lord Shiva, is worshipped as "Kapaleeswara" and the Goddess as "Karpagambal". The entrance Gopuram rises magnificently to a height of about 120 feet with a profusion of sculptured images depicting incidents from the various 'puranic' legends. There is a large pool in front of the temple. The outer courtyard is adorned with the bronze images of the 63 'Nayanmars' (Saivite saints).
This temple is mentioned in the old hymns of Hindu Nayanmars who lived during the 7th century. This shows that the temple is in existence for more than a thousand years. There are separate sannadhis for several deities such as Vinayaka, Annamalaiyar, Muruga, and Saneeswara. There are several other deities such as Durga, Dakshinamurti, Chandikeswara located within the main Sannadhis of Kapaleeswara and Karpagambal. Devi Karpagambigai is in a separate shrine. Lord Vinayaka and Muruga are in smaller shrines. On the northern corner of the corridor, there is a sculptural representation of the Devi as a peahen.
Karpaka Vinayaka Temple (Pillayarpatti - Tamil Nadu)
The town of Pillaiyarpati is named after Pillayar - the Tamil name for Ganesh and the karpaka vinayaka temple houses rock cut images of ganesh, lord shiva and several other shrines. It is believed that praying to this idol will shower all good things on the devotee. The idol is six feet tall and is portrayed with two arms and a trunk curled towards his right in the valampuri mode. He construction of the temple began 1600 years ago and was completed in 3 stages. The pillars within the shrine are of pre - pallava origin. The inscriptions at Pillayarpati date further back to the 4th century AD. Each day five worship services are offered to the presiding deity.
Kumara Kottam (Kanchipuram - Tamil Nadu)
Kumara Kottam is located in between the Kamakshi and Ekambreswara temples in the Somaskanda formation in the town of Kanchipuram. In the sanctum, Muruga is in a seated pose called as "Brahma chattam". Here only honey is used for ablutions. In the front part of the temple in the mirror, room one can see the marble figure of Ramalinga Swamigal. In the inside Prakaram is Santana Ganapati and on an artificial hill to the north is Dandayuthapani.
In the month of Vaikasi on full moon day a great festival takes place here for Muruga. Crowds gather on every Tuesday as it is a favourite day of Lord Muruga.
Kumbeswara Temple (Kumbhakonam - Tamil nadu)
This is the largest and the oldest Shiva temple located in the center of the town of Kumbakonam. The presiding deity of this temple is Lord Kumbeswara and the presiding Goddess is Sri Mangalambigai. There is a shrine dedicated to Adi Vinayaka (Lord Ganesh). Its main Gopuram is 128 feet high and has many intricately carved sculptures on it. On a single block of stone in the Navarathri Mandapam all the 27 stars and 12 Rasis or Rashis (signs) have been carved out. The image of Lord Subrahmanya, enshrined in the part of the temple, is a rare specimen. It has six heads but only six hands holding different kinds of weapons. There is an excellent collection of silver vahanas (palanquins) used to carry the deities at festival times.
The idol of Kirathamoorti in the temple is a standing monument to commemorate the incidence that, Lord Shiva Himself has created the present MahaLinga. The great Mahamaham festival celebrated in honour of Lord attracts lakhs of people from far and wide and it takes place once in 12 years. It is believed that on this auspicious day the pool receives supplies of water from the Ganges and eight other holy rivers and all the deities are said to remain present here on that occasion.
Kurangaaduturai (Tiruvaiyaru - Tamil nadu)
Ten Kurangaaduturai (Aaduturai) and Vada Kurangaaduturai are the two important Shivastalams, where Sugreevan and Vaali are believed to have worshipped Lord Shiva. Vada Kurangaduturai is known so because of its location, north of the river Kaveri, near Tiruvaiyaru. Ten Kurandagudurai gets its name from its location South of the river Kaveri. Sembiyan Mahadevi - the Chola queen (10th century) rebuilt Ten Kurangaaduturai; in the rebuilt structure, earlier inscriptions from the older structure were re-engraved. This temple with 2 Prakarams has a large RajaGopuram. The niche images here are those of Vinayaka (also spelt as Vinayak), Nataraja, Agastya, Dakshinamurti, LinGodbhava, Bhrama, Bhikshatana, Alinganamurti (Lord Shiva and Parvati) and Durga. The sun's rays illuminate the sanctum for three days in a year. Festivals celebrated here include Arudra Darisanam, Navaratri and Shivaratri.