South India, particularly Tamilnadu, is known for its rich cultural heritage and ancient history. The temples here are an epitome of the rich Dravidian culture of yore and carry the testimony of having been centres of excellence in arts. The massive temple structures which occupy multiple acres of land were no doubt great epicentres to the advancement of science, technology, sculptures, art and culture. Having been under the patronage of the great rulers of vast kingdoms, these temples enjoyed rich support from not just the rulers but also the citizens and the visitors to these great lands.
Tamilnadu, rightly known as the Land of Temples, is said to have as many as 38,000 temples, most of them dating back hundreds of years back. Some of them are so vast that they have had entire cities built around them over the years while others are purely pilgrim centres catering only to tourists with no other source of income! A tour of all the major temples in Tamilnadu will take not less than a month but most of them can be visited in 7-10 days or 15 days, depending on the planning. Contact Xeniacities.com, your expert partner in tour planning for a customised package that will take you places!
This is the most commonly requested tour and can be finished in just about 4-5 days. The first day covers the most important temples in Chennai: a) the Parthasarathy temple, an 8th century Krishna temple, b) the Kapaleeshwara Temple in Mylapore, a 7th century temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, c) Sri Vadapalani Andavar Temple, d) the famous Ashtalakshmi temple on the shores of the Elliot’s Beach, e) the Adeeshwar Temple on the Grand Trunk Road, f) the 8th century Arulmigu Ramanatheswarar Temple, g) the Sundresshwarar temple in Kovu, h) the 11th century Marudeeswarar temple, the Ranganatha temple in Thiruneermalai, i) the Kandaswamy Temple in Cheyyur, and the ISKCON temple.
The next stop is Mahabalipuram which is about 60 kilometers from Chennai. The group of monuments in this ancient town of Mamallapuram is a UNESCO world heritage site. Dating back to the 7th and 8th centuries, there are about 400 monuments and Hindu temples on the shore of Bay of Bengal. Most of them are unique, such as the largest open-air rock relief in the world, the Arjuna’s Penance. This small town was supposed to have been in existence since the 1st century or before, much before these monuments were built. This place is an archaeologist’s dream and will not fail to captivate even the most casual visitor!
A visit to the Kancheepuram Kamakshi Amman temple and the 8th century Kailasanathar temple is a must. About 66 kilometers from Malabalipuram, Kancheepuram or Kanchi is said to be almost 2000 years old and was considered a major seat of learning for several ancient cultures. Some of the famous temples here are the Varadharaja Perumal temple, the Ekambaranatha temple, the Karchapeshwarar Temple, the Sathyanatheshwarar temple, the Metraleeshwar temple, the Iravathaneshwara Temple, the Vazhakarutheeswarar temple, the Chitragupta temple, the Trilokyanatha temple and the many Vishnu temples.
This ancient temple town is famous for not just the temples but also the rich hand-woven silk sarees. 70 kilometers from Kanchi is Vellore, another ancient temple city that is home to the Virinjipuram temple, the Jalakandeshwarar temple, the Chelliamman temple, the Murugan temple, the Ratnagiri temple, the Selva vinayagar temple, the Lakshmi Narasimhaswami temple, and the Sripuram Golden temple, among many more.
Tiruvannamalai, 88 kilometers from Vellore, is yet another ancient temple town in Tamilnadu. Some of the most popular temples to visit here are the Arunachaleshwara Temple, the Girivalam, the Annamalai Murugan Temple, the Nirudhi Lingam, the Varuna Lingam, the Varadaraja Perumal temple and the Putrakameshtivarar temple.
Chidambaram-Kumbhakonam-Tanjore-Trichy- Srirangam- Madhurai
The Nataraja temple in Chidambaram, which is about 230 kilometers from Chennai and 78 kilometers south of Pondicherry, is an ancient temple complex housing temple for Lord Shiva who is worshipped in the Nataraja (dance-form) avatar as well as the Vishnu temple who is worshipped as the Lord Govindaraja Perumal. There are many more temples to visit in this town but the main attraction is the Pichavaram mangrove forest, the second largest mangrove in the world!
Kumbhakonam in Tanjavur distrist is famous for the Airavateswara temple, the Sarangapani temple, the Adi Kumbeswara temple, the Patteeswaram temple, the Suriyinar temple, the Nageshwara temple, the Uppiliappa temple and many more.
Tanjore or Tanjavur is home to the world-famous Brihadeeswara temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Also visit the Serfoji Sarasvati Mahal Library, the Tanjavur Royal Palace and Art Gallery, the Manora fort, and the Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple to know more about the history of this place.
Trichy or Thiruchirapalli, which is about 60 kilometers from Tanjavur, dates back to the 3rd century AD and was ruled by the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Pallavas, the Mutharaiyars, the Vijayanagara Empire and the Nayak Dynasties. The most popular monuments in Trichy are the Ranganathaswamy temple at Srirangam, and the Jambukeshwara temple at Thiruvanaikaval. Other places of interest are the Rock Fort temple, the Rajagopuram, the Art Museum, the Railway Museum and the Lourdes Church.
Madhurai, about 135 kilometers from Trichy, is an ancient and famous city on the banks of the Vaigai River. The main attraction of this tourist town is the massive Meenakshi Amman temple with its 14 colorful gopurams (large gateways). Dating back to the 4th century, this town was a cultural as well as financial capital of the Pandyan kingdowm and is known for its architecturally brilliant monuments. The best time to visit Madhurai is during the Chithrai festival during April-May that is marked by a Coronation of the reigning diety, Meenakshi Amman, processions, celestial wedding of the Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswara, chariot procession and float processions.
The other famous temples in Tamilnadu are the Ramanathaswamy temple in Rameshwaram on Pamban island, and the Kanyakumari temple in Kanyakumari, the southern-most tip of the subcontinent.