TamilNadu (तमिलनाडु)

Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu
oordinates: 13°05′N 80°16′E / 13.09, 80.27
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
Area 130,058 km² (50,216 sq mi)
Capital Chennai
Largest city Chennai
District(s) 31
66,396,000 (7th)
• 511 /km² (1,323 /sq mi)
Language(s) Tamil
Governor Surjit Singh Barnala
Chief Minister M Karunanidhi
Established 195611-01
Legislature (seats) Unicameral (235)
ISO abbreviation IN-TN
Established in 1773; Madras State was formed in 1956 and renamed as Tamil Nadu on January 14, 1969 [8]
Seal of Tamil Nadu

Seal of Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu (Tamil: தமிழ்நாடு, pronunciation  English: Country of the Tamils, IPA: is one of the 28 states of India. It lies on the eastern coast of the southern Indian Peninsula bordered by Puducherry (Pondicherry), Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. It is bound by the Eastern Ghats in the north, the Nilgiri, the Anamalai Hills, and Palakkad on the west, Bay of Bengal in the east, Gulf of Mannar, Palk Strait in the south east and Indian Ocean in the south. It is the eleventh largest state in India by area (about the size of Greece) and the seventh most populous state.

It is the fifth largest contributor to India’s GDP and the most urbanised state in India. The state has the highest number (10.56%) of business enterprises in India, compared to the population share of about 6%. It is one of the foremost states in the country in terms of overall development. It is home to many natural resources, rare flora and fauna, grand Hindu temples of Dravidian architecture, beach resorts, multi-religious pilgrimage sites and three UNESCO World Heritage Sites


The Brihadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur, built by Raja Raja Chola – a UNESCO World Heritage Site


Tamil Nadu’s history dates back to pre-historic times and archaeological evidence points to this area being one of the longest continuous habitations in India. In Adichanallur, 24 km from Tirunelveli, archaeologists from the Archaeological Survey of India unearthed 169 clay urns containing human skulls, skeletons and bones, plus husks and grains of rice, charred rice and Neolithic celts, giving evidence confirming them to be of the Neolithic period, 3800 years ago. The ASI archaeologists have proposed that the script is “very rudimentary” Tamil Brahmi. Adichanallur has been announced as an archaeological site for further excavation and studies.

Chera Rule

From early pre-historic times, Tamil Nadu was the home of the four Tamil kingdoms of the Chera, Chola, Pandya and Pallavas. The oldest extant literature, dated between 300 BC and 600 BC mentions the exploits of the kings and the princes, and of the poets who extolled them. Cheras ruled from the capital of Karur in the west and traded extensively with West Asian kingdoms.

An unknown dynasty called Kalabhras invaded and displaced the three Tamil kingdoms between the fourth and the seventh centuries CE. This is referred to as the Dark Age in Tamil history. They were eventually expelled by the Pallavas and the Pandyas.

Pallava Rule

Around 580 CE, the Pallavas, great temple builders, emerged into prominence and dominated the south for another 150 years. They ruled a vast portion of Tamil Nadu with Kanchipuram as their capital. They subjugated the Cholas and reigned as far south as the Kaveri River. Among the greatest Pallava rulers were Mahendravarman I and his son Narasimhavarman I. Dravidian architecture reached its peak during the Pallava rule.

The Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram built by the Pallavas – a UNESCO World Hertiage Site

Pandya Rule

Pallavas were replaced by the Pandyas in the 8th century. Their capital Madurai was in the deep south away from the coast.

Chola Empire

By the 9th century, under Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola, the Cholas rose as a notable power in south Asia. The Chola Empire stretched as far as Bengal. At its peak, the empire spanned almost 250 million acres. Rajaraja Chola conquered all of peninsular South India and parts of Sri Lanka. Rajendra Chola’s navies went even further, occupying coastal Burma (now Myanmar), the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Sumatra, Java, Malaya in South East Asia and Pegu islands. He defeated Mahipala, the king of the Bengal, and to commemorate his victory he built a new capital and named it Gangaikonda Cholapuram.

The Cholas excelled in building magnificent temples. Brihadeshwara Temple in Thanjavur is a classical example of the magnificent architecture of the Chola kingdom. Brihadshwara temple is an UNESCO Heritage Site under “Great Living Chola Temples.” Another example is the Chidambaram Temple in the heart of the temple town of Chidambaram.

Pandya Rule (Restored)

With the decline of the Cholas towards the end of the 11th century, the Pandyas rose to prominence once again, under Maravarman Sundara Pandya.

Delhi Sultanate

This restoration was short-lived as the Pandya capital of Madurai itself was sacked by Alauddin Khilji troops from the north in 1316. The invasion led to the establishment of the Madurai Sultanate.

Fort Dansborg, built by the Danish, in Tranquebar (now Tharangambadi)

Vijayanagar Empire

These northern invasions triggered the establishment of Vijayanagara Empire in the Deccan. It eventually conquered the entire Tamil country (c. 1370 CE). This empire lasted almost three centuries.

Rule of Nayaks

As the Vijayanagara Empire went into decline after mid-16th century, the Nayak governors, who were appointed by the Vijayanagar kingdom to administer various territories of the empire, declared their independence. The Nayaks of Madurai and Nayaks of Thanjavur were most prominent of them all in the 17th century. They reconstructed some of the oldest temples in the country.

Rule of Nizams and Nawabs

Around 1609, the Dutch established a settlement in Pulicat. In 1639, the British, under the British East India Company, established a settlement further south, in present day Chennai.

The British used petty quarrels among the provincial rulers (divide and rule) to expand their sphere of influence throughout the Nizam’s dominions. The British fought and reduced the French dominions in India to Pondicherry. Nizams bestowed tax revenue collection rights on the East India Company by the end of 18th century. Some notable chieftains or Poligars who fought the British East India Company as it was expanding were Maveeran Sundaralinga Kudumbanar , Veerapandya Kattabomman, Pulithevan and Dheeran Chinnamalai.

British Empire

In early 19th century, East India Company consolidated most of southern India into the Madras Presidency coterminous with the dominions of Nizam of Hyderabad. Pudukkottai remained as a princely state under British suzerainty.


When India became independent in 1947, Madras Presidency became Madras State, comprising present day Tamil Nadu, coastal Andhra Pradesh up to Ganjam district in Orissa, northern Karnataka, and parts of Kerala. The state was subsequently split up along linguistic lines. In 1968, Madras State was renamed Tamil Nadu, meaning Land of Tamil.

Geography and climate

A semi-arid wasteland near Tirunelveli. Monsoon clouds dump torrents of rain on lush forests that are only a few kilometers away in windward-facing Kerala, but are prevented from reaching Tirunelveli by the Agasthyamalai Range of the Western Ghats (background).

Topographic map of Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu covers an area of 130,058 square kilometres (50,216 sq mi),and is the eleventh largest state in India. West and North of the state has lofty hills while the East and South are coastal plains. The bordering states are Kerala to the west, Karnataka to the northwest and Andhra Pradesh to the north. To the east is the Bay of Bengal. The southernmost tip of the Indian Peninsula is located in Tamil Nadu. At this point is the town of Kanyakumari which is the meeting point of the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Indian Ocean.

Tamil Nadu has a coastline of about 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) which forms about 18% of the country’s coastline (third longest). Tamil Nadu’s coastline bore the brunt of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami when it hit India, which left behind 7,793 dead in the state. Tamil Nadu falls mostly in a region of low seismic hazard with the exception of western border areas that lie in a low to moderate hazard zone. As per the 2002 Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) map, Tamil Nadu falls in Zones II & III. Historically, parts of this region have experienced seismic activity in the M5.0 range.

Tamil Nadu is dependent heavily on monsoon rains, and thereby is prone to droughts when the monsoons fail. The climate of the state ranges from dry sub-humid to semi-arid. The state has three distinct periods of rainfall: (1) Advancing monsoon period, South West monsoon (from June to September), with strong southwest winds; (2) North East monsoon (from October to December), with dominant northeast winds; and (3) Dry season (from January to May). The normal annual rainfall of the state is about 945 mm (37.2 in)of which 48% is through the North East monsoon, and 32% through the South West monsoon. Since the state is entirely dependent on rains for recharging its water resources, monsoon failures lead to acute water scarcity and severe drought.Tamil Nadu is classified into seven agro-climatic zones: north-east, north-west, west, southern, high rainfall, high altitude hilly, and Cauvery Delta (the most fertile agricultural zone). The table below shows the maximum and minimum temperatures that the state experiences in the plains and hills.

  Plains Hills
Max. 43.0 °C (109.4 °F) 32.3 °C (90.1 °F)
Min. 13.1 °C (55.6 °F) 3.0 °C (37.4 °F)

Tamil Nadu has a wide variety of minerals with the most reserves in India lignite (almost 90% of India’s reserves), magnesite (45%) and garnet (over 40%) among others. Tamil Nadu contributes 15% of the total Salt production in the country. Forests cover over 17% of the state’s geographical area with several Protected areas of Tamil Nadu including wild life and bird sanctuaries.


1. Chennai metropolitan region: includes the city of Chennai and its suburbs that are parts of Kanchipuram and Thiruvallur districts.

2. Coimbatore region: includes the districts of Coimbatore, Erode, Salem, Udhagamandalam, Namakkal, Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts.

3. Madurai region: includes the districts of Madurai, Virudhunagar, Sivagangai, Theni, Dindukkal, Ramanathapuram, Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari districts.

4. Tiruchi region: includes the districts of Tiruchirappalli, Pudukkottai, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Perambalur, Ariyalur and Karur districts.

5. Vellore region: includes the districts of Vellore, Thiruvallur, Thiruvannamalai, Kanchipuram, Villupuram and Cuddalore districts.

Governance and administration

Emblem of Government of Tamil Nadu, showing the Temple tower of Srivilliputhur and Lion Capital of Asoka.

Tamil Nadu had a bicameral legislature until 1986, when it was replaced with a unicameral legislature, like most other states in India. The ‘Governor‘ is the Constitutional head of the state while the ‘Chief minister‘ is the head of the government and the head of the council of ministers. The Chief Justice of the Madras High Court is the head of the judiciary. The present Governor, Chief minister and the Chief Justice are S. S. Barnala, M. Karunanidhi and A. k. Ganguly respectively.The major administrative units of the state constitutes 39 Lok Sabha constituencies, 234 Assembly constituencies, 31 districts, 10 municipal corporations, 145 municipalities, 561 town panchayats and 12,618 village panchayats. Chennai (formerly known as Madras) is the state capital. It is the fourth largest city in India and is also one of the five A1 Metropolitan cities of India.

Tamil Nadu has been a pioneering state in E-Governance initiatives in India. A large part of the government records like land ownership records are already digitised and all major offices of the state government like Urban Local Bodies — all the Corporations and Municipal Office activities — revenue collection, land registration offices, and transport offices have been computerised, thereby improving the quality of service and transparency in operations.

The 31 districts of Tamil Nadu are listed below, with the numbers corresponding to those in the image at the right. Ariyalur district, which was created in 2001 from the Perambalur district, was restored as the 31st district of Tamil Nadu on the 23rd November, 2007.

Districts of Tamil Nadu

  1. Chennai District
  2. Coimbatore District
  3. Cuddalore District
  4. Dharmapuri District
  5. Dindigul District
  6. Erode District
  7. Kanchipuram District
  8. Kanyakumari District
  9. Karur District
  10. Krishnagiri District
  11. Madurai District
  12. Nagapattinam District
  13. Namakkal District
  14. Perambalur District
  15. Pudukkottai District
  1. Ramanathapuram District
  2. Salem District
  3. Sivagangai District
  4. Thanjavur District
  5. The Nilgiris District
  6. Theni District
  7. Thoothukudi District
  8. Tiruchirapalli District
  9. Tirunelveli District
  10. Tiruvallur District
  11. Tiruvannamalai District
  12. Tiruvarur District
  13. Vellore District
  14. Viluppuram District
  15. Virudhunagar District
  16. Ariyalur district

TN government has also announced that Tirupur will be the new headquarters of the Tirupur district which will be formed by splitting the Coimbatore and Erode district.

The Tamil Nadu Police Force is over 140 years old. It is the fifth largest state police force in India. The administrative control of Tamil Nadu Police vests with the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu who holds the portfolio of Home Minister. The supervision and coordination of Police is done by the Home Department, Govt. of Tamil Nadu. The Force is headed by the Director General of Police. The State is divided into 4 police zones – North, Central, West and South. Each zone is headed by one Inspector General of Police. In each of the six metropolitan cities of Tamil Nadu, the City Police force is headed by a Commissioner of Police. These cities are Greater Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Tiruchirapalli, Salem and Tirunelveli. There are thirty police districts in Tamil Nadu, each headed by a Superintendent of Police. In each City and District, the Commissioner of Police / Superintendent of Police has, besides the civil police force, an armed reserve of police personnel. One Deputy Inspector General of police supervises the work of 2–3 districts, which constitute a Police Range. There are eleven ranges in Tamil Nadu. The special units of Tamil Nadu Police perform specific functions related to security, intelligence, criminal investigations and support services. Tamil Nadu has a police population ratio of 1 : 632. The Tamil Nadu Police force is regarded as one amongst the best in the country. Tamil Nadu is one of the states where law and order has been maintained largely successfully. Over the years, there has been a gradual decrease in the number of crimes registered.


Pre Independence

Prior to Indian independence Tamil Nadu was under British colonial rule as part of the Madras Presidency. The main party in Tamil Nadu at that time was the Congress Party. Regional parties have dominated state politics since 1916. One of the earliest regional parties was the South Indian Welfare Association, which was a forerunner to Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu, was started in 1916. The party was called after its English organ, Justice Party, by it opponents and later the same was adopted as its official name. The reason for victory of the Justice Party in elections was the non-participation of the Congress Party, demanding complete independence of India. Freedom movement saw great leaders like Subramania Bharathiar (Poet who inspired freedom movement by his poetic skills), Subramania Siva, V O Chidhamdaranar (Industrialist, who managed ships under the free India banner), Thirupur Kumaran, Rajagopalachariar(Rajaji) and Sathyamurthi to name a few.

E.V.Ramaswami Naicker popularly known as EVR and also as Periyar, believed in agitational politics and he took the Justice Party away from its original path. The Justice Party which had a moribund existence under E.V.Ramaswami Naicker, died at last in 1944 which he renamed the party Dravidar Kazhagam (DK for short) in 1944. DK was a non-political party which demanded the establishment of an independent state called Dravida Nadu. However, due to the differences between its two leaders Periyar and C.N. Annadurai, the party was split. Annadurai left the party to form the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. The DMK decided to enter politics in 1956.

Dravidian Politics

Present chief minister M.Karunanidhi (centre) with ex-chief ministers C. N. Annadurai (left) and M. G. Ramachandran (right)

In the 19th century, western scholars proposed that Dravidian languages that dominates the south of India formed a different linguistic group to that of Indo-Aryan languages that are predominant in the north of the country. They also classified Indians into distinct Aryan and Dravidian races. It was proposed that the generally darker-skinned Dravidians constituted a distinct race. This concept has affected thinking in India about racial and regional differences and had an impact on aspects of Tamil nationalism, which has appropriated the claim that Dravidians are the earliest inhabitants of India, and the Aryan population were oppressive interlopers from whom Dravidians should liberate themselves.

Re-organisation of Indian states according to linguistic and ethnic basis has moderated Tamil nationalism, especially the demand for separation from the Indian Union. The Anti-Hindi agitations in mid-1960s made the DMK more popular and a more powerful political force in the state. The DMK routed the Congress Party in the 1967 elections and took control of the state government, ending Congress’ stronghold in Tamil Nadu. C.N. Annadurai became the DMK’s first Chief Minister.

Muthuvel Karunanidhi took over as Chief Minister and party leader after Annadurai’s death in 1969. Karunanidhi’s leadership was soon challenged by M.G. Ramachandran, popularly known as MGR. In 1972, he split from DMK and formed the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK) and later renamed the party as All India Anna Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam. He was the Chief Minister of the state from 1977 until his death in 1987. After the death of MGR and the defeat of AIADMK in the 1989 assembly polls, J. Jayalalithaa took control of the party. She was elected as the General Secretary of the unified AIADMK. There have been several splits in both the DMK and the AIADMK, but since 1967 one of those two parties has held power in the state.

Demographics and human rights

Tamil Nadu is the seventh most populous state in India with a population of 66,396,000 as of July 1, 2008 (approximately 5.79% of India’s population). It is the eleventh most densely populated state in India. In 2008, its population density was 511 persons per square kilometre, having increased from 429 in 1991, significantly higher than the Indian average of 324 persons per square kilometre. 44% of the state’s population live in urban areas, the highest in India.

Tamil Nadu’s population grew by 11.19% between 1991 and 2001, the second lowest rate for that period (after Kerala) amongst populous states (states whose population exceeded 20 million in 2001). Its decadal rate of population growth has declined in every decade since 1971, one of only three populous states (along with Kerala and Orissa) to show this trend. The state has registered the lowest fertiliy rate along with Andhra Pradesh and Goa in India in year 2005-06 with 1.8 children born for each woman, lower than required for population sustainability. According to National Family Health Survey-3 (NFHS-3), Tamil Nadu registered a fertility rate of 1.8, the lowest in India in year 2005-2006 .

Tamil Nadu Religions
Religion     Percent  
Hinduism 88.11%
Christianity 6.06%
Islam 5.56%
Others 0.27%

As recorded in the 2001 All India census, 89.43% of the population speak Tamil as their mother tongue. Other languages spoken in the state are Telugu (5.65 %), Kannada (1.68 %), Urdu (1.51 %) and Malayalam (0.89 %). A significant population can speak more than one language, usually English. Also the vast majority of the people follow Hindu religion. The distribution of population based on religion is described in the bar graph at the right.

Tamil Nadu has 10 Municipal Corporations: Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchirapalli, Salem, Tirunelveli, Tirupur, Erode, Vellore and Thoothukudi.

Largest agglomerations of Tamil Nadu
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  City District Population     City District Population
1 Chennai Chennai 6,560,242 [[Image:{{{image1}}}|border|100px|Chennai]]
7 Tirunelveli Tirunelveli 433,352
2 Coimbatore Coimbatore 1,461,139 8 Erode Erode 389,906
3 Madurai Madurai 1,203,095 9 Vellore Vellore 386,746
4 Trichy Trichy 1,067,915 10 Thoothukudi Thoothukudi 243,415
5 Salem, Tamil Nadu Salem district 751,438 11 Thanjavur Thanjavur 215,314
6 Tiruppur Coimbatore 550,826 12 Nagercoil Kanyakumari 208,179
Source: Census 2008

Education and social development

The main entrance of IIT Madras, showing its logo and its motto.

Tamil Nadu has performed reasonably well in terms of literacy growth during the decade 1991-2001. The state’s literacy rate increased from 62.66% in 1991 to 73.47% in 2001. which is well above the national average. A survey conducted by the Industry body Assochaam ranks Tamil Nadu top among Indian states with about 100% Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in primary and upper primary education.

Tamil Nadu has 19 Universities, 250 engineering colleges and 1150 arts college, 2550 schools and 5000 hospitals. Some of the reputed institutes include University of Madras, IIT Madras, Anna University,VIT Vellore, NIT Tiruchi,PSG Tech,CMC Vellore, Madras Medical College, Stanley Medical College, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and Tamilnadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS). Also Tamil Nadu produces the highest number of engineering graduates in India (around 30,000) every year which attracts many software companies to set up their shop in south India.

While India ranked 128 in human development index calculated worldwide with 0.619, Tamil Nadu has performed well with an index of 0.736 in year 2006, closer to 0.800 which is considered high development and only 0.041 less than 81st ranked China. The life expectancy at birth for males is 65.2 years and for females it is 67.6 years. However, it has a number of challenges, significantly, the poverty is high, especially in the rural areas. As of 2004-2005, the poverty line was set at Rs. 351.86 / month for rural areas and Rs. 547.42 / month for urban areas. Poverty in the state had dropped from 51.7% in 1983 to 21.1% in 2001 For the period 2004-2005, the Trend in Incidence of Poverty in the state was 22.5% as against the national figure of 27.5%. The World Bank is currently assisting the state in reducing povertyHigh drop-out and low completion of secondary schools continue to hinder the quality of training in the population. Other problems include class, gender, inter-district and urban-rural disparities.

The Dravidian movement, which championed the causes of educating the people and eradicating superstitions, began in Tamil Nadu. In addition, it aimes to uplift the socially repressed Dravidian people and drew considerable support from the middle classes for their efforts in this matter. The movement was committed to social justice which led to the expansion of reservations for the deprived communities. Tamil Nadu now has a 69% reservation in educational institutions, the highest among all Indian states.

The Mid-day Meal Scheme program in Tamil Nadu, initiated by Kamaraj, was expanded considerably during the rule of the AIADMK in 1983. It feeds over a fifth of the state’s population. Despite this, the state is among the 12 states in India that have alarming level of hunger according to the 2008 Global Hunger Index.


Tamil Nadu has a long tradition of venerable culture. Tamil Nadu is known for its rich tradition of literature, music and dance which continue to flourish today. Unique cultural features like Bharatanatyam (dance), Tanjore painting, and Tamil architecture were developed and continue to be practised in Tamil Nadu.

Language and Literature

The 133 ft (41 m) high Thiruvalluvar Statue, off the coast of Kanyakumari

Tamil is the official language of Tamil Nadu and is one of the two classical languages of India, the other being Sanskrit. Tamil is also one of the official languages of India. It is a vibrant language with a long and rich literary tradition. Most of the older works are in verse form, and prose gained popularity later. All through history, Tamil literature has sought to inform and inspire, educate and entertain. Tamil poetry has universal appeal as evinced by many examples.

எப்பொருள் யார்யார்வாய்க் கேட்பினும் அப்பொருள்
மெய்ப்பொருள் காண்ப தறிவு
‘The mark of wisdom is to discern the truth
From whatever source it is heard.’
(Tirukkural – 423)

Tirukkural which was written nearly two millennia ago portrays a universal outlook. This is evident as the author, Thiruvalluvar, does not mention his religion, land, or the audience for his work. He is portrayed as a holy saint of Tamil Nadu today. There is an evidential history that the kings of olden days rolled out Tamil Sangam (Tamil organisation) to develop literature works in Tamil. The Sangam headquartered in Madurai generated a large amount of notable literary works. The first Tamil printing press was established at Tarangambadi by the Danish missionaries.

During the Indian freedom struggle, many Tamil poets and writers provoked national spirit, social equity and secularist thoughts among the common man, notably Subramanya Bharathy. Even today, Tamil Nadu is home to creative writers like Jayakanthan, Jayamohan, Sujatha, Indira Parthasarathy.


With Hindus forming over 88% of the population, Hindu temples are ubiquitous in Tamil Nadu earning it the sobriquet ‘The Land of Temples’. Shown here is the Meenakshi Amman Temple complex in Madurai, which is one of the grandest temples in the country

Tamil Nadu was the home of several Hindu movements not in the usual mainstream. These include Shankara‘s Advaita, Ramanuja‘s Vishistadvaita, Alwar Sri Vaishnavism, Nayanar Shaivism, Several important Hindu Tamil figures became important figures for Hinduism as a whole (e.g.Ramanuja.) In modern times, worldwide important figures for Hinduism were Ramana Maharishi and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Other saints known more locally to Hindus within India are Raghavendra Swami the Dvaita Vaishnava, Paramahamsa Sri Nithyananda or the Nithyananda Foundation, Sivanand the expert of yoga and Vedanta.

Popular forms of God include Vishnu, Shiva and Murugan (son of Shiva), although many other forms are also worshiped These other forms of God include, Rama, Krishna, Ganesh, Paravati, Surya, and others. There is even a temple dedicated to the form of Hanuman and Ganesh in one form – Adianta Prabhu. The government emblem of Tamil Nadu contained the popular Hindu temple of srivilliputhur.

Christians and Muslims form roughly over 11% of the population. Christians are mainly concentrated in the southern districts of Kanyakumari, Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli. St. Thomas Mount in Chennai, the place where St. Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ, was believed to have been martyred, is an important pilgrimage site for Indian Christians. The Santhome Basilica, supposedly built atop the tomb of St. Thomas, and the Vailankanni Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health — revered churches by the Catholics in India — are good examples of majestic church architectures in Tamil Nadu. The Church of South India is headquartered in Chennai.

Muslims are mainly concentrated in areas like Kayalpatnam, Keelakarai, Ambur, Vaniyambadi, Nagore and Melapalayam, with the state capital Chennai also home to a good number of Muslims. Among Muslims 97.5% are Sunni (Most of the Tamil Muslims, adhere to either Hanafi or Shafi schools of thought) and 1.5% Shia. Nagore, in Nagapattinam district, is an important pilgrimage site for Muslims, while the Thousand Lights Mosque in Chennai is one of the largest mosques in the country. Karpudaiyar masjid in Kayalpatnam is the oldest mosque in Tamil Nadu.


Bullock cart race

Pongal, also called as Tamizhar Thirunaal (festival of Tamils), a four-day harvest festival is the most celebrated festival of Tamil Nadu. The Tamil language saying Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum — literally meaning, the birth of the month of Thai will pave way for new opportunities — is often quoted with reference to this festival. The first day, Bhogi Pongal, is celebrated by throwing away and destroying old clothes and materials by setting them on fire to mark the end of the old and emergence of the new. The second day, Surya Pongal, is the main day which falls on the first day of the Tamil month Thai (January 14 or January 15 in western calendar). The third day, Maattu Pongal, is meant to offer thanks to the cattle, as they provide milk and are used to plough the lands. Jallikattu, a bull taming contest, marks the main event of this day. During this final day, Kaanum Pongal — the word “kanum”, means ‘to view’ in Tamil — youths used to gather at river banks to view and select their future life partners, but that practice has declined.

The first month in the Tamil calendar is Chittirai and the first day of this month is celebrated as Tamil New Year, which generally falls on April 13 or 14th of the Gregorian calendar. Aadi Perukku is celebrated on the 18th day of the Tamil month Aadi, which celebrates the rising of the water level in the river Cauvery. Apart from these major festivals, in every village and town of Tamil Nadu, the inhabitants celebrate festivals for the local gods once a year and the time varies from place to place. Most of these festivals are related to the goddess Maariyamman, the mother goddess of rain.

Additional major Hindu festivals including Deepavali ( Death of Narakasura, Ayudha Poojai, Saraswathi Poojai (Dasara), Krishna Jayanthi and Vinayaka Chathurthi are celebrated widely. The Ayyavazhi Festival Ayya Vaikunda Avataram is celebrated by the Ayyavazhi followers throughout the state,grandly in the southern districts. In addition Christmas, Eid ul-Fitr, Easter and Bakrid are celebrated by Christians and Muslims in the state.


The Kings of the olden days created sangams for Iyal Isai Nadagam (Literature, Music and Drama). Music plays a major role in sangams. Music in Tamil Nadu had different forms. In villages where farming was the primary work, the ladies who work in the fields used to sing kulavai songs. Odhuvars, Sthanikars or Kattalaiyars offer short musical programmes in the temples by singing the devotional Thevaram songs. In sharp contrast with the restrained and intellectual nature of carnatic music, Tamil folk music tends to be much more exuberant. Popular forms of Tamil folk music include the Villuppāṭṭu, a form of music performed with a bow, and the Nāṭṭuppur̲appāṭṭu, ballads that convey folklore and folk history. Some of the leading Tamil folk artists in the early 21st century are Pushpuvanam Kuppuswamy, Dr Navaneethakrishnan, Chinnaponnu, Paravai muniammal etc.

Carnatic music is the classical music of Southern India. The basic form is a monophonic song with improvised variations. There are 72 basic scales on the octave, and a rich variety of melodic motion. Both melodic and rhythmic structures are varied and compelling. This is one of the world’s oldest & richest musical traditions.Carnatic music abounds in structured compositions in the different ragas. These are songs composed by great artists and handed down through generations of disciples. Three saint composers of the nineteenth century, Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Shastri, have composed thousands of songs that remain favourites among musicians and audiences. The composers belonging to the Tamil Trinity of Muthu Thandavar (?1560 – ?1640 CE), Arunachala Kavi (1712-1779) and Marimutthu Pillai (1717-1787) composed hundreds of devotional songs in Tamil and helped in the evolution of Carnatic music. Today, Tamil Nadu has hundreds of notable carnatic singers who spread this music all over the world. M. S. Subbulakshmi, a renowned carnatic singer, had the honour of singing a song in the UN Security Council.

In terms of modern music (light, film, pop, etc.), the music of Tamil Nadu is praised very highly. Ilaiyaraaja was the most prominent composer of film music in Tamil cinema during the late 1970s and 1980s. His work highlighted Tamil folk lyricism and introduced broader Western musical sensibilities to the South Indian musical mainstream. Tamil Nadu is also the home of A.R. Rahman who is recognised worldwide and has composed film music in both Tamil and Hindi films.

Arts and dance

Tanjore became a major cultural center during the 18th & 19th centuries, under the Maratha rule. Figure depicts a Tanjore painting from this era.

Tamils have a large number of folk dances. These are performed for every possible occasion, to celebrate the arrival of seasons, birth of a child, weddings and festivals. Tamil dance is closely intertwined with the Tamil theatrical tradition. The most celebrated of these is karakattam. In its religious form, the dance is performed in front of an image of the goddess Mariamman. The dancer bears on his or her head a brass pot filled with uncooked rice, decorated with flowers and surrounded by a bamboo frame, and tumbles and leaps to the rhythm of a song without spilling a grain. Karakattam is usually performed to a special type of song known as temmanguppāṭṭu or thevar pāṭṭu, a folk song in the mode of a lover speaking to his beloved, to the accompaniment of a nadaswaram and melam. Other Tamil folk dances include mayilāṭṭam, where the dancers tie a string of peacock feathers around their waist; ōyilāttam, danced in a circle while waving small pieces of cloth of various colours; poykkālkuthiraiyaaṭṭam, where the dancers use dummy horses; mān̲āṭṭam, where the dancers imitate the graceful leaping of deer; par̲aiyāṭṭam, a dance to the sound of rhythmical drumbeats, and thīppandāṭṭam, a dance involving playing with burning wooden torches.

Bharatanatyam dancer at Sri Devi Nrithyalaya Bharatanatyam Centre in Chennai

Bharatanatyam is a classical dance form originating from Tamil Nadu. Bharatanatyam is thought to have been created by Bharata Muni, a Hindu sage, who wrote the Natya Shastra, the most important ancient treatise on classical Indian dance. In ancient times it was performed as dasiattam by Hindu temple Devadasis. In this form, it as also been called sadir or chinna melam. Many of the ancient sculptures in Hindu temples are based on Bharata Natyam dance postures. Bharatanatyam is a traditional dance-form known for its grace, purity, tenderness, and sculpturesque poses. It continues to be a popular and widely performed dance style at present times and is practised by male and female dancers all over India. Therukoothhu (street dance) is a folk tradition of dance-drama.

Film industry

Tamil Nadu is also home to the Tamil film industry, the second largest film industry in India after Bollywood (Hindi films).It is based in Chennai and is a conflation of Hollywood and Kodambakkam, the section of Chennai that houses cinema-related facilities.


Traditionally Tamil dishes are served on a banana leaf instead of a plate and eaten with the right hand. Rice is the staple food of Tamils and accompanied with various sauces along with meat and/ or vegetarian dishes. There are many vegetarians in the area.

Traditional Tamil cuisine includes Dosai, Idly, Vadai, Pongal and Uthappam. These dishes are served along with Sambar, Rasam, Kootu, Aviyal, Chatni and Poriyal. Traditionally prepared Filter Coffee is quite famous, which is unique in taste.

The Chettinad region is famous for its spicy non-vegetarian cuisine. The Tirunelveli region is also famous for its unique wheat halwa. The fast food culture is witnessing a steady growth in Tamil Nadu in recent years. Tamil cuisine has one of the oldest culinary heritages in the world.


Macro-economic trend

Tamil Nadu’s gross state domestic product for 2007 is estimated at 275,000 crores (70 billion USD) in current prices. The state experienced a GDP growth rate of 12.1% for this period. Possessing the third largest economy (2007-2008) among states in India, Tamil Nadu is also the most industrialised state in India. The per capita income for the period 2007 – 2008 for the state was Rs.43,000 ranking second among the South Indian states. It ranks third in foreign direct investment approvals (cumulative 1991-2002) of Rs.225,826 million ($5,000 million), next only to Maharashtra (Rs.366,024 million ($8,100 million)) and Delhi (Rs.303,038 million ($6,700 million)) and the State’s FDI investment constitutes 9.12% of the total FDI in the country. Tamil Nadu was the winner of fDimagazine’s Asian Region of the Future award 2005/06 in terms of FDIs, surpassing Australia’s New South Wales. Unlike many other states, the economic resources are quite spread out, rather than concentrated in a small industrialised area. The overall unemployment is relatively low with 2.8% rural and 4.8% urban from CSI.

Per capita income of Tamil Nadu has grown steadily keeping above the national average.

Gross State Domestic Product – in Rs. Crores and Current Prices

Year Gross State Domestic Product
1980 8,081
1985 15,648
1990 31,339
1995 78,205
2000 141,100
2005 211,074

According to the 2001 Census, Tamil Nadu has the highest level of urbanisation (43.86%) in India, accounting for 6% of India’s total population and 9.6% of the urban population. and is the most urbanized state in India. Services contributes to 45% of the economic activity in the state, followed by manufacturing at 34% and agriculture at 21%. Government is the major investor in the state with 51% of total investments, followed by private Indian investors at 29.9% and foreign private investors at 14.9%. Tamil Nadu has a network of about 110 industrial parks and estates offering developed plots with supporting infrastructure. Also, the state government is promoting other industrial parks like Rubber Park, Apparel Parks, Floriculture Park, TICEL Park for Biotechnology, Siruseri IT Park, and Agro Export Zones among others.

Annual Plan outlays have increased by a record 75% from Rs.52,000 million ($1,100 million) in 2001-2 to Rs.91,000 million ($2,000 million) in 2005-6. Based on URP – Consumption for the period 2004 – 2005, percentage of the state’s population Below Poverty Line was 27.5%.

Agriculture and Irrigation

Paddy fields in Theni District across the backdrop of the Western Ghats

Tamil Nadu has historically been one of the agricultural states; its advances in other fields launched the state into competition with other states. Even so, Tamil Nadu is a leading producer of agricultural products in India. At present, Tamil Nadu is India’s second biggest producer of Rice, next to Punjab where there is perennial source of irrigation.The Cauvery delta region of the composite Thanjavur district is known as the Rice Bowl of South India. Tamil Nadu accounts for nearly 6% of the area under fruits and 4% of the area under vegetables in the country. In terms of production, the State’s share is nearly 10% in fruits and 6% in vegetables.Tamil Nadu is also a leading state in the production of flowers. The total production of horticultural crops is 99.47 Lakhs during 2003-04. The main flowers grown in Tamil Nadu are Jasmine, Mullai, Chrysanthemum, Marigold and Rose. Mango and Banana are the leading fruit crops in Tamil Nadu accounting for over 84% of the area under fruit and over 87% of the total fruit production. Off-season production of mango and round-the-year production of grapes is unique to Tamil Nadu. The main vegetables grown are tapioca, tomato, onion, brinjal and drumstick.

Paddy fields along the NagercoilThiruvananthapuram Highway, near Nagercoil, in Kanyakumari District.

The state is the largest producer of bananas,, flowers, tapioca, the second largest producer of mango, coffee, natural rubber, coconut, groundnut and the third largest producer of sapota, Tea and Sugarcane. Tamil Nadu is also a leading producer of spices, kambu, corn, rye and oil seeds. The main spices grown are chillies, coriander, tamarind, turmeric and curry leaves. Tamil Nadu’s sugarcane yield per hectare is the highest in India. A host of sugar companies have their operations here including EID Parry I Ltd., Thiru Arooran Sugars Ltd., Sakthi Sugars Ltd., Bannari Amman Sugars Ltd. and Rajshree sugars Ltd. The state has 17,000 hectares of land under oil palm cultivation, the second highest in India.Currently, Tamil Nadu is the only state to have a formal bio-diesel policy using jatropha plant crops and to distribute wasteland to the poor farmers for planting.

Tamil Nadu is the home to Dr M.S. Swaminathan, known as the “father of the Green Revolution” in India. Tamil Nadu Agricultural University with its seven colleges and thirty two research stations spread over the entire state contributes to evolving new crop varieties and technologies and disseminating through various extension agencies. The net sown area is 36% of the total geographic area (National average of 46%). The gross cropped area is 53,200 km² with a cropping intensity of 119. Irrigation covers 46% of the cropped area and the remaining 54% is rain-fed. Tamil Nadu’s agriculture is heavily dependent on river water and monsoon rains.

Farmers harvesting in a field near Vellore

The perennial rivers are Palar, Cheyyar River, Ponnaiyar, Kaveri, Meyar, Bhavani, Amaravati, Vaigai, Chittar River & Tamaraparani. Non-perennial rivers include the Vellar, Noyal, Suruli, Gundar, Vaipar, Valparai and Varshali. Canals, tanks and wells form the sources of Irrigation for farmers in the state. As of 2005-2006, the state had 2395 canals with a length of 9,747 km, 40,319 tanks, 670 ordinary government wells, 1,620,705 ordinary private wells and 290,611 tube wells.

Irrigated Agriculture Modernization and Water-bodies Restoration and Management (IAMWARM) project is a World Bank aided project being implemented in Tamil Nadu at a cost of INR 2500 crores. Duration of the project April 1st 2007 to March 31st 2013. The main aim of the project is to restore the existing 40319 tanks to save water to their full capacity as it was created by ancient forefathers of tamilnadu some 2000 years before.


Livestock, poultry and fisheries

Among states in India, Tamil Nadu is one of the leaders in livestock, poultry and fisheries production. The table below gives the data on the total number of livestock and poultry in 2003 (All figures in thousands).

Cattle Buffalos Sheep Goats Pigs Horses & ponies Donkeys Total livestock Total poultry
9141 1658 5593 8177 321 25 26 15800 86591

As per this data, Tamil Nadu had the second largest number of poultry amongst all the states and accounted for 17.7% of the total poultry population in India. The town of Namakkal is also known as the poultry hub. In 2003-2004, Tamil Nadu had produced 4,752,000 tonnes of milk, out of which 3,323,000 tonnes was cow milk and 1,429,000 tonnes was buffalo milk. The state was the ninth largest producer of milk and contributed to 5.39% of the total milk production in the country for that period. The per capita availability of milk for that period was 198 grams/day, which was lesser than the all-India figure of 231 grams/day. In 2003 – 2004, Tamil Nadu had produced 37,836 lakhs of eggs, which was the second highest figure among all the states in India, and represented 9.37% of the total egg production in the country. During 2002-2003, the state had produced 609000 kg of wool. The total fodder produced in the state for 2002-2003 was 31,929,000 tonnes, out of which 21,429,000 tonnes was dry fodder and 10,500,000 tonnes was green fodder. The total number of vertinary institutions in the state in 2006 was 1854.

With the third longest coastline in India, Tamil Nadu is also among the leaders in fisheries and in the production and exports of related products. For the year 2005-2006, total inland fish catchment was 155,944 tonnes and marine fish catchment stood at 389,714 tonnes. For the same period, the total fish and fishery products exported by the state was 72,418 tonnes which was valued at Rs. 19.96 billion. This figure represented 27.54% of the total value of fish and fishery products exported by India for that period.



Hyundai’s manufacturing plant near Chennai

Tamil Nadu is a highly industrialised state. Many heavy engineering and manufacturing-based companies are centred in and around the suburbs of Chennai (nicknamed, “The Detroit of Asia”). Chennai has been able to get a large number of investments due to a combination of infrastructure (ports, road, power), investment climate, low cost and good availability of man power. Chennai boasts the presence of global vehicle manufacturing giants like Ford, RenaultNissan, Caterpillar, Hyundai, Komatsu, BMW, and Mitsubishi as well as domestic heavyweights like MRF, TI Cycles, Ashok Leyland, Royal Enfield, Mahindra & Mahindra(JV with Renault-Nissan to produce Logan brand of cars), TAFE Tractors, and TVS.It also has a railway coach factory,ICF(Integral Coach Factory).Recently in an equal joint venture agreement, Renault and Nissan have decided to invest Rs. 4,500 crore ($1,140 million) to set up an integrated greenfield automotive facility at Oragadam near Chennai. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard was signed with the Government of Tamil Nadu in February 2008. The project will come up on 678 acres and will provide vehicle production platforms for the two car-makers. It will also have powertrain facility. The plant will have an installed capacity of four lakh vehicles annually. The facility is expected to go on stream in 2010.Recently an MoU has been signed between DaimlerHero Motors for establishing a truck manufacturing plant in Oragadam with an investment of Rs 4,400 crores ($1,100 million).This project would give a fillip to the manufacturing sector in Tamil Nadu, especially in the area of automobiles and auto components and help consolidate Chennai’s position as the leading location for automobile production and related industries in India. This is due to the aggressive marketing by the officials of the state. Everything from automobiles, railway coaches, battle-tanks, tractors, motorcycles and heavy vehicles are manufactured in the state. Sterlite Industries have their copper smelter (in Tuticorin) and aluminium (in Mettur) factories here. A large number of textile mills and engineering industries are present around the city of Coimbatore.Coimbatore is also headquarters for Pricol, LMW,ELGI, Suguna and Bromark PioneerPoultry. Karur is well known for its beautiful world class bus body building industries where most of the buses used in south India are manufactured, and truck bodies are built in Namakkal near by karur. Over 11.2% of the S&P CNX 500 conglomerates have corporate offices in Tamil Nadu. The Kalpakkam Nuclear Power Plant, Ennore Thermal Plant, Neyveli Lignite Power Plant, many hydroelectric plants including Mettur and the Narimanam Natural Gas Plants are major sources of Tamil Nadu’s electricity. It is presently adding the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant to its energy grid. Tamil Nadu sources a significant proportion of its power needs from renewable sources with wind power installed capacity at over 3600 MW or over 40% of the maximum peak demand. As of 2005, Tamil Nadu is one of the few Indian states with surplus power electricity, enabling the electrical authority to sell it to neighbouring states of Andra Pradesh & Karnataka. Tamil Nadu ranks first nationwide in diesel-based thermal electricity generation with national market share of over 34%.

The textile industry plays a significant role in the Indian economy by providing direct employment to an estimated 35 million people, and thereby contributing 4% of GDP and 35% of Gross Export Earnings. The textile sector contributes to 14% of the manufacturing sector. There are a lot of Textile mills located in Coimbatore. The city of Tirupur (Coimbatore District), in Tamil Nadu is the country’s largest exporter of cotton knitwear and sometimes referred to as Textile valley of India. In 2004, the export turnover from the town was more than Rs. 50,000 million ($1,000 million). Some 7,000 garment units in the town provides employment opportunity to 7,50,000 people. 56% of India’s total knitwear exports come from Tirupur. The Export Import Policy of 2002-2007 acknowledges Tirupur for its contribution to the export efforts. Next to Tirupur, the city of Karur generates around (3,500 million) $750 million a year in foreign exchange and give the opportunity to 3,00,000 peoples for work. The Karur exports of Home-Textile products such as bed linens, kitchen linens, toilet linens, table linens and wall hangings. Madurai and Kanchipuram are famous for their handloom and silk saris.

Wind turbines at Muppandal in Nagercoil Kanyakumari District. In the background are hills of the Western Ghats.

Electronics manufacturing is a growing industry in Tamil Nadu. Companies like Nokia, Flextronics, Motorola, Sony-Ericsson, Foxconn, Samsung, Cisco, Moser Baer and Dell have chosen Chennai as their South Asian manufacturing hub. Products manufactured include circuit boards and cellular phone handsets. Ericsson also has a Research and Development facility in Chennai. Big EPC companies have set up their Engineering centres which include Saipem I Project Services ltd, Technip, Foster Wheeler, Mott Mecdonald, Petrofac and Technimont. The Austrian company Austrian Energy and Environment also have a design office here besides local giant ECC {Larsen & Toubro}. Sanmina-SCI is the latest company to invest in Tamil Nadu to create a state of the art manufacturing facility. Nokia Siemens Networks has decided to build a manufacturing plant for wireless network equipment in Tamil Nadu. Moser Baer has decided on setting up a facility to manufacture silicon-based photovoltaic thin film modules and allied products with an investment of $500 million.

Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, a global electrical equipment manufacturing public sector company, has manufacturing plants at Tiruchirapalli and Ranipet. The construction industry also saw new entrants like BGR Energy systems ltd, Consolidated construction consortium.

The state government owns the Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Papers (TNPL), the world’s biggest bagasse based Paper mills in Karur . as well as the world’s sixth largest manufacturer of watches together with TATA at hosur, under the brand name of “Titan”. 55% of all wind-generated electricity in India is created by windmills in Tamil Nadu. Renowned Danish wind power company NEG Micon has established its manufacturing unit in Chennai.

Tamil Nadu is a leading producer of Cement in India. It is the home of leading cement brands in the country such as Chettinad Cements (in Karur), Dalmia Cements (in Ariyalur), Ramco cements (Madras Cement Ltd), India cements (in Sankari, Ariyalur), Grasim etc. Big companies like MICO and Cognizant solutions have set up their design offices here. L&T is setting up big manufacturing units with an investment of 500 crores.[ Even temple city Madurai has attracted Honeywell to set up their centre here.

The town of Sivakasi is a leader in the areas of printing, fireworks, and safety matches. It was fondly called as Kutty Japan or “little Japan” by Jawaharlal Nehru. It contributes to 80% of India’s production of safety matches as well as 90% of India’s total fireworks production. Sivakasi provides over 60% of India’s total offset printing solutions and ranks as one of the highest taxpaying towns in India. Sivakasi also is a 100% employed town, putting it in the company of very few towns in India.

Tamil Nadu has a significant amount of mineral reserves such as lignite (87%), vermiculite (66%), garnet (42%), zircon (38%), graphite (33%), ilmenite (28%), rutile (27%), monazite (25%), and magnesite (17%). The numbers in the brackets indicate the percentage contribution to the national share. India’s leading steel producer, SAIL has a steel plant in Salem.

The Tidel Park in Chennai is one of the largest software parks in India

Tamil Nadu is a leading contributor in the IT and BPO sectors. Tamil Nadu is the third largest software exporter by value in India, second only to Karnataka and Maharashtra. India’s largest IT park is in Chennai. Software exports from Tamil Nadu more than doubled from Rs. 76 billion ($1.6 billion) in 2003-04 to Rs. 141.15 billion {$3.53 billion} in 2005-06 and zoomed to Rs. 207 billion {$5 billion} by 2006-07 according to NASSCOM.  Chennai is a hub for e-publishing with 47 e-publishing units registered with the STPI in Chennai. Companies such as eBay, Hewlett-Packard, Computer Sciences Corporation, Virtusa, HCL, Wipro, TCS, Satyam, Infosys, Polaris Software Lab, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Acme Technology Pvt Ltd, Covansys, Capgemini, Ford Information Technology, Xansa,Changepond, Verizon, iSoft,insoft, iNautix, MphasiS(Electronic Data Systems), Bally and many others have offices in Chennai. Infosys Technologies has set up India’s largest software development centre to house 25,000 software professionals at an estimated investment of Rs. 12,500 million ($270 million) in Chennai. Chennai is also the preferred destination for companies outsourcing their high-end knowledge intensive operations. Testimony to this is the presence of major market research companies such as Frost & Sullivan and equity research companies such as Irevna in Chennai. This is the next high growth area that Chennai is witnessing.



Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Pamban railway bridge, which connects the Pamban Island where Rameswaram, one of the holiest spots of Hinduism is situated, with the mainland, is considered to be one of the marvels of modern engineering

Tamil Nadu has a well established transportation system that connects all parts of the state. This is partly responsible for the investment growth in the state. Tamil Nadu is served by an extensive road network, providing links between urban centers, agricultural market-places and rural areas. There are 24 national highways in the state, covering a total distance of 2,002 km. The state is also a terminus for the Golden Quadrilateral project that is scheduled to be completed in 2008. The state has a total road length of 167,000 km, of which 60,628 km are maintained by Highways Department. This is nearly 2.5 times higher than the density of all-India road network. It is currently working on upgrading its road network, though the pace of work is considered slow.

Tamil Nadu has a well developed rail network as part of Southern Railway. Headquartered at Chennai, the Southern Railway network extends over a large area of India’s Southern Peninsula, covering the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Pondicherry, a small portion of Karnataka and a small portion of Andhra Pradesh. Tamil Nadu has a total railway track length of 5,952 km and there are 532 railway stations in the state. The system connects it with most major cities in India. Main rail junctions in the state include Chennai, Erode, Coimbatore, Villupuram, Madurai, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy) and Salem. Chennai has a well-established suburban railway network and is in the process of developing a metro.

Ghat roads en route Valparai in Coimbatore district

Tamil Nadu has a major international airport, Chennai International Airport, that is connected with 19 countries with more than 169 direct flights every week. This is currently the third largest airport in India after Mumbai and Delhi and has a passenger growth of 18%. It also has domestic airports at Coimbatore, Trichy, Tuticorin and Madurai make several parts of the state easily accessible. Increased industrial activity has given rise to an increase in passenger traffic as well as freight movement which has been growing at over 18 per cent per year.

Tamil Nadu has three major ports at Chennai, Ennore and Tuticorin, as well as one intermediate port, Nagapattinam, and seven minor ports, Rameswaram, Kanyakumari, Cuddalore, Colachel, Karaikal, Pamban and Valinokkan which are currently capable of handling over 73 million metric tonnes of cargo annually (24 per cent share of India). All the minor ports are managed by the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board. Chennai Port is an artificial harbour situated on the Coromandel Coast in South-East India and it is the second principal port in the country for handling containers. Ennore Port was recently converted from an intermediate port to a major port and handles all the coal and ore traffic in Tamil Nadu. The volume of cargo in the ports grew by 13 per cent during 2005. The ports are in need of improvement and some of them have container terminals privatised.


Fauna and Flora

Lion-tailed macaque, an endangered species

The state has a wide range of flora and fauna. There is a wide diversity of wildlife. There are many Protected areas of Tamil Nadu, including 2 Biosphere Reserves, 5 National Parks and several Wildlife Sanctuaries, where many unique species and their habitats are protected Tamil Nadu includes a wide range of Biomes, extending east from the South Western Ghats montane rain forests in the Western Ghats through the South Deccan Plateau dry deciduous forests and Deccan thorn scrub forests to tropical dry broadleaf forests and then to the beaches, estuaries, salt marshes, mangroves, and coral reefs of the Bay of Bengal.



There are about 2000 species of wildlife that are native to Tamil Nadu. Protected areas provide safe habitat for large mammals including Elephants, Tigers, Leopard, Wild dog, Sloth bears, Gaurs, Lion-tailed macaques, Nilgiri Langurs, Nilgiri Tahrs, Grizzled Giant Squirrels and Sambar deer, resident and migratory birds such as Cormorants, Darters, Herons, Egrets, Open-billed Storks, Spoonbills and White Ibises, Little Grebes, Indian Moorhen, Black-winged Stilts, a few migratory Ducks and occasionally Grey Pelicans, marine species such as the Dugongs, Turtles, Dolphins and Balanoglossus and a wide variety of fish and insects.



Tamil Nadu is the home for 3000 plant species including Eucalyptus, Palmyra, Rubber, Cinchona, Clumping Bamboos (Bambusa Arundinacea), Common teak, Anogeissus latifolia, Indian Laurel , Grewia, and blooming trees like Indian labumusum, Aredesia, and Solanancea. Rare and unique plantlife includes Combretum ovalifolium, Ebony (Dispyros nilagrica), Habebarai reriflora (Orchid), Alsophila, Impatiens elegans, Ranunculus reniformis, and Royal fern. Tamil Nadu ranks first in Angiosperm diversity amongst all the states in the country with 5640 species (32%) of the total 17,672 species, which includes 230 red-listed species and 1559 species of medicinal plants



Courtallam waterfalls in Tirunelveli district

Tamil Nadu’s tourism industry is the second largest in India, with an annual growth rate of 16%. Tourism in Tamil Nadu is promoted by Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC), a Government of Tamil Nadu undertaking. TTDC was incorporated in July, 1971, with the objective of promoting tourism in Tamil Nadu by providing infrastructure facilities in transport and accommodation. To fulfil this objective, TTDC has expanded its activities into 3 main operations, namely, hotels, transport and fairs. At present, TTDC operates 54 hotels, 11 boat houses, 3 restaurants, 3 snack bars, 4 telescope houses, 2 landscaping & gardening and 1 tourist service center. TTDC offers wide range of package tours and operates a fleet of 22 coaches. The tagline adopted for promoting tourism in Tamil Nadu is Enchanting Tamil Nadu. Approximately 1,753,000 foreign and 50,647,000 domestic tourists visited the state in 2007.

The Vellore Fort which was built in the 16th century

Tamil Nadu is a land of varied beauty. It boasts some of the grandest Hindu temples of Dravidian architecture in the World. The temples are of a distinct style which are famous for their towering Gopurams. The Brihadishwara Temple in Thanjavur, built by the Cholas, and the Shore Temple, along with the collection of other monuments in Mahabalipuram have been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.The Rajagopuram of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam — the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world — is the tallest temple gopuram in the world Madurai is home to one of the grandest Hindu temples in the World — Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. Rameshwaram, Kanchipuram and Palani are important pilgrimage sites for Hindus. Other popular temples in Tamil Nadu include those in Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Chidambaram, Thiruvannaamalai, Aragalur, Tiruttani, Swamithoppe, Tiruchendur and Tiruvallur.

Kanyakumari, the Southernmost tip of Mainland India, at sunrise

Tamil Nadu is also home to many beautiful hill stations. Popular among them are Udhagamandalam (Ooty), Kodaikanal, Yercaud, Coonoor, Top Slip and Yelagiri. The Nilgiri hills, Palani hills, Shevaroy hills and Cardamom hills are all abodes of thick forests and wildlife. Mukurthi National Park & Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve are the two tiger reserves in the state. Tamil Nadu has many National Parks, Biosphere Reserves, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Elephant and Bird Sanctuaries, Reserved Forests, Zoos and Crocodile farms. Prominent among them are Mudumalai National Park, The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary and Arignar Anna Zoological Park. The mangrove forests in Pichavaram are also eco-tourism spots of importance.

Kanyakumari, the southern most tip of peninsular India, is famous for its distinct and beautiful sunrise, Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar‘s statue built off the coastline. Marina Beach in Chennai is one of the longest beaches in the world. The stretch of beaches from Chennai to Mahabalipuram are home to many resorts, theme parks and eateries. The Waterfalls in the state include Courtallam, Hogenakal, Papanasam and Manimuthar. The Chettinad region of the state is renowned for its Palatial houses and cuisine. In recent years, Tamil Nadu is also witnessing a growth in Medical tourism, as are many other states in India.


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