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South India Destinations

Capital of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Chennai is famous for its beaches, Tamil traditions and food. The Tamil people are proud guardians of their culture, and present a mix of the modern and the traditional. The Fort St. George, built in 1640, as a British trading post, rapidly gave rise to an entire city around it. George Town is the business district of this southern metropolis. The 2 mile long Marina Beach is reportedly the world's second longest beach. The Kapaleeshwar Temple at Mylapore, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is more than three centuries old and has a massive gopuram (South Indian temple tower).

Known as the City of Thousand Temples, Kanchipuram's temples are centers of pilgrimage as well as culture. The Ekambeshwara Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, has gopurams almost 60 meters tall. The Sri Varadraja Perumal Temple, located on Elephant Hill, sprawls over 23 acres and has splendid stone carvings on pillars and walls. Kanchipuram is an important center of both Hindu and Jain pilgrimage in South India. The Jain temples were built by the Pallavas in the 9th century and house a massive stone image of Lord Mahaveer.

Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram, is located 58 kilometer away from Chennai, on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. Mahabalipuram is famous for its rock cut sculptures and bas-relief artwork, depicting scenes from the daily life of ordinary people. The massive chariots cut from single rocks are a feature unique to Mahabalipuram. The two famous rathas, or chariots, are Arjuna's Penance and Krishna Mandapa, whose architecture show a strong Buddhist influence. The Shore Temple is built on the seashore and dominates the skyline of the town.

Pondicherry was an important outpost of the French colonial empire, which explains the clear French influences on this Union Territory. In the older districts of the city, you can still see signboards written in French. The origin of this city is shrouded in mystery. It had trade relations with the ancient Greek and Roman empires, and was also known to have flourished under the Chola dynasty of the 10th century AD. The French style buildings lend a quaint, old world atmosphere to the city. The world famous Aurobindo Ashram, started by Shree Aurobindo, draws spiritual seekers from all over the world. Auroville, the City of Dawn, inspired by the teachings of Sri Aurobindo, seeks to be a model city for people from all races and faiths.

Tanjore, or Thanjavur, has been ruled by the Chola, Nayakan and Maratha dynasties. Known as the Rice Bowl of India, this town to the east of Trichy has a network of canals running across it. The Brahadeeshwar Temple, built by the greatest Chola king, Raja Raja Chola, is world famous for its marvelous architecture. Built in 1009 AD, this massive temple lies within the Shiv Ganga Fort. A tall gopuram stands at the center of the Temple. Tanjore is famous for its Tanjore paintings that depict female deities, their ornaments or clothes embossed with gold leaf or semi precious stones.

Trichy, or Tiruchinapalli, is the fourth largest city of Tamil Nadu. It lies on the banks of the river Cauvery. The massive Rockfort Temple towers in the center of the town. Steep stairs cut into the rock lead to the entrance of the temple. The Srirangaswamy Temple complex is built on an island in the Cauvery. St. John's Church, built in 1821, has old tombs and memorial plaques dedicated to the loved ones of the British who once lived in the town.

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