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Things To Do In Chidambaram
Chidambaram is a region of temples, but its proximity to the sea and the backwaters promise natural attractions that you are sure to find appealing. There are some places around Chidambaram that make an idyllic holiday getaway. While visiting the temples, take a stroll along the township which is so synonymous with a serene rural setting and a thriving hub of art all rolled into one. Chidambaram is a peaceful retreat from the hectic humdrum of city life, for as you travel around the town, you find more places with ancient temples and abandoned forts. Though you would not find adrenaline pumping adventure sports in Chidambaram, you’d find it’s a conglomeration of art, divinity and nature at its best.
We will give you a list of the things you can do in Chidambaram, souvenirs to shop for, the special food of the temple town and its festivals.
The Chidambaram Natyanjali Dance Festival invokes the grandeur of Shiva as Nataraja. The Dance Festival celebrates culture and divinity, with classical dancers from all over the world participating in an aesthetic adoration of Shiva through dances from every state of India. Organised by the Tamil Nadu’s Department of Tourism and Natyanjali Trust, the 5 day festival is held during Maha Shivaratri (February-March). Tourists throng to Chidambaram just to watch India’s ancient classical art forms at their ultimate!
Pichavaram Mangrove Forests
This is one of the most fascinating and lovely places of Chidambaram. Pichavaram makes up clusters of about 40 small islands that are so enchantingly overgrown with lush mangrove forests encircled by vast stretches of crystalline waters that join the Bay of Bengal, separated by a sand bar. Situated between the Vellar and Coleroon estuaries that make up the Killai backwaters, Pichavaram is the world’s second largest mangrove forest.
Tamil Nadu Tourist Development Corporation conducts boat safaris on the backwaters for tourists. Fringed on either side by luxuriant mangrove greenwoods, a boat ride on the Pichavaram waters is sure to be a beautiful experience. Keep your camera handy, for the region has plenty of wild water birds and smaller mammals, along with a variety of fishes in the waters.
If trekking is one of your passions, then head off to Kalrayan hills, on the Eastern Ghats. Made up largely of evergreen and deciduous forests, the rather smoothly formed hill ranges are called Chinna (small) Kalrayan at a height of 2700 ft and Periya (large) Kalrayan ranging about 4000 ft. Kalrayan Hills are one of the most preferred trekker’s trails in Tamil Nadu, with the Megam Falls and Periyar Falls at the foothills and the Gomukhi Dam adding to its grandeur. Check out the botanical garden at the top.
The Kalrayan Hills are in the Villupuram district, about 150 km from Chidambaram. You could travel by train from Chidambaram to Villupuram and proceed to Kalrayan Hills by bus from Villupuram.
Visit the Tharangambadi Beach
Get off on a weekend trip to Tharangambadi, a quiet coastal fishing village and port in Nagapattinam district. Tranquebar or Trankebar as the Danish colonists called it, was the early trading post set up by the Danes in 1620. Tranquebar later came under the control of the British, way about 1840. Fort Dansborg or the Danish Fort sits right on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. Formerly the residence of the Governor, the Fort that was built in 1620 by Danish Admiral Ove Gjedde, is now a museum with artefacts from the 17th century Vijayanagara and Thanjavur Nayak kingdoms and Danish manuscripts, sculptures, pottery, weapons and kitchenware among a hoard of other interesting archaic displays.
Spend the sunset by the sea off Tharangambadi, which is called the place of the singing waves. Check out the ancient church, the temples and the restored colonial era bungalows in Tharangambadi. The town is about 50 km from Chidambaram.
If you are fascinated by all things historic, then go on an excursion to the small village called Ulkottai near Gangaikonda Cholapuram. This is where the hushed relics of an 11th century township that must have seen its heydays once upon a time stand. Maligai Medu might have been the place where a palace that was built in 1012 stood. Abandoned and crumbled into ruins that are being excavated by the State Archaeological Department, you get to see parts of the excavated palace, and artefacts displayed in an open air park nearby. It is a lush fertile region where the park is and it makes your tryst with ancient times all the more memorable. Gangaikonda Cholapuram is about 48 km from Chidambaram.
Chidambaram’s cuisine is the regular traditional type of fare that you would find in any part of Tamil Nadu. There are the regular South Indian breakfast dishes like idli, varieties of soft to crispy dosas, ven Pongal and medu vada that are never complete without a steaming cup of kaapi (Coffee). You get tasty vegetarian and non vegetarian food served on banana platters, North Indian thali meals and multi cuisine specialities as well. Chidambara Gothsu is a special fare that is prepared with brinjal and used as a side dish for idlis and dosas. Conventionally, the Gothsu is made along with Jeeraga Sambha rice as neivedhya (Divine offering) in the Chidambaram Nataraja Temple.
Chidambaram does not hold much thrill for shopaholics. You could buy brass and bronze lamps, bells and idols and artificial dance jewellery sets and gold-coated ornaments. Chidambaram Nataraja idol is a must buy souvenir from the temple town. You could find a good bargain in handlooms and textiles, silk and cotton saris.
Visit the Khadi handicraft shop at the market place near the Shiva temple for handloom and textiles, handmade incense sticks and handicrafts. Take a stroll through Chinna Kadai (Market) street where you might find more keepsakes. You could take a trip to Bhuvanagiri, about 7 km from Chidambaram for the special Bhuvanagiri Pattu (silk) saris and handloom dhotis, lungies and handkerchiefs.