Tamil Nadu is bounded by Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in the north and Kerala in the west. The waters of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean wash the coastal eastern and southern boundaries respectively. Point Calimere and Mudumalai wildlife sanctuaries define the eastern and western tips of the state while at the northern extreme is Pulicat Lake and at the southernmost tip is Cape Camorin or Kanniyakumari.
About Tamil Nadu
The state has an area of 1,30,058 sq. km and a population of over 55 million. Traditionally, the land has been divided into 5 major physiographic divisions - the Kurinji or mountainous region, the Mullai or forest region, the Palai or arid region, the Marudham or the fertile plains and the Neidhal or coastal region.
Coastal Tamil Nadu comprises the Coromandel Coast in the north and the Fisheries coast in the south. Mylapore, Poompuhar and Mamallapuram were the famous ancient ports on the Coromandel from where merchant ships sailed to Rome, Greece and the Far East. Once famous for its pearls, the Fisheries coast is a major tourist attraction since it has some of the most important pilgrim centres in India. There are mangrove forests at Pichavaram and prominent bird sanctuaries at Pulicat Lake and Vedanthangal, though the latter is not on the coast itself. The arid land in the state is confined to a small area in Tirunelveli district and is known as the Palai.
This area receives abundant rainfall and the scenic valleys of Cumbum and Pollachi are tilled with plantations of tea, coffee and spices. Yercaud in the Shevaroy hills is famous for its fruit orchards and banana and coffee plantations.
The perennial river of the state is the Cauveri, which originates in Coorg in the neighbouring state of Karnataka. The Cauveri and its delta in Thanjavur irrigate the fertile Coromandel plains. Nagapattinam region is known as the granary of Tamil Nadu. The other rivers in the state are the Palar, Ponnaiyar, Pennar, Vaigai and Tamiraparani all of which flow eastward from the inland hills. The Cauveri and its tributaries are Tamil Nadu's most important sources of water and power.
Apart from the rich alluvial soil of the river deltas, the predominant soils are clay, loam and red laterite (soils with a high content of iron oxides and aluminum hydroxide). The black cotton-growing soil known as regur is found in parts of Salem and Coimbatore in the west, Ramanathapuram and Tirunelveli in the south, and Tiruchchirappalli in the central region of Tamil Nadu.
The mixed deciduous forests of the region have over 3000 plant species. One of the most noteworthy flowers is the Kurinji of Kodaikanal, which blooms once in 12 years. Cinchona from which quinine - a drug for treating malaria - is extracted and eucalyptus grow abundantly in the Nilgiris. Forests of medicinal herbs are found in Palani hills and Courtallam. Products of Palmyrah trees are used as raw materials for several cottage industries. Rubber is the main plantation crop in Kanniyakumari and the more exotic sandalwood grows, though not in very large numbers, in the Javadhu hills of Vellore district.
Tamil Nadu's wildlife sanctuaries like Mudumalai and Annamalai (Indira Gandhi wild life sanctuary) are situated in the hills of the Western Ghats and are the habitat of elephants, tigers, bisons and a variety of monkey and deer.
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.