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  • Tamil Nadu: The state with the highest number of GI products

    India has a total of 236 GI products and Tamil Nadu comes first for the number of GI tags on its products, while Uttar Pradesh comes second. Darjeeling Tea was the first Indian product to get a Geographic Indication in the early 2000’s. Geographical Indications (GI) have become a matter of pride for the state, as well as the country. So what it is a Geographical Indication and how do these numbers add up?5

    As a member of the World Trade Organisation, India brought into effect the Geographical Indication of Goods Act in 1999. This was essentially defined as “A sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess certain qualities due to that origin”. The GI sign protects these products from being duplicated, thus assuring customers the quality that the product brings. Geographical Indications for products also enables the world to recognise these unique products, boost the tourism and trade for the country and the state, thus becoming a cultural and economic pride.


    Tamil Nadu tops the list of local products that have been earmarked for GI. The state has submitted 50 products of which 24 have been approved by the registry. The most famous among these would be the Kanchipuram silk. The town of Kanchipuram believes its weavers are descendents of Sage Markands, the master weaver of Gods, and true to the tale, the saris stand out in their resplendence. Other textiles from Tamil Nadu to get the GI sign include Salem Silk, Kovai Cora Cotton and Arani silk. The hand-woven Madurai Sungudi is famed for its natural dyes and dotted patterns. It is the first product from the town of Madurai to get the GI tag, but it is closely followed by the Madurai Malli. The malli or jasmine from Madurai is in demand across the world for its seductive fragrance, from which branded perfumes are formulated.

    Shop for this Thanjavur Dancing Doll - Click Here Shop for this Thanjavur Dancing Doll - Click Here

    A very unique product that is probably the only one of its type to get the GI tag is the Coimbatore wet grinder. An indigenous product of the city, this grinder’s matchless design helps millions across the country grind batter for their favourite idli and dosa. Moving away from food to culture, Indian dancers often get envious looks at their stone studded jewellery. The men behind the glitter are the artisans of Vadasery in Nagercoil district, who have for centuries made dazzling jewellery of a unique kind for temple Gods across South India. Nagercoil temple jewellery as it is called has earned itself the well deserved GI tag. Talking of dancers, the Tanjavur Dancing Doll is a study in not just arts, but science as well. This GI doll is made of terracotta, in such proportions that when shaken, the doll dances and comes back to its original state always, thanks to centre of gravity.

    Be it a brilliant weaving technique, a sumptuous traditional dish, or nature’s own flora, India has a rich tradition to preserve. In a world driven by patents and copyrights, Geographical Indications are a boon to protect India’s rich cultural and natural resources.

  • South India- the birthplace of Dravidian Architecture

    The Dravidian style of Architecture is the characteristic South Indian style and is mainly found in the Southern Indian  states of  Tamil NaduKarnatakaKeralaTelangana, and Andhra Pradesh. The Dravidian architecture can mainly be seen through the temples; which were of various shapes such as square, rectangular, octagonal, star-shaped etc and they were made from stones. They were constructed by sandstone, steatite or granite. The Vastu Shastra, an ancient science of architecture and construction, states it as one of the three styles of temple building.

    Image credit - wikipedia Image credit - wikipedia

    The Dravidian style temples inhere almost universally of four parts. They differ only according to the age in which they were constructed. The main part, contained the hall where the image of the god or his symbol was placed, the temple itself was called the Vimana. It was always constructed square in plan and on top of it was a pyramidal roof of one or more levels. A pillared outdoor hall or pavilion for public rituals, known as Mandapas (or porches) was built to cover and precede the door leading to the main hall where the deity was kept. The primary features in the quadrangular enclosures that surrounded the more remarkable temples were the gate-pyramids known as Gopurams. These rectangular, pyramidal towers were often 50 metres high with intricate sculptures of gods, demons, humans, and animals on them.  Pillared halls (Chaultris) used for several processes were the unvarying appendage to the Dravidian temples. The most holy place was the pitha (altar), or plinth, of the Deity.

    The altar was located in the sanctum sanctorum (inner sanctum) which was known as the garbha-griha meaning womb house. There were no sculptures, but that of the main deity in the garbha-griha or inner sanctum of the main shrine. The gateway that faced the sanctum was called mahadvara and was the main entrance to the temple.

    There had to be a significant ceremony known as impregnating (garbhadhana or garbha-nyasa) before the construction of the garbha-griha and so that part of the temple was built first. The sanctum sanctorum (central shrine) was topped by a pyramidal tower several stories high called vimana or sikhara. It was crowned by a chakra in a Lord Vishnu temple and a trident in a Lord Siva temple.

    The garbha-griha and the pavilion in front of the main altar was connected by a vestibule or porch called ardha mandapa or antarala.

    640px-Lad_NKAD90 Image Credit - wikipedia

    In front of the sanctum (mukha mandapa), there used to be a hall (usually of rectangular shape) where the devotees stood to be able to see the main deity of the temple. The nityarchana mandapa is where the worship of the small (moveable) representative of the main deity is done every day. There used to be a flight of stairs to connect the first prakara with the sanctum sanctorum and was called sopana. It was in front of this flight of stairs where the main mandapa was.

    The other deities and the consort of the main deity (Lakshmi or Parvati) were kept in the subsidiary shrines or altars.

    Many of the Dravidian temples had halls for various purposes. For example, hall for holding large audience- ranga-mandapa, hall for occasional sacrifices-yajna, hall for dance recitals- nritya-mandapa, hall for marriage ceremonies- kalyana-mandapa, hall in the middle of the temple tank used for festivals- vasanta-mandapa, hall for festive occasions- utsava-mandapa, place where the festival vehicles were kept- vahana-mandapa and asthana-mandapa- where the processional deity held alankara-mandapa where the deity was dressed before being taken on cavalcade.

     There also used to be a treasury, a kitchen (paka-sala), store room (ugrana), dining hall (Ramanuja-kuta in a Vaishnava temple and Siva-kuta in a Siva temple) in such temples.

    Image Credit - wikipedia Image Credit - wikipedia

    In the temple ground, outside the main entrance of the garbha- griha was the flagpost (dhvaja- stambha) and a platform for food offerings (bali-pitha). Every temple usually had a temple tank (teppakulam), flower garden (nandavana), and temple chariot (ratha). On festival days the processional deity was cavalcaded around town on the chariot.  Thousands of people joined the festival parade with zest.

    Several empires and kingdom of Southern India imprinted their influence on architecture.

    The Sangam period (from 300BCE -300CE), made brick shrines for the deities Murugan, Shiva, Amman and Thirumal (Vishnu) of Tamil pantheon. One of the temples, the Saluvannkuppan Murukan Temple was built in three layers; the lowest layer consisted of the brick shrine. As the dynasties expanded, various structural additions, such as sculptures of art, nature and deities, were made to the brick shrines. Some examples of these additions can be seen in the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple and the Srirangam Ranganathaswamy Temple from the Sangam period.

    The Pallavas (from 600-900 AD) are considered the pioneers of South Indian architecture. Their greatest work of art was the construction of single rock temples in Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram, which are now part of Tamil Nadu. The Dravidian style temples were initially built in the Badami Chalukya – Pallava period. Rock – cut temples were made between 610 CE and 690 CE and the structural temples were built between 690 CE – 900 CE. They made pillared halls and monolithic shrines known as rathas in Mahabalipuram. Not only did the Pallavas pioneer in the construction of the rock cut temples (without using building materials like mortar, bricks etc), rather it was them who started constructing large temples and very large deities and idols. The Thiruppadagam and Thiruooragam temples have images of Lord Vishnu which are 28 and 35 feet high respectively in his expression of Pandavadhootar and Trivikraman. Dravidian style of architecture was prevalent in the whole of Tamil Nadu.

    Arjuna Penance in Mahabalipuram Image Credit - wikimedia

    The Pandya built a 12  tiered temple; the Srivilliputtur Andal Temple, which is also the official symbol of the government of Tamil Nadu. Its tower is 192 feet high; which is almost equal to 59 meters high. The famous Meenakshi temple in Madurai is another example of the temples built in this period.

    The Cholas were very creative temple builders;  The Brihadeshvara Temple of Thanjavur, Brihadeshvara Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, the Airavatesvara Temple of Darasuram are the temples which have been given the title of ‘ Great Living Chola Temples ‘ among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Sarabeswara (Shiva) Temple, also known as the Kampahareswarar Temple at Thirubhuvanam, is yet another magnificient temple built by the Chola dynasty.

    The Rastrakutas ruled in the period 753 – 973 CE. They built beautiful Dravidian  monuments at Ellora and Elephanta (now known as Maharashtra), such as the Jaina Narayana Temple, Navalinga Temple and the Kailasanatha temple, in the rock cut architecture style. The Rastrakutas constructed 34 temples; all in the rock – cut style. The walls of the temple have sculptures from the Hindu mythology depicting the Dravidian art. The ceilings, too, have beautiful paintings.

    Image Credit - wikipedia Image Credit - wikipedia

    The Chera style of architecture is only one of its kind in Dravidian architecture. The Thirunelli Temple, the Vadakkunnathan Temples, Kodungallur Bhagavathy Temple and Kandiyur Siva Temple are its examples.

    Thus we can see that South India has wonderful works of Dravidian architecture worth watching.


    The metal art plates of Thanjavur are the traditional handicraft of Tamil Nadu. These beautiful plates showcase the careful workmanship of the artisans. This art is said to have emerged about 250 years ago. It is said that Rajah Sirfoji II wanted to present some unique piece of art to his guests. He was so impressed on seeing these art plates that out of the various wonderful works of the artisans, he chose to gift these amazing art plates.

    Thanjavur Special Work Art Plate

    Shop for this Thanjavur Special Work Art Plate  Click Here

    The Thanjavur Art plates are made using brass, copper and silver. The wonderful art plates bear designs of birds, animals, flowers, gods and goddesses or even geometric patterns. The designs are beaten out of copper and silver sheets and then embossed on a brass plate. The plates are usually round in shape. They are mounted on a wooden base and made into wall hangings. The plates are available in various sizes with the maximum size being 32 inches.

    In more modern forms of the Thanjavur brass plates, along with the base of the brass plate,silver foils with embossed motifs arranged on laminated shields on wooden base is also being used. This gives an impression of a totally silver memento, and the look is quite rich.

    Thanjavur Art Plates have been given legal protection from counterfeit products. In 1999, they were registered under the Geographical Indication Act, according to which Thanjavur Art Plate producers must register themselves as Authorized Users. This way, duplicate works can be checked and questioned by checking out the GI registration and logo.

    Thanjavur Art Plates, also known as the tri – metal – artwork, is practiced by almost 250 artisans, who belong to the Viswakarma community and live in and around the Thanjavur town.

    Appreciating the lovely Art Plates of Thanjavur, Mr. Dattatreya, Senior assistant Director, Office of the Development Commissioner (handicrafts), Union Ministry of Textiles, said that if the designs on the Art Plates can also be used on utility products such as jewelry boxes, candle stands, mirrors etc., it can add value to them.

    For the further improvement and sustenance of this craft, the Tamil Nadu govt. is aiming to provide insights to the artisans regarding certain technical inputs for surface treatment for preventing discoloration or fading of the Art Plates. To cater to the changing tastes of the buyers and for it to suit all types of markets, artisans are also being sensitized about new themes that can be adapted to this art.

  • 5 Monuments and temples with the best architecture in South India

    South India has some of the best monuments and temples that are architecturally brilliant. Some of these historical monuments and temples are visited both by national as well as international tourists. In South India, the temples that were constructed long back can even be classified as monuments because of their old world charm and their architectural profoundness. Let’s find out the best temples and monuments that you just need to visit when you have south India on your travel agenda.

    Mamallapuram Shore Temple, Chennai

    Located in the Kanchipuram district, it is about 60 kms from Chennai. Being one of the oldest temples of the country and a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is also a good example of structural temples made in stone. It was in fact the first building of its time that was made of granite stone rather than rocks. It was built in the 7thcentury; this temple is a group of three temples located overlooking the Bay of Bengal in Mamallapuram. The temple is literally located on the shore, and an early morning sunrise when the sun shines through the sea onto Shiva Linga in the main shrine is a sight to behold.

    1 Image Credit - commons.wikimedia.org

    Mysore Palace, Mysore

    This palace belongs to the royal family of Wodeyar Maharajas. The palace you now see was redesigned and remade by an English architect in 1912. This breathtaking beautiful building has beautiful interiors and you can see different artifacts and paintings inside. One day of the week, the palace is lit with around 10000 light bulbs that make its majestic charm visible.

    2 Image Credit - commons.wikimedia.org

    Meenakshi Temple, Madurai

    Meenakshi temple is the temple of Parvati who is the consort of Shiva. It is also one of the few popular temples celebrating a goddess. What makes the temple so epic is the fact that it has 33000 sculptures and is the largest temple complex in the state of Tamil Nadu. The other highlight of the temple is the 14 differently made Gopurams and the thousand pillar hall that has almost 1000 pillars arranged in a fashion that they appear to be in neat rows and columns, no matter which angle you look at them from.Gopurams are pyramid shaped towers that appear mostly in the entrance of temples. It is, in fact a prominent feature of Dravidian architecture.

    3 Image Credit - wikipedia.org

    Charminar, Hyderabad

    Charminar is a famous mosque in the heart of Hyderabad. This place is often recommended to be the top 10 places that need to be on your travel list in India. Built in 1591 by the fifth ruler of the Qualb Shahi dynasty, it is a tourist spot that represents Islamic architecture well. Though the reason why he built it is debated, this monument is famous because of its ornate and beautiful designs. It is during winter that most people visit the mosque.  It is a square structure with 20 meters each side and with four arches that face a direction that also opens into four streets. Though it is a piece of Islamic architecture, its architecture is also inspired by Hindu architecture. Many people say that the building does justice to the Hindu and Islamic cultures led by the society of Hyderabad.

    4 Image Credit - wikipedia.org

    Brihadeeshwarar temple, Thanjavur

    Built only out of granite, this temple is one of the greatest buildings of the Chola dynasty. Located in the city of Thanjavur, it is a temple dedicated to Lord Brihadeeshwara who was an avatar (form) of Lord Shiva. The most beautiful view is the one inside the temple of Lord Shiva which is one of the biggest idols of the deity. Many say it is one of the temples that showcase Dravidian architecture brilliantly. The temple is also famous for its sculptures of various gods like Dakshinamurthi, Ganesha, Vishnu as well as "Ashta-dikpaalakas" (deities who rule the specific directions of the space) – Indra, Agni, Yama, Nirrti, Varuna, Vayu, Kubera and Isana.

    5 Image Credit - wikipedia.org



    Shop For This  Thanjavur Temple at http://tnpoompuhar.org/tamil-nadu/pithwork/thanjavur-temple.html

  • Places to see in Thanjavur

    Considered as the ‘rice bowl’ of Tamil Nadu, Thanjavur has many tourist spots. Its name is derived from‘Tanjan’, the legendary asura (demons in Hindu mythology). There are many Hindu (a religion in India) festivals that happen in the place. The place has its share of monuments as well as religious places of historical importance .Since it has so many tourist attractions, it is considered as an important center for art , religion , architecture and literature . Thanjavur is famous for Thanjavur paintings. The popular Thanjavur dancing doll can be bought  here for those who have often seen it in other homes and have always wished to buy it. Thanjavur is also famous for handicrafts.

    Let’s see the famous tourist attractions in Thanjavur.

    Brihadeeswara temple

    Remember this temple from your history books in school?Built by Rajaraja Chola, this temple is a world heritage site. It is a temple of Lord Shiva and was constructed in the 11th century. It is one of the best architectural sites and also enjoys the status of being a part of UNESCO World heritage site.

    Brihadeeswara temple Image Credit - commons.wikimedia.org

    The Thanjavur Palace           

    Built by the Nayaks and Marathas, this place is a massive space with huge corridors, beautiful and royal design, and observation towers and there is an art gallery in the Nayak hall which has the best collection of artifacts from the eighth and ninth centuries.The Maratha royal family lives there and there is a temple in the palace which belongs to the family.

    Thanjavur Palace Image Credit - commons.wikimedia.org

    Grand Anicut                                                                

    Built across the Kaveri River in Thanjavur district, it was constructed by a Chola king, Karikalan. Built in the first century AD, it is one of the oldest dams of the world. The purpose of the dam is to divert the waters for irrigational uses. A visit to this place makes you understand the early engineering efforts put in by people of those times.

    Grand Anicut Image Credit - commons.wikimedia.org

    Saraswati Mahal library

    This medieval library is open on all days. It is one of the oldest libraries of Asia and has a rare collection of antiques and manuscripts .Only after the year 1918; was it converted into a public library. There is also a sales section where books are available for purchase.

    Saraswati Mahal library Image Credit - commons.wikimedia.org

    Sangeetha Mahal

    It is a hall of music located in Thanjavur and a place that must be on your travel list. Located in the Thanjavur palace on the first floor, it was actually used as a place where people used to perform arts and dance. Also, they have a handicraft gallery made by the Indian artisans. Considered as acoustically perfect and a great example of engineering then, this place is sure to leave you awestruck with the amalgamation of art and engineering it has on display.

    Schwartz Church

    The famous church is a plain building and is a marble structure .It was constructed in the memory of Frederick Christian, a Danish missionary. The highlight of the church is that it has a depiction of the last moments of the Danish missionary with the king Raja Serfoji. It is open on all days and has an English discourse on Sunday at 7.00 am.

    Poompuhar  has an outlet in Thanjavur on Gandhiji road where you can find the most exquisite range of handicrafts from all over India .

    Ready to set out on a history cum shopping trip?

    Schwartz Church Image Credit - commons.wikimedia.org

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