Tamil Nadu Geography
Traditionally, the land of Tamils 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. (Interactive map of Tamil Nadu)
The Eastern and Western ghats meet in Tamil nadu and run along its eastern and western borders. All of Tamil Nadu's famous hill stations, i.e Udhagamandalam, Kodaikanal, Kothagiri and Yercaud are situated in this region. The 25km wide Palakkad gap and Shencottah gap are the only breaks into the long chain of hills that border western Tamil Nadu. Contrasting with the low rocky hills of the Eastern ghats, the hills of the Western ghats have dense forests. This area receives abundant rainfall and the scenic valleys of Cumbum and Pollachi are dotted with plantations of tea, coffee and spices. However, the upper reaches of the Eastern ghats are not without their share of beauty and Yercaud in the Shevaroy hills is famous for its fruit orchards and banana and coffee plantations. 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. Palmyrah trees grow by the thousands in Tirunelveli and its products 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. The perennial river of the state is the Cauveri which originates in Coorg in the neighbouring Karnataka.
The fertile Coromandel plains are irrigated by the Cauvery and its delta in Thanjavur - Nagapattinam region is known as the granary of Tamil Nadu. The other rivers in the state are the Palar, Pennar, Vaigai and Tamiraparani. The arid, desert-like land in the state is confined to a small area in Tirunelveli district and is known as the Palai. The coastal Tamil Nadu comprises the Coromandel coast which has its northern half and the Fisheries coast which is the southern half. Mylapore, Poompuhar and Mamallapuram were the famous ancient ports on the Coromandel from where merchant ships sailed to Rome, Greece and the far east.
There are mangrove forests at Pichavaram and prominent bird sanctuaries at Pulicat Lake and Vedanthangal, though the latter is not on the coast itself. Once famous for its pearls, the Fisheries coast is a major tourist attraction since it has some of the most important pilgrim centers in India.