How many of us have a bucket list of places to go and things to do there but never get around to actually going there or doing them. Yahoo! India reader Thennarasu wrote to us with an invitation to his home state, Tamil Nadu, with this list of 50 things to do while you're there.
1. Eat a meal on a banana leaf — there's a belief that it might cure Parkinson 's disease
2. Visit the Great Living Chola Temples, the UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the 10th century
3. Go to Ooty on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway — it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a legacy of remarkable British engineering
RIDING THE NILGIRI MOUNTAIN RAILWAY
On a cold morning, a crowd of people rush to board the 662SR Mettupalayam-Udhagamandalam (Nilagiri) Passenger.
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4. Get blessed by an elephant — how often can you get one?
5. Visit the Cholamandalam Artists' Village, the pride of modern Tamil Art
6. Take an auto ride in Chennai. Chennai auto-drivers even have their own websites. Plus, it is the luxury of the middle-class.
7. Taste idli and dosa and wonder how many types of chutneys exist in Tamil Nadu. We are really a bunch of choosy pickers when it comes to idli and dosa!
8. Watch a Rajanikanth film in a movie theatre, if possible on the first day to understand the definition of hero worship!
9. Participate in Jallikattu -- bull taming -- in Madurai. Or, if you're chicken, just watch!
10. Find and listen to your favourite Ilayaraja or A R Rahman song — everybody's got to have one!
11. Men, sport a moustache. And women, plait your hair and decorate it with a garland of fragrant jasmine flowers!
12. Decorate the front of your house with kolam — a more decorative and artistic rendition of rangoli -- and hang bunches of harvested paddy outside your home for the birds to feed on. (We have our own homegrown Kolam Picassos, and the patterns they come out with are astonishing!)
13. Drink strong filter coffee In a Tamil-style cup and saucer known as davarah and tumbler
14. Visit the shore temples of Mahabalipuram (another UNESCO World Heritage Site of the 7th century) and admire the art of sculpting in this little town
15. Wander around to wonder at the Indo-Saracenic and Gothic style buildings of Chennai, some of which are over a hundred years old
16. Visit Pondicherry to marvel at the French Architecture (and our own French Connection)
17. Beat the heat by eating all your summer fruit glazed with a layer of salt-and-chilli-powder mixture! Cucumber, unripe mango, gooseberry, guava and pineapple taste best like this. And drink tender coconut or buttermilk or sugarcane juice to quench your thirst. And if you like it aerated, there's Bovonto, our very own answer to Coca Cola!
18. Shop for beautiful silk sarees at Kancheepuram (the Chinese may have invented silk, but Tamils perfected it)
19. Celebrate Pongal by cooking sweet rice outdoors in clay pots or join the annual celebration of Elephant Pongal at Top Slip
20. Buy Horlicks for someone sick
21. Feed crows on special occasions
22. Whistle for Chennai Super Kings at M A Chidambaram stadium!
23. Attend Thiruvaiyaru Music Festival
24. Visit Pichavaram, the world's second largest mangrove forests, for the Dawn Fest or Vidiyal Vizha
25. Sanctify your new dresses with turmeric
The imposing Matri Mandir at Auroville26. Visit Auroville, the international commune near Pondicherry
27. Visit the Toda tribal village in the Nilgiris (also learn about the other tribes -- Badaga, Irula, Kota and Kurumba)
28. Go to Natyanjali Dance Festival celebrated at the 1,000-year-old Chidambaram temple near Cuddalore. The dance hall is adorned with pillars exhibiting the classic 108 poses of Lord Nataraja.
29. Go on a parisal (coracle) ride in Hogenakkal
30. Watch the magical kurinji flower bloom in Kodaikanal. It blooms every 12 years and the next bloom is in 2018
31. Widen your understanding of Tamil culture and architecture at Dakshina Chitra, Muttukadu
32. Go to Sittanavasal in Pudukkottai district to see some of the oldest Jain paintings
33. Visit the iconic Madurai Meenakshi temple
34. Ride into the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve on an elephant
35. Explore corals and other marine life in a glass-bottomed boat in the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park
36. Visit Karaikudi to experience the vibrant Chettinad culture, architecture and food
37. Watch Theerthavari in Mahamaham Tank, Kumbakonam, held once in 12 years. A dip in the tank is believed to offer the combined benefits of a bath in all the sacred rivers. The next Mahamaham is in 2016.
38. Taste some regional speciality dishes and snacks -- Dindigul biryani, Manaparai muruku, Thirunelveli halwa, Madurai jigar thanda and Kumbakonam coffee
39. Visit the Birla Science Planetarium in Chennai
40. Spot endangered wildlife in Meghamalai in Theni district. Meghamalai is also known for its spice tourism with a variety of plantations including tea, coffee, pepper, cardamom and cinnamon.
41. Throw rice on the bride and groom at a Tamil wedding. Rice signifies prosperity and fertility
42. Buy a pair of Kuthu Vilakku — brass lamps -- from Nachiyar Kovil in Kumbakonam. Every public event and home celebration begins only after these brass lamps are lit.
43. Witness the making of bronze statues using the traditional Lost-Wax process at Swamimalai near Kumbakonam
44. Join the Students' Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN) volunteers on a night walk along the beaches of Chennai to conserve and create awareness about the endangered Olive Ridley Sea Turtle.
45. Enjoy the panoramic view of Tiruchi and Srirangam from Tiruchi Malai Kotai Rock Fort
46. Get your picture on a street poster or a billboard for some reason (marriage, birthday, welcoming a political leader, coming-of-age ritual, ear-piercing ritual, or just to wish your favourite actor or sports star!)
Flamingos at Pulicat Lake. Photo: Lakshmi Sharath. Click for story
47. Go birdwatching in any of the birding hotspots -- Vedanthangal , Pulicat Lake, Kunthakulam or Point Calimere
48. Taste the Mukkani -- three supreme and heavenly fruits -- mango, jackfruit and banana
49. Try to know your future from Nadi Jothidam - these are palm manuscript horoscopes written hundreds of years ago for every individual on earth. Or try parrot astrology or palmistry.
50. Walk amidst lush green paddy fields