"Once a fishing village, Chennai, is now a sprawling capital city of Tamil Nadu. People of Chennai are deep rooted in their cultural moorings and traditions, even though modernity has its own impact. Chennai is airy, spacious with verdant green and beaches. With a population of 6 million people, Chennai is a vibrant city ever growing, expanding and changing every year."
Popularly regarded as the "Gateway to the South", Chennai presents culture that is distinctly different from that of northern India. Music, dance and all other art forms of the South are cherished and nurtured in this city which, though industrialized, continues to be traditional and conventional in many ways.
Chennai has rich traditional and civilization and it is blend of the old, and the new, vibrating ceaselessly to keep pace with the rest of India, as bouyant metropolis of the third most industrialised state.
People of Chennai are deep rooted in their cultural moorings and traditions. From traditional vegetarian fair to fast foods, from ancient temple architecture to modern high-rise with Indo-Saracenic and Victorian as stops along the way from classical music and dance to discos, Chennai has them all and many more vivid contrasts that are a pleasant surprise. And perhaps the most striking of them all is that here is a modern metropolis with beaches, parks and even sanctuaries in the heart of the City.
Chennai is a city that has a clear skyline, long sandy beaches, parks, historic landmarks and tourist infrastructural facilities which make it a convenient entry point or base to start your tour of Tamil Nadu and South India. Where religion is concerned, history has certainly left its mark on this city which is believed to have been the place of St. Thomas, in the outskirts of the city. There are a number of churches in Chennai that are connected with the life and times of this apostle. There are also several ancient temples around Chennai, and, within the city itself are two magnificent temples - a temple in Triplicane and another in Mylapore.
Area : 174 sq. kms.
Population : 3,795,028 (1991 census)
Altitude : Sea level
Climate : Max. Min.
Summer : 37ºC 21.10ºC
Winter : 32ºC 19.81ºC
Rainfall : 1,272 mm.
Season : TROPICAL THROUGHOUT THE YEAR
Clothing : Tropical
Languages spoken : Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam, Urdu and English.
Places of interest
Fort St. George
Fort St. George occupies a place of pride and prominence in Chennai. It was built in 1640 AD, by the British East India Company under the direct supervision of Francis Day and Andrew Cogon. This bastion achieved name from St. George, the patron saint of England. The fort houses St. Mary's Church and fort museum. St. Mary's Church the oldest Anglican church in India built in 1680 and the tombstones in it's courtyard are the oldest British tombstones in India. This ancient prayer house solemnised the marriages of Robert Clive and Governor Elihu Yale, who later founded the Yale University in the USA.
The High Court
With the decorative domes and corridors reminiscent of Indo-Saracenic architecture and the adjacent Parry's corner are the important landmarks of Chennai . This area is always crowded and active. Built in 1892, the High Court of Chennai is believed to be the second largest judicial complex in the world.
The Marina Beach
Marina Beach, the pride of Chennai is the second longest beach in the World and has a wide sandy foreshore. Situated on the beach, the Anna and MGR Samadhis which are memorials of the most popular former Chief Ministers of the State attract good crowd everyday. An aquarium is also located on the Marina Beach. Some of the most beautiful buildings in Chennai such as the University of Chennai, Senate House, Chepauk Palace, Presidency College, and Ice House are located on this beach drive.
Sri Parthasarathy Temple
This temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. The temple was originally built by the Pallavas in the 8th century AD. Though additions were later made to it by the Chola and Vijayanagara Kings.
Not far from Triplicane, in Mylapore, there is yet another 8th Century Pallava Temple. The temple 'Gopuram' (tower) is in the characteristic Dravidian style of architecture. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple has some most beautiful sculptures, along with the bronze idols of 63 Saivaite Saints (Nayanmars) which adorn the outer courtyard are rare specimens. Also is the courtyard under the old Punnai tree is a small shrine depicting Goddess Parvathi in the form of a Peacock, worshipping Lord Shiva. It is from this legend that Mylapore derived its name - ''Myil" meaning peacock and 'Oor' meaning town. Mylapore swarms with life during the Arubathumoovar festival that is held in March-April every year.
San Thome Cathedral Basilica
San Thome at the southern end of Marina derives its name from St Thomas, the apostle of Christ who is believed to have come to Madras sometime during 52 AD. He was killed on St Thomas Mount just outside the city in 78 AD. and was interned in San Thome beach where a church was later built. Several years later, another church was built further inland and his mortal remains were transferred from the old church to the new one. In 1606 the church was rebuilt as a cathedral and in 1896 it was made a basilica. The beautiful stained glass window at the basilica portrays the story of St Thomas and the central hall has 14 wooden plaques depicting scenes from the last days of Christ. In the cathedral is a 3ft. high statue of Virgin Mary which is believed to have been brought from Portugal in 1543.
Guindy National Park
The Deer Park 595 acres in extent, situated adjacent to Raj Bhavan was originally a part of the Governor's Estate. Now it is fragmented and the major part is a thickly forested game sanctuary where the spotted dear and the black buck roam about and a wealth of smaller fauna thrive. This is the country's only Wild Life Sanctuary within a city's limits. Raj Bhavan, the Governor's mansion, occupies one end of the park, and at the other is the beautiful forest-girt campus of Chennai's famous Indian Institute of Technology, one of Asia's foremost technical educational institutions. In between, and edging the road, are a famous Cancer Institute, a Children's Park with its own mini zoo and mini-railway, a Snake Park, rich in reptiles, and Memorials to Gandhiji, Rajaji, the first Indian Governor-General, and Kamaraj, a great national leader. Latest addition to this array of memorials is that of Bakthavatchalam, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Opposite the park are the Anna University of Technology, whose nucleous was the oldest technical school in the East, and the Central Leather Research Institute. To the east of the Park as well as at the back of it sprawls the campus of the Central Institute of Technology. Not far way is one of the country's finest Race-courses.
In Thiruvanmiyur, beyond Elliot's beach, is Kalakshetra or 'Temple of Art'. It was founded in 1936 by Rukmini Devi Arundale to train, encourage and revive interest in Bharatanatyam which is the classical dance form of the state.
MGR Film City
Set up by the Government of Tamil Nadu in the sprawling Tharamani area, MGR Film city houses various locations and settings for film-shooting besides dubbing and re-recording theatres. The software city is coming up nearby.
The Birla Planetarium at Kotturpuram, between Adyar and Guindy, is the most modern planetarium in the country. Adjoining the planetarium is a Periyar Science and Technology Museum which will be of interest to students and other science scholars.
The standing memorial to immortal Tamil Poet-Saint Thiruvalluvar is shaped like a temple chariot and is, in fact, the replica of the temple chariot in Thiruvarur. A life-size statue of the saint has been installed in the chariot which is 33m. tall. The 133 chapters of his famous work Thirukkural have been depicted in bas-relief in the front hall corridors of the chariot. The auditorium at Valluvar Kottam is said to be the largest in Asia and can accommodate about 4000 people.
The Government Museum
National Art Gallery, Gallery of Contemporary Arts and Children's Museum also lie in the Museum Complex.
V.G.P Golden Beach Resort
This is a very skillfully planned beach resort geared to entertain the visitor with sculptured vignettes from the past folk dances and ethnic food cuisine. There is an entertainment arcade for children and for adults. There are folk dance performances apart from an Art Centre which sells handicrafts and articles made out of sea shells. The beach is clean and ideal for sun-bathing.
The sprawling 1,265 - acres the Anna Zoological Park at Vandalur is the biggest in South Asia and has a rich variety of different species of mammals, reptiles and birds. The enclosures for the animals are located in natural surroundings with vast areas for the animals to move freely.
Kanchipuram (75 kms.)
One of India's seven great mythologically famous Hindu cities, Kancheepuram has a plethora of temples, each one unique in its own way. Besides being the Golden City of temples, Kancheepuram has for over four centuries, been famous for its weavers who till today weave sarees using the best quality silk and pure gold thread. It has been the centre of culture and learning and Adhi Shankaracharya, one of the famous Gurus of India has established his ashram (Kamakoti Peetam) here.
Mamallapuram (58 kms.)
Built in the 7th century, this ancient Pallava port is the site of several antique sculptural marvels. The only remaining shore temple is a spectacular two-spired shrine which is unique in that it houses shrines for Vishnu and Shiva.
The Pallavas had perfected the art of sculpting rocks to build temples without using brick, mortar or timber and the five monolith Raths (chariots) stand as the surviving masterpieces of Pallava sculpture. Arjuna's penance is the world's largest bas relief measuring 27m by 9m. This sculptural panel shows animals, Gods and Angels contemplating the descent of the Ganges from it's source in the Himalayas and also depicts popular fables from the Panchatantra. Besides these, the Mahishamardhini Cave, the Krishna Mandapam and Varsha Mandapam also have beautiful reliefs depicting Vishnu reclining on the coils of seven headed serpent, Krishna as incarnation of Vishnu lifting mount Goverdhana to protect his kinsman from the wrath of Indra respectively.
Vedanthangal (85 kms.)
Vedanthangal is one of the largest bird sancturies in India. It is a marshy, 30 hectare park with lake visited by over 1,00,000 migratory birds every year. The majority of these birds can be seen between November and February. The variety of birds include Herons, Darters, Spoonbills, Pelicans, Sandpipers, White Ibis, Cormorants,Blue winged teals and Swans.
Crocodile Bank (44 kms.)
Several species of Indian and African crocodiles and alligators bred in captivity are kept here in open pools. Visitors can view the reptiles from close but safe proximity. There is also a small snake farm here that conducts demonstrations of venom extraction.
Muttukadu (36 kms)
The backwaters of Muttukadu have been developed by the Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation to serve as a scenic picnic spot and a centre for watersports. In February every year, a windsurfing regatta is organised in Muttukadu. Competitions in windsurfing and other watersports are also held. Training and demonstration programmes are held for youth.
The remains of the Fort have now been converted into a luxury beach resort which offers facilities for windsurfing and swimming. An ancient Catholic Church, a mosque and the ruins of the Fort make interesting viewing from this 5 Star hotel.
How to get there ?
Kamaraj National and Anna International Airports are situated at Meenambakkam about 20 kms from city. Can also be reached by sub-urban train services. Alight at Tirusulum. You must travel light and walk a km to airport.
Main Railway Stations: Central and Egmore. Central linking north and west and Egmore south.
Chennai is connected by good network of roads with all important places in Tamil Nadu and other parts of India. You may rent a car with popular private cab owners. White plated taxis ply 5 people on contract. Pre-paid taxis and airport coaches are available at airports.