Chennai, the cultural center of South India and gateway to the state of Tamil Nadu, is a fascinating jumble, dominated by glittering high-rise emporia and corporate buildings. Cinema and politics are the major beats on the streets.
But between the psychedelic flashes, you can catch a glimpse of the special-toned charm of colonial history, splendid strains of classical music and sniff a heady compound of jasmines and spices; Chennai still retains a traditional charm of its ancient past. Shored along the Bay of Bengal, Chennai has evolved from a tiny fishing village to the country?s fourth-largest metro.
Chennai, a group of fishermen villages was the site of the East India Company?s first settlement-founded in 1639 and the oldest municipal corporation in India. In colonial days, Chennai was the center of conflict between English and French for supremacy over India.
It also acted as a base for Britishers during the Carnatic wars. Chennai has a blend of Dravidian and Gothic architecture in its building. The Tamil society might have incorporated English culture but can never be short of being the window to the tradition, culture and life-style of Southern India.
Chennai, the cultural center of South India and gateway to the state of Tamil Nadu, is a fascinating jumble dominated by cinema and politics. But between the psychedelic flashes, you'll glimpse the sepia-toned charm of colonial history.
More, you?ll hear the splendid strains of classical music and sniff a heady compound of jasmines and spices, living traditions that are still savored from Chenna?s ancient past. It is rich in culture and tradition and people here celebrate their festivals with pomp but not with too much noise. Apart from religious festivals, the Dance festival and the Music festival are also celebrated with equal pomp and splendor.
If you crave South Indian fare, then eat your fill of idlis, dosas, uttapams, avial and more. Try the great vegetarian thalis which are easy on the pocket.
When you think of the south, you instantly think of Kanjeevaram sarees, intricately woven with silk and gold. Radha Silk House at Sannadhi Street, Mylapore, is one place to browse. For trinkets and other South Indian handicrafts, street shopping is the best option. You could pick up some exquisite paintings and woodwork at Victoria Technical Institute in Anna Salai. Of course, Chennai is well up to date with the latest shopping fads and has everything metros are expected to have, shopping malls and big show rooms.
South India is rich in culture and tradition and people here celebrate their festivals with pomp but not with too much noise. The Tamilians who make up a major portion of the Chennai population celebrate Pongal, which is their harvest festival on the 14th of January.
You also have the Dance Festival, which is held in Mahabalipuram, 55 km from Chennai. In addition to this you have the music festival which is organised by the Music Academy, usually held in December. You also have the Tamil New Year, which is celebrated on the 14th of April each year. In Chennai, people also celebrate Vinayaka Chaturthi in August, though people in Maharashtra celebrate it with more pomp and grandeur.
Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, is located on the south-west coast of India.
Chennai is connected by Jet, IA, Sahara, AI and other international airlines to the rest of the country and the world. The Meenambakkam Airport is located 17 km southwest of the city centre. It has terminals for both domestic and international travel. Prepaid taxis available at the airport. Taxi fare from the airport to the city centre approximately costs Rs 250. Alternatively, you can use the airport bus if you are staying at one of the major hotels.
The Tamil Nadu Express from Delhi, Ganga Kaveri Express from Varanasi, Shatabdi Express from Bangalore and the Charminar Express from Hyderabad are some of the trains from the major cities to Chennai. You also have the Coromandel Express from Chennai to Calcutta. Railway station: There are two railway stations at Chennai ? Central and Egmore ? and most of the trains arrive here. The Central Railway Station links north and west and Egmore Station the south. There are separate stations for local trains. Chennai Central Railway Station is located on Periyar EVR High Road. Relatively easy to get transport to and from the Central station though lack of knowledge of the local language Tamil could be a hindrance.
The city is well linked by roads to the major destinations in South India. It is connected by the National Highway Nos 4, 5 and 45. Bus terminus: The State Express Bus Stand is on the south of George Town (same as Park Town). Sharma Travels is a fairly reliable travel agent with offices all over the city for inter-city travel. Their buses are comfortable and they take minimal time.
The climate is sultry with summers being hot and sticky. Winters are not particularly cold. In the summer, temperatures range between 22? C and 41? C. The winter temperatures remain between 9? C and 29? C.
Established in 1857, the Madras museum is undoubtedly, one of the country's best museums. It has sections, devoted to geology, archeology, anthropology, numismatics, botany, zoology and sculpture, besides which, there is a good collection of arms and armor, as well as, several other specimen of anthropological interest. The museums prize possessions however, are the relics from the 2nd century AD, Buddhist site at Amaravati. Prehistoric exhibits from the Stone and Iron Ages, exquisite carvings and a fairly large collection of South Indian musical instruments and jewellery, also add to the invaluable collection in the museum. The bronze gallery, with its ancient icons and modern bronzes, is perhaps the best found anywhere in the world.
Kalakhshetra or The Abode of Arts is an ornament to the city of Chennai. Smt Rukmini Arundale, who dedicated her entire life to the performing arts, established it.
Located on the seashore near the harbour, Fort St. George was built for the East India Co. in 1960 AD. The first bastion of British power in India, it once housed the British Regiments mess and later the lighthouse. Today, it houses the Tamilnadu Legislative Assembly and Council, as well as the offices of the States Secretariat. Fort St. George's towering flagstaff is, even today, the tallest in India. The black charnockite pillar of the building, provide an insight into British military architecture, of the 17th and 18th centuries. Glimpses of early Chennai are preserved in Clive Corner, Wellesley House, Fort Museum and St. Mary's Church.
One of the world's longest beaches, running 12 km in length, Marina beach is the pride of Madras City. With its natural sandy beauty and spacious promenade, the beach continues to be the most sought-after tremendous. It has acquired a South Indian aura, with vendors hawking all kinds of wares. The Marina, however, is often the venue for important state functions.
A masterpiece of Dravidian architecture, this ancient Shiva temple, is the biggest in Chennai. There are some fragmentary inscriptions, dating back to 1250 AD. The magnificent 37-metre Gopuram depicts intricate carvings of old legends.
Located on the Mahabalipuram Road, this artist's commune was started in 1966 and is perhaps, the first of its kind. The artists and sculptors who live and work in this seaside colony, in idyllic surroundings, exhibit and sell their work, which consists of contemporary art, sculpture, batik, terracotta and graphics. These are often exhibited and also sold. Cholamandal also has an open - air theatre in which dance performances and poetry reading competitions, are held.
Run by Romulus Whittaker, this is a farm, where several species of the Indian and African crocodiles and alligators are bred in captivity. These reptiles are kept in their natural surroundings, in open pools and can be viewed from a safe proximity.
This Vaishnavite temple in Triplicane (near the Marina Beach) is dedicated to Lord Krishna, who was a charioteer to Arjuna, during the Kurukshetra war. It is a splendid creation of the Pallavas of the 8th century. The usual chakra, associated with Mahavishnu is conspicuous by its absence. Sridevi and Bhoodev - the consorts of Lord Vishnu are seen at either side of the Utsavamurthy (mobile deity).
Located in Egmore, the National Art Gallery is housed in a building built in 1906, in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. The building itself, is a work of art and was originally intended to be the Victoria Memorial and Technical Institute, but was made the National Art Gallery in 1951. On display in this gallery, are the 10th and 13th century bronzes, 16th and 18th century Rajasthan and Mughal paintings, 17th century Deccani paintings and 11th and 12th century Indian handicrafts.
ELLIOTS BEACH - The Elliott's beach near Besant Nagar, offers an alternative to the Marina, for beach-lovers who would prefer to avoid crowds and hawkers. LIGHTHOUSE - The lighthouse now stands 48 m above sea level, at the southern end, commanding a panoramic view of the city. It is open to visitors from 2 pm - 4 pm everyday. LITTLE MOUNT SHRINE - Little Mount Shrine, is the place where St. Thomas, is said to have lived and preached, in a small cave. MAMALLAPURAM - just one hour out of Chennai, Mamallapuram, or Mahabalipuram, as it was formerly known, was the second capital of the Pallava Kings, and was named a World Heritage site in 1995. There are 14 cave temples and eight monolithic rathas. MGR FILM CITY - Known the world over for its film industry, MGR Film City is a special delight in Chennai. Situated on the outskirts of Buckingham Canal, tourists are allowed between 8 am and 8 pm. THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY - The Theosophical Society, much as the name suggests, offers discourse and meditation sessions, as well as lectures on positive health and spirituality. J Krishnamurthi and Maria Montessori have both lectured here, under the huge banyan tree. THOUSAND LIGHTS MOSQUE - This is a centuries old shrine, which has been re-designed as a mosque, with walls bearing recently painted sayings from the Holy Koran. Nawab Umdat -ul - Umrah, in 1800, constructed the original mosque. VEDANTANGAL BIRD SANCTUARY - A paradise for birdwatchers, the Vedantagal Bird Sanctuary, lies deep inside the forest expanse, between Chennai and Tiruchirapally. Sprawling across 30 hectares of land, this water bird sanctuary is believed to be over 200 years old.