Chennai, also known as Madras, the capital of Tamil Nadu, is the country's fourth largest city. Compared to the other major metros of India, it is far less congested and polluted. Chennai was the site of the first settlement of the East India Company. It was founded in 1639, on a piece of land given by the Raja of Chandragiri, the last representative of the Vijayanagar rulers of Hampi.
On an organisational level, the city boasts of reasonably efficient public services, public buses, and commuter trains run smoothly. A great deal of industrial expansion has taken place in Chennai recently, with the mushrooming of engineering plants, car-assembly plants, educational institutions, and textile manufacturing units. Though there are no major attractions as such, it does have the second biggest beach in the world, the Marina Beach. Though a popular tourist spot, the beach is not really a favourite with swimmers, as the sea is known to house a sizeable population of sharks.
Chennai is a vibrant city that has managed to strike a beautiful balance between the modern and the traditional, a metropolis with a distinct old - world charm.
What to See
Built in 1640 AD, the Fort St. George once served as the very first bastion of the East India Company. Now, it houses the Secretariat and the Legislative Assembly. The 46 metre - high flagstaff, that adorns the front of the structure, is actually a mast salvaged from a 17th century shipwreck. The Fort Museum has a remarkable collection of memorabilia, dating back to the days of the Raj. Within the Fort complex, is also the oldest Anglican Church in India, St Mary's Church, built in 1678-1680. It also happens to be the oldest surviving British construction.
Another ancient landmark in the city, is the Madras Harbour, one of the finest in India, and entirely artificial, which has been around for almost a century. Mylapore in the south, is the site of the famous Kapaleeswarar Temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It has a typical Dravidian gopuram. Near the temple, is the San Thome Cathedral, which is said to contain the remains of St Thomas the Apostle (Doubting Thomas). Located on Triplicane High Road is the Parathasarathy Temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna. Built in the 8th century during the Pallava reign, it was later renovated by the Vijayanagar kings in the 16th century.
The Government Museum and Art Gallery on Pantheon Road, near Egmore station, has an interesting archaeological section, and a bronze gallery. The archaeological section has an excellent collection of items from all the major South Indian periods, including the Chola, Vijayanagar, Hoysala and Chalukya periods. The bronze gallery has some impressive examples of Chola bronze art. The Theosophical Society located on the banks of the Adayar river, and Kalakshetra, an internationally renowned institution for Indian classical dance and music, at Thiruvanmiyoor, are outstanding examples of the cultural heritage of Tamil Nadu.
The National Deer Park is the only place in the world, where one can still find a sizeable number of the endangered species of Indian antelope (the black buck). The Deer Park, alongwith the Madras Snake Park, which is supported by the World Wildlife Fund, are located in the Raj Bhavan premises, at Guindy.
Navaratri or Dussehra (Sept/Oct), Diwali (Oct/Nov), Karthika (Nov/Dec) and Pongal (in Jan) are some of the popular festivals in the region.
From mid-December to mid-January, Chennai comes alive with the annual Carnatic classical music and dance festival.
How to Get There
Air: Kamaraj National and Anna International Airports are situated at Tirusulam about 20 kms from the city.
Rail: Chennai is connected by rail with all major towns and cities in India. The main railheads are Central and Egmore.
Road: Chennai is connected by a good network of roads with all important places in Tamil Nadu and other parts of India.
Where to Stay
Taj Coromandel, Park Sheraton, The Trident, Kanchi, Dasaprakash, V.G.P. Golden Beach Resort are some of the premier hotels available for accomodation.
Government of India Tourist Office
154, Anna Salai, Chennai - 600002. Tel: 8524785, 8524295
Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC)
143, Anna Salai, Chennai - 600002. Tel: 830498, 830390
Tamil Nadu Government Tourist Information Centre
Domestic Terminal, Chennai Airport. Tel: 2340569