Also known as Madras, Chennai is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu. It is also India’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 Rajah of Chandragiri, the last representative of the Vijayanagar rulers of Hampi.
The city’s organization is something that Chennai is very proud of, boasting of reasonably efficient public services, public buses, and commuter trains that 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 particular major attractions, it does have the second biggest beach in the world, the Marina Beach. Though a popular tourist spot, the beach is not really a favorite with swimmers, drawing in more of a crowd of marine biologists, 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.
Built in 1640 AD, the fort once served as the venue for the foundation of what would be the huge East India Company. Now, it houses the Secretariat and the Legislative Assembly. The 46-meter 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.
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, which was built in dedication to the Lord Krishna. Built in the 8th century during the Pallava reign, it was later renovated by the Vijayanagar kings in the 16th century.
Situated on Pantheon Road, visitors may want to take in the museum’s interesting archaeological section, and 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.
Reputed to be 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, along with 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.