Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu is the fourth largest metropolis in India. Located on a 17 km stretch of the Coramandel coast, the city is trisected by the waterways of Cooum and Adyar and the Buckingham Canal. 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 a 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 is a gracious city that has a clear skyline, long sandy beaches, parks, historic landmarks and tourist infrastructure facilities which make it a convenient entry point or base to start your tour of Tamil Nadu and South India. As far as 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 outskirt 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
Rainfall: 1,272 mm.
Season: Tropical Throughout The Year
Languages: Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam, Urdu and English.
Telephone Access Code:++91 44
Chennai is an international airport connected by several international airlines while the domestic traffic is handled by Indian Airlines. There are regular flights to several cities around the world from the International Terminal. There are also daily flights to all important centres in India from the Domestic Terminal. There are two major railway stations in Chennai. Chennai Central is the bigger one and connects the city by broad gauge as also broad gauge trains to all major cities and towns of India. The Egmore station is the starting point for both meter gauge and broad gauge trains proceeding to destinations within the state as well as trains to neighbouring Kerala. Chennai is also accessible by road from any part of India.
Air: Kamaraj National and Anna International Airports are situated at Meenambakkam about 20 kms. from city. Can also be reached by suburban train services.
Rail: Chennai is connected by rail with all major towns and cities in India. Main Railway Stations: Central and Egmore. Central linking north and west and Egmore south.
Road: 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 private cab owners. Pre-paid taxis and airport coaches are available at airports.
PLACE OF INTEREST
Fort St. George - Fort St. George occupies a place of pride and prominence in Chennai. The British East India Company under the direct supervision of Francis Day and Andrew Cogon built it in 1640 AD. 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 its courtyard are the oldest British tombstones in India. This ancient prayer house solemnized the marriages of Robert Clive and Governor Elinu-Yale, who later founded the Yale University in the States. The Fort Museum is the repository of rare exhibits of weapons, uniforms, coins, costumes, medals and some other artifacts dating back to the British period. The flagstaff at Fort St. George is still the tallest in India. South of the Fort is the War Memorial, a graceful monument built in 1939 in memory of the warriors who sacrificed their lives during the First World War. The Island Grounds, the biggest lung space in the city is situated on an island formed by the river Cooum. This ground is the eventful venue of Trade and the Tourist Fairs held periodically which are seasonal attractions. 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.
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.
Theosophical Society - The world headquarters of the Theosophical Society, formed to facilitate and encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science is situated in beautiful sylvan settings in Adyar. The society was founded by Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olott in USA, and later moved to Adyar in 1882. Apart from shrines of all faiths and the peaceful Garden of Remembrance, there is a 95-year old library which has a very good collection of rare Oriental manuscripts written on palm leaves and parchment.
Along Elliot"s Beach - Following the road along the coast down south from Marina one will come to Elliot"s beach where you can spend a few hours relaxing. At the end of this beach are the Velankanni church and the Ashtalakshmi temple. Though the church is much smaller than the original one at Velankanni it attracts its own share of pilgrims. The Ashtalakshmi temple dedicated to goddess Lakshmi looks quite different from the usual South Indian temples as it is a modern granite tier construction, not even 20 years old.
Kalakshetra - 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. This institution is among the finest of its kind in the country and is run on the ancient gurukulam system. Throughout the year Kalakshetra conducts music recital and dance performances in different parts of Chennai. Details about venue and timings can be obtained from the daily newspapers or ascertained from the information desk of the
Government of India Tourist Office at 154, Anna Salai or from the Govt. of Tamil Nadu Tourist Office, Panagal Building, Saidapet, Chennai 600015.
Birla Planetarium - 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.
Valluvar Kottam - The memorial to the poet-saint Tiruvalluvar 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. It stands as a modern memorial to the great poet who represents the glorious culture of the Tamils.
Anna Zoological Park (Vandalur) - Its main attractions are: Safari parks, a nocturnal animal house, an Aquarium, Natural Museum etc.
The Government Museum - National Art Gallery, Gallery of Contemporary Arts and Children"s Museum also lie in the Museum Complex.
Marina - Marina Beach, the pride of Chennai, is the second largest beach in the world and has a wide sandy foreshore. Situated on the beach, the Anna and MGR samadhis, which are the 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 Madras,Senate-House,Chepauk Palace, Presidency College, P.W.D office and Ice House are located on the beach drive
Kapaleswarar Temple - Not far from Triplicane, in Mylapore, there is yet another 8th century Pallava temple. The temple "Gopuram" (tower) is characteristic of Dravidian style architecture. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple has some beautiful sculptures, among which the bronze idols of 63 Saivite Saints (Nayanmars), which adorn the outer courtyard are rare specimens. Also in 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 it"s name -"myil" meaning peacock and "oor" meaning town.Mylapore swarms with life during the Arupathu Moovar festival that is held in March-April every year.
Sri Parthasarathy Temple - This temple in Triplicane is dedicated to Lord Krishna. The Pallavas originally built the temple in the 8th century A.D. though additions were later made to it by the Chola and Vijayanagara kings.
Santhome Cathedral Basilica - This gothic style cathedral is built above the tomb of St. Thomas.
V.G.P Golden Beach Resort: This beach resort is popular not just with the people of the city, but also with tourists. 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 seashells. The beach is clean and ideal for sunbathing.
Vandalur: Spread over an area of 1,265 acres, the Anna Zoological Park at Vandalur is the largest in South Asia and has a rich variety of different species of mammals, reptiles and birds. The animals roam in natural surroundings and there is also a special enclosure for nocturnal creatures.
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 sanctuaries 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.) Not far from Mamallapuram, this crocodile breeding and research centre is run by Romulus Whittaker. Here several species of Indian and African crocodiles and alligators are bred in captivity. The reptiles are kept in their natural habitat in open pools and can be viewed from safe proximity. This farm breeds crocodile to augment the crocodile population of the wildlife sanctuaries.
Muttukadu: (36 kms) The backwaters of Muttukadu have been developed by the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation to serve as a scenic picnic spot and a centre for water sports. In February every year, a windsurfing regatta is organised in Muttukadu. Competitions in windsurfing and other water sports are also held. Training and demonstration programs are held for youth.
Covelong: (48 kms) 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.