Chennai City Guide
Abundantly rich in cultural heritage, and at the same time remarkably cosmopolitan, Chennai is an extremely diverse city. It has a vibrant theatre scene, and is an important centre for the classical dance form, Bharatanatyam. Apart from all this, Chennai is home to the Tamil film industry, Kollywood, which is the second largest movie industry in India. It is located on the southeast coast of India in the northeast of Tamil Nadu.
Formerly known as Madras, Chennai is the capital city of Tamil Nadu. It was once a cluster of villages situated amidst paddy fields and coconut trees. Established in the 17th century by the British, who developed Chennai into a major urban centre and naval base, it later became an important administrative centre, as the capital of the Madras Presidency. After India gained Independence in 1947, the city became the capital of Madras State, which was renamed the state of Tamil Nadu in 1969. Chennai’s location and infrastructure make it one of the fastest growing cities in South India, increasingly drawing investments from all over India and outside the country as well.
Think Chennai and the first thing that comes to mind is a tumbler of piping hot filter coffee. Chennai has a great deal to offer, in terms of cuisine, for both the veggie-eating and the meat-eating varieties. The quintessential Chennaite’s regular diet comprises rice with sambhar, rasam, mulaga podi or kootu. Breakfast and snacks include idlis, dosai, vada, pongal and uppama served with famous Tamilian filter coffee. Chennai is also famous for its spicy Chettinad cuisine and Tanjore delicacies.
Chennai offers ample opportunities to those who love to shop. From designer boutiques to hole-in-the-wall joints, Chennai’s shopping scene is happening. Famed for its silk sarees, Nalli’s is one shop that you simply shouldn’t miss visiting. There are a number of stores and malls across the city.
Chennai is famous for its beaches and magnificent temples. Marina Beach, the most popular among the lot, is almost 12 km long. Every morning, you can see fitness enthusiasts jogging or walking along the beach, and in the evenings, it’s equally crowded. It’s the perfect place to go when you want to enjoy a pretty sunset.
If you are traveling in the city, don’t miss the impressive façade of Anna University, the IIT campus, Connemara Public Library, Birla Planetarium, Government Museum, Snake Park, Church of Christ The King, and Valluvar Kottam (an auditorium in memory of the poet-saint Thiruvalluvar).
To get around the city, it is best to use the local bus transport service, as well as the trains, and then there are also auto rickshaws. If you are looking to travel in style, call taxis would be the best option. They charge by the hour, and they are the best means by which to take a tour of the city.
If you feel like venturing a bit further out, you can drive down to Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary. About 55 km from Chennai is Mahabalipuram, a beautiful beach town steeped in history. Another city that is a must-visit is the temple town of Kancheepuram (75 km), also famous for its silk sarees. Less than 200 km from Chennai is the former French colony of Pondicherry – now technically known as Puducherry – referred to by many as The French Riviera of the East. Home to Auroville and the Aurobindo Ashram, Pondy, as it is popularly known, is a hot tourist spot for visitors from all over the world. For sightseeing in and around the city, the best option is to consult the city’s travel agents.
Chennai’s plush Domestic and Anna International Airport, apart from the Central and Egmore railway stations, are well connected with the rest of the country, and the world. This city is home to the world-famous Koyembedu Bus Terminal, known to be the biggest of its kind.
Pongal, which goes on for over five days in January, is the most popular among all the festivals celebrated in Chennai. Apart from this festival, Tamilians also celebrate the Tamil New Year, which usually falls on April 14th. Festivals like Deepavali, Eid and Christmas are celebrated with pomp and show as well.
Chennai is a mishmash of cultures and races. Tamil, one of the oldest languages in India, is the native language, although you can get by with English. Hindi is also spoken, though on a smaller scale.
People & Population
Chennai has a population of around 6 million, the majority being Tamilians. Andhrites, Kannadigas and Malayalees constitute a considerable percentage of the population.
Located on the Coromandel Coast, Chennai experiences considerable heat and humidity. May is probably the hottest month, while January is the coolest. Unlike the rest of the country, Chennai experiences wet weather from September to December. The best time to visit the city is from mid-December to mid-January.