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This city guide presents all the information related to the travel and tourism of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu.


The fourth largest metropolitan of India, Chennai or Madras is the capital of Tamil Nadu. The city sports a 17 km stretch of the Coramandel coast and is divided roughly into three parts by the Cooum and Adyar waterways and the Buckingham Canal. With its distinct culture that differs to that of the North Indian culture, it is said to be the 'Gateway to the South'. An important musical, dance, art and cultural centre of the South, Chennai is also a significant industrial, trade and commerce centre. It presents a unique blend of the past and the present and one can find all the varieties of traditional to latest trends in the city.

Traditional vegetarian food along side fast foods, nine-yard sarees vis-à-vis latest fashionable attires, ancient temple architecture along with modern Indo-Saracenic and Victorian architectural styles and classical music and dance performances to thrashing beats of discos can all be seen in Madras. One can see beaches, parks, sanctuaries and glimpses of a rich historical legacy in the city. It is said that Chennai originated as a small fishing village in 1639 called Madraspatnam, which received early English merchants. It has a number of churches from the times of St. Thomas and several ancient temples, the most prominent being a temple in Triplicane and another in Mylapore.

Chennai's Prime Attractions

Fort St. George:
Built during the period of British East India Company in 1640, it houses St. Mary's Church and fort museum. The church is the oldest Anglican Church in India and was built in 1680 and houses the oldest British tombstones in India in its courtyard. The ancient prayer house was the place where Robert Clive and Governor Elinu-Yale were married, who later founded the famous Yale University in the States. The fort is used today as the offices of the State Legislative Assembly and the secretarial offices of the Tamil Nadu government. It has the tallest flagstaff in India.

There is a war memorial in its south that was built in 1939 in the memory of the martyrs of the the First World War. Its Island Grounds, situated on an island formed by the river Cooum is known for its natural beauty and greenery and is a popular venue for all the Trade and the Tourist Fairs. It also houses the High Court boasting of decorative domes and Indo-Saracenic corridors, which is an important landmark of Chennai along with the adjacent Parry's corner. The Fort Museum has many relics belonging to the period of East India Company and British India on its display such as the weapons, uniforms, coins, costumes and medals along with the contemporary paintings.

Kapaleeswarar Temple:
It is the biggest temple in the city and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The inscriptions here date back to the 13th century and is a fine specimen of the Dravidian style of architecture. The 37-m has intricate carvings inspired from Hindu mythology.

Sri Parthasarathi Temple:
The 8th century temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna, was built under the patronage of the Pallavas and houses the idols of the five avataras of Sri Vishnu. A small temple shrine in its premises is dedicated to Vishnu's consort known as 'Vedavalli Ammai' by the natives.

Santhome Cathedral:
Situated at the southern end of Marina Drive, Santhome is named after St Thomas, the apostle of Christ who came to Madras in 52 AD to spread the message of Christianity. It is said that he was killed on St Thomas Mount just outside the city in 78 AD and was buried on the San Thome beach. A curch was later constructed here, though his remains were later transferred to another church built further inland. In 1606, this new church was rebuilt as a cathedral that became a basilica in 1896, which is known for its beautiful stained glass window showcasing the story of St Thomas. The Central hall has 14 large wooden plaques depicting scenes from the last days of Christ. Another highlight is a 3 ft high statue of Virgin Mary that was imported from Portugal in 1543.

The Marina Beach:
The famous 12 km long Marina Beach is the second longest beach in the world and looks especially beautiful in the early mornings and late evenings when it cirtually becomes a fair ground with numerous food stalls and other entertainments.

The Theosophical Society:
The world headquarters of the Theosophical Society is in Adyar. The society studies comparative religion and philosophy and was founded by Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olott in USA. The headquarters moved to India in 1882 and now features shrines of all faiths, peaceful Garden of Remembrance and a 95-year old library with a rich collection of rare original oriental manuscripts written on palm leaves and parchment.

Kalakshetra or 'Temple of Art' is situated In Thiruvanmiyur, beyond Elliot's beach. Rukmini Devi Arundale founded it in 1936 to promote Bharatanatyam, the classical dance form of the state and local handicrafts of textile designing and weaving. The institution is the finest of its kind in the country and follows the ancient gurukulam system. It conducts music, recital and dance performances in different parts of Chennai all the year round.

Birla Planetarium:
The Birla Planetarium at Kotturpuram is the latest planetarium in the country with a fully computerized projector to depict the skies. Near it, there is a Periyar Science and Technology Museum meant to encourage the interest of students in science.

National Art Gallery and Government Museum:
This museum is in Egmore and was founded in 1857. The incredible and well-organized sections of museum have various relics on display related to archaeology, geology, anthropology, numismatics, sculpture, armory, botany and zoology.

Anna Square:
Anna Square at the northern end of Marina Beach is the place where Dr. C.N. Annadurai, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu was buried. About 30 km from the city, there is a huge Anna zoological park spread across 510 hectares, featuring safaris in the park, a nocturnal animal house, an Aquarium, Natural Museum and many others.

Valluvar Kottam:
The temple-chariot shaped memorial is dedicated to the famous Tamil poet-saint Tiruvalluvar is the replica of the one at Thiruvarur. The 33m tall chariot houses the life-size statue of the saint and is inscribed with 133 chapters of the poet's famous work Thirukkural in stone in the front hall corridors of the chariot. The memorial also houses the Asia's largest auditorium that can accommodate about 4000 people.

Chennai City Facts

Location: Situated in Tamil Nadu, India.
Climate: Chennai has hot and humid tropical climate with frequent rains and almost same temperature throughout the year.

How to Reach:
By Air: Chennai has Kamaraj Domestic Airport and Anna International Airport, which is at Tirusulam, 20 km from the city.
By Train: The railway network connects Chennai to all the major cities in India. The main railway stations of Chennai are Madras Central and Egmore.
By Road: It is easily accessible from other major cities of Tamil Nadu and the surrounding states.

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