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Cultural Capital

  Parthasarathy temple in Chennai


Chennai or Madras as it was called before, on the Coromandel Coast, is the capital city of Tamil Nadu, a State of the Indian Sub continent. It is a major industrial, commercial, cultural, economic and educational centre of the Southern India. The Chennai District’s population is 46,81,087 . Chennai City is the sixth largest populated in Indian cities. It is known as the “Detroit of India” because many automobile industries are located here. There are many versions and legends as to how this city’s name kept changing from Madras and Chennai from time to time. Originally this city was called as Madras, from Madraspattinam during Nayakars rule. It was a fishing village situated to the north of the present Fort St. George. British bought the piece of land from the King of Vijayanagar and built the Fort St. George that houses today’s Secretariat complex of Government of Tamil Nadu. British retained the name as Madrasapattinam, though the locals called it as Chennapattinam. A Legend also says, this city was first named Chennai in honour of Damal Chennappa Nayakkar.


The doorway to South India, Chennai is a miraculous gift the land of Tamil Nadu embraces. Drawing the quality of ‘Unity in Diversity’ from the homeland country India, Chennai carries the legacy of rich cultural heritage imbibed in its fine arts, music and dance forms, people and cuisines.


Chennai, the city situated at the Coromondal coast of Bay of Bengal is often recognized as the ‘Detroit of India’ and the ‘Gateway of South’. The fourth largest and one of the prosperous cities of the country, Chennai is an attraction in itself. It is the capital of the state Tamil Nadu, and fifth most populous city of India.

Marina Beach: India’s largest beach happens to be Chennai’s Marina Beach which extends from Fort St. George to Besant Nagar. One of the best places to visit in Chennai for viewing a spectacular sun rise, this sandy delight is lined by palm trees on one side. An old light house stands on the southern end of Marina along with several other structures including an aquarium, a swimming pool and a park.

  Girls performing at Natyanjali Dance Festival

Elliot’s Beach: Now renamed as Besant Nagar Beach, Elliot’s is one of the places to see in Chennai and less crowded than the popular Marina Beach. On the southern side this seashore are the famedAshta Lakshmi Temple and Velanganni Church, popular among the residents of Chennai. The Schmidt Memorial is yet another draw of Elliott Beach which was built in remembrance of a Dutch sailor, Karl Schmidt. Head here to experience a tranquil evening overseeing the waves as they roll into the shore.

Covelong Beach: Located a distance of 40km from Chennai, on the coast of Coromandel, Covelong Beach is well-known for its beach activities and the serene beauty of its surroundings.

Once a major port, one comes across it on the way to Mahabalipuram. It is now thronged mostly by water sports enthusiasts for activities such as wind surfing and swimming. Close by are ancient monuments like forts, churches and mosques apart from the town of Mahabalipuram and the Crocodile Farm, makingCovelong Beach a popular destination for a day outing.

Fort St. George: A delight for history buffs, this fort constructed during the British Rule, encloses historic monuments of St. Mary’s church and St. George museum. The museum houses artefacts from that era including paintings, coins, silverware, arms, porcelain and documents.

  San Thome Church

San Thome Church: An important religious spot for the Christian community, the sparkling white structure of San Thome stands on the tomb of St Thomas. This structure, which is a reminder of the colonial past of the city, has stained glass windows and a statue of St Thomas in a sitting posture. A museum, a library and a shop selling prayer material are found within the church premises too.

Sri Parthasarathy Temple: One of the historical places to visit in Chennai is the temple said to be the oldest in this city. Dedicated to Lord Krishna, one can see its splendid coloured gopuram apart from the other shrines that stand within the temple grounds.

  Kapaleeshwar Temple in Chennai

Kapaleeswarar Temple: Apart from being a religious spot, what draws crowds to this temple is its unique architecture. The detailed Gopuram of this structure is 37 metres high and is a fine example of Dravidian style of construction. The temple, home to the deities Shiva and Karpagambal, even holds a festival in the months of March and April.

Vellankani Shrine: Just off the Elliot’s Beach stands the AnnaiVailankanni Shrine which is much revered among both Christians and non-Christians. The pristine white structure of the church stands overlooking the Bay of Bengal and is visited by thousands of solace-seekers each day. One can attend the mass conducted here in both Tamil and English.

Arignar Anna Zoological Park: Located 35 km from the city centre, this zoological park is one of the places to visit in Chennai with kids. The expansive grounds of the zoo are home to 1500 species of wild beings, some of which are even endangered. An aviary, a lion safari, a deer safari and an elephant safari form the popular sections of the zoo.

Crocodile Bank: Started in an effort to preserve and protect this reptile species, the Crocodile Bank even houses alligators, snakes, sea turtles and water birds. In all there are 2500 creatures within the premises of the Bank.

  Dakshina Chitra

Dakshina Chitra: This is one of the places to visit in Chennai with kids where they will be introduced to the South Indian culture of the past. Literally translating to ‘a picture of the south’,DakshinaChitra is a small village has been recreated using replicas of traditional South Indian houses of 19th and 20th centuries. Cholamandal Artist Village: This artists’ commune is a platform for the resident painters and sculptors to showcase their creations to the visiting guests. Located on the fringes of Chennai, in the village of Injambakkam, Cholamandal has two galleries, an open-air theatre, a book store and a craft shop. For those interested in art and craft, this destination with a serene ambience will be an ideal outing.

Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary: This bird sanctuary is inundated with thousands of birds of varied species during the migratory season. The lake within the sanctuary is the all important source of water for these creatures, around which they build their nests and thrive. Birds of diverse origins are what you can see at this place to visit near Chennai.

Adventure Sports

  (L)Tourists at covelongbeach; (R) Tourists riding ATV bikes in forest area

One of the striking metropolitan cities in the country, Chennai; previously known as ‘Madras’ is one of the pictorial cities in the country. Also known as the ‘Detroit of India’, this gorgeous city stands on the stunning Coromandel Coast and is adorned by the alluring charm of the Bay of Bengal. A melting point of several cultures and traditions, old warm charm and contemporary lifestyle, this quaint city also makes it for an amazing tourist as well as adventure destinations in the country.

Laser Tag: Without proper trainings and required skills, no one would like to step into a battlefield! However, when it comes to participate in an exciting laser tag battle, almost every fun lover would hop into the arena and shoot down their enemies with their laser gun! A new trend among all the different adventure sports in Chennai, laser tag is grabbing plenty of attention in the recent time.

  Tourists doing scuba diving adventure activity

Scuba Diving: Located off the Coromandel Coast adjoining the Bay of Bengal, Chennai has a huge and uninterrupted shoreline which allows you to explore all the beauties of the underwater world. It will give you great enjoyment as well as experience also.

Fairs and Festivals

  Women celebrating Pongal festival

India, the land of cultures, traditions and diversity has yet another facet of its varying nature hidden in Chennai, the Gateway of South. The hustling and bustling metropolitan city, swirling on the tunes of daily activities, Chennai, has a marvellous traditional culture marked by commemoration of several festivals and fairs. Pongal: the harvest festival of South India, known as an Indian version of western ‘thanksgiving’ festival, is one of the major festivals celebrated in the Chennai city of India. Commemorated in the month of January, the festival marks the end of the traditional farming season and represents reverence for the new beginning.


Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu and an important part of South India is home to a potpourri of vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian cuisines and is famous for its exclusive food culture and traditional range of cuisine, which is known as the South India food. In breakfast, people prefer to have idli (steamed rice cakes) or dosa along with coconut chutney or tomato chutney. Both these are made from a fine paste of rice and lentils. They also like to have upma (made of rava), idiyappam or vada. In lunch, there is a variety of food including steamed rice served with sambar, rasam, kootu, buttermilk, chutney and curry. The non-vegetarian meal includes curry or dish prepared by chicken, mutton or fish.


  (L) Cuisine of Tamil Nadu;(R) A tourists shopping at the mall in Chennai

Chennai, being one of the metropolitan cities of India and important commercial destinations in South India, has a lot to offer to the tourists who come here. So, if you are a shopaholic then you don’t need to worry at all, for there is a lot in store for you in the lanes of this ethnic city. You can buy cultural to modern outfits as per your choice and requirement. From traditional shops selling items like pattamara mats, leaf handicrafts from Tirunellveli, bronze and brass castings and traditional jewellery from Kumbakonam, metal works from Tanjavur and stone carvings from Mamallapuram and silks from Kanchipuram to sophisticated malls.

(For full stories read SAFARI INDIA)