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Chennai, widely known as Madras till 1996, has a rich tradition and civilisation with a blend of the old, and the new, vibrating ceaselessly to keep pace with the rest of India, as the buoyant metropolis of the third most industrialised State. People in Chennai are deep rooted in their cultural moorings and traditions, even though modernity has its own impact. Chennai is airy, spacious with verdant green patches and beaches. With a population of about six million, Chennai is the fourth largest city in India. It has played a notable role in deciding the political destiny of India on many an occasion. Chennai has regained its pride of place in the automobile industry as the 'Detroit of the South'. Days are not far away when Chennai may be a 'Silicon City' with high-technological knowledge in software. Maybe that real India, in her pristine cultural warp and beauty as detailed in history, still lives in Chennai. A visit to Chennai to see the graceful people of glorious land will surely help the visitor to carry home this imprint of Indian heritage.


The region around Chennai has served as an important administrative, military, and economic centre dating back to the 1st century. It has been ruled by South Indian kingdoms, notably the Pallava, the Chola, the Pandya, and Vijaynagar empires. The town of Mylapore, now part of the metropolis, was once a major port of the Pallava kingdom. When the Portuguese arrived in 1522, they built a port and named it São Tomé, after the Christian apostle St. Thomas, who is believed to have preached there between the years 52 and 70. The region then passed into the hands of the Dutch, who established themselves near Pulicat just north of the city in 1612. On 22 August 1639, the British East India Company was granted land by the Nayak of Vandavasi as a base for a permanent settlement, believed to be called Madrasemen. A year later, Fort St George was built, which subsequently became the nucleus around which the colonial city grew. Elihu Yale, after whom Yale University is named, was British governor of Madras for five years. Part of the fortune that he amassed in Madras as part of the colonial administration became the financial foundation for Yale University. In 1746, Fort St George and Madras were captured by the French under General La Bourdonnais, the Governor of Mauritius, who plundered the town and its outlying villages. The British regained control of the town in 1749 through the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle and subsequently fortified the base to withstand further attacks from the French and Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysore. By the late 18th century, the British had conquered most of the region around Tamil Nadu and the northern modern-day states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to establish the Madras Presidency, whose capital was Madras. Under British rule the city grew into a major urban centre and naval base. With the advent of railways in India in the late 19th century, it was connected to other important cities such as Bombay (now known as Mumbai) and Calcutta (since renamed Kolkata), facilitating communication and trade with the hinterland. It was the only Indian city to be attacked by the Central Powers during World War I, when an oil depot was shelled by the German light cruiser SMS Emden. After independence in 1947, the city became the capital of Madras State, which was renamed as Tamil Nadu in 1968. From 1965 to 1967, Chennai was an important base for the Tamil agitation against the perceived imposition of Hindi. Chennai had witnessed some political violence due to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, after 33 people were killed by a bomb planted by the Tamil Eelam Army at the airport in 1984 and following the assassination of thirteen members of the Sri Lankan separatist group EPRLF, and two Indian civilians by the rival LTTE in 1991. In the same year, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, was assassinated in Sriperumbudur, a city close to Chennai, whilst campaigning in Tamil Nadu, by Thenmuli Rajaratnam A.K.A Dhanu. Dhanu is widely believed to be have been a LTTE member. Strong measures were taken and the city has not faced any major terrorist activity since then.
In 2004 the Indian Ocean tsunami lashed the shores of Chennai, killing many and permanently altering the coastline.


Chennai Facts & Figures
State Tamil Nadu
Area 174 km² 
Tourist Season Throughout the Season
Literacy 80.14%
Languages Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, English, Urdu,Hindi


Dee Cee Manor Le royal Meridien Quality Inn Sabari
Taj Connemara Courtyard by Marriott Quality Hotel Sabari Classic
Trident Oberoi GRT Grand Benz Park Tulip
Park Ambassodor Pallava Trident Hilton
Radission GRT Pride Abu Palace
Taj Mount Road Savera Deccan Plaza
Sheraton Chola Fortune Select palms Star City
ITC Park Sheraton & Towers Checkers Zen Garden
Ambica Empire Breeze Comfort Inn Marina Towers
Crystal Inn Radha Park Inn  
Pleasant Days Inn    


Fort St. George Valluvar Kottam Doveton House Kadaswamy Temple Sri Kapaleeswarar Temple
Kanchipuram Mamallapuram Marina Beach Museum Covelong Beach
Anna Zoological Park Guindy Park Vadapalani Temple Elliot's Beach Parthasarathy Temple


By Air -Chennai is an international airport with flight connections to all major parts of the world, Domestic airlines connect Chennai with all the major cities of India.

By Rail -If you intend to travel any where from within India, Chennai is connected by rail with all major towns and cities in India. Suburban Electric trains run from Beach station to Tambaram and from Central to Gummidipoondi and Arakonam.

By Road -
You can also travel by your own transport since Chennai is connected by a good road network with all other parts of India as well as important places in Tamil Nadu. Taxis, Auto-rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are available. All types of tourist vehicle are easily available on hire.

By Sea - There is a sea line to Andaman and Nicobar islands.  


Fairs and festivals are celebrated with traditional gaiety and fervor to invoke divine blessings as well as for the sheer joy of living. A celebration of life at its best.

Arubathimoovar Festival : Literally, 'Arubathimoovar' refers to the 63 saints of Shiva canonized for leading exemplary lives of devotion and penance. Bronze figures of these 63 saints adorn the magnificent Kapaliswar Temple at Mylapore, Chennai. Once, every year, they are carried in a colourful procession through the streets of Mylapore.

Chithirai Festival : Madurai brings you a spectacular re-enactment of the marriage of the Pandiyan princess Meenakshi to Lord Sundareswarar. You can witness an ancient legend unfold right before your eyes as Lord Vishnu rides to his sister's wedding on gleaming real-gold horse chariot.

Kavadi Festival : Dancing in a hypnotic trance to the rhythm of drums, devotees of Muruga carry the 'Kavadi' a flower-decked decoration, all the way up the Palani Hills to fulfil their vow. According to Hindu mythology, Idumban is said to have carried two sacred hillocks on two ends of a pole laced on his shoulders.

Kanthuri Festival : A truly secular festival where devotees flock to the shrine of saint Quadirwali, believed to do equal good to people of all faiths. One of the descendants of the Saint is chosen as a Peer or spiritual leader and is honoured with offerings. On the tenth day of the festival, the Saint's tomb is anointed with sandalwood - and later the holy sandal paste, renowned for its healing powers, is distributed to everyone.

Mahamagam Festival : A holy festival that will bring you to Kumbakonam once in 12 years - the temple city that gets its name from "Kumbha" - the divine pot. Legend has it that Brahma, the Creator, held a pot containing nectar and the seed of creation. Shiva. in the form of a hunter shot an arrow at the pot - spilling the nectar into the famous Mahamagam tank at the Adi Kumbeswarar Temple.

Velankanni Festival : Wondrous legends surround the church-the most famous being that of the ship-wrecked Portuguese sailors, who in the 16th century, vowed to build a great shrine for the Virgin Mary, for saving their lives in a terrible storm. The Velankanni festival attracts thousands, clad in orange robes to the sacred spot where the ship landed. Equally famous are the Virgin Mary's miraculous healing powers- earning for the church the name 'Lourdes of the East'. Tayagaraja Festival : Tyagaraja was a South Indian composer and saint born in 1767, and is celebrated for many Telugu songs he composed in praise of Rama. His life and works are a source of great inspiration to young poets and musicians. At Tiruvaiyaru, about 13 km. from Tanjore, South Indian musicians gather at the composer's memorial to sing in his memory. Young artistes believe that they will be blessed with a melodious voice if they anoint the shrine with honey and sing Tyagaraja's songs at his memorial.

Tourist Fair : In January, the sun gets into a pleasant holiday mood and Chennai gets a cool respite from her famous hot weather! Time for family outings to the colourful TTDC Trade Fair. The exhibition presents a panorama of Tamil Nadu - all her places of touristinterest, her cultural wealth and economic progress. Pongal : At dawn on this day families everywhere gather around a new earthen pot. As the pot of milk boils over, signifying prosperity, a shout of "Pongalo Pongal" rents the air.

Summer Festival : The summer festival might find you in the 'Queen of Hill Stations', the evergreen Ooty; the exquisite Kodaikkanal or the salubrious heights of Yercaud - where boat races, flower and fruit shows are specially organised. Also, a splendid opportunity to go trekking in any of Tamil Nadu's other hill stations that promise unforgettable holidays off the beaten track.

Saral- Vizha : A festival that makes a celebration out of a simple, daily ritual bathing! In addition, indeed, a bath at the picturesque Courtallam waterfalls is no ordinary event. The healing waters of the roaring Courtallam are famed for their medicinal properties.

Karthigai Deepam : Rows of glittering earthen lamps outside every home, and the joyous burst of firecrackers mark Tamil Nadu's Festival of Lights.


Chennai is noted for its delectable South Indian cuisine, so distinct from North Indian cuisine but equally famous and much sought after everywhere. From the idli, vada, and idiyappam to uppuma and dosa, Chennai provides delicious variety for the taste buds. There are numerous vegetarian restaurants in Chennai serving simple meals where a thali lunch is served on a banana leaf to sumptuous spreads in the big hotels. One can also savour non-vegetarian Chettinad cuisine that is a specialty in Tamil Nadu and will be a delight for those who like hot and spicy non-vegetarian food. This type of food has several variations of fish, mutton, and chicken dishes of which the Chettinad Pepper Chicken is special. Tamil Nadu, especially Chennai, is famous for its filter coffee as most Tamils have a subtle contempt for instant coffee. The Chennai cuisine has a variety of recipes. The menus are usually influenced by the menu of different people who have moved into Chennai from different parts of Tamil Nadu. Each ingredient in a dish has some medicinal value associated with it. On festival occasions, even today the traditional Chennai lunch is served on a banana leaf. It is an ancient Tamilian belief that the banana leaf has the ability to take away untraceable amounts of toxins in the food we eat. The Chennaites also do not mind experimenting with their taste buds occasionally. The upcoming pizza centers and fast food joint explain it. Spices are added to give a distinctive taste. The Tamil style of Mughlai food can be savoured in the biriyanis and paya. The later is a kind of spiced trotters broth and is eaten with either parathas or appam.


Chennai leads the rest of the country when it come to the retail experience with some of the swankiest and largest retail stores setting up shop here first. These stores sell western and ethnic wear. For traditional arts and crafts visit Cottage Emporium, Poompuhar Emporium and Victoria Technical Institute all of which are at Anna Salai. For exotic Kanjeevaram silk sarees Nalli's Rasi and Kumaran silks at T Nagar are a delight. Both plastic and paper currencies are widely accepted.


Some of the well-known beaches in Chennai are:
Marina Beach : The famous Marina Beach the pride of Chennai is second longest beach in the world with a stretch of 4.5 kms (2.5 miles) and has a wide sandy foreshore. You can see the statues of heroes from Tamil culture to samadhis of great leaders like Anna and MGR here. Walk along the Marina in the evening to cool off and eat crispy sundal and murukku. An aquarium is also located on the Marina Beach. Watching sunset and sunrise from the beach is a fascinating experience.

Covelong Beach : Now a luxury beach resort. This beach has a fort built by the Nawab of Carnatic. It was here that the French General Laboudonnais landed his troops in 1746. Later it was taken by Robert Clive in 1752 and destroyed. The Beach is separated from the mainland by the canal running from Chennai to Mahabalipuram. Taj Group of Hotels runs the Fisherman's Cove Resort with rooms in the main buildings and cottages and the sandy beach here. It is located on the way to Mahabalipuram.

Elliot's Beach : Elliot's Beach is spread along the coast down south from Marina. It is also the night beach for Chennai youth. This beach is comparatively quieter and an ideal place to go sea bathing. It is located near Besant Nagar. At the end of this beach are the Velankanni church and the Ashtalakshmi temple. Good roads, pavements, illuminated sands, makes a visit to this beach a real pleasure.


The Chennai Dance and Music Festival is held every year in Chennai from mid December to mid January. The month long musical extravaganza is a celebration of classical music and dances of South India and features performances by various artistes from different parts of India. The festival is held at various venues around the city. These include auditoriums, well-known temple premises and heritage bungalows. The festival, popularly known as the `Margazhi Festival of Dance and Music' started way back in 1927 to commemorate the anniversary of Madras Music Academy. It was later adopted by various organizations, which held art festivals in different parts of the city. The Tamil month of `Marghazi' is considered a sacred month by the Hindus and South Indian classical music, which is devotional in nature, has been a traditional form of worship from time immemorial. The festival attracts Indians from all over the world and gives a glimpse of our rich cultural heritage. Performances include Vocal and Instrumental music, Dance - solo and group. The festival provides wonderful opportunity for upcoming artistes to display their talent. The weather is cool and very pleasant at this time of the year. Information about the tickets and venues can be obtained from the tourism office, Chennai.