Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, is known as the gateway to south India. It’s a sprawling and busy, yet conservative, city with deep traditions and culture that are yet to give way to the growing foreign influence there. The city’s main attractions are its beach, temples, museums and galleries, old Portuguese style churches, and amusement parks.
HOW TO REACH
The third busiest airport of India is the Chennai International Airport which is located at a distance of 7 km from the main city. Both, international and domestic flights land at different terminals: the international flights arrive at the Anna Terminal whereas the domestic flights at Kamaraj Terminal. These two terminals are located at a distance of only 150 metres from each other. Both the terminals are well connected to the major cities of India and the world, respectively.
Chennai Central (code MAS) and Chennai Egmore (code MS) are the two main long distance train stations. There are daily trains from Chennai to Bengaluru, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Delhi, Cochin, Hyderabad Kolkata and most of the big cities of India. The Egmore station covers most of the places in Tamil Nadu and a few important places outside it. The long trains to Egmore stop at Tambaram and some at Perambur. These two stations serve the suburban areas of Chennai. Prepaid taxis, cabs auto rickshaws are available for hire just outside the station.
One of Asia’s largest bus stations is in Chennai, the CMBT. There are seven different state owned corporations which drive buses to and from various destinations within South India. There are hourly buses for places like Tirupati, Pondicherry, Coimbatore, Tirunelveli etc.
WHAT TO SEE
Marina Beach of Chennai is a popular destination. Marina Beach is one of the longest urban beaches in the world. Stretched along the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal for about 12 km, Marina Beach is bordered by St. George Fort in the North and Besant Nagar in the South. Marina Beach is a popular picnic spot since the 1880s. Famous for its long stretch of silver sands and blue sea, Marina Beach provides a clear view of sunrise and sunset.
Valluvar Kottam is a popular destination in Chennai. Valluvar Kottam is located towards the corner of Kodambakkam High Road and Village Road of Chennai. Valluvar Kottam was built as a memorial to Thiruvalluvar, the author of ‘Thirukkural’. Valluvar Kottam consists of an auditorium and a memorial. The auditorium can accommodate 4000 people at a time. The auditorium is surrounded by granite pillars on which all the verses from Thirukkural have been carved. It required about 3000 stone blocks to construct Valluvar Kottam.
St. George Fort:-
St. George Fort is an important historic monument in Chennai. Located on Rajaji Salai in Chennai, Fort St. George is named after St. George who is believed to have preached in Chennai. St. George Fort was built by the British East India Company in the year 1640. This fort is regarded as the earliest settlement of the British in India. Fort St. George encloses other famous historic monuments such as St. Mary’s Church and St. George Fort Museum. St. Mary’s Church, built in 1680, is regarded as the first Anglican Church in Asia. Fort St. George Museum, built in 1795, showcases artefacts like coins, medals, paintings, letters, etc. which are related to British personnel who inhabited this fort. There is also a 14.5 feet tall statue of Lord Cornwallis in front of the museum, which was brought to India from Britain.
The Government Museum, located on Pantheon Road of Egmore, is considered as the oldest Museum in India. Known also as Central Museum, Government Museum was built in 1851 in the College of Fort St. George. The Public Library was added in 1853 and the Museum was opened in 1896. Government Museum constitutes of six buildings and they house 46 galleries. The six sections of Government Museum are Main Building, Front Building, Bronze Gallery, Children’s Museum, National Art Gallery and Contemporary Art Gallery.
San thome basilica:-
San thome Cathedral is a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Santhome, at Mylapore in South Chennai. Santhome Cathedral is a popular religious centre. It is believed that Santhome Cathedral was originally constructed by St. Thomas, the Father of Indian Christianity, when he was in South India between 52 AD and 72 AD, before he was martyred. The present shrine is built over the tomb of St. Thomas. Santhome Cathedral was refurbished as a Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century by Portuguese navigators. It was rebuilt by the British in 1893, giving it the status of a Cathedral. It was built in the Neo-Gothic style of architecture, which is typical of the late 19th century. Today, Santhome Cathedral is considered among the national shrines of India.
Covelong Beach is a popular destination among beach lovers. Covelong Beach is regarded as one of the finest beaches in the state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the coast of Coromandel, between the cities of Chennai and Mahabalipuram, Covelong Beach is famous for beach activities and its serene beauty. Covelong Beach was a principal port in the 16th century. It was Saadat Ali, the Nawab of Carnatic, who built a port at Covelong Beach in the year 1746. In 1752, the port was captured by the French and it was soon seized by the British East India Company. Today, Covelong Beach has transformed to become one among the top beach resorts in the South. Covelong Beach, though famous for its clear waters, is less crowded. It is at a distance of 40 km from Chennai and is visited mostly by water sports enthusiasts for activities like wind surfing, swimming.
Guindy National Park:-
Guindy National Park in Chennai is situated within the city premises, on the ground extension of Raj Bhavan. Guindy National Park is ranked as the 8th smallest National Park of India. Spread over 2.82 sq km of tropical dry evergreen forest along the Coromandel Coast, Guindy National Park was declared a forest reserve in 1810 and as National Park in 1978. Guindy National Park is the natural habitat of a wide range of plants and animals, which is typical of north-eastern Tamil Nadu. The tropical dry evergreen scrub and thorn forests of Guindy National Park have earned it the name ‘the green lungs of Chennai’.
Chennai has plenty to offer to shoppers. While at Chennai, you can shop for saris, contemporary and traditional artwork, antiques, jewellery etc. many traditional items like Pattamara Mats, leaf and palmyra-fiber handicrafts from Tirunellveli, metal works from Tanjavur, stone carvings from Mamallapuram, silks from Kanchipuram are available in Chennai and are a big draw for shoppers. Naturally Auroville at Khadar Nawaz Khan Road sells handmade items like shoes, clothes, ceramics and toiletries from the Auroville community. You can also pay a visit to the government emporiums for good quality and reasonable prices.
The South Indian cuisine culture also includes multi-cuisines such as parota made of maida with kothu (minced veg), puliyodarai also known as puliyogare, thayir sadam, thogayal, appam, pongal, aviyal, etc. The famous sweet dishes of Chennai are payasam, kesari, sweet pongal, etc. Whereas, among the non-vegetarians, chettinad Pepper Chicken is very popular and is one of the best cuisines of the city. But what is most surprising to know is that the South Indian art of culinary is a blend of all six different tastes including sweet, salt, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent. Besides this, the traditional meal is served on the fresh banana leaf as it is believed from the ancient time that it removes toxins from the food and also because of a sacred belief linked with it. In most of the restaurants too, they put banana leaf on the plate before serving the food.