about chennai

About Chennai - The gateway of South India

Chennai, also called the ‘Gateway of South India’ is the second most populous city; with tremendous cultural and linguistic diversity with approximately 1000 dialects, is one place which is both incredible and intriguing to the visitors. Perched on the magnificent shores of Arabian Sea, the city boasts of its rich historical background. Chennai is also known for the Indian dance form – Bharatnatyam, which is the official dance form of Tamil Nadu. Chennai as a city has the perfect amalgamation of heritage imbibed with fine arts, music, dance form and mouth watering cuisine.

Chennai through the Ages :-

The city of Chennai, before acquiring its present stature was known as Madras in ancient times. The city which is about 400 years old begins its historical journey from the rulers of South India and then going from colonization to development, then acquiring its present stature as a metropolitan city. Chennai at its inception was just a small group of villages. The city was under the governance of the great and well known dynasties of South India such as the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandayas and Vijayanagar Kingdom. With the dawn of 16th century, Chennai started changing to make a history which was a story of conquering territories and colonization. In the year 1522, the first foreign conquerors set foot upon the land of Chennai. The Portuguese entered and made the first port on Chennai – The Sao Tome, after the Christian apostle – St.Thomas. With that the line of foreign conquerors started breaching through the territories of Chennai. In 1612 the Dutch came and settled near Pulicat, which constituted the northern part of the state followed by the East India Company. Madras, derived from Madraspattanam was the area which the East India Company had chosen to settle its trade into and established its factory here in 1639. Along with factories which were set up by Francis Day and Andrew Cogan, a colony was also set up which would work to serve as the headquarters of EIC and got completed in 1640, which today is known as the George’s Fort, and with passing years was built into George town as trade flourished here, marked by overcrowded streets bustling with business which catered to the needs of British market. Then came in the second flow of governance and colonization, The French, and the city along with George fort came under the supremacy of them under the leadership of General La Bourdonnais, the governor of Mauritius who ransacked the city and conquered it. With another turn of events as the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was

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signed in 1749, the city again came under the rule of the British. As the area was bastioned the British established their supremacy which became unquestionable in the city. By the late 18th century the Madras Presidency was established by the British with the inclusion of areas nearby Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

The last wave of turmoil in Chennai ended with India getting its freedom in 1947. The city was declared as the capital of Madras. The name Madras got revamped with the name of Tamil Nadu in the year 1969. The name Chennai was given to the city in August 1996 and thus Chennai got its present stature as it is known today an IIT hub and is also called ‘the Detroit of Asia.’

The Culture of Chennai

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The city boasts of having a rich culture in terms of clothing, cuisine, music and dance. Chennai’s vibrancy can be easily glorified through the dance from and the carnatic music that is being cherished here since time immemorial. Bharatnatyam, a dance form indigenous to the city has its origin in the temples of Chennai. The traditional attires and the “mudras” of the dance make this classical beauty worth watching and coming to Chennai for. Chennai is quite proud of the music sense it has and the the style of carnatic music which is being practiced here since ancient times is the commemorated every year through Madaras Music Festival. The Traditional artists and the Kanjivaram sarees for which Chennai is famous is a tradition still kept alive by the women of Chennai. For all the foodies out there Chennai is one stop heaven. With tastes ranging from Tamarind Chutney, Coconut Milk, Spicy Idli and Dosa, Chennai is every food lover’s dream come true.

What to See ?

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Beaches :

The Detroit of Asia – Chennai is a city, perched at the shores of the grand Arabian Sea and thus has beautiful beaches which give a panoramic view of the sea in front. The 15kms long Marina beach has a lighthouse, memorials, statues, walkways, gardens and drives along the beach front. With lots of famous coffee shops and restaurants the Elliot’s Beach is also worth visiting. One of the most famous beaches of Chennai is the Covelong Beach and has a cove and a fort of the Kings of Chennai.

Chennai Rail Museum :

Spread across a land mass of 6.25 acres, the Chennai Rail Museum is a place which is dedicated to portray the rich culture of railways in India. Inaugurated on 16th April 2002 the place has displayed both technical and heritage exhibits with plethora of collections of steam engines which date back to the era of the British rule. The museum covers the history of Indian railways in South India and has heritage trains like the Ooty trains. These collections of trains are almost 100years old and are well preserved and maintained.

Government Museum Complex :

This museum established in 1851 in Egmore has various buildings like the Government Museum, Connemara Public library and the National Art gallery. The museum houses various artifacts, constituting of archeology, numismatics, zoology, natural history, Amarvati paintings and palm leaf manuscripts. The Connemara National depository library is one library which is given one copy of every book, newspaper and periodical published in India. This library is also a depository library of the UN.

Fort St. George :

This fort holds important place in the history of Chennai as this is the first fort by the British in India and was established in 1639.The fort was named after St. George who was the patron saint of England. The fort later led to the development of George Town, which was also called the Black town in old days. The fort today is now used as the headquarters of the legislative assembly of Tamil Nadu. The fort also houses the St. Mary’s Church which is also the oldest Anglo church in India.

Santhome Church :

Santhome Church, Chennai

The Santhome Church in Chennai is also called the Santhome Cathedral Basilica is the church of one of the 12 disciples of Jesus and was built in 16th century in India by Portuguese explorers over the tomb of Saint Thomas. When the church was rebuilt by the British, it resembled the Neo-Gothic style of Architecture in the 19th century. The British version of the church stands till date and is a famous tourist hotspot. This church is quintessentially a Roman catholic church and was given the status of cathedral by the British when they were rebuilding it.

Chettinad Palace :

The Chettinad palace is one of the best example of the Chettinad architecture in Chennai and was established in the year 1912. The palace in its architecture resembles to European architecture a little and was built under Dr.Annamalai Chettiyar. The Palace is an archeological wonder as it has been carved in intrinsic shapes and geometrical patterns. Situated between lush green swathes of land the palace is pristine and there is absolutely no better way to know about the history of the Chettiyars than by visiting the Palace. The palace almost took 2 years to complete to reach its present stature.

Victory War Memorial :

Victory War Memorial, Chennai

The victory war memorial, which was once called the Cupids’s bow, is located at the south of Fort St. George, from where the Mariana beach starts. It was founded as a memorial to the victory of the Allied Armies during World War I and then was later considered as the victory war memorial for World War II, to commemorate the sacrifice of martyrs who died in the war from Madras Presidency. Then other memorials were also associated to it like the 1948 Kashmir aggression, the 1962 war of China and the Indo-Pakistan war.

Karl Schmidt Memorial

This memorial built at the Eliot’s Beach is a monument erected by the governor of the place to commemorate the bravery of Karl Schmidt who drowned while trying to save an English girl. The story has it that the English girl Schmidt had save, attended a party the next day as if nothing had happened and the ten governor who was angry at the girl’s carelessness decided to erect this memorial monument. The memorial stone at the structure says, ” To commemorate the gallantry of K A J Schmidt who was drowned near this spot on December 30, 1930 while helping to save the lives of others.”

Velluvar Kottam :

Velluvar Kottam, Chennai

This monument dedicated to the Tamil Poet, saint and philosopher is a tourist hotspot in Chennai. Built in the 1970s the by Klaignar M. Karunanidhi is a monument on which all the 133 chapters and 1330 verses of the Thiruvalluvar, a work by the famous poet is inscribed. Velluvar Kottavam has the structure of a chariot and is 39m high. The hall of the monument can accommodate almost 4000 people within itself. The monument is situated at the Kodambakkam High Road and is now one of the most famous monuments of Chennai.

Arignar Anna Zoological Park:

With 1300 acres in its cover, this zoo is the largest zoo in India. Also called as the Vandalur Zoo, it was set up in 1855 and is one of the oldest zoos of India which is working under Central Zoo Authority of India. The park was established with the motive to prevent the extinction of endangered species, flora and fauna, wildlife education and research. The zoo is actually a part of Vandalur Reserved forest Area and is handling almost 46 endangered species of wildlife on its own.

Victoria Public Hall :

Also known as Town Hall, Victoria public hall as the name suggests was christened after Victoria, the erstwhile Queen of England. The hall is famed to be one of the best examples of British architecture and was used as a theatre and public assembly room in late 19th and 20th century. It is now established as the South Indian Athletic Association Club. The hall has its roots of inception in 1882, was built in Indo-Saracenic style of architecture and was commissioned by many maharajas of that time, apart from British Officials.

Best Time to Visit

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The best time to visit Chennai is from November to February. The temperature during this time at Chennai is 20 to 25 degree Celsius, which considered to be the most favorable temperature for comfortable travel to Chennai. This is the winter season at Chennai and is best for travel at leisure. Cool breezes from the sea add to the perks of the scenic beauty of the city.

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