Formerly known as Madras, this is the fourth largest city in India and the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu. Chennai boasts of having one of the longest city beaches in the world, and the Marina Beach provides a refreshing contrast to the busy city centre.
The Fort St. George area contains many reminders from the time the British established the East India Trading Company in the 17th century, including the oldest surviving Anglican church in Asia, the St. Mary’s Church.
What to see
Fort St. George : Fort St. George occupies a place of pride and prominence in Chennai. It was built in 1640 AD, by the British East India Company under the direct supervision of Francis Day and Andrew Cogon. This bastion achieved name from St. George, the patron saint of England. The fort houses St. Mary’s Church and fort museum. St. Mary’s Church the oldest Anglican church in India built in 1680 and the tombstones in it’s courtyard are the oldest British tombstones in India. This ancient prayer house solemnised the marriages of Robert Clive and Governor Elinu-Yale, who later founded the Yale University in the States.
The Fort Museum is the repository of rare exhibits of weapons, uniforms, coins, costumes, medals and some other artifacts dating back to the British period. The flag staff at Fort St. George is still the tallest in India. South of the Fort is the War Memorial, a graceful monument built in 1939 in memory of the warriors who sacrificed their lives during the First World War.
The Island Grounds, the biggest lung space in the city is situated on an island formed by the river Cooum. This ground is the eventful venue of Trade and the Tourist Fairs held periodically which are seasonal attractions;
The High Court: With the decorative domes and corridors reminiscent of Indo/Saracenic architecture and the adjacent Parry’s corner are the important landmarks of Chennai . Built in 1892, the High Court of Chennai is believed to be the second largest judicial complex in the world;
San Thome Cathedral Basilica: San Thome at the southern end of Marina derives its name from St Thomas, the apostle of Christ who is believed to have come to Madras sometime during 52 AD. He was killed on St Thomas Mount just outside the city in 78 AD. and was interned in San Thome beach where a church was later built. Several years later, another church was built further inland and his mortal remains were transferred from the old church to the new one. In 1606 the church was rebuilt as a cathedral and in 1896 it was made a basilica. The beautiful stained glass window at the basilica portrays the story of St Thomas and the central hall has 14 wooden plaques depicting scenes from the last days of Christ. In the cathedral is a 3ft. high statue of Virgin Mary which is believed to have been brought from Portugal in 1543;
Theosophical Society: The world headquarters of the Theosophical Society, formed to facilitate and encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science is situated in beautiful sylvan settings in Adyar. The society was founded by Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olott in USA, and later moved to Adyar in 1882. Apart from shrines of all faiths and the peaceful Garden of Remembrance, there is a 95-year old library which has a very good collection of rare Oriental manuscripts written on palm leaves and parchment. (Timings: 0830 hrs -1000 hrs & 1400 hrs-1600 hrs. Closed on Sundays and holidays;
Along Elliot’s Beach: Following the road along the coast down south from Marina one will come to Elliot’s beach where you can spend a few hours relaxing. At the end of this beach are the Velankanni church and the Ashtalakshmi temple;
Kalakshetra: In Thiruvanmiyur, beyond Elliot’s beach, is Kalakshetra or ‘Temple of Art’. It was founded in 1936 by Rukmini Devi Arundale to train, encourage and revive interest in Bharatanatyam which is the classical dance form of the state. This institution is among the finest of its kind in the country and is run on the ancient gurukulam system. Throughout the year Kalakshetra conducts music recital and dance performances in different parts of Chennai;
Birla Planetarium: The Birla Planetarium at Kotturpuram, between Adyar and Guindy, is the most modern planetarium in the country. Adjoining the planetarium is a Periyar Science and Technology Museum which will be of interest to students and other science scholars;
Valluvar Kottam: The memorial to the poet-saint Tiruvalluvar is shaped like a temple chariot and is, in fact, the replica of the temple chariot in Thiruvarur. A life-size statue of the saint has been installed in the chariot which is 33m. tall. The 133 chapters of his famous work Thirukkural have been depicted in bas-relief in the front hall corridors of the chariot;
Anna Zoological Park (Vandalur): Its main attractions are: Safari parks, a nocturnal animal house, an Aquarium, Natural Museum etc. The Government Museum: National Art Gallery, Gallery of Contemporary Arts and Children’s Museum also lie in the Museum Complex;
Deer Sanctuary (closed on Tuesday);
Gandhi Mandapam: Memorials to patriots and builders of the nation;
Kapaleeswarar Temple: Not far from Triplicane, in Mylapore, there is yet another An 8th century Pallava temple. The temple ‘Gopuram’(tower) is characteristic of Dravidian style architecture . Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple has some beautiful sculptures, among which the bronze idols of 63 Saivite Saints (Nayanmars) which adorn the outer courtyard are rare specimens. (closed bet 1200 hs to 1600 hrs, Sundays & holidays);
Marina beach & Aquarium: Marina Beach,the pride of Chennai, is the second largest beach in the world and has a wide sandy foreshore. An aquarium is also located on the Marina Beach. Some of the most beautiful buildings in Chennai such as the University of Madras, Senate-House, Chepauk Palace, Presidency College, P.W.D office and Ice House are located on the beach drive;
Parthasarthy Temple: This temple in Triplicane is dedicated to Lord Krishna. The temple was originally built by the Pallavas in the 8th century A.D. though additions were later made to it by the Chola and Vijayanagara kings;
Snake park (Timings:0900 hrs to 1800 hrs);
Vallur Kottam (Timimngs: 0930 hrs -1900 hrs).
Air: Chennai is linked with all major cities in India by Indian Airlines and other private airlines.
Rail: Chennai is well connected with all major cities in India.
Road: Chennai city is well connected by road with Bangalore 334 Km, Chidambaram 228 Km, Hyderabad 669 Km, Kanchipuram 71 Km, Kanyakumari 693 Km, Kodaikanal 498 Km, Madurai 480 Km, Mamallapuram 61 Km, Mumbai 1329 Km, Mysore 469 Km, Ootacamund 535 Km, Pondicherry 162 Km, Rameswaram 619 Km, Thanjavur 334 Km, Tiruchirappalli 319 Km, Tirupati 143 Km and Thiruvananthapuram 709 Km.
Area: 172 Sq.Km Temperature: Summer - Max: 37.0 Deg.C Min: 22.1 Deg.C Winter - Max: 32. 0 Deg.C Min: 19.8 Deg.C Rainfall: 127 cm (July - August & October - December) Altitude: Sea level STD Code: 044
Elliots Beach (11 Km): Comparatively quiter and an ideal place for sea bathing.
Red Hills (14 Km): Source of the city’s water supply and an attractive picnic spot.
Ennore Beach (18 Km): The backwater here is ideal for boating.
Cholamandal Artists’ Village (20 Km): An artist’s village enroute to Mamallapuram. a group of talented painters and sculptors live and work here.
Anna Zoological Park at Vandalur (30 Km): Sprawling over 1265 acers with various species of animals, birds and reptiles. (Timings; 0800 hrs to 1500 hrs).
Muttukadu (30 Km): The backwaters of Muttukadu have been developed by the Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation to serve as a scenic picnic spot and a centre for watersports. In February every year, a windsurfing regatta is organised in Muttukadu. Competitions in windsurfing and other watersports are also held.
Covelong (38 Km): A fishing village with a fine beach,on the way to Mamallapuram with facilities of boating and wind surfing.
Crocodile Bank (42 Km): On the way to Mamallapuram this bank houses and breeds seveal species of crocodile which are facing extinction.
Poondi Reservoir (60 Km): It is one of the sources of water supply tp Chennai.
Mamallapuram (61 Km): Built in the 7th century, this ancient Pallava port is the site of several antique sculptural marvels. It is famous for it’s marvelous monuments built by the Pallava kings. The five monolith Raths (chariots) stand as the surviving masterpieces of Pallava sculpture. Arjuna’s penance is the world’s largest bas relief measuring 27m by 9m. The Shore temple, caves, Mandapams are all worth seeing.
Pulicat (61 Km): The site of an old Dutch sttlement built in 1609.
Kanchipuran (71 Km): Kanchipuram, the golden city of a thousand temples, was once the capital of the Pallava dynasty. It is one of the seven sacred cities of India. Adi Shankaracharya established his episcopal seat here.
Tirukkalikundram (80 Km): The ‘Hill of the sacred Kites’, is also known as Pakshiteertham.
Vadanthangal Bird Sanctuary (85 Km): This water bird sanctuary attracts nearly 30,000 birds from long distances to nest and breed in the laje spread over 30 hecters. The best season is from November to February.