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 Chennai (South India) City Guide

Chennai, also known as Madras, the capital of Tamil Nadu, is the country's fourth largest city. Compared to the other major metros of India, it is far less congested and polluted. Chennai was the site of the first settlement of the East India Company. It was founded in 1639, on a piece of land given by the Raja of Chandragiri, the last representative of the Vijayanagar rulers of Hampi.

Madras, now known as Chennai, is a city on the east coast of southern India. Situated on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, this capital of the state of Tamil Nadu is India's fourth largest metropolitan city and one of the 35 largest metropolitan areas in the world. Its name was officially changed to Chennai in 1996, but the older name Madras is still widely used. The city is a large commercial and industrial centre in India, and is known for its cultural heritage.

The East India Company developed Chennai as one of the major trading centers in India. Chennai has a blend of Dravidian and Gothic architecture in its buildings. The city might have grown but it has never lost its traditional grace and charm. With a population of over 6 million people, Chennai is a vibrant city ever growing, expanding and changing every year.

Music, dance and all other art forms of the South are cherished and attract sizeable patronage. Chennai is the epitome of tradition, culture and life-style of Southern India. But like the rest of India, Chennai has over the years, developed its share of urban style and modernity.

Accommodation and transportation are cheap and efficient. As far as religion is concerned, history has certainly left its mark on this city, which is believed to have been the place of St. Thomas, in the outskirt of the city. There are a number of churches in Chennai that are connected with the life and times of this apostle. There are also several ancient temples around Chennai, and, within the city itself are two magnificent temples - a temple in Triplicane and another in Mylapore. Visit the 4.5 km long Golden Marina beach, one of the longest beaches in the world.

Access by Air:
Chennai has an international and domestic airport. It has regular flights to all the major Indian cities Madras International Airport is situated at Tirisulam, 7 Km south of Chennai. It has two terminals, Kamaraj Terminal, handles domestic flights connecting 20 destinations across the country with Chennai. The International Terminal, named Anna Terminal, connects major destinations like London, Frankfurt, Dubai, Muscat, Bahrain, Dhahran, Jeddah, Singapore, Kula Lumpur and Sri Lanka. Besides AIR INDIA and INDIAN AIRLINES several International carriers viz. BRITISH AIRWAYS, LUFTHANSA, SINGAPORE AIRLINES, MALAYSIAN AIRLINES, AIR LANKA, OMAN AIR, GULF AIR and SAUDI AIRLINES are operating flights to and from Chennai.

Access by Rail:
Regular train services connect Chennai to all the major cities in India such as to Mumbai in Western India, New Delhi in North India, Cochin in South India, Kolkatta in East India etc.

Access by Road:
Chennai’s National Highway connects it to the major cities of India. The National Highway connecting Chennai is superbly made with long driving and motels in between kept while upgrading the highway for the welfare of the drivers in mind.

Sightseeing places in and around Chennai

Sightseeing tour of Madras city starts with a visit to Saint Mary’s Church (1678 – 80), the spiritual and physical centre of the original settlement and the oldest surviving building in the East associated with the Anglican church. Visit the famous museum that house a fantastic collection of medieval artillery, regimental flags, weapons and amour. Also visit the St. George Fort built in 1644 which lies on the sea shore immediately north of the island. This now forms the nucleus of the Secretariat. Drive along the Marina, which is one of the most beautiful marine promenades in the world and contains a series of impressive private and public buildings. End the tour with a visit to Kapaleshvara temple. This is the largest and the most important Shiva complex in Madras.

Mahabalipuram : As the port of the Pallava rulers of Kanchipuram, Mahabalipuram was of particular importance in the 7th –8th centuries. Most of the Hindu monuments date from this period. They are particularly associated with two Pallava rulers, Mamalla and Rajasimha. The rock-cut and monolithic temples at Mahabalipuram are the earliest temples of monumental architecture in Southern India. Most of the cave temples are excavated into the sides of a granite hill, only a short distance from the sea. Shore temple at Mahabalipuram is the first significant structural temple of the Pallava period (8th century). Despite its general erosion, this is an impressive monument with elegantly proportioned towers.

Kanchipuram : One of the holy cities of Hinduism, is Kanchipuram. The city has a political significance since it served as a capital of Pallava rulers in the 7th -9th century. It continued to maintain its importance during the succeeding Cholas, Vijayanagars and Nayakas periods. Important examples of Hindu temple architecture spanning almost a thousand years are preserved at Kanchipuram.

Cape Comorin : Also known as Kanyakumari, literally meaning the virgin, the cape owes its Indian name to Hindu mythology. At the Cape Comorin - the southern most tip in the sub-continent, the three mighty oceans viz. The Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea meet. Significant landmarks include the Kumari Amman Temple dedicated to the Goddess Parvati, the Gandhi Memorial where an urn containing the Mahatma’s ashes are kept, the Vivekananda Memorial - built in memory of Swami Vivekananda exuding a calm and peace rarely found elsewhere and the Church of our Lady Ransom starkly etched against the beautiful shoreline.

Chidambram : The Chidambaram temple complex is said to be one of the oldest in the South covering 13 hectares and is excellent example of Dravidian architecture. This is the only place where Lord Shiva is worshiped in the form of Dancing God viz. Natraja. This great temple of Natraja has two of the four Gopurams and is carved with the 108 Classical postures of Natraja.