Chennai, formerly known as Madras, has a history dating back 350 years. The city of Chennai is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu. From being as a small ﬁsherman'sChennai City village in 1639, Chennai has become one of the most enormous and beautiful cities in India. The city of Chennai boasts of beautiful and intricate Hindu temples and has come a long way from where it once stood. This city grew up under the inﬂuence of an English settlement of Fort Saint George and later absorbed the Surrounding towns and villages. However, despite having a British inﬂuence, Chennai has been able to retain its traditions and culture, and provide a distinct blend of foreign inﬂuence and Indian culture.
Chennai is located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. It is one of the metropolises of India. The city is widely spread in about 180 sq km. It is one of the major trade centres of India because it is well linked by road, rail and air to important cities besides being a sea port. Chennai is far less congested and polluted and has high literacy rate compared to other metropolitan cities in India. You will come across its historical past from temples and shrines to forts and palaces to beaches to dance festivals and the modern infrastructure, all existing in unison. Chennai is considered the musical and cultural capital of India. It is the center of the ﬁlm industry of South India and many hoardings and billboards displaying latest movie releases engulf the city. The city has gone through an enormous change and is developing rapidly. There has been rapid development in the number of industries such as automobile, technology, hardware manufacturing and health care industries.
Chennai has the perfect amalgamation of beaches, temples, monuments, fort, museums, National Parks and amusement parks. Although Chennai's beaches are beautiful and inviting, swimming is absolutely prohibited due to strong under currents present along the shoreline.
The Marina Beach
This beach is 12 km long; offering excellent walks and has a wide sandy foreshore. Its width is up to 300 m (985 ft) and is the second longest beach in the world. The long seashore keeps you engaged for hours especially in the evenings. The best time to visit the beach is around sunrise and in the evening before the sun goes down. For those who enjoy the small thrills in life, there is kite ﬂying, horse riding, balloon shooting coupled with eating cut mango/pineapple, roadside popcorn and baked groundnuts (referred to as Sundal). Besides the Marina Beach you can also visit the Elliots Beach in Beasant Nagar or Covelong Beach closer to ECR.
Sri Ramakrishna Math
Swami Vivekananda on his return from the west was requested by the devotees in Chennai) to start a Math here. To fulﬁl their desire his brother-disciple Swami Ramakrishnananda slowly built up the institution as the present Sri Ramakrishna Math. This is the oldest centre of the Ramakrishna Order in the South. Srimat Swami Bhuteshanandaji Maharaj, the 12th President of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, laid the foundation-stone for this Universal Temple on December 1, 1994. Sri Ramakrishna Math completed hundred years of its service in 1997. The Temple is an ideal spot for contemplation and meditation.
31 Ramakrishna Math Road, Mylapore, the Math is open from 5am-11:45am and 3pm-9pm.
Fort St George
Cared for by the Archaeological Survey of India, this fort holds great historical importance and houses a number of monuments within its boundaries. Inside the Fort is the Fort Museum decorated with cannons of Tipu Sultan, and showcasing a lot of interesting artifacts, coins and an exotic collection of books in the library. Today, Fort St George is famous for housing the legislative assembly and is known as the secretariat building. The fort in its present form looks more like a mansion, rather any fort. St Mary's Church, situated in the fort, is one of the oldest surviving churches built by the British in India. The tallest ﬂag pole in the country can also be seen here, its height is 150 feet.
Valluvar Kottam is a memorial of one of the renowned poet and saint of the region, Tiruvalluvar. Built like a replica of the temple chariot in Thiruvarur, this 101-feet high temple chariot structure has a life-size image of the poet in it. The monument stands as a massive auditorium and was open to public in the year 1976. Over 3,000 blocks of stone were used to create this memorial to Tamil culture. The auditorium at Valluvar Kottam is said to be the larges in Asia and can accommodate about 4000 people. It is a revered place in the city as it is considered to bear the impressions of the Tamil culture. The auditorium is surrounded by granite pillars that have the inscriptions taken from the famous work of the poet. The epic Tiruvalluvar, written by the poet consists of 1330 verses, all of which are inscribed on the granite pillar.
Located on Pantheon Road, Egmore and established in 1857, the Government Museum is a popular tourist destination. Six independent buildings in this museum campus have 46 galleries. There is an Archaeology Section, Zoology Section, Botany Section, Geology Section, Numismatics Section, Bronze Gallery, Children's museum, Art gallery and various other interesting galleries. It is considered to be one of the oldest museums of India, since its inception dates back to the Colonial rule. The Museum was formally inaugurated on December 5, 1896 by the Sir Arthur Eli bank Havelock, the then Governor. The Government Museum has a splendid hall, marvelous reading room and striking Teak wood shelves.
National Art Gallery
Built in 1907, this magniﬁcient red sandstone building represents a typical Indo-Saracenic structure and was initially famous as Victoria Memorial Hall. Built with sandstone and adorned with motifs, the building bears impressions of Mughal architecture. The gallery exhibits medieval handicrafts, sculptures, metal ware and paintings belonging to various schools of art and eras. The gallery's collections are displayed in four different sections that are: Tanjore Painting Gallery, Decorative Art Gallery, Indian Traditional Art Gallery and Ravi Varma Painting Gallery. The Tanjore paintings on glass are wonderful. The miniature paintings from Rajput and Mughal eras are fascinating too. The handicrafts that are displayed in National Arts Gallery belong to the 11th and 12 th century, Indian handicrafts, period.
The Birla Planetarium:
This 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. Built in memory of B.M. Birla, the well known industrialist and visionary, the Planetarium is considered to be the most modern in the country.
Gandhi Mandapam Road, (Behind CLRI), Tamil Nadu
The Science and Technology Centre is open on all days except on national holidays. Timings: 10:45am -1:45 pm and 3:45 pm. English Noon, Tamil 2:30 pm.
Arinjar Anna Zoological Park
Also called the Vandalur Zoo, this zoological park is situated in the outskirts of the Chennai metropolitan. Chennai has the distinction of having the ﬁrst zoo in India, which was started in 1855. This park is said to be one of the biggest in South East Asia. The wildlife population is exhibited in a large open moated island enclosure with a simulated natural environment. More than 170 species of mammals, birds and reptiles are housed in this park. Lion safari vehicles, elephant rides, battery operated vehicles are some of the facilities available. The peak time is during Pongal and weekend holidays. The park is open from 9am-6pm daily except Tuesdays.
Guindy National Park
The 280 hectares Guindy Park is the smallest national park in the country and the only park within the city suburbs of India. The park is inhabited by more than 20 species of trees, 14 varieties of shrubs and more than 14 species of woodland mammals. The place also houses many species of rare birds and amphibians. The park animals include the Indian Antelope (Black Buck), elephant, spotted deer, indian civet, jungle cat, hedgehog, pangolin and jackal. Some rare bird species found in the park include Black Winged Kite, Honey Buzzard, and Pariah Kite.