Chennai Travel Guide

Culture


Chennai is a major centre for music, art and culture in India. The city is known for its classical dance shows and Hindu temples. Every December, Chennai holds a five-week long Music Season celebrating the 1927 opening of the Madras Music Academy. It features performances (kutcheries) of traditional Carnatic music by hundreds of artists in and around the city. An arts festival called the Chennai Sangamam, which showcases various arts of Tamil Nadu is held in January every year. Chennai is also known for Bharatanatyam, a classical dance form that originated in Tamil Nadu. An important cultural centre for Bharatanatyam is Kalakshetra, on the beach in the south of the city. Chennai is also home to some of the best choirs in India, who during the Christmas season stage various carol performances across the city in Tamil and English.

Chennai is the base for the large Tamil movie industry, known as Kollywood, home to most of the movie studios. The industry makes more than 150 Tamil movies a year, and its soundtracks dominate the city's music. Some of the biggest names in the Indian film fraternity like Ilaiyaraaja, K. Balachander, Sivaji Ganesan, M. G. Ramachandran, Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Mani Ratnam and S. Shankar are based out of Chennai. A. R. Rahman took Chennai to international fame by winning two Oscar,two grammy awards in 2009 for the movie Slumdog Millionaire.Chennai's theaters stage many Tamil plays; political satire, slapstick comedy, history, mythology and drama are among the popular genres. English plays are also staged in the city.

Among Chennai's festivals, Pongal is celebrated over five days in January, is the most important. Almost all major religious festivals such as Deepavali, Eid and Christmas are celebrated in Chennai. Tamil cuisine in Chennai includes vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Many of the city's restaurants offer light meals or tiffin, which usually include rice-based dishes like pongal, dosa, idli and vadai, served with steaming hot filter coffee

 

 

get there and around



Chennai serves as a major gateway to Southern India and the Chennai International Airport, comprising the Anna international terminal and the Kamaraj domestic terminal, is the third busiest airport in India. The city is connected to major hubs in South Asia, South East Asia, East Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America through more than 30 national and international carriers. The airport is the second busiest cargo terminus in the country. The existing airport is undergoing further modernisation and expansion, and a new greenfield airport is to be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 2,000 crore in Sriperumbudur.

The city is served by two major ports, Chennai Port, one of the largest artificial ports, and Ennore Port. The Chennai port is the largest in Bay of Bengal and India's second busiest container hub, handling automobiles, motorcycles and general industrial cargo. The Ennore Port handles cargo such as coal, ore and other bulk and rock mineral products. A smaller harbour at Royapuram is used by fishing boats and trawlers.


Chennai is well connected to other parts of India by road and rail. Four major national highways link Chennai to Bangalore, Kolkata, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy) and Tirupati and onwards to the rest of the national highway system. Numerous state highways link the city to Puducherry (Pondicherry) and other towns and cities in Tamil Nadu and neighbouring states. The Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT), the terminus for all intercity buses from Chennai, is the largest bus station in Asia. Seven government-owned transport corporations operate inter-city and inter-state bus services. Many private inter-city and inter-state bus companies also operate services to and from Chennai.

Chennai is the headquarters of the Southern Railway. The city has two main railway terminals. Chennai Central station, the city's largest, provides access to other major cities as well as many other smaller towns across India. Chennai Egmore is a terminus for trains to destinations primarily within Tamil Nadu; it also handles a few inter-state trains.

Buses, trains, and auto rickshaws are the most common form of public transport within the city.


The Chennai suburban railway network, one of the oldest in the country, consists of four broad gauge sectors terminating at two locations in the city, namely Chennai Central and Chennai Beach. Regular services are offered in the following sectors from these termini: Chennai Central/Chennai Beach - Arakkonam - Tiruttani, Chennai Central/Chennai Beach – Gummidipoondi - Sullurpeta and Chennai Beach – Tambaram - Chengalpattu - Tirumalpur(Kanchipuram). The fourth sector is an elevated Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) which links Chennai Beach to Velachery and is interlinked with the remaining rail network. Construction is underway for an underground and elevated Chennai Metro rail.[96]

The Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) runs an extensive city bus system consisting of 3257 buses on 622 routes, and moves an estimated 4.35 million passengers each day.[97]

Vans, popularly known as Maxi Cabs and 'share' auto rickshaws ply many routes in the city and provide an alternative to buses. Metered call taxis, tourist taxis and auto rickshaws are also available on hire. Chennai's transportation infrastructure provides coverage and connectivity, but growing use has caused traffic congestion and pollution. The government has tried to address these problems by constructing grade separators and flyovers at major intersections, starting with the Gemini flyover, built in 1973 over the most important arterial road, Anna Salai to the recently completed Kathipara Flyover



 

History

The region around Chennai has served as an important administrative, military, and economic centre since the 1st century. It has been ruled by various South Indian dynasties, notably the Pallava, the Chera Dynasty, the Chola, the Pandya, and Vijaynagar. The town of Mylapore, now part of Chennai, was once a major Pallavan port. The Portuguese arrived in 1522 and built a port called São Tomé after the Christian apostle, St Thomas, who is believed to have preached in the area between 52 and 70 AD. In 1612, the Dutch established themselves near Pulicat, just north of the city.

On 22 August 1639, Francis Day of the British East India Company bought a small strip of land on the Coromandel Coast. The region was ruled by Venkatapathy, the Nayak of Vandavasi. He granted the British permission to build a factory and warehouse for their trading enterprises. A year later, the British built Fort St George, which became the nucleus of the growing colonial city. Fort St. George houses the Tamil Nadu Assembly.
In 1746, Fort St. George and Madras were captured by the French under General La Bourdonnais, the Governor of Mauritius, who plundered the town and its outlying villages. The British regained control in 1749 through the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle and fortified the town's fortress wall to withstand further attacks from the French and another looming threat, Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysore. By the late 18th century, the British had conquered most of the region around Tamil Nadu and the northern modern-day states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, establishing the Madras Presidency with Madras as the capital.[19] Under British rule, the city grew into a major urban centre and naval base.

With the advent of railways in India in the late 19th century, the thriving urban centre was connected to other important cities such as Bombay and Calcutta, promoting increased communication and trade with the hinterland. Madras was briefly under French rule during 16th and 18th centuries.

Madras was the only Indian city to be attacked by the Central Powers during World War I, when an oil depot was shelled by the German light cruiser SMS Emden on 22 September 1914, as it raided shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean, causing disruption to shipping.

After India gained its independence in 1947, the city became the capital of Madras State, renamed the state of Tamil Nadu in 1969. The violent agitations of 1965 against the imposition of Hindi as the national language, marked a major shift in the political dynamics of the city and the whole state.

In 2004, an Indian Ocean tsunami lashed the shores of Chennai, killing many and permanently altering the coastline.