Chennai is the capital city of Tamil Nadu and the fourth largest city in India. Located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, Chennai is popularly known as ‘the gateway to the South’ as it is the seat of culture and learning in South India. Hailed as the automobile capital of India, Chennai is the third largest commercial and industrial hub of India.
As per folk lore, the name ‘Chennaipattinam’ arrived from the Chenna Kesava Perumal temple. It is also believed that the region was named after Damarla Chennappa Nayakudu, who was the Nayaka of Kalahasthi and Vandavasi. Several tools related to the Stone Age recovered from Pallavaram of Chennai, by the Archaeological Survey of India, points to the fact that Chennai region held a megalithic cultural establishment.
The recorded history of Chennai can be dated back to 1st century AD, when it was regarded as an important military and economic hub. Later Chennai was ruled by many South Indian dynasties like the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas and Vijayanagara. The Portuguese arrived at Chennai during 1522 and they were followed by the Dutch in 1612.
The British East India Company came to Chennai in 1639. It was the adjacent village of Madraspattinam that was chosen as the place to settle in by the British. The town of George Town, with the fort of St. George became their stronghold in the South. George Town was granted its first municipal charter in 1688, which makes it the oldest municipal corporation in India.
In the 17th century, Madraspattinam and Chennaipattinam were merged by the British and it was renamed as Madraspattinam. By the end of 18th century, most of Tamil Nadu came under their control. Under British rule Chennai was transformed to become a major urban centre and naval base in South India. It was in 1996 that ‘Madras’ or ‘Madraspattinam’ was renamed as ‘Chennai’ by the Tamil Nadu State Government.
Chennai, today, is one of the major tourist destinations in South India. Chennai is famous for its temples and churches which are considered as fine examples of architecture and craftsmanship. Parthasarathy Temple, Kaapaleshwar temple, Ashtalakshmi temple, Santhome Cathedral Basilica, Velankanni Church, etc. are some of the famous religious attractions in Chennai.
The highlight of Chennai tourism is its beaches. Chennai is home to one of the longest urban beaches in the world, Marina Beach, which is 12 km long. The months from November to March are the best time to visit Chennai, when the weather is pleasant.
The city also enjoys a vibrant culture, which is an amalgamation of the old and new. Of the many festivals celebrated, Tamil New Year is one of the biggest. It is celebrated by locals with great pomp and fervour. Festivities, feasting and giving gifts mark the occasion. The festival is also known as Puthandu in many parts of Tamil Nadu. Tamil New Year is considered an auspicious time by Tamilians to start something new.
The vicinity of Chennai to Mamallapuram, Pondicherry, Kanyakumari, Chidambaram, Tiruvallur, Tirupati, Madurai, Tirunelveli, Swamithoppe, Kanchipuram, Thanjavur, Tiruvannamalai and Tiruchirapalli makes it a hotspot among tourists.
Anna International Airport lies 7 km south of Chennai. The airport is connected by several international airlines including Air India, British Airways, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Air Lanka and Malaysia Airlines. Pre-paid taxis and airport coaches are available at the airport.
Chennai has three major railway stations – the Chennai Central is the biggest, Egmore station and Tambaram station. For quick access across the city, the recently introduced north-south MRTS (Mass Rapid Transport System) can be boarded. Chennai Central and Egmore are the main railway stations that link north and west India, respectively with south India.
At Chennai, most government bus services for Tamil Nadu which is TSTC and other private buses ply to all the cities in the state. The interstate bus service now operates from the newly opened Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminal at Jawaharlal Nehru Salai, Koyembedu and is believed to be the largest bus station in Asia. Private bus services along with deluxe Volvo bus services are available from Bangalore, Hyderabad, Cochin and Coimbatore.