Colorful and lively, Chennai, the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu offers visitors an unparalled gateway view into south India. The city, which was known as Madras up until recently, is known for its colorfully illustrated temples, breezy seaside climate, busy ports and spicy palates.
The metropolis has a vast and varied history. Having been the seat of many ancient and medieval civilizations, the city became the battleground of numerous colonial powers that tried to gain control – finally ending up becoming the home to the first ever trading port made by the colonial British in all of South India.
Much like sister cities Mumbai and Calcutta, Chennai bears several marks of the British rule. The metro is filled with colonial structures – from old buildings and officers to memorials and museums, and from iron-railed parks to churches.
That’s not to say, however, that the city does not have its dose of modernity. Today’s urban Chennai is an enigma that has grown haphazardly around the chequered colonial history. The staple of this modernity is the 8-mile-long strip of the Marina Beach. The sand-laden stretch is a mainstay of both locals and tourists, who are known to pursue casual activities such as flying kites, snacking on street food and strolling with family and friends.
As the capital of Tamil Nadu, Chennai has every stamp of Tamil culture you could ever think of – think tribal-influenced religions and customs, and the proliferation of Tamil script letters everywhere – from shops to street signs and everywhere in between. The city is also home to the enigmatic South Indian film industry – popularly known as Kollywood – the second largest entertainment sector of the country.
Food is a mainstay here, and it is impossible to have experienced Chennai without getting a taste of the zesty cuisine. Influenced by both Tamil and European colonial traditions. Items include a range of curries with exotic flavors such as chili, coconut, and tamarind, and southern staples such as steamed rice cakes (idlis), lentil cakes (dosas), lamb curries, and the Chettiar community’s staple seafood preparations.
Those looking for experience outside the city won’t be disappointed either, with tourist havens such as Pondicherry and Mamallapuram lying short distances from the metropolis.
Some facts about Chennai
- Chennai is home to both the biggest port of the Indian eastern coast, and the largest artificial sea port in the country.
- The city is also home to the Chepauk M.A. Chidambaram stadium – the oldest cricket stadium in all of India.
- Last but not the least, it has the oldest shopping mall in the country. It was the Spencer Plaza in Anna Salai, which was established in 1863.