Chennai – Know your host city
Chennai, (formerly known as Madras) is the south India capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu. It is situated on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. The metropolitan area of Chennai has an estimated population of 11,981,478 (as of 2022). It is India’s fourth-largest city after Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.
An everyday understanding of the city, if visiting as a tourist, most commonly, is its Chettinad cuisine, Chennai silk sarees, temples, and its beaches (most popular being Marina beach). As we sit down to describe various other facets of Chennai from its 380+ year old history (yes, the city is 384 years old), we will try to cover it all in one blog –
Know its rich history –
In 1639, the British East India Company bought a small strip of land stretching 3 miles on the Coromandel Coast. They built a fort and a castle in the contracted region. As Chennai was previously known as Madras, the name is said to be derived from Madraspattinam, which was originally a fishing village situated towards the north of the fort of St. George. Madras was ruled by Portuguese and Frenchmen during 16th and 18th century.
A city of firsts
- Chennai has the distinction of being the first British settlement.
- More recently, Chennai was the first Indian city to have a Wi-Fi facility in a widespread manner.
- Chennai is home to the first European-style banking system in India with the establishment of the ‘Madras Bank’ on 21 June 1683, almost a century before the establishment of the first commercial banks.
- The Spectator, founded in 1836, was the first English newspaper in Chennai to be owned by an Indian and became the city’s first daily newspaper in 1853.
The birthplace of the rich and famous
Chess grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand, Cricketers Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Dinesh Karthik, Murali Vijay, Squash players and CWG gold medallists Dipika Pallikal, Joshna Chinappa, F1 racer Karun Chandok, Actor Kamal Haasan, Oscar-winning music maestro AR Rahman, Scientist, and Nobel laureate CV Raman, chairman of Pepsi Co. Indra Nooyi are among many other eminent personalities who were born in Chennai.
Chennai is a place which has a lot to offer for those who can spend hours with the rich heritage of this beautiful city.
- The architecturally beautiful Government Museum
- Chariot-shaped Monument at Valluvar Kottam
- Fort St George is the place from where East India Company used to work.
- Erected in the 17th century when Mughals were ruling the country, the Alamparai Fort lies on a land that is overlooking the sea.
- Santhome Church
The Madras high court – The Court campus covers a massive 107 acres and is the second-largest court complex in the world after the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in London.
Chennai is also the auto capital of south India as it is a manufacturing and export hub of automobiles, spare parts and more. I will not be wrong to call it Detroit of India for the same reason.
The much hyped and rightly so, is the food factor here. Dosas – the quintessential South Indian dish you can never get bored of eating. Besides dosas, you can also try idli, sambar and rasam rice and pongal. For non-vegetarians, stick to chicken biryani and chicken chettinad to get the exquisite flavour of what Chennai food stands for. Don’t forget to seal the deal with a steaming cup of filter coffee.
Marina Beach – Chennai is home to world’s second longest beach. Chennai’s Marina Beach runs for 13 km, spanning along the shoreline of the city between the deltas of Cooum and Adyar. It is the second-longest urban beach in the world.
Chennai has many beautiful temples but one that stands out is the Kapaleeshwarar Temple – A temple with a history that goes back to about 1300 years. From multi-coloured gopurams to pillared pavilions, it looks like a Dravidian temple. Built in the 7th century by the rulers of the Pallava dynasty, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Being one of the most cosmopolitan and biggest cities in India, Chennai is nothing less than a paradise for compulsive shoppers. From stunning silk saris and gold jewellery to traditional Tanjore paintings, you will find a small piece of Chennai to take back home with you. A trip to Chennai is incomplete without buying a Kanchipuram silk sari.
Chennai is rightly called the Gateway of South India. It is the biggest cultural and economic centre of Southern India.
Next up: Your guide to Indian food/local cuisine