Chennai

'Gateway to the South' and the fourth largest metropolitan town in India, Chennai is also known as Madras. Sporting 17-km stretch of the Coramandel coast, the waterways of Cooum and Adyar and the Buckingham Canal divide the city into roughly three parts. The culture of Chennai is in many ways different from the northern part of India. Though an industrial city, traditionalism, conventionalism, classical music and dance forms of the region and the indigenous art forms are a part and parcel of the city's identity. It has a unique blending of the modern facilities and amenities with the religious fervor and way of life that can be clearly seen in its diverse cuisine that ranges from traditional vegetarian cuisine to fast foods and cold drinks, typical nine-yard sarees to the latest and fashionable designer dresses, ancient temples built in Dravidian 'Nagara' style of architecture to the modern skyscrapers and calm and serene classical music and dance forms to heavy metallic numbers blaring from the discotheques.

There are Indo-Saracenic and Victorian monuments that make one stop and admire. Chennai presents vivid contrasts and pleasant surprises for tourists from all over the world. There are beautiful beaches, lush green parks and gorgeous sanctuaries lending the city, an endearing charm. A piece of nature and rich historical legacy makes the modern Chennai, a place to cherish for people pining to relish old-world though with the comforts and ease of today. It is difficult to imagine how this teeming ever-expanding city was once a small fishing hamlet in 1639 called Madraspatnam, which charmed the Englishmen settle down here after they first landed here with loads of their goods and wares. Many of the churches here are connected with the life and exploits of St. Thomas while there are many ancient temples in and around Chennai too. However, the two most magnificent temples in Chennai are the one at Triplicane and another at Mylapore.

Places of interest

Fort St. George: Built in the 17th century, this fort was built under the supervision of Francis Day and Andrew Cogon and houses St. Mary's Church and a museum. Built in 1680, St. Mary's Church is the oldest Anglican Church in India and has some of the oldest British tombstones in India. It was here that the marriage of the couple who founded the Yale University in the States was solemnized..

    
Fort Museum: The museum has on its display many relics belonging to the times of British Raj in India and exhibits a collection of contemporary paintings as well as the rare military paraphernalia such as weapons, uniforms, coins, costumes and medals.
    
Kapaleeswarar Temple : The biggest temple in the city is a fine specimen of Dravidian architecture. The Shaiva temple has 13th century inscriptions and a 37-metre gopuram remarkable for its intricate carvings depicting stories from Hindu mythology.
    
Sri Parthasarathi Temple : The 8th century Krishna temple was built under the patronage of the Pallavas and enshrines idols of the five avataras of Sri Vishnu. The small temple inside is dedicated to Vishnu's consort, Vedavalli Ammai.
    
Santhome Cathedral : San Thome at the southern tip of Marina features the beautiful stained glass window at the basilica depicting the story of St Thomas and the central hall that has 14 wooden plaques depicting scenes from the last days of Christ. The 3-ft high statue of Virgin Mary was imported from Portugal in 1543.
    
The Snake Park and Children's Park : The snake park with diverse Indian snakes and reptiles and nearby children's park with a large playing ground and a good collection of birds and animals are worth a visit.
    
The Marina Beach : The 12-km long famous Marina Beach is the second longest beach in the world. It is best to visit the beach early in the mornings or late in the evenings when the area becomes a virtual fair ground with food stalls and other entertainments.

    
The Theosophical Society : The world headquarters of the much-famed Theosophical Society that promotes study of comparative religion, philosophy and science is in Adyar enclosing shrines of all faiths, Garden of Remembrance and 95-year old library with an astounding collection of rare Oriental manuscripts written on palm leaves and parchment.