Chennai, formerly Madras, is the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal, it is a major commercial, cultural, and educational centre in South India, while the port of Chennai is the second largest port in India. As of the 2011 census, the city had 4.68 million residents making it the sixth most populous city in India; the urban agglomeration, which comprises the city and its suburbs, was home to approximately 8.9 million, making it the fourth most populous metropolitan area in the country.
Although the area has been part of successive South Indian kingdoms through centuries, the recorded history of the city began in the colonial times, specifically with the arrival of British East India Company and the establishment in 1644 of Fort St. George, an English settlement. The British defended several attacks from the French colonial forces, and from the kingdom of Mysore, on Chennai's way to become a major naval port and presidency city by late eighteenth century. Following the independence of India, Chennai became the capital of Tamil Nadu and a hotbed of regional politics that tended to bank on Dravidian identity of the populace. Chennai had become a bustling metropolis with beautiful classical and colonial European styled buildings, lining the city's thoroughfares.
Chennai's economy has a broad industrial base in the automobile, computer, technology, hardware manufacturing and healthcare industries. The city is India's second largest exporter of information technology (IT) and business process outsourcing (BPO) services. A major chunk of India's automobile manufacturing industry is based in and around the city and hence it is called the Detroit of India. Chennai is an important centre for Carnatic music and hosts a large cultural event, the annual Madras Music Season, which includes performances by hundreds of artists. The city has a vibrant theatre scene and is an important centre for the Bharata Natyam, a classical dance form. The Tamil film industry is based in Chennai.
History of Chennai
The region around Chennai served as an important administrative, military, and economic centre since century. During 1st century CE, a poet and weaver named Thiruvalluvar lived in the town of Mylapore (A neighbourhood of present Chennai). From 1st century CE until 12th CE the region of present Tamil Nadu and parts of south India was ruled by the Cholas. Stone age implements have been found near Pallavaram in Chennai. According to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Pallavaram was a megalithic cultural establishment, and pre-historic communities resided in the settlement. The Pallavas of Kanchi built the areas of Mahabalipuram and Pallavaram during the reign of Mahendravarman I. They also defeated several kingdoms including the Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas who ruled over the area before their arrival. Sculpted caves and paintings have been identified from that period. Ancient coins dating to around 500 BC have also been unearthed from the city and its surrounding areas. A portion of these findings belonged to the Vijayanagara Empire, which ruled the region during the medieval period.
The Portuguese first arrived in 1522 and built a port called Sao Tome 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, north of the Chennai. On 22 August 1639, which is referred to as Madras Day, the British East India Company under Francis Day bought a small strip of land stretching 3 miles on the Coromandel Coast. They got a license to build a fort and a castle in the contracted region. The ruler of the area, Chennapa Nayak, the Nayaka of Vandavasi, granted the British permission to build a factory and warehouse for their trading enterprises. The region was then primarily a fishing village known as "Madraspatnam". A year later, the British built Fort St. George, the first major British settlement in India, which became the nucleus of the growing colonial city.(Fort St. George housed the Tamil Nadu Assembly until the new Secretariat building was opened in 2010). 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 strengthened the town's fortress wall to withstand further attacks from the French and Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysore. They resisted a French siege attempt in 1759 under the leadership of Eyre Coote. In 1769 the city was threatened by Mysore and the British were defeated by Hyder Ali, after which the Treaty of Madras ended the war. 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.
Gradually, the city grew into a major naval base and became the central administrative center for the British in South India. With the advent of railways in India in the 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 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, which was renamed as Tamil Nadu in 1969. The violent agitations of 1965 against the compulsory imposition of Hindi in the state marked a major shift in the political dynamics of the city and eventually it had a big impact on the whole state. On 26 December 2004, an Indian Ocean tsunami lashed the shores of Chennai, killing many and permanently altering the coastline.
Beaches & Parks in Chennai
The old corporation limit of Chennai has a total coast length of about 19 km, which has more than doubled with the expanded corporation limits. The Marina Beach runs for 6 km (3.7 mi), spanning along the shoreline of the city between the deltas of Cooum and Adyar, and is the second longest urban beach in the world. The Elliot's Beach lies south of the Adyar delta.
Chennai is one of the few cities in the world that accommodates a national park, the Guindy National Park, within its limits. The city has an estimated 4.5 percent of its area under green cover. This enables Chennai residents to go birding in Chennai. The seven zones of the old corporation limits has about 260 parks, many of which suffer poor maintenance. The eight zones in the newly added areas of the city have about 265 locations that have been identified for development of new parks. The largest among the parks is the 358-acre Tholkappia Poonga, developed to restore the fragile ecosystem of the Adyar estuary. The horticulture department-owned Semmozhi Poonga is an 18-acre botanical garden located in the downtown.
Government Museum Complex
Government Museum Complex in Egmore houses the Government Museum, Connemara Public Library and the National Art Gallery. Established in 1851, the museum consisting of six buildings and 46 galleries covers an area of around 16.25 acres (66,000 sq m) of land. The objects displayed in the museum cover a variety of artifacts and objects covering diverse fields including archeology, numismatics, zoology, natural history, sculptures, palm-leaf manuscripts and Amravati paintings. Connemara Public Library is one of the four National Depository libraries which receive a copy of all books, newspapers and periodicals published in India. Established in 1890 the library is a repository of centuries-old publications, wherein lie some of the most respected works and collections in the country. It also serves as a depository library for the UN. The National Art Gallery building is one of the finest Indo-sarcenic type of architectures in the country.
Fort St. George
Fort St George (or historically, White Town) is the name of the first British fortress in India, founded in 1639 at the coastal city of Madras (modern city of Chennai). This fort was completed on April 23, coinciding with St. George's Day, celebrated in honour of St. George, the patron saint of England. The fort, christened Fort St. George faced the sea and a few fishing villages, and soon became the hub of merchant activity. It gave birth to a new settlement area called George Town (historically referred to as Black Town), which grew to envelop the villages and led to the formation of the city of Madras. The fort is a stronghold with 6 meter high walls that withstood a number of assaults in the 18th century. Today, the Fort serves as the administrative headquarters for the legislative assembly of Tamil Nadu state, and still houses a garrison for troops in transit to various locations at South India and the Andamans. The Fort Museum contains many relics of the Raj, including portraits of many of the Governors. Other monuments present inside the fort are St. Mary's Church, the oldest Anglican church in India, and Wellesley House, which holds the paintings of the Governor of the Fort and other high officials of the Regime.
Art & Crafts
Tamil and Indian culture and tradition is on display in several art galleries and cultural centers. Valluvar Kottam is an auditorium in memory of the poet-saint Thiruvalluvar. It also has a 101-feet high temple chariot structure. Kalakshetra, a centre for the revival of Indian art and crafts - especially the dance form of Bharatnatyam - is located in Besant Nagar. The National Art Gallery, built in 1907, houses 11th and 12th century Indian handicrafts, 17th century Deccan paintings, 16th to 18th century Mughal and Rajasthan paintings and 10th and 13th century bronzes and is part of the Government Museum.
The world headquarters of the Theosophical Society was established in 1886 on the banks of the Adyar River. The shrines of all major faiths stand in its sprawling estate gardens. Cholamandalam Artists' Village, on the East Coast Road offers a view of artists and sculptors at work in their own studios and permanent gallery. DakshinaChitra, run by the Chennai Craft Foundation, is a depiction of the way of life prevalent in South India with exhibitions and workshops of the arts and crafts and performing artists of South India.
Places Of Worship
Right from the early ages, Chennai had a cosmopolitan society with people belonging to different religious groups living together. As a consequence places of worship, both historical and modern, belonging to various religions are present in the city. The most famous temples in Chennai are the Kapaleeshwarar temple in Mylapore and Parthasarathy Temple in Triplicane. The Vadapalani temple is also an important place of worship for the Hindus. St. Thomas Mount, the site where St. Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ, was believed to have been martyred, is an important pilgrimage site for Indian Christians. The Santhome Basilica, supposedly built atop the tomb of St. Thomas, is a revered church by the Roman Catholics. The St. George's Cathedral, Chennai is an important place of worship for the Protestant Christians. The Thousand Lights Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the country and is a revered place of worship for Muslims.
The Guindy National Park, the country's smallest National Park with an area of 2.76 sq km, is located completely inside the city. It hosts a variety of endangered deer, foxes, monkeys and snakes. The Guindy Snake Park situated in the National Park has a large collection of snakes and is an important source of antivenom serum. The Arignar Anna Zoological Park (better known as Vandalur Zoo) is located southwest of the city and covers an area of 5.1 sq km. It has about eighty species on display, and includes a lion safari, an elephant safari, a nocturnal animal house and an aquarium. South of the city, along the East Coast Road, is an important centre for herpetological research called the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, which houses several fresh-water and salt-water crocodiles, alligators, gharials, and also turtles and snakes. The Botanical Garden of the Horticulture Department has a very wide variety of plants and even a fossilised tree trunk 20 million years old. A Summer Festival is held here annually during the month of May.
Chennai has some unique places to offer for shopping. Art and crafts, contemporary and traditional artwork, antiques, jewellery etc. are available in the city. Traditional items like leaf and palmyra-fiber handicrafts from Tirunelveli, bronze and brass castings and traditional jewelry from Kumbakonam, metal works from Thanjavur, stone carvings from Mahabalipuram, silks from Kanchipuram are for sale in shops and boutiques. George Town and Parrys Corner are wholesale markets of Chennai where one can purchase almost anything. Many streets are entirely devoted to selling one particular type of merchandise. The nearby Burma Bazaar is famous for its counterfeit electronic goods and media, Moore Market for its large number of bookstores. Pondy Bazaar located in T. Nagar, is home to huge multi-storey stores, unique to Chennai, which deal mainly in textiles and silks or gold, silver and diamond jewellery. Few Shopping Malls in Chennai are Spencers Plaza, Chennai City Centre, Ampa Sky Walk Mall and Express Avenue
There are three large amusement parks, MGM Dizzee World, VGP Universal Kingdom and Kishkinta and a water sports center, Dash N Splash located in the outskirts of Chennai. The city also houses a paintball centre and water sports club on the east coast road. There are also a large number of beach resorts all along the East Coast Road highway to Mahabalipuram. The city being home to the Tamil movie industry, has over 100+ large cinema theatres including a few multiplexes which screen Tamil, English, Hindi, Telugu and Malayalam films. The city has a large number of restaurants offering a variety of Tamil, Indian and international cuisines. The nightlife in Chennai is vibrant and growing ranging from bars to pool parlours to lounges and clubs.
Cricket is the most popular sport in Chennai. It was introduced as a result of the establishment of the Madras Cricket Club in 1846. The M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk was established in 1916 and is one of the oldest cricket stadia in India. The Chemplast Cricket Ground located inside the IIT Madras campus is another important venue for cricket matches. Prominent cricketers from the city include former Test-captains S. Venkataraghavan and Kris Srikkanth. A cricket fast bowling academy called the MRF Pace Foundation, whose coaches include Bob Simpson and Dennis Lillee, is based in Chennai. Being home to the Indian Premier League cricket team Chennai Super Kings, the city hosted the finals of the fourth edition of IPL and IPL's fifth edition in Chepauk.
Chennai is home to a Premier Hockey League (PHL) team, the Chennai Veerans, and has hosted many hockey tournaments such as the Asia Cup and the Men's Champions Trophy at The Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium. Chennai has produced popular tennis players over the years, including Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan, and currently active Somdev Devvarman also grew up primarily in the city and holds a major rank. Since 1997 Chennai has been host to the only ATP World Tour event held in India, the Chennai Open.
Football and athletic competitions are held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which also houses a multi-purpose indoor complex for competition in volleyball, basketball and table tennis. Water sports are played in the Velachery Aquatic Complex. Chennai was the venue of the South Asian Games in 1995.
Automobile racing in India has been closely connected with Chennai since its beginnings shortly after independence. Motor racing events are held on a special purpose track in Irungattukottai, Sriperumbudur, which has also been the venue for several international competitions. Formula One drivers Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok were born in Chennai.
Horse racing is held at the Guindy Race Course, while rowing competitions are hosted at the Madras Boat Club. The city has two 18-hole golf courses, the Cosmopolitan Club and the Gymkhana Club, both established in the late nineteenth century. The city has a rugby union team called the Chennai Cheetahs and an Elite Football League of India (EFLI) team called Chennai Swarm.
Viswanathan Anand, the world chess champion, grew up in Chennai. Other sportspersons of repute from Chennai include table tennis players Sharath Kamal and two-time world carrom champion, Maria Irudayam. Chennai will play host to the 2013 Asian Athletic Championship as well as the 2013 World Chess Championship.
Chennai is a major centre for music, art and culture in India. The city is known for its classical dance shows. In 1930, first time in India, Madras University introduced a course of music, as part of the Bachelor of Arts curriculum. Since 1927, every December, the Madras Music Season is celebrated in the city, in commemoration to the establishment of the Madras Music Academy. It features performances of traditional Carnatic music by many 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 Bharata Natyam, a classical dance form that originated in Tamil Nadu and is the oldest dance form of India. An important cultural centre for Bharata Natyam is Kalakshetra, on the beach in the south of the city. Chennai is also home to some choirs, who during the Christmas season stage various carol performances across the city in Tamil and English.
Chennai is the base for the Tamil movie industry, known as Kollywood. Chennai's theatres stage many Tamil plays; political satire, slapstick comedy, history, mythology and drama are among the popular genres. English plays are popular in the city.
Among Chennai's festivals, Pongal is celebrated over five days in January. Many major religious festivals such as Deepavali, Eid and Christmas are also observed as festive occasions in the city. 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, thosai, idli and vadai with sambar, served with filter coffee.
How to Reach Chennai
Chennai serves as a major gateway to southern India, and the Chennai International Airport, comprising the Anna international terminal and the Kamaraj domestic terminal with a total passenger movements of 10.5 million and aircraft movements of 110,000 in 2009-2010, is the third busiest airport in India, and has the second busiest cargo terminus in the country. Chennai handles 316 flights a day, again making it at third spot among Indian Airports. The city is connected to major hubs across Asia, Europe, and North America through more than 30 national and international carriers.
The existing airport is undergoing further modernisation and expansion with an addition of 1069.99 acres, and a new greenfield airport is to be constructed at an estimated cost of 20,000 million in Sriperumbudur on 4,200 acres (17 km2) of land.
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 with an annual cargo tonnage of 61.46 million (2010-2011) and is India's second busiest container hub with an annual container volume of 1.523 million TEUs (2010-2011), handling automobiles, motorcycles and general industrial cargo. The Ennore Port with an annual cargo tonnage of 11.01 million (2010-2011) handles cargo such as coal, ore and other bulk and rock mineral products.
Royapuram fishing harbour is used by fishing boats and trawlers. A mega shipyard project called the Kattupalli Shipyard cum Captive Port Complex is being built by L&T Shipbuilding at Kattupalli village near Ennore and is expected to be operational in 2012.
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. 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. The fourth sector is an elevated Mass Rapid Transit System 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.
Chennai is connected with Indian cities by four major National Highways (NH) that originates in the city. They are NH 4 to Mumbai (via Bangalore), NH 5 to Kolkata (via Bhubaneswar), NH 45 to Theni (via Tiruchirapalli) and NH 205 to Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh (via Tirupati). Most of the state highways are linked with the city that run up to Pondicherry and other districts in Tamil Nadu and neighbouring states.
As of 2011, The Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT) located in the city, is among the largest bus station in Asia. It is the main intercity bus station of Chennai, administered by 7 government-owned transport corporations that operate inter-city and inter-state bus services. There are many privately owned bus companies which provide similar transport services. The Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) provides an exclusive inter-city bus service, consisting of 3,421 buses on 724 routes, that transport an 5.52 million passengers daily.
The other means of transport in the city are; Vans, (Known as Maxi Cabs) and auto rickshaws, on call Metered taxis and tourist taxis. The overall transport infrastructure in Chennai, provides coverage and connectivity with in city and its suburbs, where as the growth in transport vehicles has increased traffic congestions, air and sound pollution. The government planned multiple actions to control these issues and constructed grade separators and flyovers at major intersections, Innerring roads (IRR) and Outer ring roads (ORR). The Gemini flyover, built in 1973 crosses over the arterial road, and eases the traffic movements towards Anna Salai and towards Kathipara Flyover. As of 2011, according to the Transport Department, there are 2.58 million two-wheelers, 0.56 million four-wheelers, and the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) bus fleet were 3,421, which is 0.1% of the total vehicular population of the city.