About Chennai

The Gateway to South India, Chennai, located along the Coromandel Coast initially grew around the British settlement of Fort St. George and is today India's fourth largest metropolis. Chennai has retained its traditional Tamil roots while acquiring a modern and cosmopolitan character. Chennai is famous for its sandy beaches, parks and historic landmarks. With a very distinct culture, the people of Chennai have a special interest in music, dance and all other art forms of South India. Capital of the state of Tamil Nadu and with an estimated population of 6.96 million (2006), Chennai is a commercial and industrial hub. It is also known as the automobile capital of India and is home to a majority of India's automobile industry. The 12-kilometre long Marina Beach in Chennai is one of the longest beaches in the world. Of late, Chennai has grown into a software hub and technological city. It is a city which has embraced both the new and the old with ease. Chennai is spread over an area of 200 square kilometers and still growing.

Chennai is situated at the coast of the Bay of Bengal. It is a metropolitan city and is recognized as the 4th most populous city in India. Chennai is an ancient city that boosts of its ancient culture and heritage. The city is undisputedly one of the most progressed cities in India. It was also known as the "Gateway to South India".

History of Chennai

The city was known by the name of Madras and has now changed to Chennai. Chennai is a land of ancient history that has increased the charm of the city. Before the foreigners arrived, it was the Cholas, Pandyas and the Pallavas who ruled over the present day Chennai. It was the Portuguese who arrived first in the 16th century. The Dutch and the East India Company followed later. Within a short period, the British were able to establish their supremacy. The British built the first major British settlement in India that was the nucleus of the colonial city at Fort St. George. It later became the major naval base of the British and the south administrative center. After independence, the city became the capital of Tamil Nadu, formerly known as Madras state.

Chennai has a long and rich history. Ruled by a succession of South Indian kingdoms, like the Pallava, Chola, Pandya, and Vijaynagar kingdoms, Chennai has attracted to its shores waves of traders, merchants and religious preachers from foreign shores. It traces its roots to a non-descript village named Chennaipatnam, which in 1639 was selected by Francis Day and Andrew Cogan, agents for the English East India Company as the site for their settlement. A year later, the Fort St. George was constructed which served as the center around which the settlement grew. Neighboring villages like Triplicane, Purasawalkam, Egmore and Chetput merged with the new settlement to form Chennapatnam, as it was earlier known.

The Portuguese landed in 1522 and built a port, which they named Sao Tome, after the Christian apostle St. Thomas. The region then came under the Dutch, who established themselves near Pulicat, north of present-day Chennai in 1612. It was granted its first municipal charter in 1688 by James II and is thus the oldest municipal corporation in India. Its fortunes alternated between the British and the French. Robert Clive of the British East India Company used it as a base for his military expeditions. It was the seat of the Chennai Presidency, one of the four divisions of British Imperial India.

In 1746, Fort St George and Madras were captured by the French. The British could regain control of the town only in 1749. The city witnessed a quick growth and was connected to other important cities by rail. After India's independence in 1947, it became the capital of Madras State, which was subsequently renamed Tamil Nadu in 1969. It was renamed as Chennai from its earlier name Madras in 1996.

Geography and climate

Chennai lies on the Eastern Coastal Plains in the southeastern coast of India. Chennai enjoys little variation in seasonal temperature and has a hot and humid climate for most of the year due to its proximity to the sea. The average elevation is 6 meters (20 feet). Daytime temperatures in summer range between 38 °C and 42 °C, though sometimes it goes beyond 42 °C. It gets most of its annual rainfall from the north-east monsoon winds, from mid-October to mid-December. The Cooum (or Koovam) and Adyar rivers flow through the city. Chennai has several lakes like Red Hills, Sholavaram and Chembarambakkam Lake, which supply the city with potable water.

Location of Chennai

Chennai is situated to the south eastern coast of India on a flat coastal plain. The district is surrounded by other district in the state like the Chengalpattu and Thiruvallur districts, while the Bay of Bengal lies to the east of the city. The coast stretches around 25.60 kms. The city district lies between 12 ^9' and 13^9' north latitude and 80^ 12' and 80^ 19' south longitude.

Chennai Culture and Tradition

Chennai has a rich culture and heritage that goes back to thousands of years. Although today it is a cosmopolitan city that has been industrially progressed and one of the major cities in India, it still has maintained its culture and tradition the way it was since the ancient times. The dance, art, music, festivals, religions are very distinctive of the south India culture. The dance and the classical music are world famous; especially the very famous Bharthanatyam dance form has been recognized the world over for its beautiful grace.

The festivals celebrated here are the Pongal, which is the most important festival here that is celebrated in January and goes on for four days. Apart from the regional festival, national festivals like the Deepavali, Eid and Christmas too are celebrated with fun. The state language is Tamil. Many people speak English as well as Tamil. Malayalam and Hindi are the other two languages spoken in the city.

Economy and Development Strategies

Chennai has a bustling economy. The main industries in Chennai are automobile, software services, petrochemicals, textiles, hardware manufacturing and financial services. Since the liberalization of the Indian economy, software development and business process outsourcing have emerged as key sectors of Chennai's economy. Software giants like TCS, Infosys, Wipro, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Satyam, IBM, Accenture, Sun Microsystems, HCL and others have their presence in Chennai. Many of the leading international names like Dell, Nokia, Motorola, Cisco, Samsung, Siemens, Flextronics and others are already in Chennai or are in the process of setting up shop in the Sriperumbudur electronics SEZ (Special Economic Zone). The city has two biotechnology parks.

Many of leading Indian and foreign names in the automotive industry are in Chennai. Companies like Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Ford, TVS, Ashok Leyland, Royal Enfield, TAFE, Dunlop, MRF have plants in and around Chennai The Heavy Vehicles Factory in Avadi in the outskirts of Chennai produces India's main battle tank, Arjun. Chennai is one of the leading Indian cities for banking and finance. It is also home to the Tamil film industry, which is a major revenue earner.

Chennai is now a modern city and has a good number of foreigners working here. It has a diversified economy with various industries like automobile, software services, hardware, textiles, petrochemicals, medical tourism and many other industries. The Chennai port has played a significant part in the growth of Chennai economy. Another important contribution comes from the entertainment industry or popularly known as cinemas. The Tamil film industry is the second largest entertainment industry in India and provides a large portion of economy of the state. Banking and finance contribute heavily to the economy as well as it houses three major national level commercial banks and several state level and co-operative banks. Many prominent banks have their headquarters based in Chennai.

All these factors have contributed a lot to the economy of the city as well as the state.

Tourism in Chennai

Chennai is proud of its long sandy white beaches that are clean and have clear blue water that add to the beauty of the city. There are many interesting places to visit. One of the most visited towns is Mahabalipuram that has temples and rock carvings dating back to the 7th century. The city witnesses around 650,000 tourists from foreign countries and around 8, 30,620 domestic tourists.

The various places of Chennai are the Marine beach, temples, Fort St George, parks, museums, National parks like the Guindy national park, which is regarded as the smallest national park comprises of various endangered species which is worth watching.

There are plenty of tourist places around Chennai for you to explore. Whether you are looking for temples and monuments or miles of sands along pristine beaches or amusement parks, there is something for everybody, all within easy reach of Chennai.

Government Museum : Popular as the Madras Museum, it is the second oldest museum of India.

Mahabalipuram: Located around 55 kms from Chennai, Mahabalipuram was the second capital of the Pallava dynasty, which ruled over many parts of South India. Mahabalipuram is famous for the shore temple, the largest bas-relief in the world known as Arjuna's Penance and the many mandapams.

Covelong Beach: Around 48kms from Chennai, Covelong is famous for its forts, churches, mosques and a picturesque beach. It offers a quick break from the hustle and bustle of Chennai. The remnants of the fort have been converted into a beach resort offering facilities like windsurfing and swimming.

Kanchipuram: Just around 75 kms from Chennai, Kanchipuram is famous for its weaves, which have made it world-famous. Constituting a part of the Golden Triangle of the Coromandel Coast alongwith Chennai and Mahabalipuram, Kanchpuram has been the capital of the Pallava, Chola kingdoms and the rajas of Vijayanagar. It houses famous temples like the 7th-century Kailasanatha Temple and the 16th-century Ekambareshwara Temple.

Muttukadu: If you are looking for a scenic picnic spot and are a water sports enthusiast, Muttukadu, located around 16 kms from Chennai is the place to head for. Windsurfing and facilities for other water sports are available here.

Crocodile Bank: Just around 44 kms from Chennai, this crocodile breeding and research center provides breeding facilities for several species of Indian and African crocodiles and alligators. They are kept in natural surroundings and are open to public viewing.

Vedanthangal: One of the largest bird sanctuaries in the country, the Vedanthangal bird sanctuary draws thousands of migratory birds every year, especially between November and February. It is approximately a 85 km drive from Chennai.

Tirupati: Abode of the legendary Lord of the Seven Hills. Tirupati located in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh is one of the most famous religious towns in the entire country. The Sri Ventateshwara Temple here is said to be the richest Hindu temple in the world and draws the devout from all across the world. Tirupati lies at a distance of approximately 152 km from Chennai.

Pulicat: It houses an Old Dutch settlement dating back to 1609 and is huge draw for visitors because of its lake. There are many facilities for water sports enthusiasts and anglers in Pulicat. It is located at a distance of around 54 km from Chennai.

Thanjavur: In its heydays, Thanjavur was the capital of the Chola empire around the 11th century A.D. The Chola Empire extended into Southeast Asia alongwith South India and Sri Lanka. Thanjavur lies around 58 km from Chennai.

Pondicherry: Known worldwide for its distinct French flavor, it was in Pondicherry where the famous philosopher Sri Aurobindo lived. It is famed for its churches, museum, beach, and of course the Aurobindo ashram and Auroville. Another place to visit close by is Chidambaram, an ancient Chola famous for its tall gopurams and a thousand pillared hall. Pondicherry lies 162 km south of Chennai.

Vellore: Located 145km from Chennai, Vellore is famous for its fort, the Vijaynagar temple and the CMC hospital. Vellore Fort, built in the 16th century, houses the government museum showcasing sculptures dating back to the Pallava and Chola eras. The Jalakanteshwara Temple in Vellore dating back to the Vijaynagar period is an architectural marvel.

Madurai: Lying around 450 kms from Chennai, the temple town of Madurai is the abode of goddess Meenakshi, the consort of Lord Sundereswarar (Shiva). Madurai houses the famous Meenakshi Temple.

How to reach Chennai

By Air: Chennai is conveniently connected to all major cities in India and major international destinations. Domestic carriers like Indian, Jet Airways and Sahara Airlines, Spicejet, Kingfisher and other airlines connect Chennai with Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram and other major Indian cities. The domestic and international airports are located at Meenambakkam, about 20 kms from the city center. Click here to check Chennai Flight Schedule

By Road: An extensive network of roads connects Chennai with major cities and towns in Tamil Nadu and other parts of the country. The Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminal at Jawaharlal Nehru Salai, Koyembedu is regarded as the largest bus station in Asia.

By Rail: Chennai has two major railway stations, Chennai Central and Egmore. It is well connected by rail with all the major cities in India.

By Sea: Ships ply regularly between Chennai and Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

People and population

As per the 2001 census, Chennai city had a population of 4.2 million, while the total population of Chennai and its suburbs was 6.4 million. The estimated metropolitan population in 2006 is 6.96 million. Population is a big problem in Chennai and has led to many attendant problems like water scarcity and traffic problems. The majority of Chennai's residents are Tamilians. Apart from Tamil, which is the local language, English is also widely spoken. There are sizeable number of people from the states of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Since olden days, Chennai has been home to people from across the length and breadth of India.


Chennai has plenty to offer to shoppers. While at Chennai, you can shop for saris, contemporary and traditional artwork, antiques, jewellery etc. many traditional items like Pattamara Mats, leaf and palmyra-fiber handicrafts from Tirunellveli, metal works from Tanjavur, stone carvings from Mamallapuram, silks from Kanchipuram are available in Chennai and are a big draw for shoppers. Naturally Auroville at Khadar Nawaz Khan Road sells handmade items like shoes, clothes, ceramics and toiletries from the Auroville community. You can also pay a visit to the government emporiums for good quality and reasonable prices.


Chennai has plenty to offer to shoppers. While at Chennai, you can shop for saris, contemporary and traditional artwork, antiques, jewellery etc. many traditional items like Pattamara Mats, leaf and palmyra-fiber handicrafts from Tirunellveli, metal works from Tanjavur, stone carvings from Mamallapuram, silks from Kanchipuram are available in Chennai and are a big draw for shoppers. Naturally Auroville at Khadar Nawaz Khan Road sells handmade items like shoes, clothes, ceramics and toiletries from the Auroville community. You can also pay a visit to the government emporiums for good quality and reasonable prices.

Besides, there are budget hotels like Dasaprakash Hotel, Hotel GRT Grand Days, Hotel Arunachala, Hotel Guest Inn, Hotel Royal Southern, Pandian Hotel, Ramada Raj Park Hotel, Shan Hotel, Shelter Beach Resort and many others. Cactch further information on Hotels in Chennai


There are plenty of cinema halls in Chennai for you to enjoy a nice flick. Chennai is home to the Tamil film industry, which rules the roost here, though you can also catch English and Hindi movies in Chennai. There are cinema halls like Abirami Complex, Albert, AVM Rajeswari, Casino, Devi Complex, Devi Bala, Gaiety, Grand, Liberty, Nagesh, Pilot, Sakthi, Sangam, Rupam, Padmam, Sathyam Complex, Shanthi, Udhyam Complex, Woodlands where you can catch your favorite movie and moviestars.


If after taking in the sights and sounds of Chennai and going on a shopping binge, you crave for a mouth-watering meal, then Chennai will not disappoint you. There are plenty of good restaurants in Chennai to cater to the food buffs. You will come across varied kinds of cuisines, North Indian, South Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Japanese and what name you. Some of the restaurants to look out for in Chennai include Saravana Bhavan, Komala's, Usilampatti, Paramakudi, Tulsi, Annalakshmi and Karaikudi.

Travel Tips

Chennai is a city that never ceases to surprise. A convenient gateway to explore the rest of South India, Chennai is a city which is marching on to a bright future while retaining its distinct and rich cultural heritage.