Timothy Tye's Travel Encyclopedia
Chennai (சென்னை, Madras), Tamil Nadu

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Chennai, IndiaChennai, India
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Chennai (Tamil:சென்னை), formerly known as Madras (மெட்ராஸ்), is the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu. It is the fourth biggest city (the fourth most populous metropolitan and the fifth most populous urban area) in India. The city has a population of 4.3 million people and a metropolitan area of 6.5 million.

Unlike many cities in India whose history goes back to antiquity, Chennai is "relatively new". It was founded by the British in 1640. It is the short form for the town of Chennaipattinam, which grew around Fort St. George built by the British. Chennaipattinam was itself named after Chennaiappa Naicker, the ruler of Kalahasthi and Vandavasi, from whom the British acquired the site in 1639.

National Art Gallery, ChennaiNational Art Gallery, Chennai
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Chennai was popularly known as Madras - that name was derived from Madraspattinam, the name of a fishing village to the north of the city. In 1996 the state government changed the name to Chennai. However it is still popularly called Madras by its residents as well as by Indians from other parts of the country.

Chennai experiences a tropical climate. It can be very hot in the middle of the year, with average high midday temperatures of 38-42°C (100-108°F) between late May and early June, when the locals regard the "air is on fire". You can get cooler temperature in January, when the average low can be a comfortable 18-20°C (64-68°F). The wettest months are mid-October to mid-December, when Chennal receives the full force of the northeast monsoon.

St Andrew's Church, ChennaiSt Andrew's Church, Chennai
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Planning your trip to Chennai

The Chennai International Airport (MAA) is the third busiest airport in India after the ones in Mumbai and Delhi. Budget travelers can fly AirAsia to Chennai from Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

From the airport, you can take pre-paid taxi to downtown Chennai. Expect to spend about Rs. 450 for the journey in a Toyota Innova. You can save by taking the standard black-and-yellow-top taxis. Upon paying for your taxi, you are given a charge slip. Go to the taxi stand and get a number from the desk. Give one copy of the charge slip to the driver and keep one as your receipt.

Planning your travel within Chennai

The most practical way to travel within Chennai is to take its suburban trains. If you have to use the auto rickshaws, negotiate carefully and clearly before you board. Many auto rickshaw riders take the opportunity to fleece their passengers, more so if you are a foreigner. If you find a reliable one, you can even hire him to take you around for the entire day.

Basilica of San Thomé, ChennaiBasilica of San Thomé, Chennai
photo sourcehttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SanThomeCathedralBasilica.jpg
authorshipRodrigo Fonseca
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Places of Interest in Chennai

  1. Adyar
    Neighbourhood of Chennai south of San Thomé
  2. Anna Park
    Public park along the Chennai Marina.
  3. Anna Salai
    Long major road leading out of Chennai to the north.
  4. Basilica of San Thomé
    Roman Catholic church established by the Portuguese in 1898.
  5. Brodie Castle
    Imposing mansion now housing the prestigious College of Carnatic Music.
  6. Egmore
    Area between Periyar EVR High Road and Cooum River, an early residential neighbourhood for wealthy East India Company merchants.
  7. Fort St. George
    The oldest British fort in India.
  8. George Town
    Settlement established in 1640 which is today a historical neighbourhood.
  9. Guindy National Park
    Dry deciduous scrub jungle in south Chennai with acacia, banyan and jamuan trees, and a good number of wildlife.
  10. Kalakshetra
    Pioneering institution for classical dance, music and the fine arts.
  11. Kapaleshvara Temple
    The biggest Hindu temple in Chennai, located in Mylapore.
  12. Little Mount
    A mount with a cave where a mortally wounded St Thomas is believed to have sought refuge in AD 72. Today Little Mount has several Catholic churches.
  13. Luz Church
    Oldest Catholic church in Chennai, built by Franciscan monks in 1516.
  14. Madras Snake Park
    A well maintained park established by American zoologist Romulus Whitaker, with numerous species of snakes, located within Guindy National Park.
  15. MGR Film City
    Base for Chennai's Tamil film industry, named after the highly popular south Indian matinée idol MG Ramachandran.
  16. Mount of St Thomas
    Also called Great Mount, a 95-meter hill with the Church of Our Lady of Expectations at the top.
  17. Mylapore
    One of the busiest ports of Chennai.
  18. National Art Gallery
    Gallery occupying the former Victoria Memorial Hall, one of the finest buildings in The Pantheon complex
  19. Parthasarathi Temple
    One of the oldest Hindu temples in Chennai, first built in the 9th century.
  20. San Thomé
    Neighbourhood of Chennai.
  21. St Andrew's Church
    Neo-Classical church inspired by the St Martin-in-the-Fields of London.
  22. The Pantheon Complex
    Complex of cultural institutions housed in the former Public Assembly Rooms of the 18th century.
  23. Theosophical Society
    Society with world headquarters in Chennai, on a sprawling gardens of 270 acres (108 hectares) in Adyar.
  24. Triplicane
    Neighbourhood of Chennai with the Parthasarathi Temple.
  25. Wallajah Mosque
    Major mosque built in 1795 in Triplicane.

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