Think Chennai and aromatic filter coffees, Kancheepuram-sari clad aunties, idly-dosas and ‘enna da raaskala’ dialogues come to mind; yes, thanks to Chetan Bhagat for the former and Shah Rukh Khan for the side-splitting latter. Some twenty years back, Chennai was like that- the epitome of conservativeness and traditional thinking.
Roll over to today, and that Chennai has undergone a full-blown transformation. The right mix of urban-culture and tradition is stamped on the city. Crime statistics are much lower as compared to its other metro counterparts and the people welcome you with open hearts. Out-of-towners are never left to feel like they aren’t part of the Tamil family.
Anyone visiting South-India has to make Chennai a destination on their itinerary to experience the Tamil culture. A list of some of the must-see places this city has to offer:
One of the longest beaches in the world, the marina beach extends for nearly two miles. It is primarily sandy and a vital must-see for those who don’t live on the coastline. Along with a lighthouse, statues of historic Indian leaders and fine-looking springs, this figures ‘numero uno’ on the list
If you are an animal lover, then head to this destination. Housing more than 170 species of mammals, aviaries and reptiles, the Vandalur zoo extends to around 1300 acres. Exotic species of animals from across the country are kept on display here. Guindy National Park and the Crocodile Farm are other animal sanctuaries that one can visit while in Chennai.
Another one of Chennai’s famous beaches, the Elliots beach, otherwise called ‘Bessie beach’ is the student hang-out zone in the city. Find the entire college crowd lazing around here, trying out the innumerable eateries that have sprung up right opposite the coast making it even more enjoyable than the Marina. Fish lovers will find the locality irresistible.
At least 60 kms away from the city is located the ancient town of Mahabalipuram. It was a 7thcentury port in the Pallava dynasty. Rathas, shrines and pagodas make the architectural experience worthwhile. The city was built on the concept of rock-cut architecture and complete temples have been carved out of a single stone. It figures on the UNESCO world heritage list.
A monument dedicated to Chennai’s most famous poet, Thiruvalluvar who wrote the Thirukural, Valluvar Kottam is in the heart of the city. All 1330 verses of this ancient book have been inscribed within the monument.
Fort St George
This structure was the first ever British fortress to be constructed in the country in the year 1639. It houses a church and a museum containing British artifacts. The Fort St. George today is used as the administrative capital of the entire city.
The remains of St Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ is said to be buried here. A beautiful basilica, the Sunday sermons conducted here are a pleasure to witness.
There is a surplus of beautiful temples in the city. The Kapaleeswarar temple is one such place of worship. Visit to witness and understand the Tamil heritage better. Sri Parthasarathy Temple is another such temple which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Spencer’s, Citicentre and Ampa Skywalk serve the mall experience. But the ultimate shopper’s destination is T Nagar. Items are available at unbelievable prices but bargaining is the key.
Tourists MUST visit the ‘Ranganathan Street in T Nagar- but at their own risk. It’s forever full of people and try standing on the road for two minutes and you‘ll reach the other end in no time because of the massive crowd that walks in there.
Still have time on your hands?
Then visit the St Thomas Mount, Kapaleshwar Temple, Rajiv Gandhi Memorial, the Government Museum, Kamaraj and MGR Samadhis, the Thousand Lights Mosque or the world famous Theosophical Society.
Of all the things I like about this city, the people here are engaging. Everyone’s friendly and you couldn’t ever visit a person’s house without getting your tummy loaded with delicacies.
Diwali and Pongal are the best times to visit the city because the whole city is in high spirits, out on the streets, celebrating the occasion.
The writer is a Chennai based correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.