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Namma Chennai: 10 Facts About The City We Bet You Didn’t Know

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By Swetha Kannan:

Chennai – the beaches, the buildings, the very old colleges, the heat, the lights, the traffic – one of the Indian cities that never sleeps! But is that all? Read on to discover how much you really know about Chennai.

1) The origin of ‘Madras’:

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The city got the name ‘Chennai’ only in 1996. Until then it was ‘Madras’, believed to be derived from ‘Madrasapattinam’ which is a fishing village north of Fort St. George. An interesting explanation is that it could have been derived from a fisherman named Madrasan. Sadly though, we South Indians are still being grouped under the term ‘Madrasis’ which evolved from ‘Madras’.

2) The Detroit of India:

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Chennai is also known as the Detroit of India, as most major manufacturers such as Ford, Hyundai, BMW, Renault Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Daimler have transformed the city into an automobile hub. The perfect combination of a number of factors such as the location, proximity from sea port, infrastructure, flexible industrial and government policies have attracted the giants of the automobile industry to set up their plants in the city.

3) The streets of Pondy Bazaar:

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Photo Credit

If you are in Chennai you cannot miss visiting the Pondy Bazaar, one of the busiest shopping streets in India. It is also known as ‘Bazaar’ named after Justice Party politician W.P.A. Soundarapandian Nadar. If you ever wondered about the bronze statue at the entrance to Pondy Bazaar, it is that of Soundarapandian Nadar. All the streets in and around this area have been named after justice party leaders. One interesting fact is that Lifco Books shop, which functions even today, and was set up years ago when there were just three shops in the area.

4) The World Bank office:

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One lesser known building in Chennai is the World Bank Chennai Office in Taramani that is certified as a LEED Silver building. It is built on a 3.5-acre campus. By 2012, it had a staff of almost 500 people. When World Bank group president Jim Yong Kim visited the office for the first time, he appreciated the improvements made in the automobile industry.

5) Connemara – not just an old library but a National Depository:


Many of us know that Connemara Public Library at Egmore is one of the oldest libraries, that has stood firmly through the test of time. It is also one of the four National Depository Libraries in India, that receives a copy of all the books, periodicals and newspapers being published in India. It also functions as a depository library for the United Nations.

6) Buhari Hotels and their delicious Chicken 65:


The famous chain of Buhari Hotels has been in Chennai since 1951. One of the favourite dishes of Chennai, the Chicken 65, is believed to be introduced at Buhari by its founder, A.M. Buhari. Interestingly, they also offer Chicken 78, Chicken 82 and Chicken 90. Mr. Buhari was also made the Sheriff of Madras in 1973-1974. Ever wondered that there could be such a history for that dish on your plate?

7) The big banyan tree:


One of the oldest banyan trees in the world, around 450 years, is located inside the Adyar Theosophical Society. The area it occupied was around 40,000 square feet but after a cyclone hit in 1989, the main trunk was uprooted leaving only a part of it now. Great personalities such as Annie Besant and Maria Montessori addressed a number of people under this tree. The Theosophical Society is open between 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. It is one the calmest and serene places located in the middle of the city.

8) The Madras Boat Club – one of the oldest in India:

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Photo Credit

The Madras Boat Club in Chennai is almost 140 years old. It was founded by Englishmen in 1867, and was first started in the backwaters of Ennore. In 1892, it was moved to the location on the banks of Adyar River. Now the club has acquired the latest boats and oars from USA and is well equipped.

9) Bargaining on Cotton Street:

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Photo Credit

The ‘Cotton Street’ on Pantheon Road is a one-stop destination if you are looking for cotton clothes with a combination of vibrant colours. The better you are at bargaining, the less you’ll spend on this street! Shops are open from almost 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. It is definitely worth a walk through the street.

10) Backwaters of Alamparai Fort:

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Photo Credit

A very lesser known place on the outskirts of Chennai is the Alamparai Fort. It is in an almost destroyed state now. The sandy beach and the scenic backwaters are a must-see. The beauty of this place also makes it a favourite of notable Tamil movie makers. You might also get to tramp some sea shells and a variety of crabs on the shore.

Just like Chennai, we don’t know so many things about many cities and states in India. Use Youth Ki Awaaz to write about facts that people don’t know about your hometown, and publish today! We promise you – hundreds of people will be interested to know more about their own country.

You must be to comment.
  1. Veda Nadendla

    Article is well done. You missed the legendary alsa mall sandwich kadai ! 🙂 no other city I have visited has better bread omlette. Not to forget thalapakatti!

    1. Swetha Kannan

      Thank you for the info 🙂 There are undeniably many more less known facts about Chennai. I just happened to pick 10 interesting points.

  2. tim

    The picture of pondy bazaar is actually of ranganathan street and that of world bank is of raheja building in mount road. not sure if it’s a deliberate or unintentionally error.

    1. Swetha Kannan

      It was purely unintentional and I have informed the editors about this. Thank you Tim!

  3. Varun Singhi

    Hi Swetha,

    Nice Article! I think the image which you have put for the World Bank Office is actually the Raheja

    Towers located on the Mount Road and not the actual WORLD Bank building located in Taramani near

    the Ascendas IT Park.


    1. Swetha Kannan

      Thank you Varun. I had not selected these photos but yes I have informed the editors of Youth Ki Awaaz about this. It was an unintentional mistake.

  4. Saurabh Gandhi

    Hi Swetha,

    I must say, a very well researched article which will surely help anyone wishing to explore Chennai as a tourist. However, I felt that it lacked a little bit of personal touch. I mean, you could have talked about the little known places also which do not form a part of Chennai’s history but surely form an integral part of the lives of the people who lived there. I am sure there must be many such places and things about chennai which are known only to those who lived there.

    1. Swetha Kannan

      Thank you Saurabh. Your point is well- taken. Chennai is a vast city with so many interesting things, would be happy to talk about them in a future article!

  5. Ahmad Faraz

    I am From Pakistan.Loving chennai and added in wishlist.Hope someday we ll freely travel across the border. :-)-:

  6. Pawel

    Hi Swetha,
    The article is very good, short and precise. I am new to chennai and this article was a good guide for me. But it’d have been better if with the places, you could also give some directions to reach there. I mean I can locate the library and Adyar Theosophical Society with some help but not other places like the Alamparai fort or cotton street or the pondy bazaar.
    Actually I was thinking that the pondy bazaar and t nagar are the same but the comment by Tim made me know that both are different.

  7. vasanth.s

    hi friend i am the wife of Mrs vasanth really happy about to know the unknown things chennai, and i really get pride to live in the chennai. and i hope this may help to know about our capital of tamilnadu

  8. Prashanth

    T.Nagar Ranganathan street might have been different now and I have not seen since 1986.During 1970s,when I was a college student, we two to three students used to do joint study in my friend's house near Ranganathan Street. During college days, We used to spend lot of time in Connemara Library, Madras University Library reading books on various subjects. In those days, no TV and no internets. Some of my friends who used to accompany me to libraries died now. In 1975, when I was married I took my wife to see biggest banyan tree. Down the memory lane.

  9. Rajendran Narayanan

    number 3 looks more like Ranganathan street

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