Chennai is also know as Madras, it is the first city and now capital of Tamil Nadu, the state which is famous as "God's Own Country". The name change from Madras to Chennai belies the character of this southern metro. Now noisy and fraught with every feature of a big city, Chennai still retains a certain traditional charm. Shored along the Bay of Bengal, "the gateway to the South". Film is a roaring industry here, backed by some of India’s best directors, actors and technicians. Chennai is the fourth largest metro city of India which is growing with very fast rate every year. The main travel highlights are the lovely people and their lifestyle, temples, music, restaurants, discos, pubs and the famous snake farm. You can see a interesting blend of traditional and the western culture

Religious Places in Chennai

Sri Parthasarathy Temple - The temple is a typically Chola structure, dating back to the 8th century. Dedicated to Lord Krishna, it was renovated by the Cholas and has sculptures of Vijaynagar kings. The inner sanctum is a must see.

Santhome Cathedral - Built over the tomb of the apostle St Thomas, this basilica is an important pilgrimage site. More interesting for its past history of renovations and rebuilding, it may not be exceptional in terms of workmanship. There is a museum catering to people who are interested in history. Open daily, 6 am-6 pm. Museum closes on weekends.

Kapaleeshwar Temple - It is an ancient Shiv temple is located in the heart of the city. Its an old saying that Lord Siva once pinched off one of the heads of Brahma to arrest his pride. A crestfallen Brahma came to this place, installed a Siva Lingam and did penance. The Lingam is known as Kapaleeswarar. This temple is known for a panacea from many troubles.

Major Tourists Attractions in Chennai

MGR Film City - Known the world over for its film industry, MGR Film City is a special delight in Chennai. Situated on the outskirts of Buckingham Canal, tourists are allowed between 8 am and 8 pm. Tel: 235 2132. Entry is Rs 25 while an extra Rs 50 is charged for camera use. Enthusiasts can get into their act by making a special request to be allowed to take up a side role.

The Theosophical Society - The Theosophical Society, much as the name suggests, offers discourse and meditation sessions as well as lectures on positive health and spirituality. J Krishnamurthi and Maria Montessori have both lectured here, under the huge banyan tree (spreading over 40,000 sq ft). Classes continue to be held at this spot. Closed on Sundays.

Fort St George - Fort St George, the first structure of Madras city built by the British in 1640. Today it houses the Secretariat and the Legislative Assembly. The Fort Museum close by has an interesting collection of colonial memorabilia.

Government Museum - Established in 1957, the museum is a set of six buildings that encompass every phase of a historic city, from the architecture to ornaments. A comprehensive collection of Chola bronzes and Ram idols keeps the tourists captivated. There is a children's museum and the National Art Gallery in the same area.

Marina Beach - This reserved beach is Chennai's most popular tourist attraction. It the best place to chill and relax. The beach is thronged through out the year by several thousand tourists, both domestic and international. The serene environment, the beautiful sea, the glittering sun, the white sand and the lovely people around the beach makes it ideal hangout spot.

National Art Gallery - The gallery is worth visiting if you are an art lover. It houses 10th century paintings, religious statues and relics occupy.Tenth century paintings, one building while the other contains mostly modern works. Located in Egmore, the National Art Gallery is housed in a building built in 1906 in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. The building itself is a work of art and was originally intended to be the Victoria Memorial and Technical Institute but was made the National Art Gallery in 1951. On exhibition are 10th and 13th century bronzes, 16th and 18th century Rajasthani and Mughal paintings, 17th century Deccani paintings and 11th and 12th century Indian handicrafts.

Where to Shop in Chennai

Chennai is famous for its Kanjeevaram sarees, intricately woven with silk and gold. Radha Silk House at Sannadhi Street, Mylapore, is one place to browse. South Indian handicrafts, street shopping is the best option. You could pick up some exquisite paintings and woodwork at Victoria Technical Institute in Anna Salai. Of course, Chennai is well up to date with the latest shopping fads and has everything metros are expected to have, shopping malls and big show rooms.

Best Time to Visit Chennai

Chennai can be travelled round the year, but between October and March is the best time.

How to Reach Chennai

By Air - Chennai has domestic as well as international airports. The Kamaraj Domestic Airport and the Anna International Airport are located at Tirusulam, at a distance of 20 km from the city. Chennai is connected by Jet, IA, Sahara, AI and other international airlines to the rest of the country and the world. The Meenambakkam Airport is located 17 km southwest of the city centre. It has terminals for both domestic and international travel.

By Rail - The city of Chennai is also well connected to all the major cities in India through a wide network of railways. The Tamil Nadu Express from Delhi, Ganga Kaveri Express from Varanasi, Shatabdi Express from Bangalore and the Charminar Express from Hyderabad are some of the trains from the major cities to Chennai. You also have the Coromandel Express from Chennai to Calcutta. Railway station: There are two railway stations at Chennai - Central and Egmore and most of the trains arrive here. The Central Railway Station links north and west and Egmore Station the south. There are separate stations for local trains. Chennai Central Railway Station is located on Periyar EVR High Road. Relatively easy to get transport to and from the Central station though lack of knowledge of the local language Tamil could be a hindrance.

By Road - The city of Chennai is also well connected to all the major cities in Tamil Nadu and other neighboring states through an excellent road network. The city is well linked by roads to the major destinations in South India. It is connected by the National Highway Nos 4, 5 and 45. Bus terminus: The State Express Bus Stand is on the south of George Town (same as Park Town). Their buses are comfortable and they take minimal time.