India

CHENNAI – CITY OF MUSIC, PASSION AND MEMORIES

A mixed bag of interesting cultural experiences awaits the visitor to Chennai. Its inhabitants are cricket crazy and adore the cinema, and one can easily be misled to believe it a conservative metropolis on the first encounter. But very soon it will mesmerize you with its enticing dance, and draw you in. Here the tourist will see and experience the heritage and many different cultural influences the city underwent, partake in music festivals ranging from folk music to international galas, pick and choose from the very best silk saris and sample the many culinary delights on offer.

By Vacation India
In Chennai, personalities from cinema, music, politics, and cricket take on a larger-than-life dimension. This unfathomable madness is part of the city’s fabric. On marina beach, you can have your picture taken against a cut-out of your favorite movie star, cricket player, or politician © Streetmuse

In this Article:

Historical Background
Heritage And Culture
Churches And Temples
Santhome Cathedral
Kapaleeswarar Temple
Fort St George
Kalakshetra Foundation
Dakshinachitra
Chennai Music Season
Ulur Olcott Kuppam Festival
Madras Week
Turtle Walks
Day Trips Of Chennai
Shopping In Chennai
Food And Eateries
When To Visit Chennai
How To Get There
How To Get Around Chennai
Where To Stay In Chennai
Some Images From Our Trip To Chennai


The locals steadfastly refer to the metropolis as Madras instead of Chennai. One might ask what difference does it make; a name is just a name. Actually, a name carries with it much more weight than you think. The name Madras evokes nostalgia, as well as a deep sense of kinship and belonging. It arouses sweet memories of beaches fringed with palm trees, avenues lined with tall leafy trees, and peaceful, slow-paced existence. Chennai, on the other hand, represents the modern chaotic, crowded city life. Surprisingly, the two complement each other beautifully and so the city continues to blossom.
 

Historical Background

A thin strip of sand that lines the Bay of Bengal caught the eye of the British and in 1639 the East India Company obtained a grand for some land in the fishing village of Madrasapattinam from the Vijayanagara ruler. Here they built warehouses and factories and soon a settlement sprung up. It was called Madras and is considered the origin of modern day Chennai. However, parts of the city date back much further; long before any Dutch, Portuguese or British occupation. In 1996 Chennaipattinam, settled around a British fort, became Chennai. The influences of colonialism have left their traces but Chennai is drenched in a deep-seated pride of everything home-grown. This is evident in the food and music, the residents’ love for cricket, the cinema, and politics. Personalities tend to become larger than life, like J Jayalalithaa, Kamal Haasan, and Rajinikanth, famous film stars and politicians, and AR Rahman, the singer and composer of music scores for numerous films. For foreigners, it may be hard to understand this craziness, but for the locals, it is all just part and parcel of the very fabric of their beloved city.

The Indian Ocean has bestowed both blessings and curses on Chennai. It has given and nourished, only to grab it all back again. Only in the past decades alone, the city suffered woes aplenty. In 2004 a tsunami ravaged the city, 2015 saw floods and the 2016 cyclone battered and tore away at it. But after every disaster, and against all odds, Chennai resolutely gathered itself together, collected its broken pieces, and rebuilt itself. On August 22 this year, Chennai will celebrate its 381st year and continues to show the world why it is one of the top tourist destinations in the country.

This beautiful façade belongs to the 2nd oldest museum in India, he Chennai Government Museum.

This beautiful façade belongs to the 2nd oldest museum in India, the Chennai Government Museum © Matias Planas


Heritage and Culture

Chennai city is a happy, boisterous potpourri of cultures. Portuguese, French, Dutch, British influences all merge with remnants of its ancient Dravidian heritage. The distinctive architecture is the perfect manifestation of all these traces; the old part of the city is dominated by Indo Saracen-style buildings, like the Ripon Building, cricket stadium, and Chepauk Palace, Egmore and Chennai Central Railway Stations, and the Victoria Public Hall. Visit the Government Museum to gain insight into and explore the city’s rich, colorful past. At the Museum Theater plays and concerts are performed regularly.

The spotless white exterior of the Gothic Loyola Cathedral in Chennai

The spotless white exterior of the Gothic Loyola Cathedral in Chennai © Arvind Balaraman


Churches and Temples

Chennai is littered with churches and you will find some of the most exquisite, and oldest churches in India, like Our Lady of the Light (Luz Church) constructed by Portuguese master builders in 1516, and an Armenian Church with its belfry of six which dates back to 1712. Two more examples are St Andrew’s Church which was built to serve the Scottish community, and Santhome Cathedral Basilica, the handiwork of Portuguese settlers, opened in 1523.
 

Santhome Cathedral

According to legend, the apostle St Thomas brought Christianity to the Indian shores in 72AD. Later he was martyred in Kerala and his mortal remains interred near Marina Beach in Santhome. Today a soaring neo-Gothic cathedral stands on his grave. Portuguese explorers were responsible for its construction during the sixteenth century, and the British rebuilt it during the last part of the nineteenth century. Today, it forms a key landmark of the city; its white spires that pierce the blue skies are set strikingly against the ocean backdrop. In 1956 Pope Pius XII bestowed on it the status of minor basilica. It is also a popular pilgrim destination since it is one of only three cathedrals built on an apostle’s tomb. The others are St Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican City, and Santiago de Compostela Basilica in Spain.

Visitors relax on the steps near the ancient multi-shrined Kapaleeshwatar Temple in Tamil Nadu

Visitors relax on the steps near the ancient multi-shrined Kapaleeshwatar Temple in Tamil Nadu © Jayakumar


Kapaleeswarar Temple

This majestic Hindu temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, was erected by the ruling Pallavas during the seventh century. It sits near the seaside in the old neighborhood of Mylapore and is drenched in legend. Several hymns and works of literature from as far back as the first century, during the Sangam Age, immortalized it. The western gopuram or entrance tower faces an immense sacred tank. During March through April, the nine-day Spring Festival or Panguni Peruvizha is celebrated here, which attracts many pilgrims from all over the state.

The stunning interior of Santhome Basilica, Chennai, with its intricate woodwork and stained glass windows

The stunning interior of Santhome Basilica, Chennai, with its intricate woodwork and stained glass windows © Arvind Balaraman


Fort St George

The White City, as it is also called, developed around the fort built by the East India Company in 1644, after they obtained a strip of coastal land from the ruling king of the time. The citadel formed the hub of their trading activities and in time grew to become first Madras and later Chennai. Standing three stories tall, the fort overlooks a few fishing villages and faces Bengal Bay. Today the building houses the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly, as well as other administrative offices. The Fort Museum forms part of the complex and on display are a wealth of relics from colonial times, including British officers’ personal possessions, weapons, coins, and other artifacts. Not to be missed is the Church of St Mary, India’s oldest Anglican church. The cemetery has some of the oldest English tombstones in the country. Various high-profile wedding ceremonies were conducted in this ancient church, for instance, that between Governor Elihu Yale and Robert Clive.

Thiruvalluvar, the revered Tamil philosopher poet and saint, is honored at this unique temple with its chariot-like base carved in stone

Thiruvalluvar, the revered Tamil philosopher-poet and saint, is honored at this unique temple with its chariot-like base carved in stone © Joe Ravi


Culture

Kalakshetra Foundation

This academy, Kalakshetra Foundation dedicated to preserving the traditional classical arts and crafts of India, is much more than a mere cultural center; it is an artistic, throbbing heart, a nurturing space for top talent, and a hotbed for all kinds of artistic endeavors, especially in the fields of Bharatanatyam classical dance and Gandharvaveda music. The institution was established in 1936 by Rukmini Devi Arundale and is today recognized by the Indian Parliament as a Nationally Important Institute. Visitors may stroll through the 100-acre environment-friendly campus on their own or take a guided tour, partake in morning prayers under ancient banyan trees, watch Carnatic recitals near a lotus pond, or watch an art class in progress. The beautiful Koothambalam or Kalashetra Auditorium and Theater hosts traditional Bharatanatyam dance performances.

Some of the ancient brass items saved by dancer Chandralekha over 40 years exhibited at the Dakshina Chitra Museum

Some of the ancient brass items saved by dancer Chandralekha over 40 years exhibited at the Dakshina Chitra Museum © Arun Sv


Dakshinachitra

This heritage village is a living cultural and history museum. Dakshinachitra is situated 25 km south of Chennai and portrays the architecture, lifestyle, and culture of Southern India’s people. The name of this village literally means ‘a picture of the south’. Eighteen original dwellings from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana, and the Andhra Pradesh States were meticulously relocated to this site. They are filled with authentic antiques and everyday household items characteristic of those cultures. The visitor can view arts, including the performing arts, and crafts, as well as a stone workshop, amongst others. There are a variety of souvenir shops, a crafts bazaar, a playground, and an area for religious functions.
 

Festivals

A number of festivals take place right through the year. Events like the Pongal Harvest Fest, Thiruvaiyaru, the biggest music festival in the country, the Natyanjali Dance Festival, folk carnivals, and temple fairs fill the city’s calendar and draw thousands of visitors from all over the world.

Red dusted statues of a woman holding a parrot in her hand, musicians with their instruments, a rearing horse and female dancers forms part of this ancient structure

Red dusted statues of a woman holding a parrot in her hand, musicians with their instruments, a rearing horse, and female dancers forms part of this ancient structure © Karthikeyan Gnanaprakasam


Chennai Music Season

In 2017 UNESCO included Chennai in its Creative Cities Network because of its rich musical tradition. This comes as no surprise; music is part and parcel of the very essence of the city. This grand extravaganza is the most important showcase of Carnatic music, classical dance, and theater, and amongst the largest of this kind on the globe. It takes place over a two-month period, from December to January, and consists of more than 1500 performances, featuring 700 artists, both renowned and promising young talent. Hundreds of Sabhas, or venues, across the city house these concerts and performances. Since the creation of Chennai Music Season in 1927 by members of Madras’s Music Academy, it has been snowballing and today attracts music lovers and culture enthusiasts from all corners of the earth. Individual tickets are sold for evening concerts, while season tickets can be purchased at most Sabhas. Lectures and concerts during the daytime are mostly free of charge. Top chefs provide tasty local dishes at most venues, so the best way to spend your evening is to go sabha hoping to savor as many great culinary and musical flavors as possible.

Two dancers in traditional attire, masks and make-up perform the traditional Kathakali drama. Part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network for its rich musical traditions, Chennai is a potpourri of cultural experiences, such as Carnatic music, dance performances and more

Two dancers in traditional attire, masks, and make-up perform the traditional Kathakali drama. Part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network for its rich musical traditions, Chennai is a potpourri of cultural experiences, such as Carnatic music, dance performances, and more © Dmitry Rukhlenko


Ulur Olcott Kuppam Festival

In 2015 TM Krishna, winner of the Magsaysay Award and renowned Carnatic singer, and the environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman realized their vision of a Vizha that would include music lovers from all the different walks of life. They meant to bridge the gap that often divide societies, and make music accessible to people from all walks of life. They chose the fishing villages of Besant Nagar to be the equalizing venue where folk and classical music, theater, dance, and other arts can be performed. The result was that the festival attracts wider, new audiences. The festival takes place in January and events are staged on beaches, in busses and trains, in parks and other open spaces, proving beyond any doubt that art and music know no boundaries and are all-inclusive.
 

Madras Week

It is widely believed that Madras was founded in 1639, on August 22 to be exact, so for its 365th year of existence, a group of historians, writers, entrepreneurs, and journalists decided it was high time to celebrate such an important milestone. That was how 2004 saw the very first Madras Week Festival. Today this annual commemoration includes a myriad of events like an array of cultural tours, nature and food walks, concerts, book launches, film screenings, fun games and quizzes, contests, discussions, exhibitions, and many more. For one whole week, the entire city is brought together in a carnival of joyous celebration. This is definitely the ideal time for the visitor to get to know this remarkable city.

An extravaganza of themed balloons at the world famous Chennai Balloon Festival

An extravaganza of themed balloons at the world-famous Chennai Balloon Festival © Ganeshkumar Durai


Other Interesting Experiences

Once you have ticked off the main tourist attractions, it is time to discover the hidden treasures that lie underneath the surface. Feed crocodiles at Madras’s Crocodile Bank, stroll through the leafy grounds of the Theosophical Society, watch the dazzling sunset from the beach, or take to the ocean in a catamaran. The following suggestions will whet your appetite.
 

Turtle Walks

Each year from January to April 1000’s of turtles return to their place of birth on Chennai’s beaches. During their nesting season, a number of volunteers arrange hatcheries all along the beaches, and as soon as the next generation of little Olive Ridley hatchlings emerges, the volunteers release them safely into the sea. Visitors may take a guided walk conducted by members of the SSTCN (Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network) who have been arranging these walking tours for about thirty years. This is a unique, enlightening experience where you can learn more about the conservation of marine life and the famous Olive Ridley sea turtles.

A huge stone book in the garden leading up to the Universal Temple at Sri Ramakrishna Math illustrates its commitment to publish titles in Tamil, English and Sanskrit

A huge stone book in the garden leading up to the Universal Temple at Sri Ramakrishna Math illustrates its commitment to publishing titles in Tamil, English, and Sanskrit © Jayakumar


Day Trips

While visiting Chennai, you are never far from the beach. If bustling, lively beaches are your thing, head for Thiruvanmiryur, Elliot’s, or Marina. However, if your preference lies with something more relaxed and laid back, make your way along the ECR or Eastern Coast Road. On the one side, you have a limitless view of the ocean, and on the opposite side, farmlands line the way. No need to plan your trip, just stop when the fancy takes you; at any of the many restaurants, beaches, resorts, or cafes along the road.

On his same road, fifty km from Chennai, you will find Mamallapuram. This World Heritage Site is famous for its 7th century Pallavan Dynasty monuments and seafront temples. Three beautifully ornate stone temples, impressive royal monuments, and various caves can be visited.

One hundred km further on lies Puducherry, a little glimpse of France. Enjoy the laid-back, colonial vibe at one of the bakeries, restaurants, or cafes, or spend time in the peaceful atmosphere of an ashram. In the experimental township of Auroville people from all over the globe live together in harmony and peace.

At Kanchipuram, a 75km drive from Chennai you can buy authentic, exquisitely made Kanjeevaram silk saris. No need to go to any store; pick them up right from the weavers’ workshops.

Adventure seekers should plan their visit to Chennai during August to coincide with the Covelong Point Surf, Yoga, and Music Festival. Here you will find the buzz and excitement of surfboards, rolling waves, and sandy beaches, mixed with a carnival of music and relaxing yoga.

Hundreds of colorful leather handbags to choose from at a street store

Hundreds of colorful leather handbags to choose from at a street store © Gnanistock


Shopping

If you love jewelry and always dreamt of owning a beautiful, elegant sari, look no further. Make your way to T Nagar, the bustling shopping district where the streets are lined with big-brand showrooms like Pothy’s, Sundari Silks, Nalli, and Silks and RmKV. For even more exclusive saris, visit Kanakavalli Boutique in Adyar or Mylapore’s Tulsi Silks.

Hunt for bargains of accessories, electronics, and clothing by side-stepping the brand stores and go straight to the noisy, hectic city center. The maze of streets in Sowcarpet, an old neighborhood with vintage buildings, and Parry’s Corner in George Town is packed with hawkers and vendors who sell anything from bed linen and fabrics to cosmetics and stationery. In Mint Street, which seems to go on forever, you will find treasures like designer wear at wholesale prices, even kitchen utensils. The heart of electronics lies in Ritchie Street, where hundreds of stores sell electronics spare parts, chips, motherboards, as well as home theater systems, games, laptops, speakers, and other up to date gadgets.

The popular breakfast dish, masala dosa, seen from a different angle. It is served with chutneys, coconut and sambhar curry

The popular breakfast dish, masala dosa, seen from a different angle. It is served with chutneys, coconut, and sambhar curry © Santhosh Varghese


Food and Eateries

Traditionally the Chennai breakfast is a lavish affair of savory warm ghee Pongal, crunchy Vada, Dosa, and fluffy idlis. Although every shop worth its name has this dish on the menu, make your way to Sangeetha, located in RA Puram, the top destination for ghee Podi Dosa, to experience the very best. Besant Nagar’s Murugan Idli Shop takes the meek, humble idli to the next level. Then finish your culinary breakfast feast with the interesting cold milky drink called Jigarthanda, laced with ice cream, almond resin, sarsaparilla syrup, and sugar. For a hearty, leisurely Sunday breakfast, head to Lloyds Tea House.

Then there are the ever-popular Adyar Bhavan eateries scattered across the entire city, or the favorite hangout for early beach walkers and joggers, Saravana Bhavan, to break your daily fast. Nowhere else in the country is it possible to enjoy a terrific breakfast and your early caffeine fix with Chennai’s special filter coffee, freshly brewed, at 5:30 in the morning.

Long ago George Town, the first British settlement, used to be the very nerve of Chennai. Although those days are past now, the network of streets still has tales to tell and every corner sports its specialty shop. Browsing the many wholesale electronic stores on Govindappa Naiken, it is easy to miss National Lodge, the best place for traditional, delicious Andhra Pradesh cuisine. Not far away, in Mint Street, you will find the city’s Marwari neighborhood where their own specific fare reigns proudly. Chennaites will gladly face the hectic traffic of these streets to sit down at the legendary Kakada Ramprasad. It is especially known for its outstanding, ice-cold badam, or almond milk.

The famous deep-fried, spicy Chicken 65, first served at the Buhari Hotel in Chennai as a starter or snack

The famous deep-fried, spicy Chicken 65, first-served at the Buhari Hotel in Chennai as a starter or snack © Kavitha Thoutam


Mylapore is the cultural and spiritual center of Chennai. Here and in the surrounding areas are canteens, or messes galore, like Mami Kadai, Rayar Mess, or Mylai Karpagambal Mess, where delicious vegetarian meals are served on banana leaves with the signature filter coffee to accompany it. Try the Keerai or spinach vada, badam or sweet almond pudding and Bonda, fried potato with spices in a batter of wheat flour.

Chennai is any carnivore’s heaven and if you are one of the adventurous ones, the city’s military hotel restaurants will make all your culinary dreams come true. Work your way through some fried rabbit, mutton blood curries, or quail masalas. These hotels sprung up during WW II to cater to army personnel as well as soldiers, thus their typical non-vegetarian fare. Unfortunately, they are slowly disappearing, but a few, for instance, the Velu Military Hotel, persevere. Erstwhile Tamil refugees returning from Burma where they worked in the rice fields and rubber plantations, introduced Burmese flavors into the local cuisine. To sample some of these interesting dishes like altho or Burmese noodles, and Mohinga or fish soup, go to the Burma Bazaar in northern Chennai, there you will find several stalls that specialize in authentic Burmese fare. That the people of Chennai cannot live without their biryani is evident; the vast number of eateries that specialize in this beloved dish is proof enough. Find the most classical, iconic biryani at Buhari Hotel in Mount Road (Anna Salai), dating back to 1951. Here Chicken 65, the now-famous fried chicken dish, was created in 1965 (hence the name) by AM Buhari, owner of the hotel. If you prefer boneless chicken, order the Chicken 90. According to the manager of the restaurant, Nawaz Buhari, the founder experimented with no less than two hundred different biryani recipes before he was satisfied and today his bestselling Buhari biryani is unique and different from those in Tamil towns like Madurai and comes with aromatic basmati rice.

A stall on the Marina Beach selling delicious fried masala fish and a variety of fresh seafood, enough to make the mouth water

A stall on the Marina Beach selling delicious fried masala fish and a variety of fresh seafood, enough to make the mouth water © Gnanistock


Evening strolls along Marina Beach often escalate into major eating sprees. Numerous food stalls along the way tempt visitors and the sea air is filled with the flavors of Bajjis, a fritter-like spicy snack, fried fish, egg dosas or fermented-battered rice pancakes with lentil and vegetable curry and coconut chutney, Sundal or chickpeas mixed with chilies, curry leaves, and mustard seeds, and many more.

Numerous talented chefs who exchanged southern Udupi for lively Chennai were responsible for making Udupi cuisine famous all over. Dasaprakash, Woodlands, and Mathsya, formerly known as Udupi Home, have been the leading chains on the vegetarian scene for quite a while and monopolized the market, but later Saravana Bhavan and other local brands managed to leave their own footprint. However, they have not been successful in drawing the hungry, eager diners away from Mathsya or Buhari. If you prefer sitting down for your meal, find a spot at one of the many restaurants and diners in Chennai. Choose between delicious international food or amazing local specialties in cafes like the ever-popular Chamiers or Amethyst. Or spoil yourself with some fine dining and sample exquisite South Indian cuisine at Avartana in ITC Grand Chola Hotel or at Bay View Restaurant in Taj Fishermen Cove. The state of Tamil Nadu is a soup of cuisines to satisfy every taste; there are Puducherry with its Creole cuisine, Chettinad fare with its many complex flavors, traditional Madurai food with its affinity for mutton, and the birthplace of biryani, Dindigul. You will find everything from haute cuisine to home-made, earthy dishes. Exclusive Chennai restaurants offer the best, but eventually, there is nothing as satisfying as sinking your teeth into something deliciously fiery at a food stall on the street of a cozy corner of this state.

Remnants of the old Ennore Broken Bridge outside Chennai, a unique photo opportunity.

Remnants of the old Ennore Broken Bridge outside Chennai, a unique photo opportunity © V.S.Anandhakrishna


When to visit

March through November are the hot, dry months and temperatures may vary from 30 to 42 degrees Celsius, therefor rather plan your trip for December through February, when it is cooler. It is advisable to avoid food from food stalls during the monsoon season.

How to get there

Chennai can easily be reached by road, rail or air. The airport has a metro station right outside. Central Station is where trains depart to the other states, while interstate destinations are served from the Egmore Station. Koyambedu is the principal bus terminus and home to maybe the biggest wholesale fruit and vegetable market in Asia.

An Air Asia airplane, displaying its website in bold red, stands ready to welcome boarding passengers

An Air Asia airplane, displaying its website in bold red, stands ready to welcome boarding passengers © Deepika Sekar


How to get around

Visitors can make use of the efficient, well-run public transport. Reliable busses and electric trains, together with the metro rail system which connect the main areas of Chennai, provide safe transport. Work is underway on additional Metro stations. Autos or tuk-tuks are aplenty but often overcharge so it is best to negotiate the fare before you get in. If your day is packed, hire a taxi for the day. Not only will he smooth your way, but can act as a translator too. Personally, we were very happy and satisfied with the services of Vikas Agarwal’s VacationIndia recommended namely Southern Trails Transport.

Where to stay

Tourists can pick and choose from accommodation ranging from budget stays to luxury hotels. A few recommendations are the Taj Coromandel, Trident, Park Hyatt, The Leela, Hilton, Woodlands, and Residency Towers.
The intricately carved, colorful detail of the Tiruttani Subramanya Temple will blow the mind

The intricately carved, colorful detail of the Tiruttani Subramanya Temple will blow the mind © Sujith Vinukonda


Some Images From Our Trip To Chennai


An aerial view of the Madras High Court lays bare the sheer size of the complex; it is the 3rd largest world-wide

An aerial view of the Madras High Court lays bare the sheer size of the complex; it is the 3rd largest world-wide © Puhaipadam Films


A beautiful skyward view of Madras Law College’s red brick towers

A beautiful skyward view of Madras Law College’s red brick towers © Denis.Vostrikov


A close-up view of hippos grazing in the Vandalur Zoo, India’s first public zoological garden

A close-up view of hippos grazing in the Vandalur Zoo, India’s first public zoological garden © Akash Naik


Two magnificent adult Bengal tigers, an endangered species, while away the time in their zoo enclosure

Two magnificent adult Bengal tigers, an endangered species, while away the time in their zoo enclosure © Sivakumar1970


An eye-catching, birds’ eye picture of the lighthouse’s shadow falling on Marina Beach in the late afternoon

An eye-catching, birds’ eye picture of the lighthouse’s shadow falling on Marina Beach in the late afternoon © Gnanistock


A happy family strolling down Marina Beach promenade on New Year’s Eve

A happy family strolling down Marina Beach promenade on New Year’s Eve © Sivakumar 1970


A lady is consulting a bird astrologer on Marina Beach. He will interpret the card his bird has picked

A lady is consulting a bird astrologer on Marina Beach. He will interpret the card his bird has picked © AjayTvm


Gorgeous seashells of all shapes and sizes on sale at Marina Beach in Chennai

Gorgeous seashells of all shapes and sizes on sale at Marina Beach in Chennai © Gnanistock


Tourists and locals alike enjoy spending time on Marina Beach in Chennai

Tourists and locals alike enjoy spending time on Marina Beach in Chennai © Mousumi Roy


A coconut vendor sits beside his large heap of produce at Chennai’s Farmers’ Marke

A coconut vendor sits beside his large heap of produce at Chennai’s Farmers’ Market © CRS PHOTO


A family of vendors prepare their vegetables for sell at the Farmers’ Market in Chennai

A family of vendors prepare their vegetables for sell at the Farmers’ Market in Chennai © CRS PHOTO


A farmer waits patiently for customers at his fruit stall at the Farmer’ Market

A farmer waits patiently for customers at his fruit stall at the Farmer’ Market © CRS PHOTO


A sidewalk vendor in Chennai displays his beautiful, hand-carved vintage gramophones with their shining brass horns

A sidewalk vendor in Chennai displays his beautiful, hand-carved vintage gramophones with their shining brass horns © CRS PHOTO


Fort St culture, which served as a trading post for the British, houses a museum today with relics from the Raj

Fort St culture, which served as a trading post for the British, houses a museum today with relics from the Raj


A smiling Pope John Paul ll is illuminated in gold against the blue sky at the St. Thomas Mount National Shrine

A smiling Pope John Paul ll is illuminated in gold against the blue sky at the St. Thomas Mount National Shrine © Joost P


A stone elephant silently stands watch at the entrance of the imposing International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) building.

A stone elephant silently stands to watch at the entrance of the imposing International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) building © Vikrant Sardana


A striking head sculpture and decorative pillar form part of the nine art installations inside Phoenix Market City

A striking head sculpture and decorative pillar form part of the nine art installations inside Phoenix Market City © Allnone


Colorful dresses in the window of a clothes store in Phoenix Market City lure customers inside

Colorful dresses in the window of a clothes store in Phoenix Market City lure customers insid. © Allnone


A woman in Chennai’s flower market, the largest of its kind, happily selling her colorful bunches of flowers

A woman in Chennai’s flower market, the largest of its kind, happily selling her colorful bunches of flowers © CRS PHOTO


A woman smiles for the camera before collecting water in her colorful containers during the drought season

A woman smiles for the camera before collecting water in her colorful containers during the drought season © BipinBalakkrishnan


A young man, selling toys on the beach, tries to draw customers’ attention with soap bubbles

A young man, selling toys on the beach, tries to draw customers’ attention with soap bubbles © Balamurugan Veerabathiran


An elephant blesses a worshipping couple in Kamakshi Amman Temple

An elephant blesses a worshipping couple in Kamakshi Amman Temple © Ashok India


At a late evening open-air sale, a man waits patiently for customers to buy his ceramic ware

At a late evening open-air sale, a man waits patiently for customers to buy his ceramic ware © AjayTvm


Beautifully displayed ripe mango slices to make the mouth water; a local entrepreneur at his best

Beautifully displayed ripe mango slices to make the mouth water; a local entrepreneur at his best © Gnanistock


While modern influences are galore in the swanky shopping malls of Chennai, one can see traces of Dravidian culture in the distinctive architecture of its famous landmarks, such as the Chennai Central Station.

While modern influences are galore in the swanky shopping malls of Chennai, one can see traces of Dravidian culture in the distinctive architecture of its famous landmarks, such as the Chennai Central Station


During the Hindu Navratri Festival, customers bargain at colorful street stalls during the Bommai Golu Doll Festival

During the Hindu Navratri Festival, customers bargain at colorful street stalls during the Bommai Golu Doll Festival © Gnanistock


Fisherman’s Cove must be the ultimate romantic dining venue. Watch the sun set over this part of the Coromandel cost while sipping on a glass of something cool.

Fisherman’s Cove must be the ultimate romantic dining venue. Watch the sunset over this part of the Coromandel coast while sipping on a glass of something cool


Against a backdrop of palm trees, afternoon fishermen are at work on Chennai’s Buckingham Canal

Against a backdrop of palm trees, afternoon fishermen are at work on Chennai’s Buckingham Canal © Iordanis


An intimate glimpse of a group of friends saluting each other with a glass of tea

An intimate glimpse of a group of friends saluting each other with a glass of tea © Kaarthikeyan.SM


Impressive memorial to MG Ramachandran, the famous actor/producer, and later Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu

Impressive memorial to MG Ramachandran, the famous actor/producer, and later Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu © tantrik71


Listen to the waves breaking while you walk around the open-air Matsya Narayana Temple, situated next to the seashore. © Ganeshkumar DuraiListen to the waves breaking while you walk around the open-air Matsya Narayana Temple, situated next to the seashore

Listen to the waves breaking while you walk around the open-air Matsya Narayana Temple, situated next to the seashore © Ganeshkumar Durai


Local fishermen, with their colorful boats in the background, sell their catch at the street market

Local fishermen, with their colorful boats in the background, sell their catch at the street market © Denis.Vostrikov


Passengers awaiting their flights in the international departure lounge of Chennai’s airport.

Passengers awaiting their flights in the international departure lounge of Chennai’s airport © Christian Ouellet


Passengers getting ready for their low-cost IndiGo Airline flight. The airline operates both domestic and internationally

Passengers getting ready for their low-cost IndiGo Airline flight. The airline operates both domestic and internationally © Indo French Kanags


Pedestrians and traffic make their way past the architectural gems of Mount Road in Chennai

Pedestrians and traffic make their way past the architectural gems of Mount Road in Chennai © AJP


Chennai’s metro trains operate both underground and above ground. And is an efficient fast means of travel

Chennai’s metro trains operate both underground and above ground. And is an efficient fast means of travel © jayk67


Ranganathan Street is abuzz with shoppers looking of bargains on elegant sari’s, all kinds of jewelry and much more. Bustling T Nagar is choc-a-bloc with retails showrooms, Chennai

Ranganathan Street is abuzz with shoppers looking for bargains on elegant sari’s, all kinds of jewelry, and much more. Bustling T Nagar is choc-a-bloc with retails showrooms, Chennai © Jayakumar


Kolam or Rangoli is the Indian tradition of covering streets in intricate, lace-like drawings using colored or white rice, usually during Hindu festivals

Kolam or Rangoli is the Indian tradition of covering streets in intricate, lace-like drawings using colored or white rice, usually during Hindu festivals © Gnanistock


Bunches of recently picked red and green bananas ready for sale at a market in Chennai

Bunches of recently picked red and green bananas ready for sale at a market in Chennai © Sivakumar1970


This World Heritage Complex consisting of five monolithic rock-cut Pancha Ratha Temples is a famous tourist destination

This World Heritage Complex consisting of five monolithic rock-cut Pancha Ratha Temples is a famous tourist destination © Gods_Kings


Sitting against a picture-perfect backdrop of green with a splash of red, a street vendor enjoys a slice of watermelon to relief the heat

Sitting against a picture-perfect backdrop of green with a splash of red, a street vendor enjoys a slice of watermelon to relieve the heat © AJP


The golden Pegasus statue at Stela Gate on the beachfront, lends a Grecian touch to the entrance. The winged horse has become the symbol of modern Chennai

The golden Pegasus statue at Stela Gate on the beachfront lends a Grecian touch to the entrance. The winged horse has become the symbol of modern Chennai © Murgermari


The impressive Vivekanandar Illam, or Ice House, has an interesting history and is a famous landmark of Chennai

The impressive Vivekanandar Illam, or Ice House, has an interesting history and is a famous landmark of Chennai © Jayakumar


Spicy Chettinad Prawn masala is an Indian classic and easy to prepare

Spicy Chettinad Prawn masala is an Indian classic and easy to prepare. © so51hk


A delicious traditional meal of shrimp and mango curry with parata bread

A delicious traditional meal of shrimp and mango curry with paratha bread © WanderKate


The serene atmosphere of the beautiful Munisuvrat Swami Jain is perfect to still the mind with meditation and prayers

The serene atmosphere of the beautiful Munisuvrat Swami Jain is perfect to still the mind with meditation and prayers © Jayakumar


Three models showing off Anuradhaa Bisani’s designer-ware during Chennai’s International Fashion Week.

Three models showing off Anuradhaa Bisani’s designer-ware during Chennai’s International Fashion Week © Arvind Balaraman


The historic Town Hall, or Victoria Public Hall is a beautiful example of British architecture

The historic Town Hall or Victoria Public Hall is a beautiful example of British architecture © AjayTvm


Against a blue and white canvass of clouds and sky, the all-white Ripon building, or Greater Chennai Corporation, paints a beautiful neoclassical picture

Against a blue and white canvass of clouds and sky, the all-white Ripon building, or Greater Chennai Corporation, paints a beautiful neoclassical picture © Debasmita19


Visitors to the Adyar Tholkappiya Poonga (Adyar Ecological Park) pass through a shadowy tree tunnel. The park was named after the Tamil scholar Tholkappiar

Visitors to the Adyar Tholkappiya Poonga (Adyar Ecological Park) pass through a shadowy tree tunnel. The park was named after the Tamil scholar Tholkappiar © Balamurugan Veerabathiran


A sneak peek into the courtyard of an ancient Brahmin house, with its rusty terracotta roof tiles, in Tamil Nadu

A sneak peek into the courtyard of an ancient Brahmin house, with its rusty terracotta roof tiles, in Tamil Nadu © Karthikeyan Gnanaprakasam


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