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Chennai : A gateway to a wonderful experience

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With white sandy beaches, beautiful parks, historic landmarks, interesting museums and monuments, distinct culture, amazing dance forms and music, Chennai welcomes its tourists… visiting this ‘Gateway to South India?’ Read up all about it here!

Home to some well known temples, churches and mosques, temples here are famous for their Dravidian style architecture. Of all the temples here the most important ones being the Parthasarathy Temple,  Kapaleeswar Temple,  Ashtalakshmi Temple, ISKCON Temple, Vadapalani Temple, Marundeeswarar Temple,  Kandaswamy Temple.

The oldest of its kind, dating back to the 8th century A.D, the Parthasarathy Temple that houses five avataras of the deity Vishnu was originally built by the Pallavas, but later saw its renovation by later dynasties, including the Chola and the Vijaynagar kingdom.

Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Kapaleeswar Temple,  is one of the most visited temples in the state of Tamil Nadu. A beautiful sample of classic Dravidian temple sculpture and architecture with fragmentary inscriptions dating back to 1250 AD, this temple stands 37 meters tall and is known for its intricately carved grand gopuram. The current structure is a renovated one and was rebuilt by the rulers of Vijayanagara in the 16th century. This temple contains some beautiful sculptures, among which the bronze idols of 63 Saivite Saints (Nayanmars) decorating the outer courtyard are rare examples.

Attracting tourists to the Kandaswamy Temple, are the different figures standing in specific postures. Also found here is the image of Kazhukundran who designed an exquisite temple chariot in 1521 AD. Considered as the only temple featuring the eight manifestations of the Goddess Mahalakshmi, the Ashtalakshmi Temple was built in 976 and features various characteristics of Dravidian temple architecture.

While temples here are known for their architecture, churches and mosques are better known for their historical importance. The Big Mosque of Chennai has the distinction of being one of the most beautiful shrines in Chennai and it possesses the reputation of being one of the important Muslim sites of pilgrimage in the south.  Built completely out of gray granite, it has successfully outlived the ravages of time. Neither wood nor steel has been used in any part of the mosque.

St. Andrew’s Church is considered as one of the best Georgian architecture structure in the whole Asian continent. Built in 1504, rebuilt in 1608 and 1893, Santhome Cathedral Basilica is said to house the remains of Apostle St. Thomas, the doubting discipline of Jesus Christ. One can find a beautiful one-meter statue of Virgin Mary that was brought from Portugal in 1543. It is also known for its stained glass and 14 wood plaques that depict St. Thomas’ encounter with the resurrected Christ.

Clearly portraying the historical lives and contributions of the great personalities of South India, monuments here narrate the stories of these unforgettable people and make them immortal by portraying them beautifully in front of the public like the Kamaraj Memorial House dedicated to famous politician and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Shri MG Ramachandran Kamaraj.  The Valluvar Kottam was erected in memory of Thiruvalluvar, a renowned poet and saint.  The Anna Square serves as a resting place that homes the mortal remains of the Late Great Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Dr. CN Annadurai, a highly dignified figure who served the people with extreme honesty and soulful dedication.
Other monuments here include

  • Fort St. George
  • Theosophical Society
  • Free Mason’s Hall
  • Madras War Cemetery
  • Ripon Building
  • Doveton House
  • Pancha Mandapams
  • Senate House
  • Bharathiyar Illam
  • Vivekananda Illam

Founded to facilitate the study of subjects like comparative religion, philosophy and science, the library of the Theosophical Society has a brilliant accumulation of rare manuscripts written on palm leaves and parchment.

A living example of the culture and traditional heritage of the people dwelling in ancient Chennai the construction of the Freemason’s Hall was based on Greek pattern of engineering which clearly reflects from the four massive pillars it rests on; it is also known for its lavish use of Italian tiles and marbles to furnish its interiors.

Established in 1952, the Madras War Cemetery homes the resting place of 857 valiant soldiers belonging to the Common Wealth Forces who embraced death in the dreaded Second World War that stretched from 1939 to1945.

Built by the renowned architect Benjamin Roebeck, the Doveton House is a reminiscent of the famous building having a similar construct, to the White House.

Once the dwelling place of one of Chennai’s most premier and cherished poets, Subramanya Bharathi, the Bharathiyam IIIam is known for original manuscripts and hand written letters to the poet himself that are displayed here with great pomp.

As for museums, from contemporary artifacts to prehistoric findings, the Government Museum has it all; sculptures of various periods, sections for zoology, anthropology and geology impressing every visitor

Another must visit is the amazing wildlife here, at the heart of Chennai lies the Guindy National park well known for deer, jungle cats and toddy cats; the Snake park is another well known attraction for its rare species of snakes. A little away from the city lies the Arignar Anna Zoological park where one can enjoy a variety of mammals, birds and reptiles.

Also home to some of the country’s most spectacular beach resorts here, the Marina Beach being the pride of Chennai,  is also the second longest beach in the world. Famous for their natural outlook, beaches here are bounded by groves. Other favorites are the Elliot Beach and the Covelong beach, now turned into a beautiful resort owned by Taj Groups of Hotels

And can any trip be complete without a bit of self indulgence? From traditional bell metal items to bronze icons, and stone sculpture, one can find it all here. Another must pick are the beautiful Kancheepuram hand woven silk sarees. One can find some of these exquisite souvenirs here; make sure to check out various government emporia and private stores.  The Victoria Technical Institute, run by nuns on behalf of development groups sells traditional crafts, handmade clothing, batik greeting cards, embroidered upholstery and finely carved wooden furniture besides other items. Also try the Central Cottage Industries Emporium in Temple Towers, superbly decorated, it has an excellent range of handicrafts from all over India. For exquisite silks and cottons the government – sponsored Handloom House in George Town, or the more expensive India Silk House on Anna Salai are the right choices.

A place where tradition and contemporariness blends into a wonderful co-existence, each complementing the other in a fine balance, Chennai is famous since times immemorial as the cradle of Dravidian civilization. Home to many a fascinating tourist attraction, from monuments & temples to other interests Chennai is a city that has something for everyone to enjoy!

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