A hub of cosmopolitan existence, defined by the many influences on it that has shaped it into the much loved city that continues to hold one and all in awe of its exuberance, Chennai definitely is one of the most happening cities of India. Happening not perhaps such, as characterised by a boisterous night life or such elements of the hip identity but rather an amalgamation of myriad experiences stemming from a diverse lot of people who find a certain resonance in this city that which assumes greater significance also as the gateway of south India. Indeed, in boasting an identity spiced up by the variety that defines India herself across all her encompassments, this cultural capital of south India sits in a premise that radiates a peculiar kind of warmth, one that makes it so much a loved phenomenon amongst all those who have experience the unfolding of its vibrant magic.
And of course there also are facts to back Chennai’s reputation as a city much loved by people not just its own but by everyone who discover with delight the warm, welcoming nature of it. Named as one of the best global cosmopolitan cities as well as one of the top ten cities to visit in the world, this city of the charms comes across as wonderfully inclusive and modern, even when deep rooted in all the traditional privileges of it. Even in its spectrum of the heat and the mess that perhaps can come to undo it in all its chaos, Chennai is but a revelation of sorts. There is a certain enigma that characterise Chennai across all its humdrum, that which comes off as exciting and relaxing all at once. It perhaps is the confluence of all such extremes that boils down all so well for this city of candid candour. In all its overwhelming presence, Chennai is indeed the most persuasive of all our travel dreams.
Also finding mention in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) list for its rich musical tradition, it is not hard to decipher why the cultural legacy of this city is as celebrated as its very identity itself. Not just culturally however, Chennai is as rich in its lineage, boasting of a history spanning close to four hundred years. From its beginnings in 1644 as an English settlement, the city has evolved from being a colonial presence on the map of India as a major naval base serving also as the central administrative centre for the British in South India to a prominent services and manufacturing hub of an independent India in the late 20th century. Today, as the capital of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Chennai sure has outgrown all of its past experiences to emerge as a city integrally tied to the esteemed heritage standing of India, albeit in a standing that renders it every inch as modern as the glamour of the modern days itself.
With its facade of amazing beginnings and continuation therefore, both in history and in essence, it is no wonder that this starkly dynamic city of the crowds and the masses is one of the most visited of places in India. And indeed, with a host of such places of tourist importance that are only an extension of the richness that has come to shape the Chennai experience over the years, it is not hard to see its high positioning on the tourist radar. There’s so much to set your sights on in this land of beaches, temples and centers of historical and cultural significance within the confines of a city that gets as urban as it can that when in Chennai you can never ever have enough of its many distinct experiences. Across its range of mind boggling treasures, each soul and every heart will discover such a part of Chennai that appeals to the most innermost parts of them, in such intensity that renders it amazingly heartfelt a realisation of such emotions that appeal as an endearing each quite native to its own.
As a city located on the south–eastern coast of India, Chennai is home to a lot many beaches, of which the Marina beach is famous as being among the longest in the world. A 13 kilometer long stretch of natural urban sandy beach, this definitely is one of the most visited places in the city, that which also hosts along its promenade many other landmark attractions of it. The longest natural urban beach in the country and in fact the second longest in the world, the Marina Beach boasts of as esteemed a legacy as the city that houses it, having found mention in literature dating back to the 7th century CE. Not just the Marina beach however, while in Chennai soaking up the romance offered by the picturesque expanse of its coastal setting will take you on a delightful amble along sand stretches. Be it the Elliot’s beach or the Breezy beach or even the famous Kovalam beach a few kilometers away from the city, there is never a dearth of options for beach lovers to indulge their fantasies in.
Strolling along beaches in the notorious heat and humidity of Chennai feeling the breeze on your face might be one of the most blissful of experiences in Chennai. But exploring the true nature of Chennai in its identity as a heritage city would mean that you have quite a set of distinctive visions to savour as well. Heritage structures abound in this city of distinguished continuation. Be it therefore the Madras High Court that is the second oldest in the country as well as the Royapuram Railway Terminal which is also the second oldest railway station still operational in India, the very old National Art Gallery, an exquisite specimen of British architecture christened the Victoria Public Hall and that which served as the venue of the first cinema show in the city, the first and the oldest existing book shop in India Higginbotham’s, the Government College of Fine Arts and Crafts which is the first school of arts in not just India but in the whole of Asia and a whole lot of such other architectural wonders that are marvels also in their heritage status mark the identity of Chennai even in the present day and present themselves as monuments of immense touristry importance. Exploring the diversifies wonderland of Chennai would never be a complete experience to cherish until and unless you seek out the eminence of many such of its heritage standings.
But not just architecture even, Chennai is also as much of a city that has spirituality running deep through it. Home to numerous magnificent temples and churches and mosques that are every bit of a delight to the senses and the soul, the city invites also with its promises of granting you a peace you would rarely come to expect amidst its hustle and bustle. The most famous among them all has to be the Parthasarathy Temple that which dates back to the 8th century. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, this particular holy shrine sits right in the heart of the city and commands therefore a footfall that which adds even more to its popularity. Equally incredible is the St. Mary’s Church that which is also significant in being the oldest British building in India. Also known as the Westminster Abbey of the East, this 17th century structure is quite resplendent also in its worship of history and heritage. One of the largest mosques in the country, the Thousand Lights Mosque also dwells in Chennai as does many other such places that oozes importance in both their religious and historical significance.
Characteristic however of its hugely amalgamated presence, Chennai comes with not just such attractions that speak in their history and legacy. The very urban city is also dotted by such modern structures and places that which include some of the biggest malls in India as well as many amusement parks and beach resorts and theaters and multiplexes, apart from of course numerous eating joints and fancy restaurants and hotels offering everything from exclusive Chennai specialties to world class cuisines and just about everything that you crave for. Hoarding also the delectable aroma of fresh out of the oven cookies and breads and cakes are some of the best bakeries in town that which strive to make your Chennai stay a experience worth every bit the hype that had made you venture into the enticing expanse of its messy meanderings.
A recounting of the Chennai experience however would not be complete if we do not exclusively wax eloquent about the happenings of its cultural expanse. As the cultural capital of the southern region of India, the city indeed has such endowings that do justice to this epithet. Host of the five week long Music Season that which has found fame as one of the largest cultural events in the world, Chennai takes particular pride in furthering its interest in classical Indian music, particularly Carnatic music that is native to it. Furthering similar interests in the realm of classical Indian dance is the arts and cultural academy Kalakshetra based out of the city. No wonder that with such thrust on the artistic and cultural realm as well as also on educational and technological aspects of development, Chennai is home to numerous personalities who are stalwarts in their respective fields. Be it music maestro A. R. Rahman, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, chess legend Viswanathan Anand, former tennis player Vijay Amritraj and many such distinguished names, Chennai has churned out some of the most notable of persons who have done India proud at the global level. It indeed is fitting that for a city so rooted in an array of diverse experiences should be celebrated for its very variety, across all spheres of its identity. In summing up therefore the Chennai experience in its peculiar blend of everything that defines life in the most holistic of terms, this is a city that emerges as the ultimate exploration of the wide world itself in its spectacular universality.