Chennai – Cultural Hub of South India

Chennai was formerly known as Madras.  It is the capital of Tamil Nadu, a state located in the far south of India.  Located on the Coromandel Coast, the city is a major metropolitan and cosmopolitan city.  It is an important city in the country along with South India from the perspective of business, culture, education and economy.  In fact, Chennai is known as the cultural capital of South India.

The word Chennai derives from the Tamil word Chennapatnam.  In 1639, the British established a city with the same name near St. George Fort.  It was only in 1639 that the city was named Chennai when it was sold to Francis Day of the East India Company.
 The history of Chennai seems to be flourishing, as it has been an integral part of many empires of South India.  Chennai has played an important role in the political history of the British time and is considered to have started since colonial times.
 In 1644 the British East India Company came to the coast of Chennai and they built the St. George Fort here.  This helped them survive the onslaught of the French colonial army and the Kingdom of Mysore.  The British completely occupied Chennai and made it their major port.  He made Chennai his presidency at the end of the 18th century.
 The city was called Madras during the British rule.  The name originated from a village called Madrasapatnam, a village located at the northern end of the Fort St. George.  However, many people believe that the word Madras derives from Mundir-Raj. 
 Some people even say that the name Madras is given by the Portuguese, who used to call this place Madre de Dios (Mother of God).  Whatever the reason, Chennai continued to be known as Madras for a long time before the Indian government changed its name.
 Cultural Capital of the South 
 Arts, crafts, music, dance and all kinds of entertainment have always flourished in Chennai.  For a long time, the city has been patronizing many arts.  Carnatic music is an integral part of the lives of the people of Chennai.  People here do not miss a single opportunity to hear it from famous musicians.
 Music based cultural program Madras Music Season is organized every year in Chennai.  Hundreds of artists from all over the country take part in this program.  The popularity of classical music in the city can be gauged from the fact that Madras University started a bachelor’s course in classical music in 1930.
 Karol’s singing during Christmas is also very popular.  You can hear these melodious voices from churches, schools, colleges and malls in December.  A few days before Christmas, many youngsters form a carol group and sing street-street.
 A festival called Chennai Sangamam is also organized every year in the city.  It gets a glimpse of the art of the entire Tamilnadu.  This festival is held in January every year.  Classical dance is also held regularly in Chennai, being the main center of Bharatanatyam.  The dance originated in Tamil Nadu and is one of the oldest dances in India.
 Bharatanatyam has received tremendous buzz all over the world.  Five Bharatanatyam dancers from Chennai performed for the Indian campaign at the 2012 Olympic Games.
 Not only this, Chennai is known for Tamil film industry Kollywood.  Many film fairs are organized here every year, in which films from not only India but also abroad are screened.  
There are many popular studios in Chennai including Gemini Studio, AVM Studio and Vijaya Vahini.  In fact AVM Studio is the oldest studio in India which is still in existence today.  There are around 120 cinema halls in Chennai, which feature English, Hindi and Tamil films.
 The theater scene in Chennai is also strong and there are many regional, national and international theater groups that stage plays in the city.  These plays are usually based on political satire, humor, historical and mythology.
 Many colleges here also have theater groups that work to raise awareness among people through street plays.  Although all plays are usually in the local language, but sometimes they are also in English.
Tourist places in Chennai 
1. Mangadu Kamakshi Temple 
Mangadu Kamakshi Temple is located in Mangadu, a suburb of Chennai.  It is quite close to Mangadu bus stop.  The temple is dedicated to Goddess Kamakshi Amman and is worshiped here as Shakti.  According to Hindu mythology, once Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were playing on Mount Kailash.
 Then the goddess put her hand on Shiva’s eye.  This led to darkness in the whole world.  When Devi realizes her mistake, she apologizes to Shiva.  Lord Shiva asked him to do penance on earth.  Goddess Parvati came to earth and started austerities at Panchagni in Mangadu.
 She stood on her left leg and lifted her left hand above the head.  He also took a garland in his left hand.  The idol kept in the temple is in this posture.  Lord Shiva was greatly influenced by Devi and married her in Kanchipuram.  Mangadu Kamakshi Temple is dedicated to the penitent form of Goddess Parvati.
2. Santhome Church 
The Santhome Church was built in the 16th century by Portuguese merchants who invaded India.  The Portuguese built it as a small church but in 1893 the British rebuilt it and gave it cathedral status.  The church is built in the form it is today.  The new construction was built in the Neo-Gothic style, a popular British architecture in the 19th century.
 According to Christian mythology, Sen. Thomas was one of the 12 followers of Jesus Christ.  He reached the coastline of Kerala directly around 52 AD and stayed here till 72 AD.  He died on a peak in 72 AD, today known as St. Thomas Mount.
 Today Sen Thome Church is an important church in the region.  Being a Roman Catholic Church, it comes under the Madras-Malayapur Catholic Archdiocese.  It is an important pilgrimage site for the Christian community of India.
3. Basant Nagar Beach 
Basant Nagar Beach is also known as Elliot Beach.  The beach is named after Annie Basant, the famous brahmacologist who also played an important role in India’s independence movement.
 This beach is in Chennai’s Basant Nagar Ilake.  It starts from where Marina Beach ends.  Some of the major attractions near the beach include the Ashtalakshmi Temple and the Velankanni Church.  There is also a memorial to Karl Shemidt.  Karl Shemidt was a Dutch sailor who drowned in the sea to save a person’s life.
 This beach is quite popular among locals as well as tourists.  This place is especially popular among the youth for spending time.  During the weekend you can see many school and college students here.  Due to the many good restaurants along the coast, a large number of people come here to spend time with family.  It is also a great picnic spot.
4. Asthalakshmi Temple 
Ashtalakshmi temple in Chennai is dedicated to eight Hindu goddesses.  It is believed that it is the form of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.  Goddess Lakshmi was the consort of Lord Vishnu.  According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Lakshmi takes care of various forms of wealth, health, knowledge, progeny, power and bravery in our lives.  Ashtalakshmi Devi should always be worshiped together.
 The temple is situated on the Basant Nagar beach and has four floors.  The idol of eight goddesses is placed on a different floor in the temple.  The worship of the Goddess begins from the second floor, where the idols of Goddess Mahalakshmi and Mahavishnu are kept.  On the third floor are the shrines of Shanta Lakshmi, Vijay Lakshmi and Gajalakshmi.
 On the fourth floor there is only the idol of Dhanalakshmi.  Also on the first floor are the pilgrimage sites of Adilakshmi, Dhirelakshmi and Dhyan Lakshmi.
5. Marina Beach 
Marina beach is a beautiful beach in Chennai.  This seashore, built by the Bay of Bengal, is alongside the St. George Fort at the northern end of the city.  The total length of the marina beach is about 13 km.  It is the largest coastline in India and the second largest in the world.
 Marina beach was once popular among tourists due to its unique beauty.  However, now its water has become quite polluted.  Also, this beach has become quite dirty due to irresponsible treatment of tourists.
 However, many volunteers do the cleaning work every month to maintain the natural beauty of this beach at their level.  Not only this, the volunteers also take care of a special type of turtle made on the beach.
How to Reach chennai 
By Road
Since Chennai is a metropolitan city, it is well connected to other cities in the state by road.  It also runs private buses along with the State Road Transport Corporation.  Also, you can also take a cab from Chennai to other parts of the state, but its fare is much higher than the bus.
By Rail 
Chennai has three railway stations.  These are the Central, Egmore and Tambaram railway stations.  Chennai is a major city under the Southern Railway and is well connected to the rest of the country by rail route.
By Air 
Anna International Airport in Chennai has regular international and domestic flights.  This airport is well connected to other cities in India.  It has regular flights from Singapore and Colombo.  Apart from this, Kamaraj Domestic Airport also has flights to cities like Hyderabad, Delhi, Port Blair and Mumbai.

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