The 13 km long and 400
to 500 meter wide Marina Beach is the pride of Chennai with the
city Light House, memorials, statues, walkways, gardens and drives
alongside the beachfront. The Elliot's Beach further south along
the coast from Marina in Besant Nagar is preferred by younger
Chennaiites with its promenade, restaurants and coffee shops.
There are a large number of beaches between the Elliot’s Beach
and Mahabalipuram, the most notable being the Covelong Beach which
has a cove and a fort built by the Nawab of the Carnatic.
Tamil and Indian culture
and tradition is on display in several art galleries and cultural
centers. The Valluvar Kottam is an auditorium inmemory of the
poet-saint Thiruvalluvar. It also has a 101-feet high temple chariot
structure. Kalakshetra, a centre for the revival of Indian art
and crafts; especially the dance form of Bharatnatyam is located
in Besant Nagar. The National Art Gallery built in 1907, houses
11th and 12th century Indian handicrafts, 17th century Deccan
paintings, 16th to 18th century Mughal and Rajasthani paintings
and 10th and 13th century bronzes and is part of the Government
Museum. The world headquarters of the Theosophical Society was
established in 1886 on the banks of the Adyar River. The shrines
of all major faiths stand in its sprawling estate gardens. Cholamandal
Artists' Village, on the East Coast Road offers a view of artists
and sculptors at work in their own studios and permanent gallery.
Dakshinachitra by the Chennai Craft Foundation is a depiction
of the way of life prevalent in South India with exhibitions and
workshops of the arts and crafts and performing artists of South
The Guindy National Park
the country's smallest National Park, with an area of 2.76 km²
is located completely inside the city. It hosts a variety of endangered
deer, foxes, monkeys and snakes. The Guindy Snake Park situated
in the National Park has a large collection of snakes and is an
important source of antivenom serum. The Arignar Anna Zoological
Park (better known as Vandalur Zoo) is located southwest of the
city and covers an area of 5.1 km². It has about eighty species
on display, and includes a lion safari a nocturnal animal house
and an aquarium. South of the city, along the East Coast Road,
is an important centre for herpetological research called the
Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, which houses several fresh-water
and salt-water crocodiles, alligators, gharials, and also turtles
and snakes. The Botanical Garden of the Horticulture Department
has a very wide variety of plants and even a fossilised tree trunk
20 million years old. A Summer Festival is held here annually
during the month of May.
Chennai has some unique
places to offer for shopping. Art and crafts, contemporary and
traditional artwork, antiques, jewellery etc. are available in
the city. Traditional items like leaf and palmyra-fiber handicrafts
from Tirunelveli, bronze and brass castings and traditional jewelry
from Kumbakonam, metal works from Thanjavur, stone carvings from
Mahabalipuram, silks from Kanchipuram are for sale in shops and
boutiques. George Town and Parrys Corner are wholesale markets
of Chennai where one can purchase almost anything. Many streets
are entirely devoted to selling one particular type of merchandise.
The nearby Burma Bazaar is famous for its counterfeit electronic
goods and media, Moore Market for its large number of bookstores.
Pondy Bazzaar located in T.Nagar, is home to huge multi-storey
stores, unique to Chennai, which deal mainly in textiles and silks
or gold, silver and diamond jewellery. Besides these shopping
areas, the city has many modern shopping malls, departmental stores
and boutiques, offering a variety of goods and products.
There are three large
amusement parks and a water sports centre located in the outskirts
of Chennai. Kishkinta which is known to be the India's No:1 Theme
Park is located at the outskirts of Chennai. Other amusement parks
are MGM, Golden Beach, Little Folks and others such as Dolphin
City, etc. There are also a large number of beach resorts all
along the East Coast Road highway to Mahabalipuram. The city being
home to the Tamil movie industry, has over 100+ large cinema theatres
including a few multiplexes which screen English, Tamil, Hindi,
Telugu and Malayalam films. The city has a large number of restaurants
offering a variety of Tamil, Indian and international cuisines.
The nightlife in Chennai is vibrant and growing ranging from bars
to pool parlours to lounges and clubs.
|EAST COAST ROAD - BRAND NEW & BIG FUN
|Even as recently as about
ten years ago, the ECR, which was then known as the New Mahabalipuram
Road, had nothing much to offer by way of entertainment, except
for VGP Golden Beach and Roger Whittaker's crocodile bank. Further
down, the road led you to Mahabalipuram, and that was that. The
scenario that meets a traveller today is entirely different. The
East Coast Road could very well be termed the entertainment highway
of Chennai. The road is brand new, flanked by the sea on the left
and dotted with amusement spots through the entire stretch. Driving
down ECR is an experience. Really! You can pick and choose from
Amusement Parks, Water Sports Centres, Beaches, Eco Conservation,
Cultural and Religious Centres, Restaurants or Resorts to spend
your day in. The road caters to practically every type of pastime
that one could think about.
Amusement Parks, Water Sports Centres, Beaches: Prarthana
Drive In Theatre: Approximately 10 Kms out of Adyar,
this complex offers both a drive in theatre and a drive in restaurant
Golden Beach: The first amusement park in Chennai,
just about 11 Kms away from Adyar. Still a landmark of Chennai,
this park offers over 40 odd rides for the fun seeker. The only
park with an access to the beach.
Ahaa Water Park: A spot for frolicking in water,
the Ahaa Water Park offers a variety of water sports and fun activities.
It has a wave generator, which can generate waves of upto 3.5ft.
Kart Attack: A centre dedicated to fulfilling
the speed maniac's desire for thrill in a safe and secure environment.
The first go karting centre of Chennai, this has placed Chennai
on the go karting map of India, and has been instrumental in creating
a few go karting champions also.
Mayajaal: 100,000 sq.ft of air-conditioned space.
A multitude of activities and entertainment avenues, including
movie theatres, bowling alleys, video games parlours, multicuisine
food courts, and much more. This is Mayajaal, a multidimensional
entertainment centre, on par with any entertainment zone found
abroad. Open from 11 am to 11 pm you can easily spend the entire
day here. It offers that much and more.
MGM Dizzy World: Spread over 27 acres, this theme
park offers joy rides, food stalls and other games. It features
one of the first roller coaster rides of Chennai, and many of
the rides offered could make your hair stand on edge. On the softer
side, you have the dashing car drives, and the swimming pool with
its water slides.
Little Folks & Dolphin City: Specifically
aimed at providing entertainment for the children, this park has
a longer history than MGM.
Muttukadu Boat House: Located at 23 Kms from
Adayar, this backwater area is maintained by the Tamilnadu Tourism
Development Corporation, and offers rowing, wind surfing, water
skiing, and speedboat riding.
Eco Conservation, Cultural and Religious Centres:
Marundeswarar Temple is the first temple that one comes across
on the route. A Shiva temple having a rich sthala purana or location
Sai Baba Temple: Approximately 8.5 kms from Adyar,
the temple is peaceful, clean and breezy.
Jagannathan Temple: An exact replica of the Puri
Jagannath Temple. Those who have not been to Puri can take a look
at this temple.
Cholamandalam Artists Village: Set up by a group
of artists to serve as a recluse for artists of all genres. This
village offers the ambience needed for creativity to flow and
is inhabited only by artists. The village offers guesthouse facilities
exclusively for artists from elsewhere so that they could also
benefit from the environment provided by the place. A must visit
for those who appreciate the finer things of life.
Tiruvidanthai Nithya Kalyana Perumal Koil: As
the name denotes, a temple dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara found
on East Coast Road.
Crocodile Bank: The brainchild of Romulus Whittaker,
the acknowledged specialist on reptiles, this centre has gained
fame as an endeavour for the preservation and propagation of endangered
species of crocodiles. The centre also houses a large variety
Dakshinachitra: A venture of Deborah Thiagarajan
and her associates from the Madras Craft Foundation. Dakshinachitra
is an amazing place to visit, as various kinds of traditional
houses have been transported to Chennai from interior parts of
Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala and rebuilt here piece by
Mahabalipuram: The internationally recognized
heritage monument of our country, personifying the art and culture
of the Pallava kings.
Restaurants: The ECR abounds with restaurants
and eating spots, which offer a wide range of cuisines and tasteful
ambience. A few of the food outlets are listed below: -Basera
-Blue Lagoon -Thanjavur Restaurant -Food Village -Coastal Kitchen
-Hot Kitchen Beach Resorts: Another convenience that is found
in plenty on the East Coast Road is the presence of several comfortable,
pleasing, beach resorts, which enable you to take a break, and
enjoy a seaside environment. Take your pick from those mentioned
below: -Buena Vista -Blue Lagoon -Green Country Resort -Fisherman's
Cove -Casuarina Bay Italic text
Drive your way to fun and thrill: But be prepared
to pay a small toll fee on the East Coast Road
|PONDICHERRY - THE NEW TOWN
Pondicherry means "New
Town" in Tamil. Popularly known as "Pondy", the town is nestled
on the Eastern seaboard of India. Whether you are looking for
a romantic rendezvous or a fun filled resort vacation, Pondicherry
can accommodate all of your holiday needs.
Situated on the Coromandel coast, about 160 kms south of Chennai,
lies the Union Territory of Pondicherry. The French ruled this
territory for 300 years, and today, it stands as a living monument
of the French culture in India.
Pondicherry traces its origin to Saint Agasthya, the revered sage
of the south. The excavations near Pondicherry reveal, that a
Roman settlement existed here, 2000 years ago. It was also the
site of many a battle between the British and the French, and
was the capital of French India, before it attained its independence.
This former French colony exudes a Mediterranean aura with its
chic streets, elegant houses, ornamental gardens and the Hotel
de Ville. Being a small and quiet enclave of Tamil Nadu, it has
imbibed the Tamilian culture.
Apart from the charming atmosphere, excellent restaurants and
cheap beer, what attracts most travellers to Pondicherry is the
Sri Aurobindo Ashram and its offshoot, Auroville, 10 km outside
The ashram, founded by Sri Aurobindo in the year 1926, has brought
international reputation to this coastal town. The ashram, the
spiritual tenets of which combine yoga and modern science is quite
popular within India and abroad.
Pondy is most easily accessible by road from Chennai (160 kms).
Finding accommodation is no problem there. There are plenty of
well-maintained lodges and villas.
|KANCHIPURAM - THE TEMPLE TOWN
|It is not just famous
for the silk. History and culture have woven a fabric of heritage,
richer than silk, in the temple town of Kanchipuram. Every warp
and woof speaks of a king's dream to build the most beautiful
of structures and house a god within it. An interesting aspect
to be recognized is that Kanchipuram displays art related to Hindu,
Jain and Buddhist eras. A visit to Kanchipuram would leave you
richer in your knowledge and understanding of Indian temple architecture.
Kanchipuram is an important pilgrim destination for the Hindus
and the seat of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, one of the four seats
of Hinduism established by Adi Sankara. One can also find Buddhist
stupas here, establishing the historical importance of the town.
In Kanchipuram, do take the time to explore the silk manufacturing
processes also. An industry that has brought international recognition
to our country, and which is famed for it's heavy gorgeous silk
To Get There: Kanchipuram is just 65 Kms away
from Chennai on the Chennai - Bangalore highway.
Places to see: Kanchipuram is basically a holy
city for the Hindus, and the Sankaracharya of the Kanchi Mutt
resides here. Kanchipuram has around one thousand temples. The
more popular ones are listed here.
Kamakshi Temple: The most important amongst them
all! It has a gold plated Vimanam (tower). While photography is
not permitted within the temple precincts, the external areas
of the temple can be photographed.
Varadaraja Perumal Temple: Also known as the
Devaraja Swamy Temple, this large temple features intricate sculptures.
The main deity is huge. There are two sculptures of lizards on
the roof of this temple, one covered in gold, and the other in
silver. Myth has it that these two lizards represent two disciples
of a rishi who were cursed by their guru to turn into lizards.
The icons of the sun and the moon, who were witness to the transformation,
are also found alongside the sculptures of the lizards. At the
temple pond, one finds the shrine of 'Atthigiri Varadar'. The
deity of this shrine is carved out of a special type of wood,
called Atthi wood. The deity is preserved under the pond, and
is brought out only once in 40 years, for a period of 48 days!
The next viewing of this deity is scheduled for the year 2019.
Another 'must see' is the 'Nooru Kaal Mandapam' or the 100 pillared
hall. The entire edifice is carved out of one rock, and each pillar
has sculptures that depict one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu.
The hall also features a chain that has been sculpted from the
The Vaikunda Perumal Temple: The Pallava ruler
Nandivarman built this temple in 7th century AD. It has great
sculptures and inscriptions, which relate the history of the temple
and the times. The inner walls have lion shaped pillars.
The Kailasanathar Temple: Another historic temple,
commenced by the Pallava ruler Rajasingha Pallava, and completed
by his son Mahendravarman, during the period 685 to 705 AD. The
temple is built mainly with limestone. The walls and the vimana
are decorated with sculptures and paintings. There is a cave in
this temple, supposedly used as an escape route by the Pallava
Sri Ekambaranathar Temple: Sri Ekambaranathar
Temple is one of the oldest temples to be found in Kanchipuram.
The temple is built around a mango tree, 3500 years old, which
is reported to bear four different types of mango fruit. The Gopuram
of the temple is massive, and stands to a height of 57m. The temple
has a hall with a 1000 pillars, called 'Ayiram Kaal Mandapam'.
The inner wall is decorated with 1008 Shiva Lingas. Due to its
age and size, not all parts of the temple are open to visitors.
Sri Ulagalandha Perumal Temple: The name is to
be split up into Ulagai Alandha Perumal, meaning the Lord who
measured the world. This temple is dedicated to the avatar of
Lord Vishnu as 'Visvarupam'. The main deity, representative of
the Avatar, is 35 feet high, and 24 feet wide, with one foot on
the earth, and the other in the sky. Attire: Considering that
Kanchipuram is a religious town, populated by conservatives, it
is advisable to stick to modest, preferably Indian, dress styles.
|YELAGIRI - THE MUSK MOUNTAINS
|The Yelagiri Hills is
just 200 Kms away from Chennai. Very close to Vellore, which is
located on the NH46, this scenic hill station could offer you
a few thrills for a weekend visit. On the Eastern Ghats, among
a range of hills, called the 'Javadu' range (Javadu is translated
into musk - probably at some point of time, the range was inhabited
by civet cats) is Yelagiri, at a height of 3500 ft. The altitude
ensures a cool climate that ranges between a minimum of 18 degree
centigrade and a max of 32 degree centigrade.
Places To See: Punganoor Lake and Garden: A perennial
lake, offering rides on rowboats and pedal boats. A floricultural
garden located beside the lake sports a variety of flora. A walk
path between the lake and the garden provides a beautiful view
of the lake on one side and the garden on the other.
Jalagamparai Waterfalls: Flowing from a pond,
the water falls for a height of 30 metres. Facility for bathing
under the falls is available.
Other sight seeing spots include: A Murugan Temple,
shaped like a Shiva Linga with a view point nearby, a Sericulture
Farm, Thayalur Horticultural Farm, a Fishing Pond at Mangalam
Village, a Telescope House and Nachiamman Temple The place offers
excellent scope for trekking, with established tracks through
wooded areas. One of the favoured trekking routes is to the peak
of Swami Malai, which is 4338 ft above sea level.
|THE QUICK SPOTS
| Pondicherry - Go on a spiritual
trip down to the Auroville ashram. The drive down the East Coast
Road (ECR) is delightful, with lovely beaches all along the way,
and on the way you can stop over at...
Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) There are several
things to see on the way and in Mamallapuram 60 km south of Chennai.
Hill stations of Tamil Nadu, including Ooty and
Kanyakumari - Site of the famous Vivekananda memorial.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands - Beaches, surfing
Kerala - God's own Country. Paradise on earth
|South India is famous for its temples. Even
if you aren't on a pilgrimage, these are worth a visit if you are
interested in grand buildings and architecture.
Tiruvallur - Approximately 45 Kms from Chennai.
It is famous for its Vaidhya Veera raghava Swami Temple and Sri
Viswaroopa Panchamukha Anjaneya Swami Ashram which has a 40 ft tall
Murti of Hanuman.
Tirupati - Approximately 150 Kms from Chennai,
in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
Madurai - Home to the famous Meenakshi temple.
Swamithoppe - Ayya Vaikundar Pathi, religious head
quarters of Ayyavazhi.
Kanchipuram - Kamakshi temple, seat of one of the
Shankaracharyas - the closest Hinduism comes to a spiritual head.
Thanjavur - Brihadeswara temple (Big Temple).
Tiruvannamalai Arunachala Temple famous for full
moon day girivalam and Deepam