Tourism in Chennai
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With its historic landmarks and buildings, long sandy beaches, cultural and art centers and parks, Chennai's tourism offers many interesting locations to visitors. One of the most important tourist attraction of Chennai is actually in the neighbouring town of Mahabalipuram with its ancient temples and rock carvings of the 7th century Pallava kingdom. Chennai is listed in the Lonely planet's top 10 city to travel for the year 2015.
Chennai has been the most visited city in India by foreign tourists (since 2008), overtaking New Delhi and Mumbai with visitors to heritage sites in Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram and medical tourists making up the largest numbers. In 2011, Chennai was ranked 41st in global top 100 city destination ranking, with 3,174,500 tourists, a 14 percent increase from 2010, This is up from 650,000 tourists in 2007, when Chennai was the third most visited city in India by foreigners ranked after Delhi and Mumbai. Tourists from USA, UK, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore had visited the city in 2007.
About 8,30,620 domestic tourists arrived in Chennai in March 2011, in addition to 29,558 tourists who visited Mamallapuram.
The 15 km long and 400 to 500 meter wide Marina Beach features the Light House, memorials, statues, walkways, gardens and drives alongside the beach front. Towards the south of the city of Chennai, Elliot's Beach in Besant Nagar is preferred by younger Chennaiites with its promenade, restaurants and coffee shops. There are a quite a number of beaches and resorts between Elliot’s Beach and Mahabalipuram, along East Coast Road. The most notable of these is Covelong Beach which has a cove and a fort built by the Nawab of the Carnatic.
Government Museum Complex
The Government Museum Complex in Egmore houses the Government Museum, Connemara Public Library and the National Art Gallery. Established in 1851, the museum consisting of six buildings and 46 galleries covers an area of around 16.25 acres (66,000 m²) of land. The objects displayed in the museum cover a variety of artifacts and objects covering diverse fields including archeology, numismatics, zoology, natural history, sculptures, palm-leaf manuscripts and Amravati paintings. Connemara Public Library is one of the four National Depository libraries which receive a copy of all books, newspapers and periodicals published in India. Established in 1890 the library is a repository of centuries-old publications, wherein lie some of the most respected works and collections in the country. It also serves as a depository library for the UN. The National Art Gallery building is one of the finest Indo-sarcenic type of architectures in the country.
Fort St. George
Fort St George (or historically, White Town) is the name of the first British fortress in India, founded in 1639 at the coastal city of Madras (modern city of Chennai). This fort was completed on April 23, coinciding with St. George's Day, celebrated in honour of St. George, the patron saint of England. The fort, christened Fort St. George faced the sea and a few fishing villages, and soon became the hub of merchant activity. It gave birth to a new settlement area called George Town (historically referred to as Black Town), which grew to envelop the villages and led to the formation of the city of Madras. The fort is a stronghold with 6 meter high walls that withstood a number of assaults in the 18th century. Today, the Fort serves as the administrative headquarters for the legislative assembly of Tamil Nadu state, and still houses a garrison for troops in transit to various locations at South India and the Andamans. The Fort Museum contains many relics of the Raj, including portraits of many of the Governors. Other monuments present inside the fort are St. Mary's Church, the oldest Anglican church in India, and Wellesley House, which holds the paintings of the Governor of the Fort and other high officials of the Regime.
Art and Crafts
Tamil and Indian culture and tradition is on display in several art galleries and cultural centers. Valluvar Kottam is an auditorium in memory 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 Rajasthan 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. Cholamandalam Artists' Village, on the East Coast Road offers a view of artists and sculptors at work in their own studios and permanent gallery. DakshinaChitra, run 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 India.
Places of Worship
Right from the early ages, Chennai had a cosmopolitan society with people belonging to different religious groups living together. As a consequence places of worship, both historical and modern, belonging to various religions are present in the city. The most famous temples in Chennai are the Kapaleeshwarar temple in Mylapore and Parthasarathy Temple in Triplicane. The Vadapalani temple is also an important place of worship for the Hindus. St. Thomas Mount, the site where St. Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ, was believed to have been martyred, is an important pilgrimage site for Indian Christians. The Santhome Basilica, supposedly built atop the tomb of St. Thomas, is a revered church by the Roman Catholics. Annai Vailankanni Shrine at Besant Nagar. Being located at the Elliot’s beach, on the sandy shores of the Bay of Bengal this Shrine has become a haven for pilgrims. History recounts that Mother Mary appeared with Infant Jesus in a dream to the late Rev. Fr. P. T. Arulappa, who constructed this beautiful shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mother of God to fulfill Our Heavenly Mother's desire. The Armenian Church, constructed in 1712, is one of the oldest churches of the Indian subcontinent. It is famous for its belfry of six. The Church, also called the Armenian Church of Virgin Mary, is located on the Armenian Street, Parrys. St. Mary’s Co-Cathedral Church is an ancient parish, dating its origin to the year 1775. The Church is popularly known as St. Antony’s Church, is located on the Armenian Street, Parrys, because of the miraculous statue of St. Antony. St. Mary's Church, Chennai located at Fort St George, is the oldest Anglican church East of Suez and also the oldest British building in India. The church is popularly known as the 'Westminster Abbey of the East'. The St. George's Cathedral, Chennai is an important place of worship for the Protestant Christians. The Wallajah Masjid in Triplicane is one of the largest mosques and is a revered place of worship for Muslims.
The city has 39 sacred tanks abutting temples, which are primarily meant to recharge groundwater and celebrate float festivals.
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, an elephant 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 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. Nearby Mint Street plays host to communities from Rajasthan and Gujarat and is where north Indian snacks can be sampled along with textiles, kitchenware and jewellery. 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 Bazaar located in T. Nagar, is home to multi-storey stores, unique to Chennai, which deal mainly in textiles and silks or gold, silver and diamond jewellery. Shopping malls in Chennai:
There are four large amusement parks, MGM Dizzee World, VGP Universal Kingdom, Queen's Land and Kishkinta and a water sports center, Dash N Splash located in the outskirts of Chennai. The city also houses a paintball centre and water sports club on the east coast road. 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 Tamil, English, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada 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.
Chennai viewed from St. Thomas Mount
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