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Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India. With a population of 8.6 million (2011 census), Chennai's urbanized area is the most populous in South I
Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India. With a population of 8.6 million (2011 census), Chennai's urbanized area is the most populous in South India and the fourth most populous in India. It is situated on the east coast of peninsular India.
Though Chennai traces its history to Fort St George and adjoining village of Madrasapatnam founded by the British East India Company in 1640, some residential districts of the city are older. The name Madras was changed to Chennai in 1997 by a special act of the Tamil Nadu legislature.
Chennai is well-connected by road, rail and air and is a staging point for tours to the 7th century Pallava temple of Mahabalipuram, an UNESCO World Heritage site, the Hindu temples of Kanchipuram, Sriperumbudur and Tirupati, the bird sanctuary of Vedanthangal and the Pondicherry ashram.
Chennai has an extremely hot and humid climate which may not be conducive to foreign tourists. During monsoons (July to November), Chennai experiences heavy rains.
Long the site of earlier coastal settlements, Madras was founded in 1639 when the British East India Company (represented by Francis Day and Andrew Cogan and aided by a local translator Beri Thimappa) was granted land to build a trading settlement by the local ruler (Nayak) of the suburb of Vandavasi, Damerla Venkatapathy Nayak. The document of the land grant is dated 22 August 1639, and hence Madras celebrates its birthday on 22 August each year as Madras day. Madras was one of the first outposts of British East India Company. Colonel William Lambton, superintendent of the great Trigonometrical Survey of India, started his journey of triangulating India from St. Thomas Mount. The British built Fort St. George (today the legislative and administrative seat of the state). Fort St George was completed on St George's day in 1640 (23 April) and hence was named after the patron saint. George Town then developed becoming the modern city of Madras, absorbing several nearby boroughs. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, is associated with Chennai. He is said to have come to India as an evangelist and died in what is now Chennai. Two suburbs, Santhome and St. Thomas Mount, are named in his memory.
In 1996, the Tamil Nadu government renamed Madras to Chennai providing the reason that 'Chennai' was the city's traditional name while Madras was one derived during colonial rule.
Madras is derived from Madraspatnam, a name given to the area when the British negotiated settling there. The origin of the name is uncertain. Tradition suggests that a fishing village near to the location of the British settlement was called Madraspatnam. Others think early Portuguese may have called the area Madre de Sois after an early settler, or Madre de Deus after an early church (of St. Mary).
Chennai is derived from Chennapatnam, a name with almost equally uncertain origins. Tradition has it that Chennapatnam was the name of a fishing village near to the location of Madraspatnam. However it is not clear if the village was there beforehand or grew up around the British Madraspatnam settlement. There are some suggestions that the name was given to the developing Indian settlement honor a local Indian administrator.
As the settlements grew, the exact location of both Chennapatnam and Madraspatnam became confused as the two settlements merged into a single town.
Under the British, the then city of Madras grew to be a major city, It was the capital of the Madras presidency, a province that covered the parts of Southern India that were not governed by any of the other princely states. After independence, it became the capital of Madras state, and when the states were reorganized on a linguistic basis, it became the capital of Tamil Nadu.
Chennai boasts of many well known people including Elihu Yale, whose liberal gift funded the construction of Yale University in 1718; Indira Nooyi CEO of Pepsi International; A.R. Rahman, the musical genius of "Slumdog Millionaire", Manirathnam the ace film Director, Vijay Armirthraj, Ramesh Krishnan and his father Ramanathan krishnan who were holding the Indian flag high in Tennis and chess wizard Vishwanathan Anand among many others.
Chennai is gateway to the South, and its culture is distinctly different from that of any other city in India. Tamil tradition and culture is essentially the celebration of the beauty, which is exemplified through dance, clothing, and sculptures. Chennai is both an orthodox and a modern cosmopolitan city; the culture of the city reflects its diverse population. The traditional arts, music, dance and all other art forms of Tamil Nadu grow and flourish here. The food is a unique blend of traditional, to fast foods and filter kaapi. It’s a land of temples and priests. The architecture ranges from ancient temples to modern high-rises. Music is classical and western, to the growing nightlife in the city. You can find a school for traditional Bharatanatyam or Salsa dance and for music a veena / violin or for Guitar/drums school in almost every neighborhood of the city. Chennai checks reflects its traditionalism every December when the music season is in full swing. Clothes are generally conservative but young people are contemporary.
Climate of Chennai is Tropical.
Chennai has mainly two seasons - summer (35-42°C / 95-108°F) April–June (Highest temperature ever recorded is 45°C / 113°F on 30 May 2003) and monsoon (Oct-Dec). It receives scanty rainfall from the south-west monsoon (Jun-Sep), but gets its bountiful rains from the north-east monsoon from October through December, thus amounting to about 125–150 cm (49–59 in) of rainfall annually. Rainfalls occur usually from October to December. During some seasons, Chennai gets ample amount of rainfall if there are depressions in Bay of Bengal.
December to February are the mildest months temperature - (19-28°C / 66-82°F).
Climate is humid pretty much throughout the year because the city is on the coast. Summers are very hot and humid. Be sure to take along light (not flimsy) clothing.
Books on Chennai:
Fiction set in Chennai
Tamil is the most widely spoken language in Chennai and is the official language of the state of Tamil Nadu. However, English, is well-understood and considerably well known in the city. The dialect of Tamil used by the locals is called Madras Bashai and includes a disproportionately high chunk of the English, Telugu, Sanskrit, Hindi and Urdu vocabulary and their derivatives. White-collared professionals use Tamlish, a form of conversational Tamil with a large number of English words. Both forms of Tamil are different from the dialects spoken in other parts of the state and are often viewed upon contemptuously by Tamil purists.
Telugu is spoken by quarter population of the city. Most Telugu-speakers are settled in the city for generations and are usually bilingual in both Tamil and Telugu. However, the Telugu script is far-less understood and very few are literate in the language. As the centre of anti-Hindi agitations from the 1930s and the 1960s, the city has historically cherished a deep-rooted animosity for Hindi. However, since the 1980s, when the much-politicized rhetoric against Hindi began to tone down, tolerance for Hindi has been growing. Consequently, native Hindi speakers will not run into any problems speaking Hindi among themselves. Nevertheless, Hindi is still not widely spoken or understood by locals, and even those who understand Hindi are often reluctant to speak it. Hence, you will be better off trying English instead of Hindi when attempting to speak to locals.
How to Reach
Chennai International Airport (IATA: MAA) is the third busiest in India (after Mumbai & Delhi). All international flights arrive at Anna Terminal, while the domestic flights arrive at Kamraj Terminal. The two terminals are on the same road and are 150 m (492 ft) away from each other. It is the second-largest cargo hub in the country, after Mumbai. Chennai is well connected to London, Frankfurt, Singapore, Malaysia, Middle east, New York, Hong Kong, etc.
Avoid the cafeteria at the viewing area, as there have been cases of food poisoning in 2013.
The suburban rail link is the most affordable option (5 rupees) for getting into downtown Chennai. Although the airport does not have a dedicated stop, the Tirusulam station is located directly across the street from the domestic terminal. Walk through the car park, cross the street and walk left until you see the station. Due to the distance from the airport [500m-600m] and high volume of traffic on the road, walking to the station is only advisable with limited luggage.
A regular class ticket from Tirusulam costs five rupees. The train stops at both Edgmore and Chennai Park. To get to Chennai Central, follow the crowds exiting the train at Chennai Park station.
It is advisable to take a first class ticket if you happen to reach the airport during peak hours. The general compartments are often over-crowded as they transport commuters to/from work. In peak hours even the first class compartments may also be crowded. Tickets are priced around 70 rupees.
Using the pre-paid taxi to get to the city, each terminal has several booths for several taxi companies when you exit the airport, outside before you meet the crowd. Fast Track has the best rep, figure on around â‚¹560 to the city centre for a Toyota Innova or equivalent. The fares are different for the domestic and international terminals though the terminals are next to each other. You can either choose the standard Taxis (Black with Yellow tops) which are usually the ancient Ambassador cars or the private call-taxi (which can come in any model and in any color). It's better to keep small change in hand while paying at the counters. Note the taxi number written on your charge slip (one copy is for the passenger and the other is for the driver to collect the fare from the counter). Make your way to the taxi stand and get the taxi number allotted at the designated desk. The helpful drivers offer to take your luggage and guide you to the taxi that drives up quickly near the allotment desk.
A new cab provider named "Fasttrack" has started off their service and a pre-paid booth of them is available at both domestic and international terminals. Comparing with the rest of the taxis their fare and service is pretty much good. Depends on your need you can get from Maruti van to Toyota Innova.
Prepaid and yellow top taxis are not air-conditioned, are of vintages right from 70s and 80s, rickety, prone to stop midway, drivers exhibit rough behaviour, sometimes could be dangerous, demand exorbitant fares, pre-paid may mean nothing and they may demand more when you get down. Keep away from these types.
Aviation Express is massively overpriced.
The Chennai Metro is under construction and expected to open in 2014.
Chennai has two main long-distance train stations, Chennai Central (code MAS) and Chennai Egmore (code MS). Central has daily trains from/to Bengaluru, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and virtually all other major Indian cities. Egmore has trains which cover all the places in Tamil Nadu and also a few important places outside it.
You can arrive at the prepaid taxi/auto stand and book a cab to transport you to your exact place of stay.
Many long distance trains to Egmore stop at Tambaram (code TBM) and some trains to Central stop at Perambur (code PER). These are two railway stations which serve the suburban areas of Chennai.
Trains that connect Chennai to major hubs like Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi are usually booked out days in advance. If you plan to travel by train, consider making an advance reservation, the reservation opens 60 days before the day of travel. The AC compartments in the trains are preferable for new travelers as the sleeper class and sitting class compartments are generally very crowded. A 3-tier AC berth from Chennai to Bangalore or Coimbatore costs around Rs.700 and that to Delhi around Rs. 2500 including meals.
Chennai has one of Asia's largest bus stations, CMBT. Seven different state owned corporations drive buses to and from various destinations within South India. There are hourly buses for places like Tirupati, Pondicherry, Coimbatore,Tirunelveli. You will get the option of A/C or Non-A/C coaches for cities like Bangalore, Trivandrum, Hyderabad.
Several private players also operate buses between most southern destinations. During the weekends most buses are fully occupied and it's better to reserve a ticket in advance. All buses terminate near Koyambedu but there are different stands for state owned (CMBT) and private buses (Omni bus terminus). The two terminals are near each other, and it is better to tell your exact destination to the taxi/auto-rickshaw driver. Buses usually drop passengers at various points in the city before reaching the terminus. Feel free to ask the driver or fellow passengers the closest drop-off point to your destination.
Reproduced from Wikipedia
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