Saturday, September 24, 2011


Chennai- The Land of Enduring Heritage 

Chennai, the first city of the south, and capital of Tamilnadu, though comparatively young, has a chequered history dating back to 1639 when Francis Day and Andrew Cogan, Agents of the East Indian Company acquired  a strip of land granted on lease by the Vijayanagar Emperor. Here was built the  Fort St.George for setting up factory as nucleus around which  arose the British settlements. Gradually but steadily the old, tiny villages like Triplicane, Egmore, Purasawalkam and Cheput were clubbed with the new agglomeration of the fast growing Chennapatnam, as it was know then. Chennai, widely known as Madras till 1996 has rich tradition and civilization and it is a blend of he old, and the new, vibrating ceaselessly to keep pace with the rest of India, as the buoyant metropolis of the third most industrialized State. Situated at the entrance to the South Chennai, sprawling on two hundred square kilometers on the shores, of the Bay of Bengal is not only the gateway to the South, but also the Queen of the Coromandel  People in Chennai are deep rooted in their cultural moorings and traditions, even though modernity has its own impact. Chennai is airy, spacious with verdant green patches and beaches. With a population of about six million, Chennai is the fourth largest city in India. It has played a notable role in deciding the political destiny of India on many an occasion. Chennai has  regained its pride of place in automobile industry as the Detroit of the South. Days are not far away when Chennai may be a Silicon City with high technological knowledge in software. May be that real India, in her pristine cultural warp and beauty as detailed in history, still lives in Chennai. A visit to Chennai to see the graceful people of glorious land will surely help the Visitor to carry home this imprint of Indian heritage.


        Fort St.Geroge occupies  a place of pride and prominence in Chennai. This bastion achieved name from St.George, the patron saint of England. The State  Legislature and he Secretariat are located in Fort St.George. The Fort houses St.Mary’s Church which is the oldest Anglican Church in India built in 1680 and the  tombstones in its courtyard are the oldest British tombstones in India. This ancient prayer house solemnized the marriages of Robert Clive and  Governor Elihu Yale, who later founded the famous Yale University in the U.S.A.

        While this is the repository of rare exhibits of weapons, uniform, coins, costumes, medals and some other artifacts dating to the British period, the flag mast at Fort St.George is still the tallest in India. The Island Ground, the biggest lung space in the city is situated on an island formed by the river Coolum. This ground is the eventful venue of Trade Fairs and the Tourist Fairs held periodically which are season’s attractions.


        With the decretive domes and corridors reminiscent of Indo-Saracenic architecture and the adjacent Parys Corner are the important landmarks of Chennai. This area is always crowded and active. Built in 1892, the High Court of Chennai is believed to be the second largest judicial complexes in the world.

         Marina Beach, pride of Chennai is he second longest beach in the World and has a wide sandy forest, a  Situated on the beach, the Anna and MGR Samad his which are memorials of the most popular former Chief Ministers of the State attract good crowd everyday. An aquarium is also located on the Marina Beach. Some of the most beautiful buildings in Chennai such as the University of Chennai, Senate House, Chepauk Palace, Presidency College, and Ice House are located on this beach drive.


        This temple in Triplicane is dedicated to Lord Krishna. The temple was originally build by the Pallavas in the 8th century AD. Though additions were later made to it by the Chola and  Vijayanagara Kings.


        Not far from Triplicane, in Mylapore, there is yet another 8th Century Pallava temple. The temple tower is in the characteristic Dravidan style of architecture. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple has some beautiful sculptures, among which the bronze idols of 63 Saivites Saints (Nayanmars) which adorn the outer courtyard are rare specimens. Also in the courtyard under the old Punnai tree is a small shrine depicting Goddess Parvathi in the form of a Peacock, worshipping Lord Shiva. It is from his legend that Mylapore swarms with life during the Arubathumoovar festival that is held in March-April every year.


        Santhome at the southern end of Marina derives its name from St.Thomas, an apostle of Christ who is believed to have come to Chennai sometime during 52 AD. He was believed to have been killed on St.Thomas Mount just outside the  city in 78 AD and was interned in San Thome beach where a church was later built. Several Years after, another  church was built further inland and his mortal  remains were transferred from the former to the later. In 1606 the Church was re-built as a cathedral and in 1896 it was made a basilica. The beautiful tainted glass windows at the basilica portray the story of St. Thomas and the Central Hall has 14 wooden plaques depicting scenes of the last days of Christ. In the cathedral is a 3 feet high statue of Virgin Mary which is believed to have  been brought from Portugal in 1543.


        The Deer Park 595 acres in extent, situated adjacent to Raj Bhavan was originally a part of the Governor’s Estate. It is botanically very interesting in an much as it is the only one of its kind o carry even today  derelict vegetation truly representative of the natural thorny scrub jungle of our southern dry zone interspersed with  more than 30 tree species which include a number of centuries old gigantic shady banyan trees. This park with a net-work of roads, footpaths, nature trails, lakes and ponds, all situated amidst sylvan surroundings offers good opportunities for viewing wild life. The main faunal attraction of this park is the occurrence of rare Indian Antelope popularly known as the Black Buck found nowhere in the World except India.

        This is also a sanctuary for the endangered spotted Deer, white Buck, Bonnet Monkey, Small Indian Civet Cat, Jungle cat, Jackal, common mongoose and the common palm civet cat.

        The incidence of bird life is also equally interesting. Many birds like the King Fisher, Blue jay, Golden backed Woodpecker, Crow pheasant, yellow wattled Lapwing, Redwattle Lapwing, blue faced Malkhoa, Shrikes, Koels, Doved, Minivets, Munias, Barkets, Parakeets, Grey partridge, tailor birds, robins, drongos, quails, beack paradise, flycatcher and the stone curlew can be seen here.


        Animals are exhibited in a large open island type enclosures with simulated natural environment. Other attractions are Nocturnal Animal House, Safari Parks, walk through Aviary, Pre-historic animal park, Zoo education and interpretation, Prey-Predator enclosures and an Aquarium.

        Battery operated vehicles are available for taking visitors around the zoo, besides elephant ride and Lion Safari vehicles.


        There are a number of temple situated in the suburb of Chennai that of worth visiting for their architecture and sculptural marvel. The most popular temples are: Devi Karumariamman Temple- Thiruverkadu, Kamatchiamman Temple – Mangdu,  Marundheeswarar Temple- Thiruvanmiyur, Tiruvoteeswarar Temple – Tiruvotriyur, - Perumal Temple-Tiruneermalai, Murugan Temple- Kundrathur, Perumal Temple-Thirumazhisai, Siva Temple-Thirumullaivayal, Murugan Temple- Tiruporur, Veeraragava Perumal Temple- Thiruvallur, Nithya Kalayani Temple-Tiruvidanthai, Veera Anjaneya Temple-Raghavendra-Temple and Raja Rajeswari Temple-Nanganallur.


        Amusement parks around Chennai are Kishkinta (near Tambaram), Little folks, MGM dizzy world and V.G.P. Golden Beach ( on the way to Mamallapuram)


        The world headquarters of the Theosophical Society formed to facilitate and encourage the study of comparative religions, philosophy and science are situated in a beautiful sylvan setting in Adyar. The Society was founded by Madame Blavatsky and Col.Olcott in U.S.A. and later moved to Adyar in 1882. Apart from shrines of all faiths and he peaceful Garden of Remembrance, there is a 95 years old library which has a very good collection of rare oriental manuscripts written on palm leaf and parchment.


        Following the road along the coast down south from Marina one comes to Elliots beach where one can spend a few hours relaxing. At the end of this  beach are the Velankanni Church, which attracts its own flock of pilgrims and the Ashtalakshmi temple as it houses eight different forms of Goddess Lakshmi in  a unique style of architecture.


        In Thiruvanmiyur, beyond Elliots beach, is Kalakshetra or Temple of Art. It  was founded in 1936 by Rukmani Devi Arundale to train, encourage and revive interest in Bharatanatyam which is the classical dance form of the State.


        This Birla Planetarium at Kotturpuram situated between Adyar and Guindy, is the  most modern planetarium in the country. It houses a modern fully computerized projector which depicts the heavens on a hemispherical dome. The planetarium presents to the  visiting public and students audio-visual programs on various themes in  astronomy. Adjoining the planetarium is the Periyar Science and Technology Museum which is of interest to students and other science enthusiasts.


        These three memorials are situated east of Raj Bhavan in respectful memory of great leaders of India.


        Atop the 76 meter high mount where St. Thomas was martyred, is an old church, which was built  by the Portuguese around 1514. Among the interesting relics in the church is an old stone cross which the apostle is said to have clutched in his hand while dying. The blood-like stains on the cross have given the name Bleeding Cross and the mystic stains have to this day been found to be too deep to be removed by scrubbing. On the wall above the altar is an oil painting of the  Madonna which was brought to India by St.Thomas and is said to be one of the seven that were painted by St.Luke.


        Rippon Building of Indo-Saracenic structure named after the Governor General Lord Rippon, the father of Self Government in India, is the seat of Chennai Corporation, the oldest city Corporation in India.


        The standing memorial to immortal Tamil Poet-Saint Thiruvalluvar is shaped like a temple chariot and is, in fact the replica of the temple chariot in Thiruvarur. A life-size statue of the saint has been installed in the (39 meter tall) chariot. The 133 chapters of his famous work Thirukkural have been depicted in bas-relief in the front hall corridors of the chariot. The  auditorium at Valluvarkottam is said to be the largest in Asia and can accommodate about 4000 people.


         The pantheon Complex was built before 1789 and was a place of  assemblage for the British till it was bought by the Government in 1830. Later, several new buildings were added to it. Today this complex houses the Government Museum, the National Art Gallery and the Connemara Public Library.

             The museum was established  in 1857 and has the county’s best collection  of South Indian bronzes. Both ancient and modern, among which beautiful bronze icons of Nataraja, Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman are worth  mentioning. The museum also has geology, anthropology sections. The Amaravathy Gallery contains rare second century marble sculptures which depict important events in the life of Gautama Buddha. The sculptures were unearthed from the Buddihist ruins at Amaravathi.

          The National Art Gallery exhibits several beautiful paintings, which include 16th and 18th century ones from Rajasthan, the Muhal period and 17th Century Deccan Art. There are display of bronzes from the 10th and 13th centuries and Indian handicrafts from the 11th and 12th centuries.


Set up by the Government of Tamilnadu in the sprawling Tharamani Area, M.G.R.Flim city houses various location and settings for film-shooting besides dubbing and re-recording theatres. The software city is coming up nearby.


        Built by Edward Clive to celebrate the English Victory Over Tipu Sultan, this august Hall was originally the banqueting hall of the Governor’s residence. This hall was build in the shape of a Greek temple. It has soaring flight of steps. This hall is renamed as Rajaji Hall and is now used for important public functions.


        This is an ideal picnic spot. Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) runs a Boat Houses where facilities for boating and wind surfing are available.

 COVELONG (48 Kms)

        A seaside village, offers unique subtle environment. A Durga and Catholic Church attract pilgrims from Chennai and neighboring districts.


        True to its tradition of preserving its rich cultural heritage, Tamil Nadu can boast of an Art Village, otherwise called Dakshin Chitra near Muttukkadu on the way to Mamallapuram. Founded by the Chennai Craft Foundation, mainly associated with women art and craft lovers and connoisseurs, Dakshin Chitra has the models of traditional handlooms and  the replica of the houses of Kancheepuram Silk weavers. The craftsmen and  the weavers are at work to demonstrate their skill and dexterity in their trade. To the thrill of the visitors the weavers and the craftsmen present the actual function of their loom and chisels. Until expansion of the Chitra Kudam is gone through the present tow section of Kerala and Tamil Nadu give an insight into the life-style and craftsmanship of the people of Kerala and Tamilnadu.


        Not far from Mamallapuram, this crocodile breeding and research centre is run by Chennai Crocodile Bank Trust. Here Several species of Indian crocodiles and alligators around the world are bred in captivity. There reptiles are kept in their natural habitat in open pools and can be viewed from a safe proximity. This farm breeds crocodiles to augment the crocodile population of wildlife  sanctuaries.

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