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Chennai is a city where the traditional and the modern blend in life everywhere. From traditional vegetarian fair to fast foods, from nine-yard sarees to the latest in fashion, from ancient temple architecture to modern high-rise - with Indo-Saracenic and Victorian as stops along the way - from classical music and dance to discos throbbing to heady beats, Chennai has them all and many more vivid contrasts that are a pleasant surprise. And perhaps the most striking of them all is that here is a modern metropolis with beaches, parks and even sanctuaries in the heart of the City. Chennai offers a wealth of nature and a rich historic past to visitors in the ambience of a city with every modern facility.

Modern Chennai grew out of a small village when in 1639 a fishing hamlet called Madraspatnam was selected by early English merchants of the East India Company as a site for the settlement. Chennai is a gracious city that has a clear skyline, long sandy beaches, parks, historic landmarks and tourist infrastructural facilities which make it a convenient entry point or base to start your tour of Tamil Nadu and South India.

Chennai, the gracious capital city of Tamil Nadu is the fourth largest metropolis in India. Located on a 17km stretch of the Coramandel coast, the city is trisected by the waterways of Cooum and Adyar and the Buckingham Canal. With a population of 6 million people, Chennai is a vibrant city ever growing, expanding and changing every year. Popularly regarded as the "Gateway to the South", Chennai presents culture that is distinctly different from that of northern India. Music, dance and all other art forms of the South are cherished and nurtured in this city which, though industrialized, continues to be traditional and conventional in many ways.

Sri Parthsarathy Temple : This Vaishnavite temple in Triplcane (near the Marina Beach), is dedicated to Lord Krishna, who was a charioteer to Arjuna, during the Kurukshetra war. It is a splendid creation of the Pallavas of the 8th century. The usual chakra, associated with Mahavishnu is conspicious by its absence. Sridevi and Bhoodev - the consorts of Lord Vishnu are seen at either side of the Utsavamurthy (mobile deity).

The Marina Beach : One of the worlds longest beaches, running 12 km in length, Marina beach is the pride of Madras City. With its natural sandy beauty and spacious promenade, the beach continues to be the most sought-after rezendvous. It has acquired a South Indian aura, with vendors hawking all kinds of wares. The Marina, however, is often the venue for important state functions.

Crocodile Bank : Run by Romulus Whittaker, this is a farm, where several species of the Indian and African crocodiles and alligators are bred in captivity. These reptiles are kept in their natural surroundings, in open pools and can be viewed from a safe proximity.

Kalakhsetra : Kalakhshetra or The Abode of Arts, is an ornament to the city of Chennai. It was established by Smt Rukmini Arundale, who dedicated her entire life to the performing arts.

The National Art Gallery : National Art Gallery, Chennai Tour PackageLocated in Egmore, the National Art Gallery, is housed in a building built in 1906, in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. The building itself, is a work of art and was originally intended to be the Victoria Memorial and Technical Institute, but was made the National Art Gallery in 1951. On display in this gallery, are the 10th and 13th century bronzes, 16th and 18th century Rajasthani and Mughal paintings, 17th century Deccani paintings and 11th and 12th century Indian handicrafts.

The Government Museum : Established in 1857, the Madras museum, is undoubtedly, one of the country's best museums. It has sections, devoted to geology, archeology, anthropology, numismatics, botany, zoology and sculpture, besides which, there is a good collection of arms and armour, as well as, several other specimen of anthropological interest. The museums prize possessions however, are the relics from the 2nd century AD, Buddhist site at Amaravati. Prehistoric exhibits from the Stone and Iron Ages, exquisite carvings and a fairly large collection of South Indian musical instruments and jewellery, also add to the invaluable collection in the museum. The bronze gallery, with its ancient icons and modern bronzes, is perhaps the best found anywhere in the world.

Fort St. George : Located on the seashore near the harbour, Fort St. George, was built for the East India Co. in 1960 AD. The first bastion of British power in India, it once housed the British Regiments mess and later the lighthouse. Today, it houses the Tamilnadu Legislative Assembly and Council, as well as the offices of the States Secretariat. Fort St. Georges towering flagstaff is, even today, the tallest in India. The black charnockite pillar of the building, provide an insight into British military architecture, of the 17th and 18th centuries. Glimpses of early Chennai, are preserved in Clive Corner, Wellesley House, Fort Museum and St. Marys Church.

Kapaleeswarar Temple : A masterpiece of Dravidian architecture, this ancient Shiva temple, is the biggest in Chennai. There are some fragmentary inscriptions, dating back to 1250 AD. The magnificent 37-metre Gopuram, depicts intricate carvings of old legends.

Cholamandal Artists Village : Located on the Mahabalipuram Road, this artists commune was started in 1966 and is perhaps, the first of its kind. The artists and sculptors who live and work in this seaside colony, in idyllic surroundings, exhibit and sell their work, which consists of contemporary art, sculpture, batik, terracotta and graphics. These are often exhibited and also sold. Cholamandal also has an open - air theatre in which dance performances and poetry reading competitions, are held.

Elliots Beach : The Elliotts beach near Besant Nagar, offers an alternative to the Marina, for beach-lovers who would prefer to avoid crowds and hawkers.

Light House : The lighthouse now stands 48 m above sea level, at the southern end, commanding a panoramic view of the city. It is open to visitors from 2 pm - 4 pm everyday.

Little Mount Shrine : Little Mount Shrine, is the place where St. Thomas, is said to have lived and preached, in a small cave.

MGR Film City : Known the world over for its film industry, MGR Film City is a special delight in Chennai. Situated on the outskirts of Buckingham Canal, tourists are allowed between 8 am and 8 pm.

Mamallapuram : Just two hours out of Chennai, Mamallapuram, or Mahabalipuram, as it was formerly known, was the second capital of the Pallava Kings, and was named a World Heritage site in 1995.

The Theosophical Society : The Theosophical Society, much as the name suggests, offers discourse and meditation sessions, as well as lectures on positive health and spirituality. J Krishnamurthi and Maria Montessori have both lectured here, under the huge banyan tree.

Thousand Lights Mosque : This is a centuries old shrine, that has been re-designed as a mosque, with walls bearing recently painted sayings from the Holy Koran. Nawab Umdat -ul - Umrah, in 1800, constructed the original mosque.

Vedantangal Bird Sanctuary : A paradise for birdwatchers, the Vedantagal Bird Sanctuary, lies deep inside the forest expanse, between Chennai and Tiruchirapally. Sprawling across 30 hectares of land, this water bird sanctuary is believed to be over 200 years old.

How to Reach :

Air : Kamaraj National and Anna International Airports are situated at Meenambakkam about 20 kms. from city. Can also be reached by suburban train services. Alight at Tirusulum. You must travel light and walk a km to airport.

Rail : Chennai is connected by rail with all major towns and cities in India. Main Railway Stations: Central and Egmore. Central linking north and west and Egmore south.

Road : Chennai is connected by good network of roads with all important places in Tamil Nadu and other parts of India. You may rent a car with popular private cab owners. White plated taxis ply 5 people on contract. Pre-paid taxis and airport coaches are available at airports.

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