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Chennai (formerly called Madras) is the capital of Tamil Nadu state in southern India.

Table of contents
1 Geography
2 History
3 People and Culture
4 Climate
5 Institutions and Universities
6 Sports Facilities
7 Recent developments
8 External links


Chennai is a city on the Coromandel coast in South India. It is found at the north-eastern tip of Tamil Nadu state of which it is the capital city. It has a long shoreline bordering the Bay of Bengal. It is the fourth largest city in India and has a big harbor and the world's second longest beach (Marina Beach). Many businesses, especially manufacturing and automobile industries are situated here. Chennai is well connected with most cities in India by road, rail and air. It is one of the four largest metropolitan cities of India.


Chennai had its origins as a colonial city and its initial growth was closely tied to its importance as an artificial port and trading centre. Originally there were only a few ancient villages in this area. The Portuguese were the first to establish a fort, that of Sao Tome or San Thome in 1522, pushing back the ancient Pallava port of Mylapore. By 1612 the Dutch established themselves in Pulicat to the North. In 1639 the British East India Company was granted land in between these settlements by the Nayak of Wandiwash. Fort St. George built by them on this land in 1640, first little more than a fortified warehouse, became the nucleus around which the city grew and from which it was administered. Even today the official legislative and administrative headquarters of the state is located here, however recent proposals to shift this may become reality.

British governors of Madras include:

George Town grew into modern Madras city, encompassing several neighboring regions. As of 2000, the government has renamed the city as Chennai - the name of the city in vernacular Tamil, with disputed origins.

St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Christ, is associated with Chennai. He visited India and died in Chennai. He is believed to be the first ever Christian missionary to set foot on Indian soil. He set up a church near the southern shoreline. He is believed to have made a small hillock his home. Legend has it that he used to walk upto the church - a distance of over 15 kilometers - and back everyday through what was then, a menacing jungle. The names of the two suburbs in Chennai, Santhome and St. Thomas Mount, have cemented this link.

People and Culture

A majority of people are Tamils (whose mother tongue is Tamil), but people of other languages/cultures stay here as well, especially Telugus; it is sometimes said that Chennai was considered to be included under Andhra Pradesh considering its large Telugu populace. English is widely spoken, and is used almost exclusively in business and education. British Madras used to be the capital of the Madras state, known as the Madras Presidency, which at one point comprised of almost the entire modern states of Andhra Pradesh , Karnataka , Kerala and Tamil Nadu - minus the princely states enjoying British patronage. Madras, thus inherited a rich mix of languages and dialects, most of which have corroded with time. With the advent of Marwari moneylenders and businessmen from north India, (mainly from Gujarat and Rajasthan) who settled in and around north Chennai in the 1950s, Chennai has adopted a truly cosmopolitan colour.

There are a number of film halls, amusement parks and shopping malls in and around the city. The Marina Beach in Chennai is a popular tourist spot. Chennai is one of the most British of Indian cities. Residential areas like Tiruvallikeni (Triplicane), Mayilapur (Mylapore) and the main arterial road of the city Anna Salai (erstwhile Mount Road) have a distinct, unmistakable ancient aura about them. Many buildings over 150 years old are still fully functional and host business establishments. The Central Railway station and the adjoining Southern Railway headquarters are cases in point.

Chennai is known for traditional South Indian cuisine. Food from various restaurants is usually inexpensive for the quality that it offers. Familiar dishes include Dosa, Idli (rice cake), and Sambhar (gravy made of lentils, chillies, coriander seeds and other spices). A special form of coffee known as 'Filter Coffee' is the popular beverage. Another, perhaps more popular beverage is strongly brewed tea found in thousands of small stalls found across the city.

Chennai is also a major cultural hub. It is famous for a branch of classical music called Carnatic music, and classical dance called Bharata Natyam. Thousands of individuals and schools teach music and dance. A lot of people visit Chennai during the months of December-January. This is the time of Carnatic music festival, popularly known as 'Music Season'. During the music season, a host of music halls called "Sabhas" have music programmes called "Kutcheris" for which performers gather from across India and recently from the diaspora, across the world.


Chennai is hot and humid for most of the year, with day temperatures frequently exceeding 40°C during summer. The city gets most of its rain from the North-East monsoon in the months of September-December.

Institutions and Universities

Sports Facilities

Chennai is home to the M.A.Chidambaram Stadium for cricket (formerly known as Madras Cricket Club ground or Chepauk Stadium) in Chepauk. This grass pitch stadium seats 50,000 and is home to the Tamil Nadu cricket team.

The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Periamet seats 40,000 and hosts soccer, athletic and volleyball competitions.

The Egmore Stadium for field hockey seats 4,000 spectators and has an astro turf field.

The Tennis Stadium, Nungambakkam seats 7,000 spectators and has 6 courts.

The Aquatic Complex in Velachery Road seats 4,000 spectators.

The Guindy Race Course is also in Chennai.

Recent developments

In recent years, along with Bangalore and Hyderabad, the city has emerged as an important hub of software development in India. This has been given a further boost by the construction of Tidel Park, an IT complex, by the Tamil Nadu government.

The city is served by Chennai International Airport.

External links