In 1639, the ruler of Vandavasi granted the British East India Company permission to establish the trading settlement of Fort St. George on the Coromandel coast of on the Bay of Bengal. The colonial city of Madras that grew around this settlement eventually became what we now know as Chennai India. Today, with an estimated population of 7.5 million, Chennai is now the fourth-largest city in India, and Chennai travel couldn't be more popular.
Under British rule, Chennai was called Madras India and served as the capital of the Madras presidency, an independent province in Southern India. The origins of both names of Madras India and Chennai India aren't certain, though many theorize they are based on two nearby fishing villages. The city was officially renamed to Chennai in 1996 as part of the traditional name policy by the Indian government, but the city continues to celebrate Madras Day each August 22, the date on the East India Company's land grant.
Today, Chennai serves as the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, making historic Fort St. George the legislative and administrative seat. The city's information technology industry rivals the best in the country, and the growing automotive industry has earned the city the nickname The Detroit of India.
Chennai, being the capital of Tamil Nadu, is home to a host of Tamil cultural art forms including dance, literature, sculpture, music and cinema. Many visitors flock to the city of for the Madras Music Season, one of the most popular festivals in India. Another draw to Chennai travel is the Tamil film industry, also known as Kollywood, the second largest film industry in India. And for sports fans, Chennai is a major center for cricket, motorsports, and tennis.
On your Chennai vacation, you will find that the most common language in Chennai India is Tamil, with Hindi not as common here as it is in other major cities in India. However, English is widely understood at many major attractions and Chennai hotels, such as the Taj Coromandel, making travel to Chennai easier for English speakers.
The city's humid, tropical climate offers two seasons to consider when planning your Chennai vacation: a very warm summer and a very wet monsoon season. The recommended months for Chennai travel are between the mild months of December and February. If you arrive by air, you'll come through the Chennai International Airport, the third busiest airport in India, after those found in Mumbai and New Delhi. Chennai's bus station is also one of Asia's largest, making the city very easy to each from other Indian cities such as Trivandrum and Hyderabad. Chennai's city transportation offers a suburban rail network with four lines, an affordable government-run bus system, and auto-rickshaws for hire.
Travelers to Chennai will find no shortage of things to do here. The most popular tourist site in the city is the former English settlement of Fort Saint George, but there are many fascinating attractions, including museums, such as the National Art Gallery and Museum, that showcase Tamil art and artists. Many people of the Hindu faith plan a Chennai vacation to visit the numerous temples found throughout the entire city.
For those interested in science, the Periyar Science and Technology Museum boasts the most technologically advanced planetarium in the country, and travelers interested in history should consider a visit to St. Thomas Basilica, said to be built on the burial site of the apostle Thomas. Chennai is also home to a zoo and to Vedanthangal, the largest bird sanctuary in India, as well as many amusement parks. In addition, with the second-longest seashore in the world, Chennai India offers many beaches and marinas, such as Covelong Beach and Elliot's Beach.