This once nondescript fishing village, which rose to become a mighty port city for the East India Company, has many compelling stories to reveal… From ice cut out from America’s Great Lakes destined for the Ice House on Marina Beach — to its exotic exports traded with Rome and later the European markets— India’s fourth-largest city will have you in thrall with its past.
The watermark of colonial rule distinguishes the Madras of Robert Clive’s days in the East India Company. Yet, a wander down the spice market will remind you of its roots in its native Tamil Nadu. The British developed George Town after the French (who had fought tooth and nail for supremacy here) were forced to retreat to Pondicherry, further south. Today, George Town, the former Black Town of Madras, bristles with heritage structures, lively communities, and activity all day long as a wholesale market— a legacy from the days when the locals settled here to trade and do business with the residents of the fort.
Discover the aromatic splendour of Chennai’s age-old spice traditions as you hit the spice trail in one of its most popular markets. Not only should you try and learn how to cook with them at a local home, but you will also love to unfold the colourful tales of how the Dutch, French and English traders championed to exclusively corner the spice trade.
The weight of history and heritage falls lightly on Chennai’s shoulder, where the past and present are compatible travelers on the road to the future. You just need to delve into the sumptuous treasure trove of its music and dance traditions to understand the importance of this legacy and lineage. Not only should you explore Chennai’s classical dance form, Bharatnatyam, have fun with a South Indian Cinema ‘moment’ — dancing to the tune of an expert choreographer.
Mylapore, the hyper-active neighborhood in the heart of Chennai, pre-dates the city by at least 2000 years; what you will love about it is that it is a rich repository of living traditions and the city’s legendary arts. Discover its Biblical ties at the Thomas Cathedral Basilica or Santhome, dedicated to St Thomas, Christ’s apostle, who came to preach here centuries ago.
Thrill to the soul-stirring experiences at Dakshinachitra, a short distance out of town. This living museum of art, architecture, and lifestyles of South India is true to its name—which means ’Picture of the South’ and reaches out to the culture buff in you. Furthermore, you can look forward to watching artisans engaged in arts and crafts — all richly supported by DakishinaChitra.
Chennai is a marvel with its endless offerings of fascinating historic and cultural legacies. One visit can never do justice to your understanding of this ancient seafaring city.