by Alex Singh
Once known as “Madras”, Chennai is the capital of Tamil Nadu and home to countless culturally significant attractions. With an estimated population of 7.45 million residents, it is the 34th largest metropolitan area in the world. Chennai is the entryway to the South, creating a culture that is entirely distinct. Tamil culture and tradition is reflected throughout the entire center. Traditional dancers, Tamil clothing and breathtaking sculpturesexemplify Tamil culture. From temples to high-rises, this city is truly a blend of the ancient and the modern. If you would like to explore this truly unique culture, it’s time to plan a trip to Chennai. Book your flight, reserve your hotel and then get ready to visit the top seven cultural attractions in Chennai.
How to Arrive and Where to Stay
Depending on your departure location, you may wish to take a train, plane or automobile to enter this cultural city.
• Plane – Chennai International Airport is the third busiest airport in India, serving both international as well as domestic flights. This airport services all major Indian domestic airlines, such as Indigo, Kingfisher and Spice.
• Train – Chennai has two long-distance train stations: Chennai Central and Chennai Egmore. Central has daily trains to and from most major cities within India. Egmore is primarily used to travel around Tamil Nadu.
• Automobile – Chennai is well-connected to other parts of India by road. There are five major highways that connect Chennai to nearby metropolises.
Seven Cultural Attractions
1. Kapaleeswarar Temple – (top photo) This world-renowned temple is believed to date back to the eighth century. However, the present structure was rebuilt in the 1600s. It is known for its 37-meter high gopuram, as well an ancient shrine to the god Shiva.
2. National Art Gallery – Built in 1907, this sandstone building contains unique exhibits ranging from medieval handicrafts, exceptional sculptures and thought-provoking paintings. Collections are separated into four sections: Tanjore Painting Gallery, Decorate Art Gallery, Indian Traditional Art gallery and Ravi Varma Painting. This museum that brims with culture is a must-see landmark in Chennai.
3. Thousand Lights Mosque – This well-known mosque is a respected holy attraction of Islam. Muslims from all over India travel to Chennai to visit the Thousands Lights Mosque. It is visited by millions of Muslims and non-Muslims alike due to its awe-inspiring architecture.
4. St. Thomas Mount– According to Tamil history, 2000 years ago a saint lived in a cave on the site of the current monument. This saint was believed to be Thomas, one of Christ’s original apostles. According to the local legend, he arrived in South India in 52 A.D and spent the remainder of his life spreading Christianity. St Thomas is widely regarded as the first Christian in the region. After his untimely death, a comprehensive monument was created on the mount to honor St. Thomas.
5. Big Mosque – Commonly known as “Wallajah Mosque”, this historical landmark was constructed in 1795 in memory of Nawab Muhammad Ali Wallajah. This grey granite structure was built entirely without wood or steel. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of this mosque is a chronogram that was engraved on the western wall by a non-Muslim. It is widely regarded as the only chronogram on a mosque that was not designed by a Muslim.
6. Valluvar Kottam – This attraction is a memorial for the renowned poet and saint Tiruvalluvar, a well-known poet in the region. This memorial contains a temple with a life-size sculpture of this well regarded and highly influential saint. Over 3,000 blocks of stone were employed when building this cornerstone of Tamil culture.
7. Regional Grand Lodge of Southern India – Constructed in 1923 with the intention of aiding military troops, this Greek-style lodge provides a uniquely Western element of the Tamil culture.
Enjoy Your Cultural Experience
Chennai is commonly considered the cultural center of Tamil Nadu. With hundreds of temples, sculptures and museums, it has certainly earned this reputation. If you have ever wanted to further explore Tamil culture, Chennai is the ideal location for you.
Alex Singh is a contributing writer and appreciator of Indian culture. He enjoys visiting significant cultural sites all over the country. Alex has developed a particular fascination with the unique and beautiful culture of Chennai.