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City Profile: Chennai

Overview:


Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu, is one of India's five leading metropolises. It is the fourth largest city in India and the major industrial, business, and cultural center of South India.

Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is the capital city of Tamil Nadu. It is located on the shore of the Bay of Bengal, about 900 miles north of the Equator. A city of 70 square miles (180 square km) and over 10 million people (the last census was in 1991); Chennai is one of India's five leading metropolises. It is the fourth largest city in India and the major industrial, business, and cultural center of South India.

Forbes magazine named Chennai as one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Chennai is ranked 4th in India having the greatest number of Fortune 500 companies, coming after Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata. Chennai is the home to twenty four Indian companies that have a net worth of over $1 billion and has a diversified economic base anchored by the automobile, software services, hardware manufacturing, healthcare, and financial services industries. Other important industries include petrochemicals, textiles and apparels. According to the Confederation of Indian Industry, Chennai is estimated to grow to a $100–billion economy, 2.5 times its present size, by the year 2025.

It has been called the "Gateway to the South", as it was in the time of colonization, and is still an apt epithet. Steeped in rich and ancient traditions, Chennai has been regarded as the unbending guardian of traditional culture. It is also the patron of poets, dancers, sculptors and filmmakers.

Relative to other Indian cities, Madras is not ancient. It was founded only 350 years ago, the first of the cities of the British Empire. The British made it their first trading and military post in South Asia. As it grew, it took within its boundaries many ancient towns and ports of the Coromandel, India's legendary southeastern coast. Madras was born in the age of modern trade where Vasco da Gama's explorations led. The Portuguese, the Dutch, the British, the French, and the Danes all sought the riches of the Coromandel, its cordage, textiles, dyes, timbers, spices, and the wealth of its hinterland. In fact, in 1639, the small fishing hamlet of Madraspatnam was chosen as a settlement by English merchants, primarily because of the easy availability of cheap long cloth. Today, the city of Madras has reclaimed its original Tamil name, Chennai, and is a sprawling amalgamation of ancient, colonial, and modern influences.

Paradoxically, this oldest of important English settlements in India is today the least westernized and one of the most conservative of India's major cities. It has remained a city of tradition in spite of its growing cosmopolitan flavor. It is not that people are hidebound conventionalists, but rather that they philosophically and pragmatically consider departure from successfully tried and tested, centuries-old customs, apparel, manners etc., entirely unnecessary. Many a Tamil's every action, from buying a wedding sari to moving house, is governed by a calendar of auspicious and inauspicious hours. There is interminable matching of horoscopes at weddings and elaborate rituals accompanying birth, the cutting of the first tooth, and every other milestone in a person's life.

The population is mostly Hindu (80%), with large Muslim and Christian minorities. The traditional kurta / pajama (a long tunic over string pants) and lungi are worn by many men; professional men and women, however, wear Western dress. South Indian women typically wear saris, although North Indian tunic sets (salwar kameez, a decorative knee length tunic and string pants) are gaining popularity. English is spoken by about 20 to 30% of the population in South India, and 60% of Chennaites. Tamil is the primary language spoken in the state of Tamil Nadu.

General Information:

Climate:

Chennai has a tropical wet and dry climate. The city lies on the thermal equator and is also on the coast, which prevents extreme variation in seasonal temperature. The weather is hot and humid for most of the year. The hottest part of the year is late May to early June with maximum temperatures around 35–40 °C (95–104 °F). The coolest part of the year is January, with minimum temperatures around 15–22 °C (59–72 °F). The average annual rainfall is about 140 cm (55 in). The city gets most of its seasonal rainfall from the north–east monsoon winds, from mid–October to mid–December.

Transportation

How to get there
By plane:

Chennai International Airport (IATA: MAA) is the third busiest in India (after Mumbai & Delhi). All international flights arrive at Anna Terminal, while the domestic flights arrive at Kamraj Terminal. The two terminals are on the same road and are 150 m (492 ft) away from each other. Airport to City connection: Using the pre-paid taxi to get to the city, each terminal has several booths for several taxi companies when you exit the airport, outside before you meet the crowd.

By train:

Chennai has two main long-distance train stations, Chennai Central (code MAS) and Chennai Egmore (code MS).Central has daily trains from/to Bangalore, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Delhi, Hyderabad , Kolkata , Ahmedabad and virtually all other major Indian cities. Egmore has trains which cover all the places in Tamil Nadu and also a few important places outside it.

By bus:

Chennai has one of Asia's largest bus stations, CMBT. Seven different state owned corporations drive buses to and from various destinations within South India. There are hourly buses for places like Tirupati, Pondicherry, Coimbatore,Tirunelveli. You will get the option of A/C or Non-A/C coaches for cities like Bangalore, Trivandrum and Hyderabad

By car:

Chennai is very well connected and to other parts of India by road. Five major national highways radiate outward towards Kolkata, Bengaluru, Tiruchy/Madurai, Tiruvallur, and Pondicherry. With the progress of the Golden Quadrilateral project, driving down from Bangalore is an option too.

Getting around the heart of Chennai city often takes time, due to traffic and heavy congestion. So it is advisable to plan your journey accordingly. Travelling within Chennai is not so cheap by Indian metropolitan standards, and is quite cheap by European and USA standards.

Sightseeing:


Ashtalakshmi temple (Elliots beach)
Crocodile bank
Dakshina chitra
Fort St. George
Guindy national park
Kapaleswarar temple (mylapore)
Kalakshetra (thiruvanmiyur
Kanchipuram
Mamallipuram
Marina beach
St. Thomas trail
San thome cathedral (mylaporemuseums)
Government museum
Musuem theatre
Cholamandal artists' village

Popular Restaurants and Pubs in the Central Business District

Restaurants:

AKASAKA: Tel: +91-44-24453424 - Japanese food
ANNALAKSHMI: Tel: +91-44-28525109 / 42141210 Vegetarian food
BAY LEAF: Tel: +91-44-28114557, 28114558. Bengali/North Indian cuisine.
BENJARONG: Tel: +91-44-24322640. Thai food
COPPER CHIMNEY: Tel: +91-44-28115770. North Indian cuisine and tandoori
DAHLIA: Tel: +91-44-28265240. Authentic Japanese restaurant
DOMINO’S PIZZA: Hunger Hotline” 1600-111-123
KABUL: Tel: +91-44-2467 2424. North West Frontier cuisine
KRYPTOS BY WILLI: Tel: +91-44-45038001 Greek/Mediterranean food
MAINLAND CHINA: Tel: +91-44-28238345
PONNUSAMY: Tel: +91-44-28130986, 28133067 - South Indian Chettinad
cuisine
PIZZA HUT: Tel: +91-44-26401111
SUBWAY: Tel: +91-44-28111177
TANGERINE: Tel: +91-44-2435 5834, 5211 0888. Mix of Western and Indian
food.
TEXAS FIESTA: Tel: +91-44-4308 7882
TUSCANA PIZZERIA: Tel: +91-44-4503 8008

Pubs, lounges and nightclubs
B Bar – Tel: +91-44-4900110
Bike & Barrel – Tel +91-44- 2815-6363
Chipstead, Taj Coromandel – Tel: +91-44-6600-2827
Distil Vivanta by Taj Connemara – Tel: +91-44-6600-0000
Zara - Tapas Pub - Tel: +91-44-2811-4941/42
Pasha, The Park – Tel: +91-44-4214-4000
Dublin – Tel: +91-44-2499-4101
Flame Le Royal Meridien – Tel: +91-44-2231-4343

Shopping options

Express Avenue
- It is the second largest shopping mall in South India and features unique stores like Hamley's, Global Desi and Peekaboo, designer wear like Guess and Diesel and high-street chains like Body Shop, Tie Rack, Esprit and Lush. It has a few fine-dining restaurants and also one of the largest food courts in India.

Spencer Plaza - Spencer is a Chennai landmark that dates back to colonial times. The original was destroyed in a fire, and the current building dates back to 1983. The new Phase III section even has a mock Indo-Saracenic atrium in the style of the original. One of the earliest shopping malls in India, it has slightly lost its charm with the arrival of swanky new malls, but it is still an excellent place to buy handicrafts, ethnic wear, Indian jewellery and books (it houses the largest Landmark bookstore in Chennai). There is a reasonably good food court on the 2nd level of Phase I and Phase III.

Chennai Citi Center - Opened in March of 2006, it houses mostly men's western-wear brands like Adidas, Louis Philippe, Parx and Zodiac. Has a good food court, an Indian restaurant, INOX cinema and a supermarket.

Shoppers' Stop - This is one of the largest department stores in Chennai, and you can buy everything from clothes to shoes to books here.

Ispahani Center - An early shopping centre - has a cafe, bar & shops.

Ampa Mall – Features western and Indian brands. Most popular for its PVR Cinemas multiplex, Star Bazaar grocery store and one of the few McDonalds in the city. It also has a food court and a boutique hotel.

Medical Facilities

Apollo Hospitals - Tel: +91-44-28293333
Aysha Hospital - Tel: +91-44-26426930.
Balaji Hospital - Tel: +91-44-22345282
New Hope Medical Centre - Tel: +91-44-25321532
CSI Rainy Hospital - Tel: +91-44-25951329
Hindu Mission Hospital - Tel: +91-44-22262244
Madras Medical Mission- Tel: +91-44-26565961 /91
Ramachandra Hospital - Tel: +91-44-2476 8403
Dr.Mehta's Hospital - Tel: +91-44-42271000/42271004

U.S. Consulate/U. S. Commercial Service Office
U.S. Commercial Service
Consulate General of the United States of America
220 Anna Salai, Gemini Circle, Chennai 600 006
Tel: +91 44 2857 4477
Fax: +91-44-28574212
Email: office.Chennai@trade.gov
Website: http://export.gov/india/ ; http://www.buyusa.gov/india/

American Citizens Services Unit Email: chennaics@state.gov
URL: http://chennai.usconsulate.gov/vppbangalore.html