Situated on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal in south-east India, Chennai – formerly known as Madras – is both an economic powerhouse and a cultural centre.
With almost nine million people living in the metropolitan area, Chennai is India’s fourth largest city. It has a large automobile industry and is India’s second largest exporter of IT and business process outsourcing (BPO) services.
As the state capital of Tamil Nadu, Chennai is an important cultural centre for dance, music and cinema. Its annual music and dance festival, held from mid-December to mid-January celebrates traditional Tamil Carnatic dance and music. It also has a large movie industry, colloquially known as Kollywood.
Chennai has for centuries been an important trading port for merchants selling spices, cloth and other goods. It has been coveted by the Dutch, French, Portuguese and British. In 1639, the British established Chennai as a trading post and began to build the Fort St George, giving rise to the city as we know it today.
Despite its size and importance in economics and culture, Chennai is a slower-paced city than its Indian counterparts. This laidback pace and the humble nature of the city make its residents more friendly than you’d expect for a metropolis this size.
When to go:
The best time to visit Chennai is in the winter months from November to February. This is also the time for the great festivals. It can be very hot and humid in the high summer months.
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