Marina Beach is a popular beach in Chennai. It forms a part of the Bay of Bengal. The beach runs along the length of the Fort St George located on the northern part of the city and up to the Besant Beach that is on the southern side. The then Governer, Grant Duff, captivated by its beauty developed it and called it Madras Marina in the year 1884.
The total length of the Marina beach is about 13 km earning it the distinction of being the longest beach in India and the second longest beach in the world. The Marina Beach used to be very popular among the tourists at one point of time because of its unmatched beauty.
However, its waters are now polluted, and the beach has become dirty because of negligence and careless attitude of the tourists. Many volunteers have taken it upon themselves to preserve the natural beauty of the beach by doing cleaning drives every month on the beach. The volunteers also look after the care and protection of the nests of the Olive Ridley turtles.
Besant Nagar Beach is also widely known as the Elliot’s Beach or Bessie. The beach gets its name from the famous theosophist Annie Besant, who also played an important role in India’s freedom movement. The beach is in Besant Nagar in Chennai and starts from the point where the Marina Beach ends.
Some famous tourist attractions near the beach are the Ashtalakshmi Kovil and Velankanni Church. A hard to miss landmark near the beach is the Karl Schmidt Memorial built in the memory of the Dutch sailor who drowned while saving the life of a non-swimmer. The beach is very popular among the tourists as well as the local population.
In fact, many youngsters have chosen the Besant Beach as their favourite hangout place. You will find lots of school and college going students on the beach during weekdays. During weekends the beach is populated by families who wish to spend quality time with their loved ones. The place is an ideal picnic spot as well because of many good restaurants that line the shores of the beach.
Kapaleeshwar Temple is in Mylapore, which is a suburb near Chennai. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and His consort Goddess Parvati. Goddess Parvati is worshipped at the temple in the form of Karpagambal or ‘Goddess of Wish Yielding Tree.
The temple gets its name from two words, 'Kapalam' meaning 'head' and 'Eeshwarar' that is another way of addressing Lord Shiva. According to Hindu mythology when Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva met on top of Mount Kailash, Brahma failed to acknowledge the supremacy of Shiva.
In a rage Shiva yanked out one of the heads or 'Kapalam' of Lord Brahma. To make up for his mistake Brahma came to Mylapore and established a lingam there. It is believed that the temple was built sometime during the 7th century by the Pallava Kings.
The architecture of the temple is reminiscent of the Dravidian style and design. It is believed that the original temple was constructed on the site where the Santhome Church now stands. However, the Portuguese destroyed the temple structure.
The present day temple was built by the Vijayanagar Kings in the 16th century. Chennai is famous for its religious institutes like the Ramakrishna Temple, Kalikambal Temple, San Thome Church and Kapaleeshwar Temple. It is also well known for the unique concept of Cholamandal Artists' Village.
The Kalikambal Temple in Chennai is located on the Thambu Chetty Street in George Town. The area is hard to miss since it is a major financial centre of the city. The temple is dedicated to Hindu Goddess Kalikambal who is also revered as Goddess Kamakshi in some parts of India. The present day Kalikambal Temple was built in 1640 AD after the original temple was destroyed.
The site of the original temple was near to the shore, and it is believed that Portuguese invaders brought down the temple. According to a local legend, one of the fiercest-some forms of Goddess Kamakshi was worshipped at the temple. This form of the Goddess was believed to be very aggressive and powerful.
It was later that this fierce form of the Goddess was replaced by her less aggressive and more peaceful form of Goddess Kalikambal. This avatar of Goddess Kamakshi is considered ‘shanta swaroopa’ or peace loving.
Dakshinachitra in Chennai is a very interesting museum. It is the only museum of its kind in the city that is an open-air and real-time museum. Along with being a museum, Dakshinachitra is also a cultural center of Chennai. The place gives you an amazing experience of what southern India is all about.
It depicts art, music, dance, crafts and lifestyle of the people of South Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The place was established in 1996 and since then has been very famous among the tourists from all over the world.
A person who doesn’t know much about South India can gain a deep insight into the cultural practices, architecture, dance and music and even the cuisine of the various south Indian states. There are many events organized at the Dakshinachitra for the benefit of the tourists. These include exhibitions, guided tours, theme-based dinners, workshops, folk theater and cultural exchange programs.
San Thome Church was built in Chennai in the 16th century by Portuguese traders who invaded India. The Portuguese built it as a minor basilica, but the British rebuilt it in 1893 giving it the status of a cathedral. The structure that exists today was built by the British. The new structure was given a Neo-Gothic look that was very popular among the British architects of the 19th century.
According to Christian mythology, St Thomas was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ. He arrived on the shores of Kerala directly from The Holy Land sometime during 52 AD and stayed on in the place until 72 AD.
He received martyrdom in 72 AD on the peak of what is now known as St. Thomas Mount. San Thome Basilica is now an important church in the region and comes under the Madras-Mylapore catholic Archdiocese since it is a Roman catholic church. It is one of the important pilgrim centres for the Christians of India.
The Parthasarathy Temple is dedicated to the Hindu God Krishna and is in Triplicane in Chennai. The temple is believed to have been built in the 8th century and has been mentioned in glorifying terms in the works of the Alvar saints. Parthasarthy is a Sanskrit word that means ‘charioteer of Arjuna’.
Lord Krishna played the part of Arjuna’s charioteer during the epic battle of Mahabharata. The temple to Lord Krishna in Triplicane was commissioned by King Narasimhavarman I. Within the temple are housed the different avatars of Lord Vishnu, Krishna, Narasimha, Rama and Varaha.
There are separate entrances for the shrines of Lord Rama and Lord Narasimha. The temple is famous as being the oldest structure in Chennai. Many tourists throng to the temple because of this reason. Besides this, the temple is also famous for the beautiful and intricate carvings on the towers and pillars that are a part of the temple.
Ashta Lakshmi Temple in Chennai is dedicated to eight Hindu Goddesses who are all believed to be the secondary manifestations of Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. The Goddess is also the consort of Lord Vishnu.
According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Lakshmi looks after the different forms of wealth in our lives; health, knowledge, progeny, power and strength. The Ashtalakshmi Goddesses should always be worshipped together in a group. The temple lies on the shores of the Besant Nagar Beach and has four levels.
The idols of the eight Goddesses have been placed at different levels at the temple. The worship of the Goddesses starts from level two where shrines of Goddess Mahalakshmi and Mahavishnu are established. On the third floor is the shrine of Santha Lakshmi, Vijaya Lakshmi and Gajalakshmi. The fourth floor has only one shrine, that of Goddess Dhanalakshmi.
The first floor houses the shrines of Aadilakshmi, Dharyalakshmi and Dhaanya Lakshmi.
Birla Planetarium in Chennai is situated at the Tamil Nadu Science and Technology Centre (TNSTC). It is in the campus of Periyar Science and Technology Center located at the Gandhi Mandapam Road. The planetarium was established in the year 1988 in Chennai.
The planetarium is a must visit especially if you are with children. It provides education along with entertainment as you are taken on a virtual tour of the universe while you remain seated and the universe revolves around you!
In 2009, the planetarium got a 360-degree sky theatre that was the first of its kind in the country. This entire project was completed at a budget of a whopping 2.1 million rupees. Those interested in astronomy can enroll themselves for a course in astronomy as well as for a course in night-sky observations.
The planetarium has a classroom studio as well as a seminar hall for the purpose of education. Many workshops and seminars are conducted within the premises of the planetarium and prominent astronomists and scientists come to lecture on the science of astronomy.
Marundeeswarar Temple is a temple located in Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai dedicated to Lord Shiva. Located adjacent to the beach of Bay of Bengal, it is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams, where three of the most revered Nayanars, Appar and Tirugnana Sambandar have glorified the temple with their verses during the 7th and 8th centuries.
The temple has two seven-tiered gateway towers, a huge tank, with the overall temple area covering 1 acre. The Marundeeswarar temple has been a place of curative worship for people with diseases.
Mangadu Kamakshi Temple is in the Mangadu suburb of Chennai and is located very close to the Mangadu bus stop. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Kamakshi Amman who is worshipped here in the form of Shakti or Power.
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati were playing on Mount Kailash when the Devi placed her hands over the eyes of Shiva. This put the entire world into darkness. The Devi realized her mistake and sought forgiveness from Shiva. Lord Shiva asked her to perform penance on the earth.
Devi Parvati came down to earth and started her penance on the Panchagni in Mangadu. She stood on her left foot and raised her left hand over her head. She held a rosary in her left hand. This is the position which has been eternalized in the idol at the temple.
Lord Shiva was impressed with the Devi, and they got married at Kanchipuram. The Mangadu Kamakshi Temple is dedicated to the remorseful form of Goddess Parvati.
Ramakrishna Math in Chennai was established by Sri Ramakrishna and is a monastery for men. Sri Ramakrishna was a saint from Bengal and lived during the 19th century. He established the first branch of the math in Chennai as part of the Ramakrishna Order in Southern India. The math was opened in 1897 by Swami Ramakrishnanda who was the direct follower of Sri Ramakrishna.
Iced House is the first monastery that was built. The structure is also known as Castle Kernan and is located near the sea beach of Triplicane. It has three storeys, and Swami Vivekananda lived in this house when he returned from the West. He was given a grand welcome by the people of Madras.
Swami Ramakrishnanada himself lived in the Ice House and conducted all his activities from here. He set up a shrine dedicated to Sri Ramakrishna and also opened an orphanage for children. This orphanage has now grown into a large institution, The Ramakrishna Mission Students Home.
Jagannath Temple in Chennai was built mainly to save the devotees of Lord Jagannath a trip to Puri in Orissa. The temple of Lord Jagannath in Chennai is on the Reddy Kuppam Road and has the idols of Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Balaram. The idol of Lord Yoganarasimha has also been established in a shrine at the temple.
Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, Devi Vimala and Devi Gajalakshmi are also worshipped at the temple though Lord Jagannath is the presiding deity. The temple has been made to resemble the original temple at Puri and is built from black granite and white marble. The granite was specially brought from Kancheepuram, and the marble is from Rajasthan.
The idols of the Gods and Goddesses housed in the temple have been carved out of the wood from the neem tree that was used for preparing the idols at the temple in Puri. The temple has been built over a large area and has sprawling and beautiful lawns that are covered throughout the year with colorful flowers. In fact, flowers from the lawn are used during the puja at the temple.
Devi Karumariamman Temple is in Thiruverkadu that is a suburb located towards the western side of Chennai. The word Thiruverkadu means the ‘forest of holy herbs and roots’ and it is believed that during ancient times the forest surrounding the place was very famous because of the medicinal plants that grew here.
Lots of people would visit the forest to gather exotic and medicinal plants that grew only in the forest of Thiruverkadu. However, these days the place is famous among tourists because of the Devi Karumariamman Temple.
According to an ancient legend, Devi Karumariamman turned herself into an old nomadic woman. She went to the Sun God to forecast His future. The Sun God did not realize who the old lady was and failed to give her due respect. The Devi became very angry with this negligence and she left.
As soon as she left the Sun lost its bright light and it became dark on earth. Realizing His mistake the Sun God went to the Devi and asked her for forgiveness. The God also asked Devi to celebrate the seventh day of the week as the Devikumari Day.
He also took permission from the Devi to pour sun rays on her twice in a year. Ever since then Sunday is now the Devikumari Day for the devotees of the Goddess and the sun also throws rays on the idol of the Devi situated in the temple twice a year during the months of Panguni and Purattasi.
Vadapalani in Chennai is a very ancient Hindu temple and is well-known throughout the country. The temple was built towards the end of the 17th century by Annasamy Naicker who was a devout follower of Lord Murugan.
Naicker was very poor, but he had constructed a thatched hut and placed a photo of Lord Murugan in the hut that he would worship every day. According to a legend, when Naicker was praying one day he experienced divine intervention. During this period he uttered things that turned out to be true.
He was not keeping well, but after this experience he visited tiruthani and offered his tongue as a sacrifice at Balipeeta. He returned and requested a close friend for help. Inspired by his devotion people started making offerings at the hut built for Lord Murugan. This hut soon became a small shrine and then a large temple thanks to the many devotees thereafter.
The temple today stands on sprawling grounds. There is a theertham located in the premises of the temple and people believe that the water of the theertham has healing powers.