Chennai is the fourth largest metropolitan area of India and the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, Chennai had a population of 4.2 million in the 2001 census within its municipal corporation. The urban agglomeration of Chennai has an estimated population over 7 million, making it the fourth largest agglomeration in India.
The name Chennai is an eponym, etymologically derived from Chennapattinam or Chennapattanam,Although some believe Chennapattinam was named after the Chenna Kesava Perumal Temple, as the word Chenni in Tamil means face, and the temple was thought of as the face of the city.
The city was officially renamed Chennai in 1996, about the same time that many Indian cities were undergoing name changes. Madras was seen as a Portuguese name.The former name, Madras, is derived from Madraspattinam,
Chennai's culture reflects its diverse population. The city is known for its classical dance shows and Hindu temples. Every December, Chennai holds a five-week long Music Season celebrating the 1927 opening of the Madras Music Academy. It features performances (kutcheries) of traditional Carnatic music by hundreds of artists in and around the city. An arts festival called the Chennai Sangamam, which showcases various arts of Tamil Nadu is held in January every year. Chennai is also known for Bharatanatyam, a classical dance form that originated in Tamil Nadu. An important cultural centre for Bharatanatyam is Kalakshetra, on the beach in the south of the city.
Chennai is the base for the large Tamil movie industry, dubbed Kollywood after Kodambakkam, home to most of the movie studios. he industry makes more than 150 Tamil movies a year, and its soundtracks dominate the city's music. Chennai's theatres stage many Tamil plays; political satire, slapstick comedy, history, mythology and drama are among the popular genres. English plays are also staged in the city.
Among Chennai's festivals, Pongal is celebrated over five days in January, is the most important. Tamil New Year's Day, signifying the beginning of the Tamil year, usually falls on April 14. Almost all major religious festivals such as Deepavali, Eid and Christmas are celebrated in Chennai. Tamil cuisine in Chennai includes vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Many of the city's restaurants offer light meals or tiffin, which usually include rice-based dishes like pongal, dosa, idli and vadai, served with steaming hot filter coffee.
The majority of the population in Chennai are Tamils and Tamil is the primary language spoken in Chennai. English is widely spoken especially in business, education and white collar professions. Sizeable Telugu and Malayalee communities live in the city. Chennai also has a large migrant population, who come from other parts of Tamil Nadu and the rest of the country. As of 2001, out of the 937,000 migrants (21.57% of its population) in the city, 74.5% were from other parts of the state, 23.8% were from rest of India and 1.7% were from outside the country. According to the 2001 census, Hindus constitute about 82.27% of the city's population, and Muslims (8.37%), Christians (7.63%) and Jains (1.05%) are other major religious groups.
South India is famous for its temples. Even if you aren't on a pilgrimage, these are worth a visit if you are interested in grand buildings and architecture.
Tiruvallur Approximately 45 Kms from Chennai. It is famous for its Vaidhya Veera raghava Swami Temple and Sri Viswaroopa
Panchamukha Anjaneya Swami Ashram which has a 40 ft tall Murti of Hanuman.
Tirupati Approximately 150 Kms from Chennai, in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
Madurai Home to the famous Meenakshi temple.
Swamithoppe Ayya Vaikundar Pathi, religious head quarters of Ayyavazhi.
Kanchipuram Kamakshi temple, seat of one of the Shankaracharyas - the closest Hinduism comes to a spiritual head.
Thanjavur Brihadeswara temple (Big Temple).
Tiruvannamalai Arunachala Temple famous for full moon day girivalam and Deepam.