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Wonders Of Chennai

Updated: Jul 27, 2021

For those living in 'Chennai', the city is not just a place but an emotion. The metropolis has stood beyond the test of time and has witnessed many historical events. Chennai which is more than 350 years old continues to upgrade itself to the modern world making it a special place always. Let us take a look at some of the significant features of the city.

Educational importance

Learn it large

The largest library of Asia is located in Kotturpuram, South Chennai. It boasts of a collection of nearly 10,00,000 books and magazines covering versatile topics. A separate Braille Section is located at ground floor, special care is taken to facilitate Braille readers in this section. This section has 1,500 printed Braille books, 145 e-books and 1080 Audio Books.

Engineering excellence

The College of Engineering, Guindy (CEG) is a public engineering college in Chennai, India and is Asia's oldest technical institution, founded in 1794. It is also the oldest technical institution to be established outside Europe. Under Tamilnadu State Government ownership, CEG covers around 223 acres of land right in the heart of Chennai. It serves as the main campus of Anna Technological and Research University.

Two in one

Two of the top ten engineering colleges in India are located on a single road. The IIT Madras and CEG are both located at the Sardar Patel road. This is one of the busiest stretches in the city as it also houses the Raj Bhavan.

Medicinal value

Madras Medical College (MMC) is a public medical college located in Chennai. It was established on 2 February 1835 during British Raj and is the third oldest medical college in India. The Government General Hospital was established on 16 November 1664 to treat soldiers of the British East India Company. A new campus with a six-storeyed building for Madras Medical College was built on land covering 325,000 square feet on the erstwhile central prison premises in 2010 and was completed in 2012. The campus has nearly 1,250 students and 400 faculty and staff members. The campus was built at a cost of Rs 566.3 million and started functioning in 2013.

Art in heart

The Madras School of Art in Chennai is the oldest art institution in India. The institution was established in 1850 by surgeon Alexander Hunter as a private art school. In 1852, after being taken over by the government, it was renamed as the Government School of Industrial Arts. In 1962, it was renamed as the Government School of Arts and Crafts and the Government College of Arts and Crafts, before finally being renamed as Government College of Fine Arts.

First of best

Higginbotham's is an Indian bookstore chain and publisher based in the city of Chennai. The company's first bookstore at Mount Road, Chennai is India's oldest bookshop in existence. Higginbotham's was renamed Higginbotham & Co in 1888. Abel was Sheriff of Madras during 1888 and 1889. During this period, he involved his son C H Higginbotham in the business. On Abel's death in 1891, the firm passed on to the hands of his son C H Higginbotham. C H expanded the business beyond Madras, and across South India.

Oldest school in India

St George's Anglo- Indian Higher Secondary School was founded in 1715 as the Military (later Madras) Male Orphan Asylum and is one of the oldest schools in the world and the oldest in India. It is affiliated to the Anglo-Indian Board of Education. It is situated in the heart of the city in Shenoy Nagar. The school is located on a land area of 21 acres , with a boarding house, dormitory, kitchen and playgrounds. The school provides education to over 1500 children from nursery up to the +2 level.

Nature and conservation

Largest crocodile park

Established in 1976 with a motto to protect three Indian endangered crocodile species - the saltwater crocodile, the mugger crocodile, and the gharial, this zoo is the largest crocodile sanctuary in India with 8.5 acres of land. The zoo houses over 2400 crocodiles including 14 out of 23 crocodile species of the entire world. Along with the crocodiles and alligators, the protected area is also a home to 12 endangered species of tortoises and turtles, 5 species of snakes including Asian water monitor and king cobra, and various species of lizards.

First zoo in India

Arignar Anna Zoological Park also known as Vandalur zoo is the first public zoo in India. Spread over an area of 602 hectares, including a 92.45-hectare rescue and rehabilitation centre, the park is the largest zoological park in India. The zoo houses 2,553 species of flora and fauna across 512-hectare. The main objectives of the park are ex-situ propagation of critically endangered species.

In and out

Guindy National Park is the eighth smallest National Park of India and one of the very few national parks situated inside a city. The park has a role in both ex-situ and in-situ conservation and is home to 400 blackbucks, 2,000 spotted deers, 24 jackals, a wide variety of snakes, geckos, tortoises and over 130 species of birds, 14 species of mammals, over 60 species of butterflies and spiders each, a wealth of different invertebrates—grasshoppers, ants, termites, crabs, snails, slugs, scorpions, mites, earthworms, millipedes, and the like. The in-situ conservation area attracts more than 700,000 visitors every year.

Make merry at Marina

Marina Beach in Chennai is the longest natural beach in the country and extends upto 12 km. The average width of the beach is 300 m and the width at the widest stretch is 437 m. It is one of the most crowded beaches in the country and attracts about 30,000 visitors a day during weekdays and 50,000 visitors a day during the weekends and on holidays.

Terrific trio

Chennai is the only city which has three rivers flowing through it. The Kosasthalaiyar to the north, the Adyar river to the south, and the Cooum flowing between them across central Chennai. The three rivers are connected by the Buckingham canal built in the 19th century for navigational purposes.

Infrastructure marvel

Longest stretch

Old Mahabalipuram Road also known as Rajiv Gandhi IT Expressway is the single largest IT corridor in India. The 45 km long road starts from Madhya Kailash and ends at East Coast Road near Mahabalipuram. The stretch is home to a number of BPO and IT/ITES companies. Several technical and educational institutions are also located along the corridor.

Old but gold

The Greater Chennai Corporation established on 29 September 1688 is one of the oldest municipal bodies of the Commonwealth of Nations outside Great Britain. It is among the oldest municipalities in Asia after Daman Municipality, which was established in 1588. It is headed by a mayor, who presides over 200 councillors each of whom represents one of the 200 wards of the city. It is the second oldest city civic body in the world after the City of London.

Shopping in style

Spencer Plaza located on Anna Salai is the oldest shopping mall in India. IT was one of the biggest shopping malls in South Asia when it was built. The building was designed by W N Pogson. In 1983, the original building was destroyed in a fire. The present Spencer Plaza was constructed on the same site, measuring about 10 acres, and was opened in 1991.

Justice is served here

The Madras High Court is the second oldest High Court of India after the Calcutta High Court in Kolkata. It exercises original jurisdiction over the city of Chennai and appellate jurisdiction over the entire state of Tamilnadu and Union territory of Puducherry. Covering 107 acres, the court complex is one of the largest in the world, next only to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, London. It consists of 74 judges and a chief justice who are in charge of the general policy adopted in the administration of justice.


Connecting in style

With Chennai's vehicular population having experienced a surge in the late 1990s, several flyovers were built to reduce the traffic congestion in the city, thus making it the City of Flyovers. As of 2017, there are 35 functional flyovers in the city and around 150 bridges including 12 rail over bridges. The city's first flyover is the Anna Flyover at the Gemini Circle built in 1973, which was the third in India. It was also the longest flyover in the country when it was built.

Largest cloverleaf flyover

Kathipara Junction is an important road junction in Chennai, India. It is located at Alandur at the intersection of the Grand Southern Trunk Road, Inner Ring Road, Anna Salai and Mount-Poonamallee Road. Kathipara flyover is the largest cloverleaf flyover in Asia. The main span of the flyover connecting Inner Ring Road and GST Road was opened to traffic on 9 April 2008 and the entire section was opened to the public on 26 October 2008.

Oldest railway station

The Royapuram railway station is on the Chennai Beach–Arakkonam section of the Chennai Suburban Railway network in Chennai. It is one of the oldest railway stations currently functioning in India. It is also the first railway station of South India. The first train of South India started operating in June 1856 from Royapuram railway station. The station also remained the headquarters of the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway till 1922, when the headquarters was shifted to Egmore. Royapuram station remains the oldest railway station in the entire subcontinent.

Anchoring it all

Chennai is the only city in India which has 3 international ports. Chennai Port is one of the largest artificial and the third oldest port in India. Kamarajar Port Limited formerly known as Ennore Port is the 12th major port of India and is also the first port in India which is a public company. There is also a minor port called Kattupalli Shipyard. Apart from this there is also the Royapuram Fishing Harbour which is one of the major fishing grounds in Chennai. The fishing harbour has been functioning since 1984.

Get, set, go

Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus is the largest bus terminus in Asia. The terminus has 6 platforms in 3 bus fingers with 180 bus bays. It also has an idle parking area for 60 buses and can station 270 buses at any given time. The terminus has a capacity to handle over 2,000 buses and 200,000 passengers a day. Meanwhile a bus terminus is being constructed at Kilambakkam to decongest the CMBT. It is an integrated bus terminus of mofussil buses of government buses, omni buses, and MTC buses. Once completed Kilambakkam will overtake CMBT as the largest bus terminus in Asia.

Industrial development

Rolling it out

Integral Coach Factory (ICF) is a manufacturer of rail coaches located in Perambur. It was established in 1955 and is owned and operated by the Indian Railways. The coach factory primarily manufactures rolling stock for Indian Railways but also exports railway coaches to other countries. ICF set a new record producing 2,503 coaches in the fiscal year 2017–2018. It became the world's largest railway coach manufacturer, rolling out 3,262 coaches in the fiscal year 2018–2019, up from 1,437 coaches in 2009–2010. The Integral Coach Factory was initiated by Chief Minister K. Kamaraj and was inaugurated by the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru on 2 October 1955.

Automobile hub

Oragadam has been touted as Chennai's largest and the most developed industrial belt. With over 22 Fortune 500 companies, the Sriperumbudur–Oragadam belt has seen tremendous industrial growth in less than 4 years. The town is known for its various industries and workshops pertaining to the automobile sector. Oragadam along with Sriperumbudur has seen major investments from foreign companies in recent times.

225 years old legacy

East India Distilleries (EID) Parry Limited is a public company headquartered in Chennai that has been in business for more than 225 years. It has many firsts to its credit, including the manufacturing of fertilizers (1906) for the first time in the Indian subcontinent. The company is currently engaged in the manufacture and marketing of sugar and bio-products. Parry's is the oldest surviving mercantile name in Chennai.

Taking lives forward

MRF is the largest tyre manufacturer in India. It serves its headquarters in Chennai. It was established in 1946 and since then, has supplied the country with high quality radials like few others have ever managed. The company manufactures rubber products. Madras Rubber Factory was started by K M Mammen Mappillai as a toy balloon manufacturing unit in 1946 at Tiruvottiyur, Madras (now Chennai). In 1952, the company ventured into the manufacture of tread rubber.

Living the 'Royal' life

Chennai is the headquarters of Royal Enfield bikes. In 1949 K R Sundaram Iyer launched Madras Motors to import British motorcycles into India, including Royal Enfields. Madras Motors received an order from the Indian Army for 500 350cc Bullets. The Redditch company partnered with Madras Motors in India to form 'Enfield India'. Work commenced on the construction of a purpose-built factory at Tiruvottiyur, near Chennai. The Tiruvottiyur factory opened in 1956 and Bullets began to be manufactured under license.

Detroit of Asia

Chennai is fondly called as the Detroit of Asia as it is the single largest automobile manufacturer in Asia. The 4-wheeler vehicles in Chennai are the base of 30% of India's automobile industry and 35% of its automobile component industry. Besides the commercial industry, the Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) has been established in Avadi to produce military related vehicles. Avadi also boasts of the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE), a new engine testing facility.

Historical feats

First of all

Athirampakkam is a village located 60 kilometers away from Chennai. The oldest known stone tools in India were discovered near the village which became the type site for the Madrasian culture.

One and only

Chennai is the only Indian city attacked during the First world war. The bombardment was initiated by the German light cruiser Emden at the outset of the war in 1914. After entering the Madras harbour area, Captain Karl von Müller illuminated six large oil tanks belonging to the Burmah Oil Company with his searchlights, then fired at a range of 3,000 yards. After ten minutes of firing, Emden had hit five of the tanks and destroyed 346,000 gallons of fuel, and the cruiser then successfully retreated.

Flying high

Giacomo D'Angelis was a Corsican-Indian hotelier and aviation pioneer who piloted the first powered airplane flight in Asia in Madras (Chennai), India on 10 March 1910. The biplane was built by D'Angelis entirely from his own designs, experimenting with a small horse-power engine. D'Angelis tested his aeroplane in Pallavaram and then arranged a public viewing in March 1910. Incidentally, Madras would set up its first aerodrome in near the same spot much later.

Madras regiment

The Madras Regiment is the oldest infantry regiment of the Indian Army, originating in the 1750s. The regiment took part in numerous campaigns with both the British Indian Army and the post-independence Indian Army. The Madras Regiment was initially formed as the Madras European Regiment in the 1660s by the East India Company as the second company established in India. However, it was formed as a battalion in 1748 under the command of Major Stringer Lawrence. The battalion was involved in all the battles against the French forces in India. The Madras Regiment has taken part in various humanitarian aid operations in India. It has also taken part in various UN Peacekeeping missions.

Oldest Church of Asia

St. Mary's church is one of the oldest churches in India and Asia. Elihu Yale ( who started Yale University in the US) was married here when he lived in Chennai. Also this place has a masterpiece Raphael in its hall. This is one of the oldest surviving churches built by the British in India. This is the first English church in India and the oldest Anglican church in the East.

Tourism is in heart

Vanakkam vaazha veikum Chennai

The traditional and de facto gateway of South India, Chennai is among the most-visited Indian cities by foreign tourists. It was ranked the 43rd-most visited city in the world for the year 2015 and was ranked the 36th-most visited city in the world for the year 2019.

Delivering the best

Chennai is also known as Mecca for medical tourism. Chennai attracts 45 percent of health tourists visiting India, and 30 to 40 percent of domestic health tourists. As such, it is termed "India's health capital". Multi- and super-specialty hospitals across the city bring in an estimated 150 international patients every day. Factors behind the tourists' inflow in the city include low costs, little to no waiting period, and facilities offered at the specialty hospitals in the city.

Food and entertainment

Chicken 65

The first and most popular theory suggests that Chicken 65 was invented in Tamilnadu by A M Buhari in the year 1965. It was introduced at the Buhari Hotel, a fine dining restaurant in Chennai which used to offer Chicken 78 and Chicken 82, and still sells the Chicken 90.

Check mate

Out of the 67 Grandmasters India have, Tamilnadu has led the battalion as the clear first with 24 GMs. Ever since 1961, when Manuel Aaron returned to the then Madras, winning the country's first IM title, and Vishwanathan Anand took it a level higher after being crowned the first grandmaster from India, Chennai has been regularly churning out chess champs. The city has recorded to its name, the country's first International Master, the first Grandmaster, the first female Grandmaster, and the first International Arbiter.

Larger than life

AVM studios was established in 1945 by AV Meiyappan Chettiar. It is located in 25 acres of land of the prime area in Vadapalani, Chennai. It has to its credit producing more than 174 films in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Bengali, Kannada, Hindi and even Sinhalese languages. Meiyappan Chettiar had an obsession with cinema. He started off as a gramophone seller and then established a studio in a thatched house in Karaikudi, his hometown. This famed studio is now in its late Seventies. People in the city are very fond of cinema. Tamil film industry which has its base at Kodambakkam has given five Chief Ministers to the State.

Safe and Secure

Big brother is watching

Chennai has 657 cameras per sq km, making it the number one city in the world in terms of surveillance. Chennai has the maximum CCTV coverage per square kilometre and per 1,000 population among the 130 cities studied worldwide, according to a recent report published in South Asia Journal.

Tracks and Trails

Row your boat

The Madras Boat Club, located in Chennai is one of the oldest rowing centres in India. There are records to show that the club was first started in the backwaters of Ennore, and pictures of the rowing course lying alongside the sailing course are still available in the club's archives. Later, in 1892, the club was moved to its present location on the banks of the Adyar river. The early records of the club reveal that in 1874–75 there was a membership of about 32 rowing members and 24 non-rowing members.

Racing is in its blood

Chennai has the oldest race tracks in India, both horse race and motor race. The Guindy Race Course is a horse racing course set up in 1777 in Chennai, India. It is the oldest race course in India. It hosts events in the winter season. The club now has about 625 horses in the station, three stands and boasts of the best race track in the country. The racing season begins in November and goes on till March after which races are conducted in Ooty between April and June. The Madras Motor Race Track is a permanent motor racing circuit located in Irungattukottai, Chennai. It was built in the late 1980s and was inaugurated in 1990. It was the first permanent racing circuit in India and is owned by the Madras Motor Sports Club.

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