"Chennai disowns Madras" Chennai (Madras) by IoannaE
Chennai (Madras) Travel Guide: 454 reviews and 929 photos
A few days before flying to Chennai I came across a weblog in which a young man pondered the effects of the city's name change. He concluded that it was a good thing because the town's much more fun as Chennai than it ever was as Madras. I'm no judge of the local nightlife, but certainly in many other ways the city has changed drastically.
Ten or twelve years ago guidebooks to Madras described it as a charming city with a slower pace than the Northern towns, full of old mansions and green spaces. Well, the pace has become much more hectic, the old mansions are being demolished at an unseemly pace to make way for even more highrises, and flyovers and billboards disfigure or conceal many (formerly?) green spaces. Pollution, especially noise pollution, is diabolical, and despite all the new roadworks very little provision is made for pedestrians. Having to dodge Chennai's traffic is nobody’s idea of relaxing and everyone’s of scary!
This fast pace of 'development' is largely due to the IT revolution. Economic change has certainly brought increased prosperity to Chennai, but I don't think it's made much difference to the poor. You need only make a detour off a main street in central Chennai to come across a poor neighborhood or slum.
That said, you shouldn’t just head straight out of town once you get here (although it might make sense to do just that, spending a few days there just before you leave South India to see the town and do some shopping).
The museum has, among other treasures, a fabulous collection of Chola bronzes, impressively displayed to boot; many beautiful colonial-era public buildings have survived; the Kapaleeshwar temple can serve as an introduction to Dravidian temple architecture and ambience; and for all the frenzied modernity Chennai is still the cultural capital of the Tamils– that is, the cultural capital of a very old and very rich culture. On no account miss the annual music festival, held here in December-January; and check the local papers (cultural pages in The Hindu) to catch performances all year round if you have the slightest interest in classical music and dance.
And remember, when the heat, traffic and noise get too much, there’s always Marina Beach….
- Pros:Cultural capital of South India
- Cons:Noise, traffic, heat
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