Chennai India
flickr image by Aleksandr Zykov

Chasing Chennai

One minute in the streets of Chennai is enough to rattle the nerves of anyone.

Standing in a cloud of exhaust left from the tuk tuk that just swindled you out of your money, you look around trying to get your bearings. The heat is blistering, and the sweat rolling down your head is washing away the dirt from the street resting on your skin. Cars honk, because that is what they do in India. If cars did not honk in India, no one would drive them. With two days planned in this crazy city, you think to yourself that you need to get away and gather yourself.

Chennai tours

flickr image by Emmanuel Dyan

Finding a decent hotel, you get some water in you and a short stint in front of the air conditioner. The local guidebook is sitting on the bedside table, so you grab it with hopes of finding a starting direction. You decide that in order to understand the way the city works, you should learn how it came to be. Therefore, you will chase down the past by heading out to the top historical sites of Chennai.

Why not start with a couple historic Temples to get into the spirit of India? The first one you visit is Parthasarathy Temple. You are blown away by the intricate designs and sculptures adorning the inside and outside of the temple. This temple is actually one of the oldest buildings in Chennai, and a great start to your race to understand more about the fourth largest city in India.

The second temple you see is Marundeeswara. The size of the land inside the walls makes you feel small. You decide to get a guide, who informs you about the history and the more recent renovations that restored this massive temple back to its original splendor. You learn the story of the Ramayana is depicted in the statues that surround the seven ascending levels of the temple. After a short rest at the small lake temple, you decide to head to the beach.

Chennai Beach India

flickr image by sjdunphy

The guide tells you that the great Vivekananda passed through the area on his way to the southern tip of India, where he would find his greatest wisdom. You decide that if you are to see the beach, then you should go to the Ice House on Marina Beach. On arrival you are immediately taken by the Victorian design and how it differs to the ancient temple designs you just saw. It is a clear reminder of the British influence in India. You learn about the powerful message that Vivekananda taught the people of India. In fact, it was his words to the religious leaders of the world at a conference in America in the 1890’s that introduced Himduism to the world. Later, his teaching would inspire Sri. Aurobindo to start the movement that would lead to India’s independence. As you sit on the beach across the street from the Ice House, you are finally able to take in the day you have had. From the excitement of your entrance into the city, to the rush to get in some sites, you were a little frazzled. Seeing the ancient temples put you into the spirit of ancient Chennai. The English architecture of the Ice House showed you the inextricable history shared between India and England, and the message of Vivekananda and the freedom of country and spirit that it lead to showed you the full circle of how all things eventually return to where they started. With so much in so little time today, who knows what tomorrow will hold.

Date posted: 11th April, 2013

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