Chennai - Madras

Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is a huge city with a population of over 7 million. It is the capital city of the southeastern federal state Tamil Nadu. Chennai is the third largest city of India. Even larger cities are Kolkatta (Calcutta), Mumbai (Bombay) and New Delhi.

The name Madras is derived from Madraspatnam, the village that the English discovered in 1639 when they founded a trading post for the East India Company there. They built the Fort St. George (that still exists) and from here the City developed itself to become the economic and administrative centre of the surrounding area.

The city still has a number of large colonial buildings from the English period in a typical mixed British-Indian style, such as the Government Museum and several railway stations.

Chennai is a trading town with its important sea port. There are also a number of foreign companies that benefit from favourable tax stipulations and the inevitable outsourcing companies that provide ict services for Western companies in particular. Tourists often disregard Chennai, the city does not have so many tourist attractions.

In Chennai, there is a scandalous contrast between rich and poor. The economic boom has led to luxurious business parks and ditto residential areas. In addition, the largest part of the urban population still lives in slums or literally on the street. Instead of growing smaller, the gap is only getting bigger. Like the other big Indian cities Chennai works like a magnet to the people of the rural area. Many come here to try their luck and often don’t come any further than the street or a hut in the slums.

Chennai isn’t only a business capital, but also the capital city of the dance. The South Indian classical dance Bharatha Natyam is taught here by many gurus and the most famous dance school Kalakshetra is located in the city. The inhabitants of Chennai are proud of their beach, Marina Beach, which, according to them is the largest city beach in the world. Everybody goes there in the evening to enjoy the cool sea breeze and to wander along the many illuminated stalls selling food and trinkets.