City Centre Shopping Tour
Chennai has an excellent selection of handicrafts and handwoven textiles from the state. From shimmering silks in glowing colours and finely woven cottons to jewellery and replicas of Cholas bronzes, the choice is enormous. The city’s shopping centres include up-market department stores, malls and trendy boutiques, as well as the vibrant local bazaars, which sell a wide range of merchandise. Chennai’s oldest department store, Spencer’s, partially burned down in the 1980s and has now been rebuilt as a modern mall.
Inaugurated in 1996, this heritage village mirrors one of the ancient cultures of the world. It has 18 heritage houses that represent the living styles of people from the states of South India such as Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Telangana. The artefacts give you a splendid display of art and craft, lifestyle, music, and dance. It boasts of a huge collection of ancient pictures. The Chettiar mansion is on view, with its elaborately carved wooden door, while the homes of priests, farmers, weavers and potters are simple yet elegant structures. The village also organises guided tours, workshops and demonstrations of folk theatre.
Tamil Nadu Temple Trail
The magnificent history of the temples in Tamil Nadu reveals the architectural brilliance of the ancient centuries. Mahabalipuram is famous for its rock-carved temples. Kanchipuram is home to major places of worship like the huge Ekambareshvara temple. Chidambaram, a few hours south of Pondicherry is home to Shabhanayaka Nataraja Temple, whose central deity is the famous bronze image of Shiva Nataraj dancing in the wheel of fire. The evening puja echoes with clashing cymbals and cries of devotees.
Note: This experience requires a full day because the temples are several hours’ drive away. Each site is approximately 1.5 hours from the previous site. Alternatively, consider visiting one site in the temple trail. Mahabalipuram is the nearest site.
Pre-dating even the city of which it’s a part, Mylapore, also known as Thirumayilai, is considered by many as the nucleus from which Chennai city emerged. The word Mylapore literally translates to the ‘land of the peacock scream’. Before commercialisation, peacocks thrived here, as it also served as a temple centre and had long been a site of cultural importance for Brahmins. Mylapore is known for its tree-lined avenues and is home to hundreds of temples, churches and mosques. The Kapalesswarar Temple, one of the most famous temples of Chennai known for its intricate designs is located in Mylapore as well as the 16th century Santhome Cathedral.
Pondicherry - Requires an overnight stay
Once a French colony, Pondicherry, now officially called Puducherry breaks the monotony of Dravadian architecture with its French influence and appearance. A three-hour drive from Chennai, this place provides you with a tranquil vibe. Colloquially called Pondy, it houses the internationally famous Sri Aurobindo Ashram, one of the wealthiest in India and Auroville, the city of dawn. One can also satiate their hunger pangs as Pondy is popular for its eateries that cover various cuisines like French, Italian and Indian. There are several bakeries that cater to one’s sweet tooth too. The recommended way of transport around Pondy is walking as many sights are within a few kilometres.
Chennai’s seashore hosts one of India’s largest urban beaches, stretching for 13 km (8 miles) along the city’s eastern flank. Called “one of the most beautiful marine promenades in the world”, it is a favourite place for Chennai’s citizens to escape the humid heat of the city and enjoy the sea breezes. The walk takes in parks, tree-lined cobbled streets and spectacular colonial and Indo-Saracenic buildings.
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