15 Fun And Interesting Facts About Chennai, India [Explained]

Please note that some posts may contain affiliate links. We may earn a commission should you choose to purchase using these links but at absolutely no extra cost to you.

Chennai is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu. It is also one of the largest cities in India. Located on the coast of the Bay of Bengal, many interesting facts about Chennai showcase the city’s diverse history, culture, and attractions.

Historical Facts About Chennai

Chennai may be advancing rapidly, but the city also has centuries of rich heritage. It has been an important center of activity since ancient times. Here are some fascinating historical facts about Chennai.

Chennai Was Previously Known As Madras

Chennai was originally known as Madras. It was renamed in 1996 when the Indian government changed the names of a lot of cities to resonate with the local culture. One very interesting Chennai fact is that despite the official name change, many people still refer to the city as Madras.

Chennai Was Attacked In World War I

Chennai was the only Indian city attacked by the Germans during World War I. The attack happened in 1914, and it was carried out by a German ship called Emden. 

The Oldest Surviving English Language Newspaper In India Was Started In Chennai

The Madras Courier, established in 1785, is the oldest surviving English-language newspaper in India. It was founded by publisher Richard Johnston. The newspaper covered domestic and foreign news and was circulated widely across British India.

Cultural Facts About Chennai 

Chennai is the heart of Tamil culture. It has preserved ancient art forms, classical dance traditions, and temples. Here are some cultural facts about Chennai.

The Dance Form Bharatanatyam Originated Here


India is famous for several classical dances. Bharatanatyam is a famous classical Indian dance form that originated in Tamil Nadu. Traditionally, it was performed by temple dancers. 

The popularity of Bharatanatyam faded away with time. However, in the first part of the 20th century, a choreographer and lawyer, by the names Rukmini Devi Arundale and E. Krishna Iyer respectively, revived the dance form. 

Bharatanatyam is now celebrated as one of India’s most graceful classical dance styles.

It Is A Hub For Tamil Cinema

Bollywood is a big film industry; however, India also has several local state-based film industries. Chennai is the base for the Tamil film industry, dubbed Kollywood. 

Tamil cinema is popular across South India and Sri Lanka. Several prominent production houses and Bollywood film personalities are based here. 

Tamil Is The Most Widely Spoken Language

Another intriguing fact about Chennai is that Tamil is the most widely spoken language in the city. While Hindi is India’s official language, it is less commonly used in the state of Tamil Nadu. Signboards across Chennai are predominantly in English and Tamil. 

Sundal Is the Most Popular Food


Chennai is famous for its flavorful and spicy cuisine. Popular Indian food includes idli, dosa, and sundal. 

Sundal is the most popular dish in Chennai. It is a spicy lentil salad mixed with onions, curry leaves, grated coconut, salt, chilies, turmeric, cumin, and mustard seeds.

Simple Facts About Chennai For Kids

Here are some basic facts about Chennai that kids will find interesting.

Chennai Has India’s Largest Zoo


The Arignar Anna Zoological Park, more commonly known as the Vandalur Zoo, is India’s largest zoo. The zoo spans over 1490 acres. Opened in 1985, it is home to over 171 species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds. 

Chennai Is Nicknamed “The Detroit Of South Asia” 

One of the fun facts about Chennai is that it is nicknamed “the Detroit of South Asia” due to its large automotive industry. The region around Chennai produces a big proportion of India’s cars and auto parts. You can also find dealerships of major international brands like Ford.  

Useful Chennai Facts For Travelers

If you are visiting Chennai, these interesting facts will help you better understand the city.

The Second Longest Beach In The World Is In Chennai

Beach lovers from all over the world are going to love this fact about Chennai. Marina Beach in Chennai is the second longest beach in the world, spanning 13 km of sandy coastline along the Bay of Bengal. 

Both locals and tourists enjoy the beach for its beautiful sunset views, food stalls, and lively festive atmosphere. It is a great place for swimming, spending time with family or just taking a relaxing stroll.

There Are Many Ancient Temples In Chennai


There are many historic and architecturally impressive temples across Chennai showcasing ancient Hindu temple art and culture. Key temples to visit include Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Parthasarathy Temple, Shirdi Sai Baba Temple, and the very popular temples of Mahabalipuram. 

If you are visiting Chennai, then you should never miss a visit to the temples of Mahabalipuram. They are some of the best landmarks in India.

Chennai Is Famous For Silk Sarees 


Kanjeevaram silk sarees hail from Kanchipuram near Chennai. These premium silk sarees are known for their vibrant colors and ornate designs. 

As a traditional symbol of Tamil culture, these sarees can be expensive. However, if you are visiting Chennai from another country, they are a great souvenir for the women in your life. 

Common Facts About Chennai

Here are some well-known common facts about Chennai to understand the city better.

Jallikattu Is A Popular Sport

Jallikattu is a traditional sport played in Chennai where a bull is released into a crowd and participants try to ride it or hold on as long as possible. Though controversial due to cruelty to animals, it takes place annually during Pongal celebrations and is a test of bravery.

Chennai Is Known As The Gateway To South India

Chennai is known as the Gateway to South India due to its culture, geography, and strategic location. The city introduces visitors to the traditions of South India. It serves as an important entry point for trade and tourism. 

Chennai’s international airport and seaport also connect it to major cities worldwide, enabling people and cargo to flow into the southern states. Its technology sector and manufacturing plants drive innovation, making it a major economic center in the southern part of India.

Other Interesting Facts About Chennai 

Here are some fascinating facts about Chennai to know about.

Oscar Winner Musician AR Rahman Was Born In Chennai

Legendary Indian composer AR Rahman was born in Chennai. He has won acclaim both in India and internationally for his original music scores and songs in over 100 films. 

Rahman has won two Oscars, one Golden Globe, two Grammy Awards, and many national awards. He was nicknamed Mozart of Madras by music critic Stephen Holden.

Discovering More Fun Facts About Chennai

Traveling to Chennai can be a great and one-of-a-kind experience. From ancient port to modern metropolis, Chennai has a long and storied journey. These interesting facts about Chennai show the city’s diverse nature as an economic and cultural hub in India. 



Book Your Flight

I usually use a combination of 2-3 of the following search engines to find cheap flights: Skyscanner, Momondo, Google Flights

Find Your Accommodation

Booking.com is my usual platform for finding accommodation options as they have one of the largest selections. Hostelworld is great for booking hostels. For more private or long term accommodation, Airbnb is my go-to platform.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is important for to protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances. I usually look at a few insurance companies depending on my travel needs.
  • SafetyWings for Travel Health Insurance
  • IMG Global for added Insurance when doing activities outside of usual coverage
Packing for your trip? Check out the packing list for ideas on what to bring

For more travel resources, check out my resources page for best platforms and companies to use when you travel.

More Adventures


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


other stories