Toll Free No: 1800-425-31111

Colonial Cousins

Chennai is graced with a rich architectural legacy from the times of British colonial rule. Part 19 of an Outlook special on lesser-known aspects of Tamil Nadu as a tourist destination.

In Chennai, majestic heritage buildings that were once testament to the influence of the British East India Company and then, the might of the British empire, are today government offices, museums, libraries, educational institutions and embassies. 

Museum musings 

The first among these equals is the Government Museum, Chennai or Madras Museum as it is popularly known. The Museum sprawls across the 16-acre Pantheon Complex and has six buildings and 46 galleries. 

The most remarkable building in this cultural complex is perhaps the Museum Theatre. Designed in the Italianate style, it is intriguing as it reflects an architectural pattern not prevalent in England at that time. The edifice is imposing in its bones and charming in its details – with walls and pillars carved with intricate floral and geometrical motifs. 

The second-oldest museum in India and one of the oldest in the world, the Madras Museum proudly displays valuable artefacts. Exhibits range from South Indian bronzes, Amravati figures, Thanjavur armoury, Chola King Raja Raja I’s hoard of gold coins to prehistoric stone equipment. 

The Pantheon Complex also houses the National Art Gallery and the Connemara Public Library– both stunning buildings. The 113-year-old National Art Gallery building is a beautiful pink sandstone structure, designed by architect Henry Irwin and said to be inspired by Akbar’s Buland Darwaza in Fatehpur Sikri. While the gallery is closed to visitors, the visual delight the building offers is more than enough to merit a visit. 

Word’s worth

The Connemara Public Library is another fabulous example of the Indo-Saracenic style. Also designed by Henry Irwin, the building’s huge halls, high wooden archways and painted ceilings are populated by carvings of animals. The library houses centuries-old rare books that are a bibliophile’s delight. 

Another stately building that probably was the first to be built (1798 AD) is Doveton House – named after John Doveton, a Lieutenant General with the Madras Cavalry of East India Company. It was initially used as a guesthouse for visiting English officers. The pillared façade and the arched half-moon-shaped staircase are elements of style at the time and make it very similar to a famous contemporaneous building –the White House. Through its history, the building has been used to jail prisoners, and to be the official residence of Sir Ralph Benson, a Judge of the High Court, before finally becoming home to the Women’s Christian College. 

A mason’s delight

Yet another elegant edifice is the Freemason’s Hall which will complete a century in 2023. The pillared, two-storey structure is embellished with Italian marble and tiles and can accommodate 200 people. The building still serves the purpose for which it was built - the walls are decorated with masonic emblems. This is a must-visit because of its aesthetics.     

In state

Another beautiful heritage building with a chequered history is Rajaji Hall. Etched in public memory as the building where people pay their last respects to departed leaders and public figures, pre-Independence the building played host to grand state celebrations. 

Chennai’s colonial architectural treasures are a mix of well-known monuments and well-kept secrets, both fascinating and fabulous that can satisfy the visitors’ aesthetic sensibilities, their love of history and heritage as well as providing an island of peace in the hustle and bustle of modern-day life.

And once you have had your fill of the buildings in the city, you can head to Elliot’s Beach, one of the cleanest beaches in the country. Named after Edward Francis Elliot, a chief magistrate and superintendent of police from British times, where you can enjoy nature’s serenity, streetside snacks and relish memories of your tour through the lingering remnants of British times. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Blogs

Cuisines of the Tamil Land

The delectable cuisine of Tamil Nadu is a culinary style which dates to antiquity and has since influenced the other states of South and South-East Asia.

7 months ago

Explore the regional cuisine of Tamil Nadu

Next time you visit Tamil Nadu explore beyond idli, vada and sambar. Instead savour each regional cuisine that boasts of unique cooking methods and spices. They have been backed with heirloom family recipes, ancient culture and traditions, community history and external influences.

7 months ago

Sweet Savouries from Tamil Nilam

No meal can be treated as complete without the desserts. The indulgent desserts of Tamil Nadu are exquisite and nutritious. Most are healthy preparations using less sugar and include healthy proteins like green gram and chickpea.

7 months ago

A relic of bygone Chola power & prosperity

The great Chola king, Rajaraja II (1143 CE –1173 CE), built the Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram, which is ranked only third after the two famed Chola temples of Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram. Read more...

7 months ago

Explore the Surreal Kolli Hills

Dazzling through the woods on top of hills of the Eastern ghats is the road that bends the most. Located in the high altitudes of the Eastern ghats, the Kolli Hills derive their name from the Goddess who guards the hills-ettukai Amman, also called the Kollipavai. Run wild and free in the unrevealed greenery.

7 months ago

The mountains are calling...

Check out these five lesser-known but pristine hill stations of Tamil Nadu that will certainly leave you spellbound. Explore the unexplored.

7 months ago

On the sands of time

The southernmost tip of India is a charming town blessed with beautiful temples, historical monuments and serene beaches. Kanniyakumari has been and remains a preferred destination for tourists. Part 5 of an Outlook special on tourism in Tamil Nadu.

3 months ago

Of faith and history

A district steeped in the history of faith, with links to epic legends as well as to modern-day visionaries, Ramanathapuram delights those who love history, gladdens the hearts of nature lovers and soothes the souls of spiritual seekers. Part 6 of an Outlook Special on tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu.

3 months ago

Of Worship and Waterfalls

A unique corner of Tamil Nadu, the newly-formed district of Tenkasi is home to spectacular waterfalls and ancient temples. A visit to Tenkasi is balm for the soul. Part 7 of an Outlook special on unexplored tourist spots in Tamil Nadu.

3 months ago

Unstained Salem

Synonymous with stainless steel, Salem’s other charms usually go unremarked. About 160 km from Coimbatore, this small city on the route to many better-known getaway destinations is overlooked by tourists. While religious travellers flock here, Salem is as significant for its lush greenery, waterfalls and rich history. Part 9 of an Outlook Special on unknown tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu.

3 months ago

Of forts, faith and food

Replete with a unique history and heritage, nature and nuance, culture and cuisine are the town and district of Dindigul in Tamil Nadu. Part 9 of an Outlook Special on lesser-known tourist spots takes you on a tour of this unforgettable destination.

3 months ago

Gift of the Forest

One of the top hill stations of Tamil Nadu, Kodaikanal has many well-known attractions. Yet, in spite of its popularity, it remains a serene island and retains the simple charm of a century ago. Part 10 of an Outlook special series on tourist spots of Tamil Nadu.

3 months ago

Yours Truly, Trichy

With its magnificent houses of worship and its heavy industries, the symbols of its past glory and the titles of its present significance, Trichy is an intriguing city. Part 11 of an Outlook Special series on Tamil Nadu tourism.

3 months ago

Magical Madurai

Bustling and yet soulful, ancient and yet modern, cultured and progressive, Madurai epitomises the best of Tamil Nadu. Part 12 of an Outlook special on tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu.

3 months ago

Of serenity and spirituality

Enveloped in an ambience of spirituality, Thiruvannamalai is one of the most serene destinations in Tamil Nadu. Part 13 of an Outlook special on lesser-known destinations in the state.

3 months ago

A town of temples

Tamil Nadu has a plethora of towns famous for their temples. But Kumbakonam is special among these. Part 14 of an Outlook special on lesser-known destinations in the state.

3 months ago

The Town of the Cosmic Dance

Yet another beautiful temple town built by the Cholas, Chidambaram has a quaint charm in addition to its spiritual significance. Part 15 of an Outlook special on tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu.

3 months ago

Of serenity and scenery

Endless greenery, unique temples, interesting festivals and wildlife reserves make Pollachi in Tamil Nadu an intriguing destination. Part 17 of an Outlook special on lesser-known destinations in the state.

3 months ago

A Festival of Kite Runners

This Independence Day weekend over the Bay of Bengal, kite history will be created! The state of Tamil Nadu welcomes kite flying culture on the most historic weekend of India as it celebrates 75 years of Independence!

2 months ago

A Trail Along The Coromandel Coast

Azure waters, clear skies, and shimmering sand. Tamil Nadu is where each beach lover's heaven exists

2 months ago

From 16th Century To Now, The Past Still Lives On

Discover the beauty left behind by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British, the Scottish, and the Irish in Tamil Nadu

2 months ago

15 free things to do in Chennai, India's southern capital

Chennai, the steamy capital of Tamil Nadu, is huge, sometimes hectic, and a perfect introduction to the wonderful, frenetic energy of South India. The city sprawls for miles along one of the world’s largest urban beaches, dotted with temples, museums, Raj relics, and restaurants serving what could well be the world’s finest vegetarian cuisine.

2 months ago

6 top day trips from Chennai for steamy southern adventures

Often overlooked by the crowds who flock to Delhi and Mumbai, fascinating, foodie Chennai is the gateway to India’s steamy south. Within easy striking distance of the Tamil Nadu capital are timeless temple towns, coastal nature reserves, old colonial outposts and beach resorts that are as popular for monsoon watching as sitting on the sand.

2 months ago

Of cuisine and culture

In the beautiful state of Tamil Nadu, is a quaint town that is typical as well as atypical of the state in several intriguing ways. Part 17 of an Outlook special on lesser-known destinations in Tamil Nadu looks at Karaikudi

1 month ago

History, built up

In our times of matchbox apartments and crowded parks, uninspired design and soulless malls, Chennai offers up a slice of both grandeur and grace through its several heritage buildings reflective of colonial times. Part 18 of an Outlook special on lesser-known destinations in Tamil Nadu

1 month ago

Pockets of Portugal

Much before the British established their stronghold over India, the Portuguese had established trade relations with the country. Heritage buildings in various parts of India reflect traces of Portuguese architectural traditions. While Goa might come first to mind, Tamil Nadu also has quite a few imprints of Portuguese culture. Part 20 of an Outlook special on lesser-known places of interest in the state.

1 month ago

Portal to Portugal

The imprint of the Portuguese in Tamil Nadu has a long history that predates the British, the Dutch and the French. This is still evident today in some churches and other buildings that remain, offering travellers who are interested in history and heritage an intriguing glimpse of our past. Part 21 of an Outlook special on lesser-known travel ideas in Tamil Nadu.

1 month ago

Scots and the city

The East India Company and the British Empire’s presence in Tamil Nadu caused an influx of officers, officials and men from not just England but Scotland and Ireland. This also left a distinctive and beautiful imprint on the landscape of Tamil Nadu, especially its architecture. Part 22 of an Outlook special on lesser-known travel ideas in Tamil Nadu.

1 month ago

The magic of Marghazi

Marghazi. From the name of an auspicious month to a word synonymous with a month-long festival of music and dance today, as the global cultural cognoscenti will attest to. Part 23 of an Outlook special on tourism in Tamil Nadu gives you a peek into one of the world’s biggest music festivals.

1 month ago

The dance of history

The Shore Temple. Magnificent sculptures. Windswept beaches. The whisper of waves. That is Mahabalipuram every day. But, for a month every year, it becomes a stage for the tinkle of anklets, the beat of the drum and the glorious sight of dancers in tandem. Part 24 of an Outlook special series on the tourism events and destinations of Tamil Nadu - the Indian Dance Festival.

1 month ago

Attractions

Here's a list of top attractions in Tamil Nadu that you must experience at the very next opportunity.

#TamilnaduTourism

Check out the world know your way of experiencing Tamil Nadu

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter Sign up for Tamilnadu Tourism's monthly newsletter to learn about our events, offers and more...