Many of the women in Chennai wear orange blossom garlands in their hair, and the scent, wafting behind them in the warm air, is a sensual delight!
You can see women stringing the flowers onto thread to create the garlands everywhere - I found the best place to buy them was outside Egmore Station. They make garlands out of other flowers too, which seem to be bought as temple offerings, but the orange blossom ones seem to be the ones to wear.
Chennai Sangamam is an arts festival showcasing various arts of Tamil Nadu held evrey January. Chennai Sangamam is all about Chennai and the best of it. That is why it attracts thousands of tourists from arround the world.
Be prepared for noise - constant, piercing noise. Most vehicles have horns and backup alarms that sound like bad cell phone ringers ("Silent Night," for example, but ending at "all is bright," and with two notes flat - infuriating). Elevators yell at you when you don't shut them properly. People yell to each other for everything.
Be prepared for being stared at, especially if you're fair. No harm is meant, it's mostly curiosity. Although I've had enough little kids stop and stare wide-eyed and drop-jawed that I'm tempted to wear a little sign saying "Homo sapiens, northern variety. Do not feed chilies." Most everyone is very friendly, though, given the chance. Smile back, you'll be rewarded.
Nearly everything is enclosed with walls - many, many of those walls are topped with barbed wire or, more disturbingly, big shards of glass. Government buildings, okay, but also schools, private homes, or the Theosophical Society (pictured). I haven't figured this one out yet.
It's a shame, since a lot of the things behind the walls are very pretty (parks, gardens, architecture). Incidentally, in many places the flora and fauna appear to be winning, like the banyon tree in the picture.
This is not only permissible, it’s expected. If you are eating any form of flat bread, that’s your spoon—tear small pieces, fold them slightly, and scoop up whatever else you’re eating. If you’re eating rice, first you moosh it up with whatever else you’re eating, then make a sort of spoon out of your fingers—right hand, straight fingers, thumb on top to kind of push the food into your mouth. Apparently, the amount of hand involvement in the mooshing stage is particular to different communities, ranging from delicate ends-of-the-fingers-only to food-past-the-wrist. Most restaurants have communal sinks to wash off; good restaurants bring you a bowl of water with a piece of citrus fruit in it and a towel.
It’s a very satisfying way to eat. You really get the full experience of your food.
The traditional placing palms together happens here too, but you’ll also see a modified salute—right hand held vertical at the center of the forehead—and fingers grouped together at the lips. This last when used as a greeting asks whether you have eaten, and is mostly used by someone who knows you well enough to ask after your well-being. It can also be an invitation to lunch, assuming you know the person pretty well.
That sums it up. Things happen when they happen. Guests for dinner at 8 might show up at 10 (and they’ll bring 10 friends, which is a different cultural tip). If someone says “two minutes,” it could mean 5–10 minutes, or it could mean 9 hours. A 15-minute task can take all day. Carry a book with you everywhere.
Madras is also a conservative city compared to the likes of Bombay and Delhi and so when you address people who are much more senior to you in age, do not use their first names. Its considered offensive there and you would be frowned upon.
When you are in Madras and if you want to go inside temples, be aware that you would be required to take your shoes/sandals off. Some temples require that MEN remove their shirts too. This is an age old custom and is not related to any security issues. Also, majority of the temples also would not allow cameras to be used.
One of the essential parts of Hindu worship is puja ~ items are often offered to the gods as part of this prayer ritual. Typically, most of the offering is kept and a small token blessed and returned (a process that is officiated by the temple priests).
The items given vary from area to area (and are sometimes based on the traditional preferences of the god). You can always find stalls of puja items near temples. . .and garlands of flowers are always a popular choice.
Few countries in the world have such an ancient and diverse culture as India's. Stretching back in an unbroken sweep over 5000 years, India's culture has been enriched by successive waves of migration which were absorbed into the Indian way of life.
It is this variety which is a special hallmark of India. Its physical, religious and racial variety is as immense as its linguistic diversity. Underneath this diversity lies the continuity of Indian civilization and social structure from the very earliest times until the present day.
Modern India presents a picture of unity in diversity to which history provides no parallel. Here is a catalogue of everything Indian. Indian religions, festivals, rituals, artifacts, monuments, costumes, music and dance, language and literature. Come and discover a little more of India's culture by selecting any of these topics
People are quite reserved in madras. avoid talking to ladies when they are unaccompanied. in temples, remove your shoes outside the outer sanctum itself. some temples require the men to remove their shirts. do not take photographs of the idols. this is a mark of disrespect. also, a lot of people speak english and are very helpful with directions. STRICTLY AVOUD DRINKING WATER FROM ANYWHERE EXCEPT TRUSTED BRANDS OF BOTTLED WATER. BISLERI OR AQUAFINA CAN BE TRUSTED.
Popularly regarded as the 'Gateway to the South', Chennai presents culture that is distinctly different from that of northern India. Music, dance and all other art forms of the South are cherished and nurtured in this city which, though industrialized, continues to be traditional and conventional in many ways.
Chennai is a city where the traditional and the modern blend in life everywhere. From traditional vegetarian fair to fast foods, from nine-yard sarees to the latest in fashion, from ancient temple architecture to modern high-rise - with Indo-Saracenic and Victorian as stops along the way - from classical music and dance to discos throbbing to heady beats, Chennai has them all and many more vivid contrasts that are a pleasant surprise .....