— Janaki Balasubramanian —
Let Us celebrate : “Chennai is a city; Madras is an emotion.”
Everyone uses a famous tagline. Chennai stands as one of the four metropolitan cities and holds an integral role in South India. When the words ‘Chennai’ or ‘Madras’ cross our minds, various images come to life. Among these, the beach is a prominent one. Every individual cherishes different aspects of Chennai city. Some like Satyam cinema, temples, churches, parks, tea stalls, beaches, museums, and more. We almost universally appreciate the beauty and quirks of our surroundings.
Situated in the coastal region, the city boasts stunning natural sea beaches. These serene spots provide the ideal escape from the hot and humid climate. It offers a chance to pause amidst the hectic pace of life. Amidst the hustle and bustle, places like the beach embody natural allure. It compels individuals to take a break and savor the moments. These picturesque beaches captivate residents and tourists alike with their unspoiled beauty and panoramic vistas.
Marina Beach claims the title of the most renowned sandy beach in South India. It proudly holds the distinction of being the longest beach in Asia. Further, the second-longest beach in the world. A lighthouse graces one end of the beach, serving as an iconic Chennai landmark. Along its expanse stand historic edifices like the Secretariat, Madras University, Queen Mary’s College. Most notably, statues of eminent personalities. Among them are statues of figures like the Labor statue, Mahatma Gandhi, Kannagi, Thiruvalluvar, and Bharathiar. One of the most remarkable sculptures on the beach is “Triumph of Labor” by Debiprasad Roy Choudhary.
Marina Beach, a source of Chennai’s pride, spans an impressive 13 kilometers. It invites tourists to unwind, take a dip in the waters, and relish local snacks on its soft sandy shores. The former British Governor of Madras (1881–1866), ME Grant Duff, seems to have had a particular affinity for the seashore. It faces a row of notable landmarks. Sunrise views and pony rides are also available for enjoyment.
The credit for transforming this spot into a tourist attraction goes to Duff, who orchestrated changes in the 1880s. Historical monuments are strategically placed at crossroads along the beach. Visitors can indulge in a variety of South Indian snacks and ice creams along the shoreline. Next to the beach is an aquarium that houses mesmerizing marine and freshwater species.
Besant Nagar Beach, affectionately known as Bessy Beach. It lies along the 6th Avenue of Chennai metropolis. It takes its name from Annie Besant, a former social activist and the first female President of the Indian National Congress. While not as bustling as Marina Beach, it remains one of Chennai’s cherished family beaches. With a mix of national and international visitors, its popularity peaks on weekends. The beach’s arch-like shape has captured the imagination of movie producers. It features in numerous Tamil and Malayalam films. Unlike Marina, visitors need not walk long distances on Bessy Beach.
Chennai boasts several other beaches apart from Marina and Besant Nagar. These include Breezy Beach, Kovalam Beach, VGP Beach, Santhome Beach, Thiruvanmiyur Beach, Palavakkam Beach, Kasimedu Beach, Neelankarai Beach, and Elliot’s Beach. While some exude tranquility, others bustle with activity. Some remain untouched by tourists, while others are popular among families and couples. Some offer calm waters for swimming, while others have larger waves unsuitable for bathing. In essence, Chennai’s beaches cater to a diverse range of preferences.
Many of these are family-friendly beaches that cater to a variety of interests. There’s a plethora of enjoyable activities available here. It includes water sports like windsurfing and parasailing, ensuring lasting memories for tourists. However, the blemish on this idyllic scene is the litter and plastic waste that mars the beach. The sight of the water sparks a unique joy in the hearts of children and adults. Alike, though the agony of plastic entangling one’s legs is an all-too-common experience. It’s imperative to refrain from discarding waste near or around the beach, for the sake of preserving its beauty and charm.