Chennai’s Gift to the World #7 – Its Beaches

Chennai is a coastal city. Like every coastal city, Chennai too has beaches, the most famous being Marina beach. The beaches of Chennai come in various shapes and sizes. From the ever crowded and popular marina, where the crowds resemble an aarasiyal katchi (political party) rally every Sunday to the isolated beaches lone the east coast road, and the protected wildlife reserve, namely the Adyar Estuary.

The beach is an integral part of every Chennaiites life. Everyone resident of the city would have fond memories of the beach, from the boys playing cricket in the early morning, to the love birds who flock to the beach towards the evening.
The Marina Beach, just after the Tsunami of 2004.

The Marina beach is probably the hotbed of activity in the city, right from 4.30 am till 12.30 or 2 am in the night, there will be people at the beach. I remember the days when I would be at the beach by 4.45 am on Sundays to squat on my 22 yards of space to play cricket, even at this time in the morning I would have to fight for my space with other sleepy headed eager cricketers. Maybe some day the marina beach will produce a player like Viv Richards, who learnt his cricket playing on the beaches of Jamaica. By 6 am in the morning, the regular joggers and walkers come for their early morning exercise. Opposite the DGP’s office, on a rickety cycle, the juice-wallah opens his shop. He does not sell the usual juices like lime and orange, for that there is Palimar just next to the commissioner’s office. This guy sells for the health conscious walkers and joggers, juices like arugampullu juice and other such atrocious tasting juices and soups but ones which are supposedly good for health. Just the name of the ingredients sounds revolting to my taste buds, I’ve never had the courage to drink any of these so called concoctions.
By 9 am the beach goes into a slumber, the infamous Chennai heat takes its toll, chasing most people to the air-conditioned comfort of their homes. But the beach is never empty, never devoid of people, its under this scorching heat, under the fishing boats that couples who want to meet on a tight budget. I’ve heard love is blind, but for these lovers, it has toughened their skin.
By the evening, around 5 pm, the crowd again descends down on the beach and the famed Bhajji shops are open by 5 pm, selling their famous Chilli Bhajji. By now the crowd is predominantly the college going crowd, probably wanting to get out of Spencer’s and hang out in the beach. This is probably the worst time to visit the beach, the crowd by now is driven entirely by the need to sight adichify, and is crowded, there is unlikely to be any space, If Marina is bad, Beasant Nagar beach is worse. Thankfully, this demographic group has a curfew at home and are out of the beach by 9 pm. That’s when I usually visit the beach apart from early in the morning. By 9 pm, the sight adichifying gumbal is out of the beach. The beach just has a smattering of people, by this time, the pestering josiyakaris and sundal sellers are also closed for the day. The last of those in the beach leave by mid night or 1 am, the cops usually don’t cause any problems when they have Speed and Dublin to raid, why would they bother with the beach?
The Adyar Estuary (source Balu)
The Adyar Estuary is also protected wildlife reserve, and the broken bridge is another place on the beach I love, it’s where a scene from Mani Rathnam’s Ayutha ezhathu was shot. The estuary though is a protected wildlife reserve is polluted and needs to be preserved as this article mentions. Despite its state, birds still do flock to the estuary.
The beaches of Chennai, right from the isolated ones Kovalam, to the crowded Marina and Beasant Nagar, are an integral part of the city. Any visitor to the city has to visit the beach as a part of every trip, someone who does not live in Chennai will find it hard to understand the why every chennaiite loves the beach, its not spectacular, its definitely not picturesque, and its dirty, but the beaches despite their drawbacks do have an aura, just sitting in the sand, under the stars, with not a single soul in sight (yes this is possible in the isolated beaches along ECR, late at night), and listening to the waves. Walking on the beach, late at night is absolute bliss.

11 Comments so far

  1. A for apple (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2006 @ 12:39 am

    Wow Chennai that’s really nice … only if you could’ve added somepic of marina beach to this post too …!

    Lovely reading abt it …!

    –islamabad MB

  2. Navneeth (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2006 @ 1:05 am

    Don’t take me wrong, Vatsan, but this post only seems to justify the fact the Marina (and other beaches) as a gift to Chennai, and not to the world! Yes, I agree that many tourists would enjoy the sights and sounds, but many among them many may not want to come here to relax, or do anything else that they might want to do at a beach(say, in their part of the world).

    Just my rendu paisa. ;-)

  3. Peter (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2006 @ 3:34 am

    As an American tourist, I was warned in no uncertain terms to avoid the beach – which seems a pity, as it was one of the things I really wanted to see.

  4. suppamani (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2006 @ 7:14 am

    Vatsan, A Nice articel -But some snaps would have added the effect. One thing you have forgotten to mention about the rowdies and Police attrocities which distrubed the regular visitors for their ransome.

  5. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2006 @ 7:40 am

    The second longest in the world. Thats Marina!

  6. Navneeth (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2006 @ 7:09 pm

    The second longest in the world. Thats Marina!

    I’ve read that in many places, but in every instance there was nothing to back that statement. Of course I would be glad if it were true. :)

  7. Nilu (unregistered) on December 4th, 2006 @ 9:42 am

    The erstwhile Freemason’s lodge opposite to the Marina is the DGP’s office. Not the Commissioner’s.

  8. Muthukumar (unregistered) on December 6th, 2006 @ 11:56 pm


    While reading the last paragraph of yors I really felt it was me who was doing the talking. I have been met with puzzled looks from people outside chennai when I talk about the beaches or chennai itself. I think only a person from chennai (like me) will understand how true your words are. Right now I’m not in chennai and I’m feeling like fish outta water

  9. aarthi (unregistered) on December 7th, 2006 @ 12:49 am

    chennai beaches are the best in the wrld! it feels great to sit and stare at the sea during the nights. it’s got a magical comforting aura..all in all chennai is 1 gilli when it comes to beaches!

  10. pandian (unregistered) on December 7th, 2006 @ 9:33 am

    The beaches of Chennai are a mess they stink and are dirty which is to the credit of locals who are unable to understand what garbage bins are. Aarthi I don’t know what you are on but the best beaches in the world are definetly not in Chennai more like the worst would be more appropriate.

  11. visithra (unregistered) on December 8th, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

    There is a uniqueness to beaches in India, while most ppl around the world see beaches as surfing, swimming and sunbathing places, in chennai its the place where the city unwinds. No one gets in the water neither is it allowed but it has its charms. The bhajji, the nitelife and just the wind. Though it isn’t the most beautiful beach in the world it has its charm. Truthfully only a chennaite or someone who loves the city would understand.

    vatsan nice post

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