Chennai is a city that truly epitomizes India’s penchant for the unfamiliar and unusual. And while it has no dearth of conventional tourist attractions, it is also home to some really off-the-track ones that you won’t find anywhere else. From haunted towns and places where miracles have occurred to remnants of an intriguing past, here are some of the most unusual destinations in Chennai that are sure to surprise you.
The Hiding Caves of Little Mount
These obscure caves at Little Mount might not look like much at first sight but they are steeped in history and tradition. According to legends, St. Thomas (one of Christ’s 12 apostles) stayed in these caves for several years, living a frugal life and evangelizing the locals. The cave is still well-preserved and features a small shrine that is used by locals as a gathering spot for offering prayers. It is also said that there are still imprints of St. Thomas’ feet on the rocks in the caves. However, one of the most interesting legends about this place has to do with a tiny spring located a little away from the cave that apparently never dries, and was created by St. Thomas himself!
Bodyguard Muneeswaran Temple
This small temple located along Chennai’s famous Pallavan Salai is as popular as it is intriguing. The idol of Lord Muneeswaran kept within the temple was first brought to Chennai in 1919 and placed under a neem tree by the locals. According to popular lore, a British officer raised objections to the idol being kept there and met with an accident the very same day! Ever since, the locals have believed that praying to the deity assures safety on the road, thus giving it the nickname ‘Bodyguard’. Even today, locals make it a point to conduct a pooja, or prayer offering, at the temple every time they buy a new vehicle. As a result, the shrine always has dozens of vehicles waiting in line to be blessed
Considered to be one of the most haunted places in Chennai, Demonte Colony in Alwarpet has in recent years become something of an intriguing tourist attraction. The neighborhood derives its name from one of the area’s original residents, a merchant called John Demonte. It is said that Demonte’s life here was scarred by misfortune, including the untimely death of his son and an illness-stricken wife. The area was populated until little more than a decade ago, but after stories of strange occurrences and numerous ghost sightings, it has remained largely deserted. Demonte Colony is home to one of Chennai’s most popular urban legends, and the subject of a popular movie. However, the area is soon to undergo development, so visit while the legend is still alive!
Our Lady of Lourdes
Until a few years ago, this church in Perambur had few visitors other than from within its parish. All that changed after reports started pouring in that the statue of Mother Mary in the church had ‘blinked’ around the time of the church’s annual feast. The locals celebrated it as a miracle, and devotees from far-flung areas now visit to witness this occurrence. While the veracity of the church’s claim is yet to be scientifically verified, this new urban legend in Chennai is well worth visiting, if not for the miracle then at least for the beautiful and lively church!
The intensely secretive Freemasonry movement has deep roots in Chennai’s history, with the first District Grand Lodge of Madras (DGLM) being opened as far back as 1752. However, until 2009, few except its members knew the existence of a thriving Freemasons Lodge in Chennai. The society has since come into the open. Today, the Freemasonry movement in South India alone is said to have over 8,500 members. This once secretive society functions out of the DGLM in Ethiraj Salai, which is now a place of heritage and immense interest among Chennaiites.
Can a derelict and disused bridge to nowhere be a tourist attraction? Just visit Adyar’s immensely popular Broken Bridge to find out. One of Chennai’s best-known evening haunts, the Broken Bridge is best known for the picturesque views it offers of the point where the Adyar River estuary joins the Bay of Bengal. A site that has been featured in numerous films and TV shows, the Broken Bridge is one of Chennai’s most unusual tourist attractions.
Chennai (or Madras, as it was then known), once had a small but thriving community of Armenian merchants who settled here during colonial times and constructed a church in 1712. It reflects Armenian architecture, and apart from being one of the oldest churches in Chennai, it is also an important heritage site. The church offers a window into the glorious past of the Armenians in the city through several published works, Armenian magazines, and a cemetery with over 350 Armenian graves.