Chennai, also known as Madras, is the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal, it is the biggest industrial and commercial center in South India, and a major cultural, economic and educational centre. Chennai is known as the "Detroit of India" for its automobile industry.In 1996, the Government of Tamil Nadu officially changed the name from Madras to Chennai. The region around Chennai has served as an important administrative, military, and economic centre for many centuries.The Portuguese first arrived in 1522 and built a port called São Tomé after the Christian apostle, St. Thomas, who is believed to have preached in the area between 52 and 70 CE. In 1612, the Dutch established themselves near Pulicat, north of ChennaiThe Portuguese first arrived in 1522 and built a port called São Tomé after the Christian apostle, St. Thomas, who is believed to have preached in the area between 52 and 70 CE. In 1612, the Dutch established themselves near Pulicat, north of Chennai.The region was then primarily a fishing village known as "Madraspatnam". A year later, the English built Fort St. George, the first major English settlement in India, which became the nucleus of the growing colonial city and urban Chennai, grew around this Fort.Gradually, the city grew into a major naval base and became the central administrative centre for the British in South India.
With temples, beaches and centers of historical and cultural significance, including the UNESCO Heritage Site of Mahabalipuram, Chennai is one of the most visited cities in India. The city serves as the gateway to the southern part of India with tourists landing in the city and starting their trip to the rest of the region. Chennai was the most visited Indian city by foreign tourists in 2009 and issued the third highest number of visas on arrival in 2014. In 2011, Chennai was ranked 41st in global top 100 city destination ranking, with 3,174,500 tourists, a 14 percent increase from 2010. About 830,620 domestic tourists arrived in Chennai in March 2011. Top foreign nationals visiting the city include those from Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, United Kingdom, France and United States. As of 2012, the city had 21 luxury five-star hotels with over 4,500 rooms in the inventory.The southern stretch of Chennai's coast from Tiruvanmiyur to Neelangarai are favored by the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles to lay eggs every winter. A large number of cattle egrets, pond herons and other waterbirds can be seen in the rivers of Cooum and.About 75,000 birds migrate to Chennai every year.