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November to March
The Chennai area has been an agricultural centre since Neolithic times and over the centuries the agricultural way of life has become interwoven into the cultural fabric of the locality. The Pongal Festival, the mid-January Tamil harvest festival named after a porridge-like dish cooked in earthenware pots over a fire, is an expression of the paramount importance of agriculture in day-to-day life and an opportunity to give thanks to the sun god for a successful harvest. Traditional music, both instrumental and vocal, accompanied by dancing is a key element of the festival that occurs on the first day of Thai, the tenth month of the Tamil calendar when the sun begins its six month northwards transit.
The historic colonial-era quarter of George Town, located along the coast of northern Chennai, is the settlement from which the modern city expanded from the seventeenth century onwards. The British East India Company, looking to make a foothold in the subcontinent, bought a strip of land between the Cooum Delta and the Egmore River from the local Vijayanagara rulers in order to build warehouses, factories and houses. In the nineteenth century, when the place was called Madras, the Saint George fortress was constructed to guard and govern the settlement. The population grew as the colony became successful, joining with other settlements in the area.
Marina Beach, stretching for 13 kilometers (8.1 miles) along the Coromandel Coast, is the longest urban beach in India and, drawing crowds in the tens of thousands, one of the most popular in the subcontinent. The sandy beach draws more visitors in winter and spring due to the gentler climate and it is advisable to visit this beach in the morning or evening to avoid the scorching afternoon heat. Those visiting this urban seafront will find it bustling with activity, with people walking, jogging, riding horses, flying kites and playing cricket. Food vendors set up stalls along the beach selling local cuisine, traditionally served on banana leaf, including curried seafood, rice and corn on the cob.