The Ultimate Chennai Glossary

chennai glossary rickshaw

Our Chennai Glossary will help you understand some terms and phares you might come accross during your stay at Elements Hostel. This will be especially helpful for our foreign guests and guide them during their visit in our amazing city.


Autorickshaw – this is a common form of transport in Chennai. This three-wheeler is sometimes called a tuk-tuk and is a popular form of transportation in the city. If you want to drive one yourself, Elements Hostel can help you to rent a rickshaw. Once you got a taste of it, why not sign up for the famous Rickshaw Challenge?

Bharatanatyam – a classical Indian dance that originated from the temples of Tamil Nadu.

Carnatic Music – one of the main sub-genres of Indian classical music that evolved from the Hindu traditions. Carnatic music is associated with Southern Indian culture.

Chettinad Cuisine – this is a type of cuisine which originates in the Chettinad Region of Tamil Nadu in South India and is known for being both aromatic and spicy.

Chola – the Chola dynasties were one of the longest ruling families in Southern India, and as a result, you’ll still find buildings, art and culture that links back to the Chola Dynasty.

Dosa – a fermented pancake made from rice and black lentils, it’s a staple in Tamil cuisine and maybe the most important word in this Chennai glossary.

East India Company – a former British Stock company who mostly traded with the Indian subcontinent. The East India Company founded Fort St. George and Madras (now Chennai).

Filter Kaapi – a sweet milky coffee made from dark roasted coffee beans and chicory. The drink is prepared in a metal device in which the coffee is filtered. The brew is so strong that a couple of spoon are added to milk and sugar.

Idli – this is a traditional breakfast cake made from fermented rice and black lentils.

Indo Saracenic style – is an architectural movement combining Indo-Islamic and Indian architecture with neo-classical or Gothic revival styles. This architectural style originate from the British architects present in India in the 19th century.

Kollywood – is the heart of the Tamil film industry, where films are produced in the Tamil language. Kollywood is the nickname of the studios, made in the Chennai neighbourhood of Kodambakkam, hence the name.

Monsoon – is a season in India when seasonal winds bring in very heavy rainfall into the area.

Sambar – this is a lentil based dish made with tamarind and spices.

We hope your Chennai glossary will help you to navigate Chennai and South India in general. Let us know if you thing that we have forgotten an important term!

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