It was on this day in 1639 that British administrator Francis Day
along with his superior Andrew Cogan struck a deal with the
Vijayanagar Empire to acquire a stretch of no man's land. That
stretch of land went on to be become Madras, which is today known
as Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu.
The British first built a fortified 'factory' on this land which
was named on St.George's birthday April 23, 1640 as Fort St.George,
which is now the seat of power in the state, according to
historian S. Muthiah's "Madras-Its past and its present".
In his book, S. Muthiah says that before British, there was no
Madras. And after Madras, half the area in the world map was
marked with the English flag.
However, it's not that there were no towns and villages before the
British built their fort on the Coromandel Coast.
There was thriving civilization along the coast, the proof of
which is the existence of temples dating back to eighth century
like the Padampakkanathar temple in Thiruvottiyur, Parthasarathy
temple in Triplicane, Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore,
Marundeeswarar Temple in Thiruvanmiyur.
Outside the walls of Fort St.George developed what is called
George Town, from where the British carried out their trade.
Slowly, the East India Company began acquiring villages, and in
the process the city grew.
For three years between 1746 and 1749, Fort St.George fell into
the possession of the French. It was restored to the British under
the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
After that, there was no looking back for the East India Company
which laid the foundation of the British Empire in India.
British architect Roberth Chisholm gave Madras the Indo-Saracenic
style of architecture -- a mix of Hindu, European and Mughal
styles. Madras High Court, Southern Railways and National Art
Gallery are some of the notable buildings built in the
Madras was rechristened Chennai in 1996.
While the city produces battle tanks to bicycles, it's considered
the hub of global auto production with major vehicle producers
like Ford, Hyundai, Caterpillar, Mitsubhishi, BMW, Nissan and
Renault and home-grown Ashok Leyland and Enfield Motors rolling
out their products.
It's also considered the cradle for modern retail -- thanks to
Spencer Departmental Stores to Viveks and Saravanas.
The city's business map also includes software companies like Tata
Consultancy Services (TCS) and electronic companies like Nokia,
Samsung and Motorola.
Chennai also boasts of a number of leather and cotton garment
units. The city is said to be a Mecca of medicare and engineering
education, not to forget the south Indian film industry.
It has also been home for stalwarts in various fields.
The city boasts of noted sporting personalities like chess player
Vishwanathan Anand, tennis players Ramanathan Krishnan, Ramesh
Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj, cricketers K. Srikkanth and S.
It's also home to businessmen like Pratap Reddy, founder of Apollo
Hospitals group. In the auto component field, Venu Srinivasan and
Suresh Krishna chart their business from Chennai. Pepsico's global
CEO Indira Nooyi was born and brought up here.
"It is a city that meets the world through the ocean. Chennai is
home to the most gifted minds in music, dance, theatre, science,
software, philosophy and silence," contemporary dancer-writer
Anita R. Ratnam told IANS.
"This is a city that hosts the largest cultural festival in the
world every December. It is only here that individuals and
artistes from other states are honoured with the local government
award. There is little pretence and affectation in Chennai - just
bonhomie and goodwill," Ratnam added.
As part of Madras Day celebrations, a week-long programme of
events like heritage walks, tours, exhibitions and others are
organised by different organisations.