(Last Updated on : 24-07-2010)
History of Chennai encompasses the events between the events of the south Indian history, colonialism and then the massive growth of the city during the 20th century. Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu and is India's fourth largest city. Chennai is also known as the knowledge hub of India. It is located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, with an estimated population of 7.60 million (2006). The history of Chennai says it to be 369-year-old city and the 36th largest metropolis in the world.
The long history of Chennai starts from ancient South Indian empires through colonialism to its advancement in the 20th century as a services and manufacturing hub. The name Madras is derived from Madraspatnam, which was the location chosen by the British East India Company for an everlasting settlement in 1639. The region was often called by different names as madrapupatnam, madras kuppam, madraspatnam, and madirazpatnam by the locals. The first Grant of Damarla Venkatadri Nayakudu makes the first mention of the village of Madraspatnam. In all records of the times, a difference is made between the original village of Madraspatnam and the growing town round the Fort. Thus it is probable that the village of Madraspatnam existed under that name, before the advancement of the English during the 1639-40. The intervening space between the northern Madraspatnam and the Southern Chennapatnam village came to be built over rapidly so that the two villages became almost one town. However, the alteration of the name from Madras to Chennai is quiet a recent event in August 1996.
Chennai has been present since times immemorial. Whatever is known in the history about the capital city of Tamil Nadu, presently serves as the history of modern Chennai. Originally Chennai was a cluster of villages, suspended amidst paddy fields, bordered by palm trees. The Pallavas, the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Vijaynagar Empire - all the popular dynasties of South India ruled over the city. This metropolitan city was born in 1639, when Francis Day and Andrew Cogan, two merchants of the East India Company, started a factory-cum-trading post here. A settlement was built to serve as the control center and it was completed on 23 Apr' 1640, St George's Day and was named as St George's Fort. The native town was officially known as the George Town.George Town had several crowded lanes and each lane dealt in special trade, serving the British colonists.
The 7th century Pallava Port, Kapalesvara Temple and Parthasarathi Temple are the vibrant evidences to the fact that Chennai had been present since ages. In 1746, Chennai, along with Fort St George, came under the influence of the French, who raided the town and the nearby villages. The British again retrieved back Chennai in 1749, which was attributable to the Treaty of Aix-la-Chappell. They fortified the area so that this time no pirate could re-conquer it. By the late 18th century, they were able to overcome most of the region around Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and founded the Madras Presidency.
History of Chennai projects immense changes of the city during the British rule. Chennai became a prominent city, with strong naval base. With the introduction of railways in the late 19th century, Chennai got connected with other vital cities like Mumbai and Kolkata. Facilities of trade and communication in the city advanced, connecting it with the vicinity as well. Chennai was the only city of India that was hit during the World War.
When India became independent in 1947, Chennai city was affirmed as the capital of Madras State, which was later renamed as Tamil Nadu in 1968. In 1997, the Government of Tamil Nadu authoritatively changed the name of Madras to Chennai. However, it is the colonial rule, which developed Chennai into a major commercial center and evidences are seen all along the history of Chennai. In the present day, George Town houses most of the pioneer business headquarters, while the State Government has its apex center in the Fort St George.