(Last Updated on : 16-04-2012)
An important province of British India, Madras Presidency, also known as Madras Province is officially known as the Presidency of Fort St. George. Madras Presidency included much areas of southern India, including the present-day Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the Malabar region of north Kerala, the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions of Andhra Pradesh, and the Bellary, Dakshina Kannada, and Udupi districts of Karnataka. The capital was at Madras, now known as Chennai.
The first British settlement on India's East Coast, known as the Coromandel Coast, was in 1611, at Machilipatnam (Masulipatam). Travelling further down south is Fort St. George, the nucleus of Madras city, which was erected in 1640. Pondicherry was purchased by the French in 1762. For many years the English and French traders lived peacefully side by side, with no ambition for territorial aggrandisement.
In 1746 Madras was forced to surrender to La Bourdonnais, and Fort St. David remained the only English possession in southern India. After the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle Madras was restored to the Englis, however, from that time the rivalry of the two nations began, and each one found its opportunities in the disputed successions of Indian politics. British influence was generally able to secure the favour of the rulers of the Carnatic and Tanjore, while the French succeeded in placing their own nominee on the throne at Hyderabad. At last Joseph Francois Dupleix rose to be the temporary arbiter of the fate of southern India, but he was overthrown by Robert Clive, whose defence of Arcot in 1751 forms the turning point of Indian history.
The Madras Presidency which was made of many territories was acquired on variuos dates. In 1763 the tract encircling Madras city, was ceded by the Nawab of Arcot. In 1765 the Northern Circars, were granted to the British East India Company by the Mughal emperor, but at the price of an annual tribute of 90,000 to the Nizam of Hyderabad. Full rights of dominion state were not acquired till 1823. In 1792 Tipu Sultan of Mysore was compelled to surrender the Baramahal (later part of Salem district), Malabar and Dindigul subdivision of Madurai. In 1799, after the defeat of Tipu Sultan, Coimbatore and Canara were appropriated from Mysore; in the same year the Maratha Raja of Thanjavur (Tanjore) resigned the administration of his territory. By 1800, the British had fully estabished their supremacy in the south India.
The Madras Presidency151,695 sq.m in total area, was bounded on the extreme northeast by Orissa; then the highlands of the Central Provinces; next the dominions of the Nizam of Hyderabad; then Dharwar district of Bombay Presidency, and lastly the kingdom of Mysore and the province of Coorg. The Presidency also included the Laccadive Islands, off the Malabar Coast, in the Indian Ocean. 1901 was.
The total population of the madras Presidency was 42,397,522 in 1901 divided into Hindus (37,026,471), Muslims (2,732,931), and Christians (1,934,480). The entire population of Madras Presidency belonged to the five linguistic branches of the great Dravidian language family, dominant throughout southern India. Of the five Dravidian languages in the Presidency Telugu was spoken by over 14,000,000 persons; Tamil by over 15,000,000 persons; Kannada by over 1,500,000 persons; Malayalam bynearly 3,000,000 persons; and Tulu by about 500,000 persons. Oriya was the native tongue in the extreme north of Ganjam district, bordering on Orissa; and various languages and dialects of Dravidian origin were used by the hill tribes of the Eastern Ghats.
Administered by a governor and a council, the Madras Presidency consisted of two members of the civil service, whose number can be increased to four. In addition to this there was also a board of revenue of three members. For legislative purposes the council of the governor was augmented by additional members, numbering 45 in all, out of which more than 17 may be nominated officials, while 19 were elected by various representative constituencies. Members of the Legislative Council enjoyed the right of interpellation, of proposing resolutions on matters of public interest, and of discussing the annual financial statement.
In 1911 the province was divided into 24 districts: Ganjam, Vizagapatam (Visakha-patnam), Godavari, Krishna, Kurnool, Nellore, Cuddapah, Anantapur, Bellary, North Arcot, South Arcot, Chingleput, Madras, Salem, South Canara, Malabar, Coimbatore, Tiruchirapalli, Tanjore, Madurai, Tirunelveli, the Nilgiris, and Guntur, each under the charge of a collector, with sub-collectors and assistants.
The principle of local devolution was carried somewhat further in Madras than in other Raj provinces. At the bottom were union panchayats or village committees, whose chief duty was to attend to sanitation. Above them came taluk or subdivisional boards. At the head of all were district boards, a portion of whose members are elected by the taluk boards.
Five princely states fell under the political authority of Madras Presidency: Banganapalle, Cochin, Pudukkottai, Sandur and Travancore.
After India's Independence
Madras Presidency was reconstituted as Madras state soon after India's independence in 1947. In 1953 the Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions became the new state of Andhra Pradesh, and Bellary district became part of Mysore state. In 1956 South Kanara district was transferred to Mysore, the Malabar Coast districts became part of the new state of Kerala, and Madras state, renamed Tamil Nadu in 1968, and took its present shape.