Sealing the deal

As we celebrate Madras Day let us take time off to find out how it came to be.

Published - August 19, 2017 12:11 pm IST

Madrasapattinam, located in Tondaimandalam, nestling between the Pennar river in Nellore and Cuddalore was ruled by the Chola, Pallava, Pandiya and Vijaynagar empires. However, things changed during the reign of the Vijaynagar Empire. Chieftains or Nayaks began to rule various regions of the province independently.

Trade expansions

The Portuguese arrived in 1522 and built a port naming it Sao Tome after the apostle of Jesus Christ — St. Thomas. The Dutch who arrived in 1612 established their base in Pulicat.

The British East India Company entered India through Surat in Gujarat. They wanted to strengthen the Spice route and were interested in establishing a port closer to the Straits of Malacca.

On August 20, 1639, Francis Day of the East India Company and Damerla Venkatadri Nayak travelled to Chandragiri palace to meet the Vijayanagara King Peda Venkata Rayaand with the purpose of purchasing land. The island the British eyed was about 400 km away from the mainland, close to the sea and lined by a river.

This was in actuality a strip of waste marshland. And, on this was built Fort St. George. The deal was finalised by Day, his Dubash Beri Thimmappa, and their superior, Andrew Cogan, with the local Nayak rulers. It is believed that this deal was made on August 22, 1639.

The idea to set up a township however, was the brainchild of the two merchants of the East India Company — Francis Day and Andrew Cogan. Day agreed to pay a rent of Rs. 500 a year in pagodas. The transaction was engraved on a plate of gold after the purchase.

They duo also wanted to set up a factory for trading projects, and the chieftain Damerla Venkatapathy permitted it. A factory of brick was built upon the island, and mounted with cannon. On April 23, 1640, a colony that served as the headquarters came up.

The province was formally called George Town and it included several streets with particular businesses, serving the British. This served as a settlement for British factory workers, merchants and other British residents and was also called the White Town.

For more about the township and Fort St. George see page 7.

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