Story of Madras

August 20, 2013 03:36 pm | Updated 03:36 pm IST

Madras in South India was a port town ideally situated on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal.

The city as we know it today started as an English settlement in Fort St. George.

The land was ruled by the Vijayanagaras and they appointed chieftains known as Nayaks who ruled different regions in the province, almost independently.

Damarla Venkatadri Nayaka was the chieftain of the area of present day Chennai when the British East India Company arrived to set up its trade and other commercial activities.

The British, looking for a new settlement along the coast, secured a Grant by Damarla Venkatadri Nayaka giving over to the EIC a three-mile long strip of land in the fishing village of Madrasapatnam.

On August 22, 1639, the deed was signed by EIC’s Francis Day accompanied by his interpreter Beri Thimmappa and superior Andrew Cogan.

In February of 1640, Day and Cogan proceeded to the land to start a new English factory and build a fort as allowed by the Grant which was for a period of two years.

On the expiry of the Grant, a new Grant was issued in 1645 by the new Raja, Sri Rangarayulu, empowering the Company to expand its property by attaching an additional piece of land thus laying the foundation for the expansion of Madras into its present form.

The English fortified their settlement following which the crumbling Portuguese and Dutch settlements joined them.

In 1646, Golkonda forces under Mir Jumla conquered Madras and massacred or sold into slavery much of its Christian inhabitants and their allied Indian communities.

Though in the late 17 century, plague, genocide and racial violence reduced the population dramatically and almost destroyed the town, the city was rebuilt with new English and European settlers.

In 1687, after the fall of Golkonda, the area came under the control of the Mughals, who granted the rights of the EIC in Madras and the city developed and expanded.

The city was subsequently attacked by the French and Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysore, in the First Anglo-Mysore War, but the British regained control to fend off further attacks and eventually drove away the French, the Dutch and the Danes.

In the 18 century with the development of a harbour in Madras led the city to become an important centre for trade between India and Europe.

During World War I, Madras was the only Indian city to be bombarded by the German light cruiser SMS Emden.

Post-Independence, Madras became the capital city of the State of Tamil Nadu.

Madras was rechristened in 1998 as Chennai (from Chennapatnam, which was a nearby town named by Damarla Venkatadri Nayaka in honour of his father, Damarla Chennappa Nayakudu) when some other Indian cities were also being renamed.

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