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Chennai History is enriched with significant historical events. Reign of different foreign rulers in the coast of Madras Patnam and their contribution towards the economy and culture of the city are also part of Chennai History. The history of Chennai reveals the fact of how a small piece of land by the Coromendal Coast gradually turned into one of the busiest trading hubs of the East India Company in India.
Ancient History of Chennai
Originally Chennai was known as Madras Patnam. It was an area of Tondaimandalam Province. The area was stretched from the Pennar river of Nellore to Pennar river of Cuddalore. The capital of the province was Kancheepuram. Tondaiman IIam Tiraiyan, of the Chola family used to rule in the area during the second century A.D. It is believed that the original aborigines of Tondaimandalam were the Kurumbas. Later Tondaiman IIam Tiraiyan established his reign in Tondaimandalam Province by defeating the original inhabitants of that area. After Tondaiman IIam Tiraiyan, his dynasty was handed over to Ilam Killi. He was one of the princes of the Chola families. By the establishment of the Satavahana Empire in Madras Patnam, the reign of Cholas was ended.
The first Pallava, Bappaswami, under the ruling of Satavahana Empire, started ruling in Kancheepuram. The reign of Pallavas sustained from the 3rd century A.D till the 9th century. Kalabharas rued the place for few centuries. Sometimes around in 879 A.D, the Pallavas were replaced by the Chola-leaded, Aditya-1. In 1264 A.D the Cholas were defeated by the Pandya rulers. They ruled over the area for about half a century followed by the Bahamani Kingdom.
The Vijaynagar rule was established in Tondaimandalam during 1361. During the reign of the Vijaynagar rulers the ‘Nayak’s were appointed. They were chosen to act as the in-charge of different regions in Tondaimandalam province. Of the Vijanagar Nayaks, the Damarla Venkatapathy Nayak was an influential chieftain. He was in charge of the present Chennai city area.
He granted a piece of land to British East India Company, to establish their business center. The place was situated between the Cooum and Egmore River. A new village was established around the area and was named as Chennapatanam. The pre-existing area around the region was called Madraspatnam. During the rule of the British Empire both the villages were merged together and the entire area was started being recognized as Madras Patnam.,
European settlers in Chennai
The earliest settlers in Madras Patnam were the Portuguese. They came into the region during the 16th century. In that period, Madras Patnam was a popular trading hub of the country. It was famous for its spices and clothes. The Portuguese rulers during their reign in Chennai built a port in the city, and named it Sao Tome. Later on, the Dutch rulers established their empire in the region. They accommodated themselves near the Pulicat harbor in 1612. British and French rulers came in Chennai, following the Portuguese and Dutch rulers.
British Era in Chennai
The British East India Company came in Madras Patnam during 1639. The present Chennai city area was leased by the British East India Company.
Company had an intention to establish a manufacturing unit in the area to export the local garments in various parts of Europe. In search of a perfect location, they came across the present area of Chennai city by the coast of Coromandel. The Company had an agreement with the Damarla Venkatapathy Nayak and the place was leased by them.
In 20th February of 1640, the construction of the renowned structure of Fort St.George had begun. The entire plan was executed by Francis Day, Beri Thimmanna Chetti and Andrew Cogan, so they are treated as the real founder of the present city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu.
Significant historical events of the period
1640-Francis Day and Cogan landed in Madras to establish Fort St.George
1678-St. Mary’s Church in Fort St. George was founded
1688-Madras City Municipal Corporation was inaugurated
Leaded by General La Bourdonnais, the French rulers got hold of Madras in 1746. Within 1749, the British Empire once again won their rights over the region and ruled the area for more than 30 years.
In 1759, once again Madras was attacked by the French. This time they were leaded by Thomas Arthur and Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysore. But British Empire was far stronger than the oppositions and ruled Madras for the following decades also. The area of Madras was expanded during the British reign. The neighboring villages were included with the existing area of Chennapatnam. The villages were Egmore, Chetput, Purasawalkam and Triplicane. During 18th century, Madras was turned into one of the major naval bases and administrative centers of the British Empires in India.
To remain in power and to sustain the right on Madras, British rulers had to fight with a number of European powers over the decades. French, Danes and Danishes were the major opponents to them. Apart from fighting with the European powers, the Britishers also had to fight with the strongest local opponents, such as with the Mysore Sultans.
Madras became the most important trading link between India and Europe in 18th century for the development of the harbor in the city. The Madras Chamber of Commerce was built in the city at 1836 by Fredrick Adam.
Chennai after Independence
After independence, Chennai became the legislative and administrative capital of the state of Madras and named as Tamil Nadu. The modern city of Madras is primarily the home to Tamil natives. Malayalee, Anglo Indian and the Telegu speaking people are also the residents of Chennai. Other Indian migrants are also staying in modern Madras.
At present Chennai city also serves as an important heritage sites for the tourism of India. The city houses many temples. Chennai is also one of the biggest commercial centers of India, which houses a number of industries from IT to Automobiles. The city is one of the largest and most advance medical centers of the country.