In recent news, the celebration of Madras Day on August 22nd brings to focus the rich history and evolution of the city now known as Chennai. This observance pays tribute to the foundation of Madrasapatnam, which later transformed into Chennai through a series of historical events and transitions.
This topic of “Madras Day” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.
What Madras Day Commemorates
Madras Day serves as a commemoration of the foundation day of the city of Madras, now known as Chennai. It delves into the historical significance of the city’s establishment, the British colonial influence, and the subsequent transformations that have shaped its modern identity.
The Evolution of Madras: How It Came to Be
Madrasapatnam, as it was initially known, was founded during the early 17th century. It started as a trading post established by the East India Company (EIC) to secure trade rights and maritime dominance.
British Arrival and Goal
- The British East India Company arrived in the early 17th century with the aim of acquiring trade rights in the Indian subcontinent.
- Their victory over the Portuguese at Swally Hole in 1612 marked a significant milestone in establishing their dominance in the region.
- This victory was crucial as it allowed the British to gain control over the pilgrim sea route, which was resented by the Mughal rulers.
Foundation and Initial Purchase
- The city’s foundation was linked to the East India Company’s goal, which was further facilitated by an accord secured through the Embassy of EIC, led by Thomas Roe.
- Roe’s negotiations with Emperor Jahangir resulted in an agreement that allowed English trade and factory establishment, with Mughals’ naval auxiliaries providing support.
British Rule and Renaming
- The British colonial rule saw Madras growing in importance, both politically and economically.
- Post-1947, the state and city continued to be referred to as Madras.
- The larger Madras presidency covered several South Indian states, consolidating British influence.
- Renaming took place in two stages – the state was renamed Tamil Nadu in 1969, and the city became Chennai in 1996.
Historical Significance and Early Rule
Theories on Name Origin
- The origin of the name “Madras” is subject to speculation.
- Various theories include the possibility of the name originating from a local fisherman, the presence of a Madrassa nearby, or even the Church named ‘Madre de Deus.’
- Srinivasachari’s perspective argues that there is no theory with credible evidence, and ‘Patnam’ refers to a sea coast town.
Pre-British Rulers and Influence
- Before British arrival, the region saw the rule of dynasties like the Pallavas, Cholas, and Vijayanagar.
- The Nayaks served as chieftains under the Vijayanagar empire, and Damarla Venkatapathy Nayak played a significant role in granting the British the land for their initial establishment.
Initial British Establishment and Influence
- The location chosen for the establishment of Madras was strategically situated between the Cooum and Egmore rivers.
- The foundation of Fort St. George marked the early days of British influence in the region.
- Andre Cogan’s transfer of the Agency from Masulipatnam to Chennai in 1641 solidified its importance as a trading post.
Venkatapathy Nayak’s Legacy
- Venkatapathy Nayak’s influence extended from Pulicat to Santhome.
- The city was named Chennai in honor of his father, Chennappa Nayak, reflecting his impact on the region.
Subsequent Developments and Post-Independence Changes
Forts and Towns
- The city’s development led to the creation of “Black Town” and “White Town,” which were segregated areas for Indians and Europeans.
- Under Governor Elihu Yale, the city’s governance structure expanded to include a Mayor and Corporation, along with the addition of Egmore and Tondiarpet.
Renaming to Tamil Nadu
- Post-independence, efforts were made to rename the state from Madras to Tamil Nadu.
- K. P. Sankaralinganar’s fast for this change in 1956 highlighted the political significance of the renaming.
- While earlier resolutions were defeated, a resolution passed in 1967, supported by prominent figures like Annadurai and Congress, led to the renaming.
Shedding Colonial Influences
- The renaming of cities like Bombay to Mumbai and Calcutta to Kolkata also aimed to shed colonial influences.
- These changes reflect a broader shift towards embracing native languages and identities.
British Influence in Names
- The exact extent of British influence in shaping city names is challenging to ascertain.
- However, their role in shaping the historical trajectory and identity of these cities is undeniable.