The fourth largest city of India, Chennai, is the capital of Tamil Nadu. The city has a rich historical background. The Pallavas, the Cholas, the Pandayas and Vijaynagar are some of the important Dynasties who ruled the region.
The major port of Pallavas was Mylapore. A port named Sao Tome was built by Portugese in the year 1522.
The port was named after a Christian reformer, St. Thomas. He used to preach in the area between 52 and 70 A.D.
There are many beliefs as to how the place derived its name. The name Madras is said to be derived from Madraspattinam, which was originally a fishing village situated towards the north of the fort of St. George. Some believe that the name Madre de deus was given to the place by Portugese, who arrived there in 16th century.
The third belief is of the historians who says that the name is after the prominent family Madeiros who declared in 1575 that Madre de deus is a sacred church in San Thome.
The church is no more there as it was demolished in the year 1997. And the last theory tells that the name was given after an Islamic school also called Madrasa, which was situated nearby.
As there are beliefs for the name of Madras, likewise there are some beliefs for how Chennai derived its name. The area was once a part of the Empire of the King Chanragiri in 1639A.D, the period when British arrived in India.
The town is believed to be named as Chennapattanam, when British acquired the area from the leader of vijaynagar dynasty, Chennappa Nayaka. Also there are some beliefs that the name was derived from Chenna Kesava Perumal Temple which was termed as face of the town.
The two towns Madraspattanam and Chennapattinam merged in 17th century. British also gained possession of the area in the 17th century. This newly merged town had two names Madraspattinum and Chennapattinam given by the British and locals respectively.
Madras was ruled by Portuguese and Frenchmen during 16th and 18th century. 22nd August 1639, was the day when British East India Company purchased a piece of land, located near Coromandel Coast in Chandragiri from the king of Vijaynagar dynasty, Peda Venkata Raya.
The land was purchased for trading purposes. Damerla Venkatapathy, ruler of vandavasi region granted the permission to the British to build a factory and a warehouse for trading projects. However instead of a factory, the fort was built next year named Fort St. George. This fort became a central part of the growing colonial town.
Fort St. George and Madras was captured by a French General La Bourdonnais, governor of Mauritius, in 1746. But soon British re-established there control over the region in 1749, through the treaty of Aix-La-Chappelle.
The walls of the Fort were then strengthened and made taller in order to defy any further invasion from either French or other powerful kings like Hyder Ali, Sultan of Mysore.
Till the late 18th century British were successful in capturing other states along with the State of Tamil Nadu like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
During this period Madras presidency was established making Madras its capital. The city became major urban centre and also a naval base. Railway arrived in 19th century connecting the place with other major cities of India like Mumbai and Kolkata.
One more important thing to be noted in the history of Chennai is the attack during the First World War, Madras was the only city attacked during World War I by a German light cruiser’ SMS Emden’, who attacked the oil depot at the city, demolishing the shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean.
In 1947, India gained Independence and Chennai was made the capital of the State of Madras, which was renamed Tamil Nadu in 1969.