Celebrations as Chennai turns 376 today

Last Updated 21 August 2015, 19:34 IST

From one of the early settlements of the British East India Company to a vibrant metropolis retaining its cultural moorings, erstwhile Madras (Chennai) has come a long way. On Saturday, the city celebrates its 376th birthday.

It was on August 22, 1639, when Francis Day, a colonial administrator, had struck a deal with a local Nayak ruler over a strip of land where Fort St George, which houses the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly, stands today.

It was around this fort that the colonial city started spreading itself.

 The document related to the building of the fort was said to have been signed at Chandragiri Fort in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

However, the first Europeans to reach the shores of Madras were the Portuguese. They had built a church in Saint Thomas Mount enshrining the Bleeding Cross.

Today, Chennai (the name was changed from Madras in 1996 by the then Karunanidhi government), which is the capital of Tamil Nadu and home to over 5 million people, is called the ‘Detroit of India’, after the United States’ automobile city. It is city with a vibrant cultural life and economic progress.

Chennai was first named Chennappanaikan, in memory of the Nayak’s father, and later its name was changed to Chennapattinam, from which the current name has been derived.

A week-long programme has been organised by various public and private institutions and non-governmental organisations to celebrate the Madras Day to commemorate the city’s founding.

Heritage walks, tours, exhibitions, quiz contests and inter-school events have been planned as part of Chennai’s birthday bash.

The Madras Day celebration focuses on the city, its history and noted historian S Muthiah on this day every year leads a team that motivates communities, groups, companies and campuses to observe the occasion with pride. Chennai, Mumbai (then Bombay) is about 35 years younger.
*Madras Day is celebrated on Aug 22 every year
*It was on this day in 1639 when the official transaction of a strip of land between the British and the local Nayak rulers took place
*The historic Fort St George stands on that land today
*Historian S Muthiah plays a lead role in the Madras Day celebrations every year

(Published 21 August 2015, 19:34 IST)

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