Facts about Chennai

1. The present Chennai was a center of various rulers from the 1st century. Dynasties like the Pallava, the Chola, the Pandya, and Vijaynagar the ruled over Chennai. Mylapore was a major port of the Pallava. In 1522, the Portugese built a port called Sao Tome. It was named after the Christian leader of reforms, St. Thomas who preached in the area between 52 and 70 A.D.

2. Fort Geldria located in Pulicat, was the seat and the first settlement in of Dutch in India, and the capital of Dutch Coromandel.The Dutch were given permission to build the fort at Pulicat for the export of textiles and saltpetre. The fort was known as Fort Geldria at Pulicat. The Dutch moved their headquarters from Pulicat to Negapatam in 1687, But when the British seized Negapatam in 1781, Pulicat once again became the Coromandel headquarters of the Dutch and remained so till 1825 when a transfer to the British through a treaty was negotiated. But 20 years before that during the Anglo-Dutch wars, much of Castle Geldria was demolished by the British.

3. Chennapattinam Similar to the versions of the origin of the name Madras, there are various such versions related to the origin of the name Chennai as well. It was considered as a part of the empire of the King of Chandragiri, the period when the British arrived in 1639 A.D. Further; it was named as Chennapattanam by the British when they acquired it from Chennappa Nayaka, the nayak of Vijayanagar. In Tamil language the word ‘Chenni’ means face and the Chenna Kesava Perumal Temple was thought of as the face of the city. Therefore, some people believed that the Chennapattanam was named after the Chenna Kesava Perumal Temple.

4. Madras acquired its name from Madraspattinam which is a fishing village situated to the north of Fort St. George. There are various versions related to the origin of the name Madras. One of the theory states that the name Madre de Deus must be given by the Portuguese to the village when they arrived there in the 16th century. Whereas, the historians believe that it is named after a prominent Madeiros family who declared the Madre de Deus as a sacred church in San Thome in 1575. This church demolished in the year 1997. On the contrary, the other theory says that the village is named after the Islamic school named Madrasa situated in the same area, It is also compared to the architectural domes of Madrasa and the buildings of the British.

5. Madras day was started by few some enthusiasts, such as S. Muthiah (the city as most famous Historian), Sashi Nair (journalist) and Vincent De Souza (editor of Mylapore Times ), came out with the concept to celebrate the founding of Madras. The Madras Day, as they called it, is celebrated on 22nd of August every year. It is celebrated to remember that the agreement was signed on this date in 1639 between Day Cogan and the Vandavasi Nayaks, the local rulers to purchase the tip of land.
Emden During World War I, German light cruiser ‘SMS Emden’ attacked an oil depot in Madras. This attack demolished the shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean causing interruption to shipping. Madras was the only Indian city which was attacked during the World War I.

6. Fort St. David was one of British stronghold in Cuddalore about 100 miles (160 km) south of Madras on the southeastern coast of India. It was named after patron saint of Wales because the governor of Madras at the time, Elihu Yale, was Welsh. In 1690 the Marathas sold the fort to the British East India Company. Because of increasing political instability in southern India, company officials found a second fortified trading station apart for Madras. In the 18th century the fort became a second centre of British power in southern India. The nuclear of Indian Army has begun in this fort during the war with the French.

7. Andrew Cogan and Francis Day can be considered as the founders of Madras (now Chennai). They began construction of the Fort St George on 23 April 1640 and houses for their residence. Their small fortified settlement quickly attracted other East Indian traders to settle around the fort the area came to be known as ‘White Town’. This area became the Fort St. George settlement.

8. No man’s land the land that was named by the British, which they decided to form a settlement. The no-man’s land in 1639, it has grown to become a major industrial, business and cultural centre today. It was on this day in 1639 that British administrator Francis Day along with his superior Andrew Cogan struck a deal with the Vijayanagar empire to acquire a stretch of no man’s land. That stretch of land went on to be become Madras, today known as Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu. The British first built a fortified ‘factory’ on this land which was named on St George’s birthday April 23, 1640 as Fort St.George.

Keywords: Fort Geldria, Chennapattinam, No man’s land, Andrew Cogan and Francis Day, Madras day, Emden, Fort St. David, Madraspattinam, Elihu Yale, Fort St.George, World War I, German light cruiser ‘SMS Emden’, Chenna Kesava Perumal Temple.