Chennai, Aug 21 :
Madras, that is called Chennai since 1996, will be celebrating its 375th anniversary Friday.
A stretch of no-man’s land in 1639, it is now a major industrial, business and cultural centre.
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, which went on to become Madras, today known as Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu.
The year after acquiring the land, the British built a fortified factory which was named on St. George’s day April 23, 1640 as Fort St. George.
However, it is said that there already existed towns and villages before the British set foot on the Coromandel coast.
The region had temples that date back to eighth century including the Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane, the Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore and the Marundeeswarar temple in Thiruvanmiyur.
Further down the coast is Mamallapuram where the Shore Temple still stands. These temples have seen the rise and set of not only the British but also other rulers earlier.
With the East India Company beginning to acquire villages around their fort, Madras grew. For a brief period (1746-49), Fort St. George fell into the possession of the French after a conflict. It was restored to the British under the peace treaty.
After that, there was no looking back for the East India Company, which laid the foundation for the British empire in India.
In order to commemorate the 375th anniversary of the city, several institutions are organising various programmes like heritage walks, exhibitions, quiz contests and others.
According to city historian S. Muthiah, also known as “Mr. Madras”, the origin of various administrative systems lies in the city.
Madras is the first city of modern India with Kolkata and Mumbai being younger by 50 years and 35 years, respectively, he said.
Perhaps it is one of the very few cities that had several names.
Initially, it is believed, the city was called Chennappanaikan, in memory of the Nayak’s father. Later it was known as Chennapattinam and then Madras.
The grant of land to the British was signed at the Chandragiri fort, now in Andhra Pradesh.
The architect of the British empire in India Robert Clive got married in a church inside Fort St. George and his marriage certificate is still in the possession of the Fort Museum.