IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


23rd August, 2023 Culture

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  • On August 22, the city of Madras (now Chennai) celebrates its foundation day.
  • In 1639, the town of Madrasapatnam was purchased by the East India Company (EIC) from local kings, marking the beginning of the journey that would lead to the development of modern-day Chennai.


Early Origins and British Arrival

British Presence

  • The British East India Company arrived in India during the early 17th century, seeking trading opportunities.
  • A victory over the Portuguese at Swally Hole in 1612 established their foothold on the Indian subcontinent.

Acquiring Trade Rights

  • Through diplomacy, the EIC secured the right to trade and establish factories in India by becoming naval auxiliaries for the Mughal rulers, offering protection in return.

Establishment of Forts

  • The EIC established trading posts and forts along India's coasts, including Masulipatnam in 1611 on the eastern coast, facilitating trade with Malaya.

The Birth of Madrasapatnam

Choice of Settlement

  • Francis Day, a representative of the EIC, proposed a new settlement after tensions arose in Armagaum.
  • This led to the discovery of Madrasapatnam.

Land Grant and Fort St. George

  • Damarla Venkatapathy Nayak granted a piece of land between the Cooum and Egmore rivers to the English in 1639.
  • On this land, Fort St. George was founded by the British, becoming a key element of the city's growth.

Inspiration for Chennai

  • The settlement around Fort St. George was named Chennapatanam in honor of Chennappa Nayak.
  • This name eventually evolved into 'Chennai,' inspired by the local chieftain's father.

Evolution and Transition

British Rule and Growth

  • Under British rule, the city expanded from its Fort and the Black and White towns, segregated settlements for Indians and Europeans.
  • Governor Elihi Yale's tenure saw the establishment of a mayor and Corporation for the city.

Transition to Chennai

  • After India gained independence in 1947, Madras continued as the city's name.
  • However, in 1969, the state was officially renamed Tamil Nadu, and in 1996, Madras was officially changed to Chennai.

Struggle for Renaming

Demand for Change

  • Calls to rename the state to Tamil Nadu began gaining traction.
  • In 1956, Congress leader K P Sankaralinganar fasted for this cause, but the resolution was initially defeated.

Resolution and Renaming

  • After years of efforts, a resolution to rename the state was passed in 1968. The state government issued a gazette notification, and on January 14, 1969, Tamil Nadu came into official existence.

Legacy and Modernization

  • Chennai's renaming coincided with similar changes in other Indian cities, reflecting attempts to shed colonial influences.
  • While the British influence on these names is undeniable, the cities have since evolved into vibrant hubs of culture, history, and modernization.


Madras Day serves as a reminder of the city's rich history, from its modest origins as Madrasapatnam to its transformation into Chennai. The journey reflects the intertwined narratives of British colonialism, local heritage, and India's post-independence aspirations.


Q. Which event marked the foundation of the city that would later become modern-day Chennai?


A) The establishment of Fort St. George in 1611 by the British.

B) The renaming of Madras to Chennai in 1996.

C) The victory of the British over the Portuguese in 1612.

D) The purchase of Madrasapatnam by the East India Company in 1639.

Answer: D)