Madras in South India was a port town ideally situated on the coromandel coast off the Bay of Bengal. The land was ruled by the Vijayangar kings and they appointed chieftains known as Nayaks who ruled different regions in the province, almost independently. The city as we know it today started as an English settlement in Fort St George. Kamaria Venkatadri Nayaka was the chieftain of the area of present day Chennai when the British East India Company [ EIC] arrived to set up its trade and other commercial activities.
The British looking for a new settlement along the coast secured a grant from Damaria Venkatadri Nayaka giving the EIC a three mile long strip of land in the fishing village of Madrasapatnam.
On August 22 , 1639 the deed was signed by EIC’s Francis Day accompanied by his Interpreter Beri Thimmappa and superior Andrew Cogan. In February 1640 Day and Cogan started an English factory and built a fort as allowed by the grant which was for a period of two years. On the expiryof the grant a new grant was issued in 1645 by the new Raja Sri Rangarayulu. empowering the company to expand its property by attaching an additional piece of land thus laying the foundation for the expansion of Madras to its present form.
The English fortified their settlement following which the crumbling Portuguese and Dutch settlements joined them. In 1646 Golkonda forces under Mir Jumia conquered Madras and massacred or sold into slavery many of its Christian inhabitants and their allied Indian communities. Though in the late 17th century, plaque genocide and racial violence reduced the population dramatically and almost destroyed the town, it was rebuilt with new English and European settlers.
In 1687 after the fall of Golkonda the area came under the control of the Mughals, who granted rights to the EIC in Madras and the city developed and expanded. The city was subsequently attacked by the French and Hyder Ali the Sultan of Mysore in the First Anglo-Mysore War, but the British regained control to fend off further attacks and eventually drove away the French and Dutch and the Danes.
In the 18th century with the development of a harbour Madras became an important centre for trade between India and Europe. During World War I Madras was the only Indian city to be bombarded by the German light crusier SMS Emden. Post Independence, Madras became the capital city of the State of Tamil Nadu. In 1998 Madras was rechristened as Chennai [ from Chennapatnam, which was nearby town named by Damaria Venkatadri Nayaka in honour of his father Damaria Chennappa Nayakudu] when some other Indian cities were also being renamed
COURTESY THE HINDU