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Chennai has an interesting history that has played a vital role in shaping the city. Navigate through this article to know more on the history of Chennai.

History of Chennai

Formerly known as Madras, this small fishing village was first discovered by the Portuguese. Today, however, this sprawling capital city of Tamil Nadu has a vibrant culture and a flourishing economy to boast of. Chennai bears an influence of various dynasties that have ruled the place prior to the colonial rule. The Chola, Pandyas, Pallavas, Chera and the Vijaynagar dynasty have made invaluable contribution to the city. It is believed that Cholas were the first to rule the city, followed by the Pallavas, Cheras Pandyas and the Vijaynagar leaders. According to the city’s history, the land originally belonged to a Chola Prince, Illam Killi, the future heir to the second century Chola dynasty. The city was later conquered and ruled by European rulers like the British, the Portuguese and the French. Chennai has been the home to both imperial and colonial rule. To know more about the transition of Chennai from imperial state to colonial hub to independent economic powerhouse of modern India, check out its history here.

Historical Events

British Rule

In the 17th century, the British invaded India with the view to expand its economic ties within this region by purchasing a considerable size of land from Damarla Venkatadri Nayakudu. The British constructed St. George fort to establish their rule in India and was also granted consent to construct an industrial unit to improve trade activities within the city. Madras was attacked by the French under General La Bourdonnais, who raided the town and other nearby villages. It was then that the British understood the economic significance of the place and built a fortress to prevent any further attacks from the French and Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore. By the end of the 18th century, the colonialism ruled spread over other parts of south India like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu while Madras became the central head for the other state.

Military & Trade Services
During the 19th century, Madras was a fully developed city with thriving economy and a strong military force. It was during this period that the British decided to connect Chennai to other major cities like Calcutta and Bombay to expand its trading ventures in the subcontinent. Over the years, this has benefited the city’s growth and economic progress. Today, Chennai remains as the railway center of the South. With the ascension of Lord Macartney, Chennai solidified its colonial and faced a major boost in its trade and commerce. Today the ports of Chennai are an important carrier hub for fishing, coal, mineral products and other industrial cargos.

Other Events
After the war with the Sultan of Mysore, the English gained complete dominance over the Coromandel Coast. After 1799, many nearby villages located near the city were merged within the city limits to improve and expand manufacturing units in the south. This, in turn, brought about a dramatic change in the geographical structure in the region. Sir Edward Elliot, the then Governor of Madras, undertook several transformations in the governing of the city, which was later followed by Sir Thomas Munro. Munro introduced English education to the general public by establishing English educational centers of learning. Importance towards technical and other formal education was undertaken in English to improve the literacy rate in the city. Some of these institutions were Madras Medical colleges in 1835 and Civil Engineering College in 1834. During the 20th century the British had made a hallmark establishment by introducing electricity to the people of Chennai by setting up Chennai electricity supply board in 1906 thus making it more accessible to the locals. Sir Arthur who was the governor in 1907 also introduced the modern methods of banking system.

World War 1
The German forces wanted to destroy the British and their allied forces during the world war. The Indian Ocean at that time was bustling with British cargo ships and others warships. On 14th September the German SMS Emden warship captured and destroyed more than 15 British ships in the area. On 22nd September the SMS Emden had again trespassed the Indian Oceans and moved towards the port of Madras and broke open fire. In this process an oil tank was fired that led to few casualties of commercial ships and crew members. Although the foray was not brutal and did not claim many lives, the attack had demolished the British confidence. Many locals did not find Madras a safe place as huge crowds fled from the city to smaller towns.

Even after the independence, Madras state continued to experienced territorial tension. The problem was resolved when the Indian constitution passed the State Recognition Act 1956. The act brought about wide spread changes in the state borders. The 16 districts, which were dominated by Telugu speaking people ,formed as one state known as Andhra Pradesh. The Malabar districts that belonged to the Madras State were also merged with the boundaries of Kerala, which decreased the size of the State. Parts of Maharashtra and Andhra became a part of the Karnataka state. Since 1956 many states have undergone additional changes with respect to its boundaries.