A City’s Birthday
People celebrate their birthdays. Here, a city celebrates its birthday. The city of Madras was founded on August 22, 1639. This day is celebrated as Madras day.
On this day, many events are held focussing on the history and cultural heritage of the city and Tamil land in general. Many groups, communities and companies come forward to organize events on culture, music, food, poetry, and talks, on the history of the city.
East India Company
Land from Raja of Chandragiri
On this day, the British East India Company, represented by Francis Day, purchased land from Raja of Chandragiri, near Tirupati, to build Fort Saint George on the Coromandel Coast.
Francis Day East India Company Logo
Chandragiri in India Map Chandragiri fort
Dynasty of Padmavati Devi
It was a daughter of this Chandragiri dynasty, Padmavati Devi whom Lord Venkateswara married.
Princess Padmavathi of Chandragiri dynasty Lord Venkateswara & Goddess Padmavathi
Why Francis Day chose this place?
Francis Day decided to set up their camp at the estuary of the Cooum River, probably because, his lady love, a Portuguese girl, was in the Portuguese settlement of Luz, which was around 5 kms down south, along the same beach.
Luz – Light
‘Luz’ is a Portuguese word, meaning light. When the Portuguese were one evening, searching for a suitable spot in the Coromandel coast, they saw a ray of light on shore and decided to move their ship and set up their trading camp there.
This place is now remembered as Luz church.
This beach between Fort Saint George and Luz is the famous Marina beach of Chennai.
Marina Beach, Chennai
British Trade Post
This piece of land soon grew into a fledgling town, primarily a British trading post operating out of Fort Saint George.
Fort Saint George
While the British might have set up their colony here only in the year 1639, this place of Chennai has ancient antiquity.
Adi Shankara visits Chennai
2500 years ago, Adi Shankara visited the area around Chennai. When he came, he visited the Devi temple at Tiruvottiyur, which is today in North Chennai.
Adi Shankara Tiruvottiyur Devi Temple
Adi Shankara with his four disciples at Tiruvottiyur Devi Temple
He also visited the Devi temple at Mangadu. The word Mangadu means mango groove, Manga meaning mango and Kadu for forest.
Mangadu Devi temple
Both these Devis at Tiruvottiyur and Mangadu were in their ugra, ferocious form. Adi Shankara through his penance made a sri yantra in front of both Devis, to bring down their ferocity and make this place habitable for the locals.
Alwars who lived around 1500 years have visited Chennai. One of the Alwar, Bhoothath Alwar was born in west of Chennai.
Around Chennai, there are over a dozen temples that have poems sung by Alwars, called Pasuram in Tamil, when they visited these temples.
The 12 Alwars
Nayanmars who also lived around 1500 years ago, also visited the Chennai region.
Nayanmars, who are devotees of Shiva have visited many Shiva temples in this region.
Infact, one of the big festivals of Chennai, is the carrying of the 63 Nayanmars in palanquin, around the Kapileshwar temple and its tanks, annually, in the month of March.
Kapileshwar Temple, Chennai
This festival is popularly known as Arvathi Muvar, named after 63 Nayanmar saints.
Arvathi Muvar, 63 Nayanmars being carried in chappram, palanquin procession
The antiquity of this area having continuous habitation for the last 2500 years and more is available to us through poetry, archaeology and monuments.
It is only the British component of Madras, which grew around Fort Saint George, which is of recent antiquity of 375 years.
Chatrapati Shivaji visits Chennai
Chatrapati Shivaji, in his conquest of the south, came upto Chennai. He prayed at the Kalika temple on 16 October, 1677.
Chatrapati Shivaji Plaque at the Kalikaamba temple
Kalikamba Temple, Chennai
Shivaji statue found at Kalikambal temple gopuram
British paid honarariums to Shivaji
During this visit to Madras, the British sent him gifts, honorariums, which in the local language is called “Kappam”, twice within a month, to his camping site near the Kalikambal temple, which is to the west of Fort Saint George, which was then the entry point to Madras.
They did this as a good will gesture requesting him not attack their trading post saying that they were only peaceful traders.
Becoming a Major City
This town continued to grow over the centuries. Around this piece of land, has grown the modern city of Madras, known as Chennai today.
Madras Day is an occasion to remember the glorious heritage of this city that has evolved over millennia.
Afghan Anglo Treaty
Afghanishtan Independence Day is the day the Anglo – Afghan treaty was signed giving complete independence to Afghanistan from British control. This settlement came forth after the third war between Britian and Afghanistan.
Britain and Afghanistan fought three wars.
In the first war, between 1839 and 1842, the British forces were completely routed by Afghan forces. In this crushing defeat for the British, off the 16000 British soldiers who fought the battle, only one survived.
The Lone British survivor
In the second war, initially the British were on back foot, but came back strongly at the battle of Kandahar. After this there was amity between both for the next 40 years.
In the third war, of 1919, the British sensing a defeat under the hands of Afghan forces decided to patch up with the Afghans, and ceasefire was agreed upon by both sides. Further negotiations led to the complete independence of Afghanistan on August 19, 1919.
Indo Afghan Connect
The India Afghanistan connect is ancient.
Afghan, Ashva, Ashvaka
The word Afghan comes from the word Ashvaka. In Samskrt, the word Ashva refers to a horse. Ashvaka means ‘A land of horses’. In ancient times, the people of this region were known for raising fine breed of horses. Hence the Afghan region was called Ashvaka in those days.
Afghanistan, land of horse Afghan Horses
Gandhara Desha, Gandhari
The Gandhara Desha from Mahabharata times is the present day Khandahar. The mother of the Kauravas got the name Gandhari for she hailed from Gandhara Desha, kingdom of Gandhara.
The Rig Veda-10.75.6 speaks of the northwestern rivers, tributaries of Indus flowing through Afghanistan and north western Pakistan. The rivers are Trstama, Susartu, Rasa, Shvetya, Sindhu, Kubha, Gomati, Kruma and Mehatnu.
‘Hara quaiti’ – ‘Saras Vati’
The River Haraquaiti, a tributary of Helmund River in Afghanistan derives it name etymologically from the River Sarasvati.
It is a fact that Afghanistan was an Hindu Kingdom till, 871 CE. This kingdom was last ruled by King Lagatorman. His dynasty was also called by the name, Kabul Shahi, Brahman Shahi, Hindu Shahi and Raya of Kabul.
Coins of Kabul Shahi Kings
A statue of a Naga king holding a lotus can be found at the Afghanistan, Kabul Museum.
Statue of a Naga King
‘Head of Brahma’
Similarly, a statue called ‘the head of Brahma’ dating to 200 CE is also found in the museum.
‘Head of Brahma’
Panini, one of the early grammarians of Samskrt language was a Patan from Afghanistan. His authoritative work on Samskrt grammar is called Ashtadhyayi, Ashta meaning eight and Adhyayi, chapters. This work consists of 8 chapters on the Science of Grammar.
Panini Panini writing Ashtadhyayi brought out in Indian stamp
Buddhism also had a major presence in Afghanistan as can be seen from the many statues of Buddha at Bamiyan.
Statues of Buddha in Bamiyan
A 160 metre statue of Buddha equal to a six storey building in Bamiyan
Hieun Tsang, Chinese traveller describes the statue of a 3rd Buddha, when he visited Bamiyan on his way to India in 630 CE. This is a reclining figure of Buddha about to enter Nirvana.
Buddha in relining position, a sculpture in Bamiyan
Lady in Namaskara position
A Reliquary Gold set with rubies dating to 200 CE, found in Afghanistan, depicts a lady in the namaskara position and also wearing a bindi. This gold set is presently at the British Museum in London.
Reliquary Gold Set, British Museum
Similarly, a pendant, called the Tillyya Tepe found in 100 BCE in Afghanistan has the mark of a bindi.
Tillyya Tepe Pendant
Connect in recent times
Coming to the present days, the connection continues.
Raindranath Tagore wrote a story called Kabuliwala, which was later made into a film.
Hamid Karzai studied in India
The Afghan President Hamid Karzai studied in India. He came to India as an exchange student and studied at the Himachal Pradesh University.
Himachal Pradesh University
Afghan Snow Cream
Afghan snow cream was one of the popular cream that was used in India, in the days gone by.
Afghan Snow Popularity through the decades
Close ties through millennia
India and Afghanistan have been geographically and culturally close for many millennia. These are but some of the facets of of these close ties.