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