Madras Day

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.

Events

On this day, many events are held focusing 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.

 

Madras Day 1Francis Day                                     East India Company Logo               

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Chandragiri in India Map                                                Chandragiri fort

Dynasty of Padmavati Devi

It was a daughter of this Chandragiri dynasty, Padmavati Devi whom Lord Venkateswara married.

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Princess Padmavathi of Chandragiri dynasty

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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.

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Cooum River

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.

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Coromandel Coast

This place is now remembered as Luz church.

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Luz Church

This beach between Fort Saint George and Luz is the famous Marina beach of Chennai.

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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.

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Fort Saint George

Chennaipatnam

The word Chennai comes from Chennaipatnam. The word patnam in Tamil means town.

Patron Divinities

The word chennai comes from the two patron divinities of this region, Chenna Malleswara and Chenna Kesava. The word Chenna itself finds more usage now in the Kannada language, meaning good, that which augurs well. This shows how people, language intermingled and were composite, even few centuries back.

Similarly, we have the word Vishakapatnam in northeast, with the word patnam, meaning town.

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Vishakapatnam

Madras – Madrassa – Thousand lights

The name Madras could well have come from a madarasa, a school of Islam that was then situated at a place now known as thousand lights. It was then called Airyam Vilaka, for, Madarrasa was well lit, every evening, with thousand glistening lamps.

Birthplace of Indian Army

In 1746, there was a war in the outskirts of Madras called the Adyar War. It was fought between the French commanders who had thousand soldiers on his side against the local Nawab who has a 10,000 strong army. The local Nawab was routed at the Adyar Estuary. The handful of British who were present there were bystanders during the war.

Major stringer Lawrence who was present then collected all the local soldiers post this battle, made them into a fighting force and called them the Madras Army.

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Madras Army

Not of Recent Origin

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

Tiruvottiyur

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.

Madras Day 7Adi Shankara                                                 Tiruvottiyur Devi Temple

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Adi Shankara with his four disciples at Tiruvottiyur Devi Temple

Mangadu

He also visited the Devi temple at Mangadu. The word Mangadu means mango groove, Manga meaning mango and Kadu for forest.

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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

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.

 

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The 12 Alwars

Nayanmars

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.

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Kapileshwar Temple, Chennai

This festival is popularly known as Arvathi Muvar, named after 63 Nayanmar saints.

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Arvathi Muvar, 63 Nayanmars being carried in chappram, palanquin procession

Ancient Antiquity

The antiquity of this area having continuous habitation for the last 2500 years and more is available to us through poetry, archaeology and monuments.

Recent Antiquity

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.

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 Chatrapati Shivaji Plaque at the Kalikaamba temple

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Kalikamba Temple, Chennai

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 Shivaji statue found at Kalikambal temple gopuram

British paid honorariums 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.

Madras First

As the East India Company and the British rule of India slowly grew from Madras. Madras has many firsts to its credit.

·   First Allopathy Hospital in India

·   First Muncipal Corporation in India

·   First Centre of Technical Education In India

·   First English type school

·   First Astronomical Observatory

·   First native infantry regiment

·   Great Trignometrical Survey which measure the size of India, which survey incidently found the Mount Everest to be the tallest peak, started their first survey from Chennai

·   First Railway track for demonstration purpose was laid here

·   Madam Tussads wax museum famous now, was brought to Madras for display, before finally being housed in London.

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.

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Nagasaki Bombing

Nagasaki bombing

On August 9th, 1945, the United States of America carried out the second atomic bomb attack on Japan at Nagasaki, after targeting Hiroshima three days before.

Nagasaki Bombing 1

Nagasaki, Japan

The destruction was immediate and devastating. The northern part of the city vanished in few moments with around 73,883 people losing their lives instantly and 74,909 getting injured by the bomb, codenamed ‘FatMan’. The time was 11.02 am.

The scale of attack was so much that, atomic clouds formed over the city.

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Mushroom clouds formed from the Atomic explosion in Nagasaki

The bomb was made from Plutonium, named after Pluto, the Greek god of underworld. Plutonium is one of the most toxic substances, and its lethality cannot be understated. The substance contaminates every object in its vicinity, in some way, for ever. Thus, the immediate affect of the bomb on the population need not be stated. Around 1,20,000 people were poisoned.

Initially, Kokura was the city under the lenses of Americans. But, as Kokura was covered by clouds, the fate fell on Nagasaki.

The bomb ‘Fatman’ was more powerful than the ‘Little Boy’ bomb dropped on Hiroshima city. However, due to the uneven terrain of Nagasaki, the devastation was lesser compared to Hiroshima.

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Nagasaki, Before and After Bombing

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima during World War II, are the nuclear bomb drops, we have encountered in the modern world till date. Until then, descriptions of such bombs and their destruction were unheard of and would have been passed off as a figment of imagination.

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Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Photos courtesy: US National Archives and Records Administration

Did the ancient world and India have the nuclear capability? Were there a nuclear wars in ancient time? Were nuclear arsenal used during the war?

The knowledge about any such war from ancient times will help understand the universal holocaust that a nuclear conflict could bring, and thereby make us more serious about disarmament of these destructive weapons.

Dr.Robert J. Oppenheimer and the Bhagavad Gita

Dr.Robert J. Oppenheimer, the nuclear physicist of America, responsible for the development of the first Atomic Bomb in the modern world, while witnessing the first nuclear test explosion in 1945, in New Mexico Desert quoted from the verse 11.32 of the Bhagavad Gita

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Dr. Robert J Oppenheimer

Photos courtesy US National Archives and Record Administration

“I am become death, destroyer of the worlds”.

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“The Supreme Lord said: I am death, the mighty destroyer of the world, out to

destroy. Even without your participation all the warriors standing arrayed in

the opposing armies shall cease to exist.”

(Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 11 verse 32)

The Upadesa. – Bhagavad Gita, got the Kurukshetra war of Mahabharata underway and this particular phrase which Dr. Oppenheimer quoted, speaks of the power to destroy.

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project, learned Sanskrit in 1933 and read the Bhagavad Gita in the original. He has cited it as one of the most influential books to shape his philosophy of life.

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Manhattan Trinity Project – The Explosive Gadget

Photo courtsey Los Alamos National Laboratories

The quoting of the Bhagavad Gita verse 11.32 by Dr.Oppenheimer does not seem to be a one off statement. There are pointers that make one wonder whether Dr.Oppenheimer was quoting the Gita at the moment of the first nuclear test explosion of the modern world, from a philosophical perspective or whether he was perhaps quoting it to imply some other connection or similarity.

Was he of the opinion that the Kurukshetra war of the Mahabharata, which brought forth the Bhagavad Gita, too had nuclear arsenal in it and was he aware of the same?

Dr. Oppenheimer conveys a plausible connection, when he articulates his view on the nuclear capability of an ancient civilization.

Shortly after the first nuclear test explosion, called the Manhattan Project, Dr. Oppenheimer, addressed the students of the Rochester University. Here one of the students asked him a pointed question, if his experiment was the first nuclear explosion of the world. He responded thoughtfully as “Well …. Yes, in modern times ofcourse …”.

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University of Rochester

This cautious, measured, response of Dr. Oppenheimer, which has been recorded for posterity, makes one wonder if Dr. Oppenheimer believed that in an earlier civilization, there could have been nuclear capability. By earlier quoting the Bhagavad Gita during the test explosion, was he perhaps pointing to the Indian civilization as having had that capability?

In Mahabharata

This thought is further substantiated by the Indian text Mahabharata and the adjunct text Purana, which give a vivid description of the Asthra or missiles and their capabilities.

The description of the special manner in which these Asthra were invoked, the number, colour, shape and the rapid speed of individual discharges from each Asthra, the extent of destruction they had caused and the awe in which they were held as compared to the regular bow and arrow, make them appear to be special weapons of mass destruction, beyond our comprehension today.

Were they based on nuclear technology or something even beyond?

It is to be noted from the account in the texts, that not everyone who took part in the war had the Asthra. The common soldier used only Shasthra. Very few persons seemed to have had Asthra.

Notable amongst them, on the Pandava side, Arjuna had such asthra and on the Kaurava side, Karna had them.

Both Arjuna and Karna are described in the text as level headed warriors with great will power, patience, tolerance and sagacity. They had obtained these asthra weapons, only after great penance and austerities.

Is there any ground proof of an atomic war in the past?

Ground Proof

All pointers so far, make us ponder if really a limited nuclear war was fought at the Kurukshetra battle. Many have commented for and against on this aspect.

But all studies seem to have halted at a superficial level, leaving this as a still unanswered question.

The maximum one is able to trace, is upto the work by two European researchers David Davenport and Ettore Vincenti, who seem to have done some ground work in and around MohenjoDaro. Not many details can be found of their work or its acceptance, but their findings seem to be very interesting and plausible, warranting further attention.

In one of their excavation sites, they claim to have found evidences that suggest that the ancient town may have been ruined by a powerful blast.

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Ruined town

They found big stratums of clay and green glass crystallised, fused or melted at its identified epicentre and bricks around this epicentre were melted on one side, characteristic of an explosion.

It is obvious that not much ground research has been done to validate these statements of the Mahabharata text or that of these 2 research scholars.

There are over 2600 archaeological sites around the Kurukshetra region.

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Hardly a handful of them have been excavated and worked on by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Need to check for remnant signs

Just as Archaeo-Astronomy is bringing about a new revolution in history, we need a revolution in our ground Archaeology as well. The services of IAEA (Indian Atomic Energy Agency), the National Physical Laboratory and similar such research institutions with expertise in nuclear sciences and other intra disciplinary subjects, may also have to be enlisted to check for remnant signs of any nuclear explosion in the Kurukshetra war theatre area.

In parallel, if the texts are studied seriously, it can yield a wealth of information on the weaponry, army formations and other details of the Kurukshetra war to give us better insights into this war and the fallout of the war.

A short in the arm to disarm

If it does turn out to be a major war fought with all those advanced technologies, then it is indeed a wake up call for all of us, in this age of nuclear armaments to study and understand this war and draw lessons from it.

It will be a shot in the arm for the nuclear disarmament and global peace program. This is especially because the current generation seems to be slowly forgetting the long lasting impact and sufferings of the people post the bomb droppings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, having not seen it firsthand.

More on this in our book, “Triple Eclipse”, and Historical Krishna.

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Eclipse: An Ancient Indian Perspective

Recordings of eclipses are available in texts, temple inscriptions, copper plates and legends of the land.

Through the times, we see continuity in the understanding and recording of eclipses.

Why were our ancients interested in eclipses? Why did they learn to predict eclipses?

Dos and Donts surrounding eclipse

We see there are many elaborate dos and donts surrounding eclipses which have been a tradition of this civilization. Some interesting ones that have continued to this day are
• eating food atleast 4 to 6 hours before an eclipse and not carrying forward food cooked prior to an eclipse
• the use of Dharba grass to protect food items and other perishables
• protection of pregnant women from the rays of sun during solar eclipses
• not seeing solar eclipse with the naked eye

Advice for Pregnant Women

Scientists have shown today how during a Solar Eclipse, the amount of Ultra Violet rays and other cosmic rays reaching the earth are higher. These rays are harmful to the foetus. Hence pregnant women were advised to cover themselves and stay indoors during an eclipse to protect the foetus from these rays. Even today pregnant women are advised to stay away from radiation exposure of all kinds for example X Rays.

Contamination of Food

The increased exposure to such rays also contaminates food. Carrying forward of food cooked before an eclipse is therefore not advisable. Further more, there is the need to ensure that all food in one’s stomach is digested before the start of an eclipse.

Using Dharba grass

The antidote for preventing the food from contamination by radiation has been the practice of covering food with Dharba grass. This points to our ancients having used the Dharba grass as a shield to absorb the unwanted radiations in the atmosphere, especially those arising during eclipses.

Dharba grass absorbs X Rays

Nascent, independent research on Dharba grass has revealed its ability to absorb X Rays. These early finds make Dharba grass a very promising field of study. We see a good grasp of astronomy, physics, biology and mathematics all rolled into the practice of predicting eclipses and the traditions followed during an eclipse. This holds good for a host of other astronomical observations and traditions followed too.

Donations During Eclipses

De Dhaan Chute Grahan – is a slogan one got to hear on the streets about 4 to 5 decades, during the time of eclipses.

It means Give Alms To Release The Eclipsed.

It was a common practice in India to give donations during eclipses and other cosmological events such as:
1. Ayana, Solstices – Dakshinayana, Summer Solstice and Uttarayana, Winter Solstice

2. Vishnuvrata Equinoxes – Mesha Vishu, Vernal Equinox and Tula Vishu, Autumnal Equinox

3. Grahana, Eclipses – Surya Grahana, Solar eclipse and Chandra Grahana, Lunar eclipse

4. Amavasya, New Moon

5. Yugadi, New Year

Many explain that such Dhana were given in the superstitious belief that the donor will gain relief from the evil forces that were capable of even devouring the Sun and the Moon.

On the contrary, we find from traditional literature that the people were well aware of the scientific nature of these cosmological events. They could predict their occurrences due to their understanding of the motions of the earth, moon and various planets as well as their proficiency in Mathematics, which is needed to model these motions and calculate dates for their occurrences in advance.

Dhana for noble causes was given on these significant days as these days were considered as markers of time and hence would be easily remembered over time. Every king, landlord, zamindar, royalty made it a point to give Dhana every year from their accumulated wealth. Various kings like Krishnadevaraya, Harshavardhana and others, repeatedly gave Dhana every year and during such events as eclipses.

Many temple inscriptions speak about such Dhana, endowments made to the temple and thereby to the people at large, on the occasion of eclipses.

Eclipses continue to happen and many just ignore them. Inscriptions continue to remain as evidences of the ones gone by but are hardly known to many.

The request for alms on eclipses are no longer heard on the streets. Neither are there donors, nor are there receivers on this day.

But misconceptions about the Indian perception of eclipses continue to loom large in everyone’s minds.

More on Eclipses in our book, Triple Eclipse.

Image result for triple eclipse bharath gyan