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Happy Birthday Chennai: Significance and controversies regarding Madras Day celebration

India TV News Desk 22 Aug 2014, 14:06:53 PM IST
India TV News Desk
New Delhi: The historic city of Chennai is marking its 375th anniversary this year with week-long celebrations as part of Madras Day, which falls on August 22.

The city will witness a many events, exhibitions and competitions from Aug 17 - Aug 24, where citizens will join in to celebrate the spirit of the city.  

It commemorates the founding of the modern city by establishing Fort St George on a small piece of land acquired from the last King of Chandragiri in 1639 by the British East India Company.

This three square miles given to the East India Company, grew the city of Madras where more than four and a half million people live now.

As time passed, out of the fort grew settlements and the villages around it were brought together with the old and new towns linked up and hence birth of a city.

As Madras grew, it gave to India the very institutions that modern cities are built on. The oldest municipal body in India, Chennai Corporation, was established in 1688.

Educational institutions like Guindy Engineering College and Presidency College were pioneers in imparting western and technical education in the country.

Madras Day celebrations include several events organized including citizens and students and lasts for a week.

Though called the Madras Week, the event, which started off as a half-a-day Madras Day celebration 11 years ago, has grown into a 'Madras month' with festivities and events planned through August and a bit of September.

The idea to celebrate the birth of the city every year was born when journalists Shashi Nair and Vincent D'Souza met S. Muthiah the city's historian and Editor of Madras Musings at his residence for coffee.

It was based on the success of another event called Mylapore Festival which D'Souza had been organising every year in January. All three of them decided to start celebrating Madras Day from 2004.

According to them, "primary motive of celebrating `Madras Day' was to focus on the city's past and present."

Initially, the idea started off with about five events in 2004, but with 2008, has over 60 different events associated with the day including heritage walks, photo walks, lectures, poetry and caption and quiz contests, food festivals and a Bullet tour lasting for a week.

There had been a controversy regarding the exact day when Madras was handed over to the British East India Company's Francis Day and Andrew Cogan between the dates 22 August and 22 July.

The controversy arose since the agreement documents dates the records to 22 July 1639 rather than 22 August of that year.  

The evidence comes from monumental three-volume history of Madras from 1640-1800 by Henry Davison Love is the Bible of all searchers after Madras's early history, which states that "Naik's grant incorrectly styled a farman, probably drafted by Day, was delivered to Andrew Cogan at Masulipatam on September 3, 1639... Three copies are extant ... all the three copies are endorsed by Cogan, but only the last bears a date, July 22, 1639, where July is most likely a slip for August as Day did not reach Madras until July 27".