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Chennai formerly known as Madras, is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu and is India's fourth largest city. It is located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. With an estimated population of 8.9 million (2014), the 400-year-old city is the 31st largest metropolitan area in the world.

The city of Madras in 1909 : Chennai boasts of a long history from the English East India Company, through the British Raj to its evolution in the late 20th century as a services and manufacturing hub for India. Additionally, the pre-city area of Chennai has a long history within the records of South Indian Empires.

Chennai, originally known as "Madras Patnam" was located in the province of Tondaimandalam, an area lying between Pennar river of Nellore and the Pennar river of Cuddalore. The capital of the province was Kancheepuram. Tondaimandalam was ruled in the 2nd century by Tondaiman Ilam Tiraiyan, who was a representative of the Chola family at Kanchipuram. It is believed that Ilam Tiraiyan must have subdued the Kurumbas, the original inhabitants of the region and established his rule over Tondaimandalam. The modern city of "Chennai" arose from the British settlement of Fort St. George and its subsequent expansion through merging numerous native villages and European settlements around Fort St. George into the city of Madras. While most of the original city of Madras was built and settled by Europeans, the surrounding area which was later incorporated included the native temples of Thiruvanmiyur, Thiruvotriyur, Thiruvallikeni (Triplicane), Thirumayilai (Mylapore) which have existed for more than 1000 years. Thiruvanmiyur, Thiruvotriyur and Thirumyilai are mentioned in the Thevarams of the Moovar (of the Nayanmars) while Thiruvallikeni in the Nalayira Divya Prabhandhams (of the Alwars) The present day city of Chennai started as an English settlement known as Fort St. George. The Vijayanagar rulers who controlled the area, appointed chieftains known as Nayaks who ruled over the different regions of the province almost independently. Damerla Venkatadri Nayaka, who was a Telugu King, and an influential Padma Velama Nayaka chieftain under the Vijayanagara King Peda Venkata Raya based in Chandragiri-Vellore Fort, was in-charge of the area of present Chennai city when the English East India Company arrived to establish a factory in the area.

It was Damarla who gave the East India Company in 1639 a grant of a piece of land lying between the river Cooum almost at the point it enters the sea and another river known as the Egmore river. On this piece of waste land was founded Fort St. George, a fortified settlement of British merchants, factory workers, and other colonial settlers. Upon this settlement the English expanded their colony to include a number of other European communities, new British settlements, and various native villages, one of which was named Madras patnam. It in honor of the later village upon which the British named the entire colony and the combined city Madras. Controversially, in an attempt to revise history and justify renaming the city as Chennai, the ruling party has purged the history of the early English Madras settlements. According to the new party history, instead of being named Madras, it was named Chennai, after a village called Chennapattanam, in honour of Damerla Chennappa Nayaka, father of Damerla Venkatadri Nayaka, who controlled the entire coastal country from Pulicat in the north to the Portuguese settlement of Santhome. However, it is widely recorded that while the official centre of the present settlement was designated Fort St. George, the British applied the name Madras to a new large city which had grown up around the Fort including the "White Town" consisting principally of British settlers, and "Black Town" consisting of principally Catholic Europeans and allied Indian minorities. Thiruvotriyur is historically important port city, now forms part of north chennai. vayiratharayan of Virukanbakkam alias Chenninallur. After India became independent in 1947, the city became the administrative and legislative capital of Madras State which was renamed as Tamil Nadu in 1968.

During the reorganisation of states in India on linguistic lines, in 1953, Telugu speakers wanted Madras as the capital of Chennai and coined the slogan "Madras Manade" (Madras is ours). The demands for the immediate creation of a Telugu-speaking state were met with after Tirupati was included in Andhra State and after the leaders who led the movement were convinced to give up their claim on Madras. The dispute arose as over the preceding hundred years, the early British, European workers and small cottage capitalists had been replaced in large part by both Tamil and Telugu speaking people. In fact, as the greater concentration of capital wrecked what remained of old East Indian middle class, the city principally became a large housing development for huge numbers of workers. Most of these were recruited as cheap labor from the relatively poor Telugu nationality, which in turn enraged the Tamil nationals who were originally the working and middle class settlers of Madras in the late 18th century. Earlier, Panagal Raja, Chief Minister of Madras Presidency in early 1920s had suggested that the Cooum River be the boundary between the Tamil and Telugu administrative areas. In 1953, the political and administrative dominance of Tamils, both at the Union and State levels ensured that Madras was not transferred to the new state of Andhra.

Although the original inhabitants of Madras and responsible for its growth into the modern metropolis of today, the British and European nationals are virtually non-existent. Always a tiny minority in comparison with the vast Indian population of the hinterlands, despite slow growth in natural birthrate and continued settlement, the British and European populations were made an ever decreasing share of their city's populations. As more and more Indians arrived from the countryside to work in the city, the British and other Europeans found it increasingly difficult to establish or maintain independent wealth as they had during the early East Indian regime. This only furthered to mitigate continued British settlement. Nonetheless, as any purview of the city's and other major metropolitan cemeteries of India can attest, hundreds of thousands came to India between the 1600s (decade) and 1770s and later another million more came between 1770 and 1870. These settlers and their families spread throughout India or settled in the cities, with Madras being one of their principal entry points. However, by the early 20th century they had become a small minority in their own city. Although they remained in control of the original corporations and businesses of Madras, and were the official representatives of the Imperial government, their community’s size relative to the larger Indian population in Madras ensured their eventual demise should democratic control be given to Indian nationalities in place of the older Colonial charters? When this was accomplished with the Independence of India in 1947, they were quickly brushed aside by the Indian population.

Despite lacking their original numbers and control, the original British community remnants, along with other minorities as well as the long history of British culture, keeps Madras a slightly cosmopolitan city. Population of Telugu's and Tamils were more or less the same in those days, however dynamics of Madras city was changed post-independence rapidly. Mixed Anglo Indian descendants of the original English settlers, a smaller but still extant British and European community, as well as migrant Malayalee communities in the city. As the city is an important administrative and commercial center, many nationalities such as Bengalis, Punjabis, Gujarati’s and Marwari’s, as well as people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar migrated to the city and have contributed to its cosmopolitan nature. Today, Chennai also has a growing expatriate population especially from the United States, Europe and East Asia who work in the industries and IT centers.

Since its establishment as a city in 1639, English was the official language of the city. However, with independence, the new Hindi-dominated Central government started imposing the use of Hindi in business and government. Therefore, from 1965 to 1967, the city was an important base for the Tamil agitation against this imposition, and witnessed sporadic rioting. Madras witnessed further political violence due to the civil war in Sri Lanka, with 33 people killed by a bomb planted by the Tamil Eelam Army at the airport in 1984, and assassination of thirteen members of the EPRLF and two Indian civilians by the rival LTTE in 1991. In the same year, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in Sriperumbudur, a small town close to Chennai, whilst campaigning in Tamil Nadu, by Thenmuli Rajaratnam A.K.A. Dhanu. Dhanu is widely believed to be have been an LTTE member. In 1996, keeping with the recent nationwide practice of Indianizing city names, the Government of Tamil Nadu, then represented by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, renamed the city to Chennai. The 2004 tsunami lashed the shores of Chennai killing many, destroying much of the historical oceanfront, and permanently altering the coastline.

Today, modern Chennai, formerly known as Madras is a large commercial and industrial centre, and is known for its cultural heritage and temple architecture. Chennai is the automobile capital of India, with around forty percent of the automobile industry having a base there and with a major portion of the nation's vehicles being produced there. Chennai is also referred as the Detroit of South Asia. It is a major manufacturing centre. Chennai has also become a major centre for outsourced IT and financial services from the Western world.