Chennai, a profile

Metropolitan Magistrate Courts, Chennai

The City of Chennai, also known as Madras earlier times, is the Capital of the state of Tamil Nadu. It is situated at the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal.  Spread over an area of about 200 sqkm and still growing, it is the biggest industrial, commercial centre, and a major cultural, economic and educational centre in South India. It is today India's fourth largest metropolis with an estimated population of 4.68 million (2011). The city is famous for its sandy beaches- the 12 km long Marina Beach being second longest beaches in the world, parks and historic landmarks.

Pre-historic settlements:     According to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Pallavaram near Chennai was a megalithic cultural establishment, and pre-historic communities resided in the settlement. Sculpted caves and paintings have been identified from that period.

Ancient coins dating to around 500 BC have also been unearthed from the city and its surrounding areas.

During 1st century AD, a poet and weaver named Thiruvalluvar lived in the town of Mylapore (a neighbourhood of present Chennai), who was the author of famous Tamil book Thirukkural.  

Ancient Times:         Even though the present day Chennai has a recorded history of about 400 years of existence, the area around Chennai has been under the rule of succession of South Indian kingdoms like the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, and Vijaynagar kingdoms from ancient times. This region has served as an important administrative, military, and economic centre for many centuries.

Chennai, originally known as Madrasappatnam, was located in the province of Tondaimandalam.  Around 2nd Century AD, Tondaiman Ilam Tiraiyan, a representative of the Chola family at Kanchipuram, was ruling the Tondaimandalam province.  The Tondaimandalam province covered the area lying between North Pennar River, Nellore and the South Pennar River, Cuddalore. It is believed that Ilam Tiraiyan had subdued Kurumbas, the original inhabitants of the region and established his rule. Subsequent to Ilam Tiraiyan, the region seemed to have been ruled by the Chola Prince Ilam Killi.

Around 3rd Century AD, the Chola occupation of Tondaimandalam was put to an end by the Andhra Satavahana incursions from the north under their King Pulumayi II. They appointed chieftains to look after the Kancheepuram region. Bappaswami, who is considered as the first Pallava to rule from Kancheepuram, was a chieftain under the Satavahanas. The Pallavas who had been mere viceroys, became independent rulers of Kancheepuram and its surrounding areas. From beginning of 3rd to close of 9th Century AD, Pallavas held sway over this region, except for the interval of some decades when the region was under Kalabharas.

Chola ruler Aditya-I defeated Pallavas in about 879 A.D. and the region was brought under Chola rule once again. Pandyas under Jatavarman Sundara Pandya rose to power and the region was brought under Pandya rule by putting an end to Chola supremacy in 1264 A.D.

Pandya's rule over this region lasted a little over half a century followed by Bahmini kingdom with the extension of Delhi Sultanate under Khilji dynasty especially under the rule of Alauddin Khilji, a pioneer of all revenue works.

During 1361, Kumara Kampana II, the son of Vijayanagar King Bukka I conquered and established Vijayanagar rule in Tondaimandalam. The Vijayanagar rulers appointed chieftain known as Nayaks who ruled over the different regions of the province almost independently.

Early European settlers:  Modern Chennai had its origins as a colonial city and its initial growth was closely tied to its importance as an artificial harbour and trading centre. It was the Portuguese who arrived first here in 1522, and they built a port and named it São Tomé, after the Christian apostle St. Thomas, who is believed to have preached in this region between the years 52 and 70 AD. The region then passed into the hands of the Dutch, who established themselves near Pulicat just north of the city in 1612. Both groups strived to grow their colonial populations and although their populations reached into 10,000 persons when the British arrived, they remained substantially outnumbered by the local Indian population.

English Settlement and establishment of Chennai:  After arrival to India and in their process of establishing various settlements, English East India Company were in search of a suitable place in the eastern coast. Their agents Francis Day and Andrew Cogan selected a region which was then primarily a fishing village known as "Madraspatnam". The area was under rule of Damarla Venkatapathy Nayak, who was an influential chieftain under Vijayanagara Ruler Peda Venkata Raya a.k.a. Venkata III from Chandragiri-Vellore Fort. The Nayak gave grant of a piece of land, lying between the river Cooum and river Egmore, to the English East India Company through their agents, in 1639. A year later, Fort St. George was founded there. In honour of Chennappa Nayak, father of Venkatapathy Nayak, the settlement which had grown up around Fort St. George was named as Chennapatanam.

The Fort St. George served as the centre around which the settlement grew. Neighboring villages like Triplicane, Purasawalkam, Egmore and Chetput merged with the new settlement Chennapatnam. It later became the major naval base and administrative centre of British.

In 1746, Fort St. George and Madras were captured by the French. The British could regain control of the town only in 1749. The city witnessed a quick growth and was connected to other important cities by rail. After India's independence in 1947, it became the capital of Madras State, which was subsequently renamed Tamil Nadu in 1969. The city was renamed as Chennai in 1996.

Geography and climate
Chennai lies on the Eastern Coastal Plains in the southeastern coast of India. Chennai enjoys little variation in seasonal temperature and has a hot and humid climate for most of the year due to its proximity to the sea. The average elevation is 6 meters (20 feet). Daytime temperatures in summer range between 38°C and 42°C, though sometimes it goes beyond 42°C. It gets most of its annual rainfall from the north-east monsoon winds, from mid-October to mid-December. The Cooum (or Koovam) and Adyar rivers flow through the city. Chennai has several lakes like Red Hills, Sholavaram, Puzhal and Chembarambakkam, which supply potable water to the city. 

Culture and Tradition
Chennai has a rich culture and heritage that goes back to thousands of years.  The city has retained its traditional Tamil roots, boasting of its ancient culture and heritage and maintaining it the way it was since ancient times, while simultaneously acquiring a modern and cosmopolitan character. The people of Chennai have a special interest in music, dance and all other art forms of South India. The city is an important centre for Carnatic music and hosts a large cultural event, the annual Madras Music Season during Dec-Jan, which includes performances by hundreds of artists. The city has a diverse theatre scene and is one of the important centres for Bharata Natyam, a classical dance form which has been recognized the world over for its beauty and grace.