Chennapatnam or Madraspatnam

An interesting excerpt from the wikipedia on the history behind the name of Chennai. It seems Chennapatnam and Madraspatnam were two little villages. When the British established their base in Madraspatnam, another small village to the south of Madraspatnam also started developing. This small village known as Chennapatnam later joined Madraspatnam as one blossoming town and is today known as Chennai.

For some reason, I always thought the word – *Chennai* had some deeper meaning than being just the name of a person!!! Weird!

The name Madras is derived from Madraspatnam, the site chosen by the British East India Company for a permanent settlement in 1639. The Madrasa or the Islam’s religious schools patronozied by the Arcot Nawabs gave the city Madras its name. The Nawab of Arcot, a former vassal of the Nizam of Hyderabad, built a huge palace, the Amir Mahal, still inhabited by descendants.

The region was often called by different names as madrapupatnam, madras kuppam, madraspatnam, and madirazpatnam as adopted by locals. Another small town, Chennapatnam, lay to the south of it. This place was named so by Damarla Venkatadri Nayakudu, Nayak of Wandiwash in remembrance of his father Damarla Chennappa Nayakudu.He was the local governor for the last Raja of Chandragiri, Sri Ranga Raya VI of Vijayanagar Empire. The first Grant of Damarla Venkatadri Nayakudu makes mention of the village of Madraspatnam. In all records of the times, a difference is made between the original village of Madraspatnam and the new town growing round the Fort. Thus it is probable that the village of Madraspatnam existed under that name, prior to the English settlement of 1639-40 and the site of Chennapatnam was that of modern Fort St. George. The original village of Madraspatnam lay to the north of the site of the Fort and within a few years of the founding of Fort St. George the new town which grew up round the Fort was commonly known to the Indians as Chennapatnam, either in deference to the wishes of Damarla Venkatadri or because the site originally bore that name. The intervening space between the northern Madraspatnam and the Southern Chennapatnam came to be built over rapidly so that the two villages became virtually one town. The English preferred to call the two united towns by the name of Madraspatnam with which they had become familiar with while the Indians chose to give it the name of Chennapatnam. In course of time the exact original locations of Madraspatnam and Chennapatnam came to be confused. Madras was regarded as the site of the Fort and Chennapatnam as the Indian town to the north.

The city was renamed Chennai in August 1996.

9 Comments so far

  1. Terminator (unregistered) on October 20th, 2007 @ 12:30 am

    whatever the name is either Madras or Chennai, both are not native to the land. One refers to the name of some Nayakudu and other to the the Madarasas. What a shame? we don’t have a Tamil Name for our city..

  2. Navneeth (unregistered) on October 20th, 2007 @ 12:40 am

    Am I dreaming?!? It’s actually a post about the city, and it’s even about its history! Wow!

    udayms, I’m curious, were you originally from some other part of the country? (Please don’t mistake me for a fundamentalist of some sort. I’m just surprised that you had not heard of the (probable) sources behind the names of this city.)

  3. Sundeep (unregistered) on October 20th, 2007 @ 3:00 am

    Good article. Opens lot of our peoples minds, nobody owns anything in this world. Great work!

  4. Sundeep (unregistered) on October 20th, 2007 @ 3:01 am

    Good article. Opens lot of our peoples minds, nobody owns anything for good in this world. Great work!

  5. ram (unregistered) on October 21st, 2007 @ 8:33 am

    Who cares what its called Chennai or Madras the place is full of S*** and bpo s*** girls who are
    really filthy. The roads are open gutters as people can’t afford to build toilets or sewerage, the people of the city speak a funny language and dress funny. They should have nuked the place a long time ago as this is no real city it is hell on earth. Nothing is done by any standard and the people have no morals and are really contradicting themselves. They say it is a cultural city yet people here are not able to speak there own language they prefer to speak English whats so cultural about that??? Chennai sucks and so do the people that unfortunately live here.

  6. Dilip Muraldiaran (unregistered) on October 21st, 2007 @ 2:25 pm

    udayms: Very nice article, very enlightening. If you do not mind the next time i post a chennai photo on flickr may i use the information you have presented here for a narration on the picture. Im not sure when i would do it but the info you have researched and presented here is top notch!

    Ram: It looks like you are hell bent on posting negative comments on peoples blogs. I wonder why useless people like you comment in the first place when you have nothing productive to say.

    Chennai may suck and so may its people but the point that you are here to trash chennai and its people like us sucks even more. Stop blowing soap bubbles and go get a real job and a life, looks like you have neither.

  7. little Ram (unregistered) on October 21st, 2007 @ 9:12 pm

    One comment on this post is in poor taste. You do have a set of people that can see nothing good around them and spend their lives criticizing the state of things around them as well as passing sweeping judgments on society, citizens, cities, etc.

    My point to all of them has been just this- you are very much a part of the society that you are commenting on. Further, your personal identity and that of everyone else is purely a matter of chance. But for the grace of God, you could have been a beggar, a BPO employee, a resident of Afghanistan or even the President of the US. Therefore to comment negatively on a set of people or residents of a place is pure tribalism. Your objective observations are welcome as are your recommendations for change. No one will have any argument with any of these.

    We can have different points of view on the dress sense, language habits or culture of people around us. Still, so long as this does not get in the way of your life, you have to permit them their liberty and respect it. Sure, you can also discuss it in a healthy manner. From the same set of people who the commenter so despises for their habits come some decent, hard-working folk who do an honest job and get on with their lives in quiet dignity, only seeking to better their standard of living.

    However, in making sweeping negative remarks that tar a community or society, you run the risk of disengaging from meaningful dialogue with others.

    I can only hope that the originator of the comment reflects on this and contributes positively in future.

  8. AP (unregistered) on October 21st, 2007 @ 11:52 pm

    Little Ram, really appreciate your sincere effort to give some advice regarding above comment. I truly hope that it falls on receptive ears!

  9. Vivek (unregistered) on October 23rd, 2007 @ 2:44 pm

    Chennai or Madras, the place rocks.

    I found the trivia very interesting.


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