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Madras Day

File:Fort St. George, Chennai 2.jpg
Madras Day marks the day the agents of British East India Company bought a small piece of land to build Fort St George.

Madras Day is a day of celebrations organised in the city of Madras (Chennai), the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is celebrated on 22 August every year, and is named after 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. The celebrations include several events organised including citizens and students and lasts for a week.


The modern history of the city dates back to 1639 when Francis Day of the British East India Company bought a small strip of land on the Coromandel Coast from the Vijayanagara King, Peda Venkata Raya in Chandragiri. The region was ruled by Damerla Venkatapathy, the Nayak of Vandavasi.[1] He granted the British permission to build a factory and warehouse for their trading enterprises. A year later, the British built Fort St George, which became the nucleus of the growing colonial city.[1]

Birth of Madras Day

The idea to celebrate the birth of the city every year was born when journalists Shashi Nair and Vincent D'Souza met the city's historian and Editor of Madras Musings, S. Muthiah at his residence for coffee.[2] It was based on the success of another event called Mylapore Festival which D'Souza had been organising every year in January. It was decided by the trio to start celebrating Madras Day from 2004.[2] According to them, "primary motive of celebrating `Madras Day' was to focus on the city, its past and its present."[3] The idea initially 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.[2]

Significance of 22 August

It was on 22 August 1639 that a sliver of land, where now stands Fort St George, was handed over by the local Nayak rulers to the East India Company’s Francis Day, his dubash Beri Thimmappa, and their superior, Andrew Cogan. From this small 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.[2] As years passed by 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.[4][5]

Controversies regarding the date

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. It is often stated that since Francis Day and Andrew Cogan did not arrive to the Madras coast until 27 July 1639. The evidence comes from writings of Henry Davison Love, whose monumental three-volume history of Madras from 1640-1800 is the Bible of all searchers after Madras’s early history, which states that "The Naik’s grant, erroneously styled a farman, which was probably drafted by Day, was delivered to Andrew Cogan at Masulipatam on September 3, 1639... Three copies are extant ... all of which are endorsed by Cogan. Only the last bears a date, 22 July 1639, where July is probably a slip for August, since Day did not reach Madras until 27 July".[6]

The Celebration

Originally, this celebration used to last for a day but now it extends for a week.[4] Madras Day focuses on the city, its history, its past and its present and the core team motivates communities, groups, companies and campuses in the city to host events that celebrate the city.[4] The celebration consists of events such as heritage walks (including a "tree walk"),[7] public talks, exhibitions, poetry reading sessions, public performances, food festivals and special programs on local radio.[4] It also includes contests such as, T-shirt designing, documentary film contest, multimedia presentation for schools and quiz in both Tamil and English.[4] T-shirts to mark the event are also released.[8] The talks delivered to mark the week-long celebrations usually involve lectures explaining the heritage and history of the city.[9] There are also events for the retired citizens where they can post their life years ago on the "Stories about Madras section" on Madras day's website and their views on how Madras grew into the Chennai of today.[10]

Indian postal department released a postal cover to commemorate Madras day on 22 August 2007.[11]

Special radio broadcast

The special radio broadcast for Madras Day in the past included `Putham Puthu Kalai', a programme highlighting the important landmarks of Chennai, with writer Ashokamitran, Historian S. Muthiah, Vincent D'Souza and writer Randor Guy as participants. It also included `Madras Nalla Madras', a compilation of film songs on Chennai by Delhi Ganesh and comedian Loose Mohan providing a native touch with his Madras dialect.[12]


When it started in 2004 only an handful of photographs were displayed in Rajaji Hall where the Madras Day celebrations was organised. Later in 2005 it had picked momentum where three men exhibited their collection of coins, books, maps and photographs at Clive Hall in Fort St. George. In 2006 a dozen participants, including the Archaeological Society of India and Southern Railway, have displayed their collection. The buildings that dotted Chennai's skyline in the last 300 years narrate the story of its builders. Fort St. George currently houses at least 50 to 60 heritage buildings by one estimate. Only photographs of buildings under the ASI are on display. The exhibition illustrated how business shaped Chennai's economic growth. The exhibition also traced the 200-year history of State Bank of India, besides offering a display of coins and currency notes issued over the centuries. As the city expanded, mass transport evolved. Rare, out-of-print books and maps, paintings of buildings that have since been razed down were also on display.[13]


The t-shirt marking the celebrations are white with a traditional kolam printed on a mud-coloured background and bear the inscription, "Namma ."[14]

Madras Quiz

The Madras Day celebrations and all the bash culminates each year with the Madras Quiz, separately in Tamil and English. This is facilitated by the Mylapore Times.

Many quiz enthusiasts come for the same. The quiz is quite competitive in terms of content.

The 2009 edition of the Madras Quiz in English was conducted by the Indian Quizzing League.


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