Madras Day 2019: One of India’s oldest cities celebrates its 380th birthday; how it is celebrated, history, significance


Madras Day 2019 | Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is celebrating its 380th birthday today. The citizens of this southern city commemorate its birthday by organising activities and events around its history, culture and traditions all week. Madras Day is celebrated on 22 August every year as it is widely believed that Chennai (Madras) was founded on this date in 1639.

 Madras Day 2019: One of Indias oldest cities celebrates its 380th birthday; how it is celebrated, history, significance

Madras Day was first celebrated in 2004 by a group of citizens. Wikimedia Commons

History of city:

A deal was struck between British administrator Francis Day and the Nayak rulers to buy a sliver of land — where Fort St. George stands now — to establish the East India Company.

As per an article in Hindustan Times: “The deal was struck by Francis Day, his ‘dubash’ Beri Thimmappa, and their superior, Andrew Cogan, with the local Nayak rulers. It is believed that this deal was made on August 22, 1639.”

The Fort St. George, which was the British built fortified factory, today houses the Tamil Nadu Assembly. Rechristened Chennai in 1996 to get rid of the colonial tag, the capital of Tamil Nadu is now home to over four million. Even though the city’s official name is Chennai, locals still call the celebrations ‘Madras Day’ or ‘Madras Week’ perhaps out of nostalgia.

The city was initially called Madrasatnam and Chennapattinam, which soon became Madras and then Chennai.

Origin of Madras Day:

Starting as a small citizen initiative, the celebrations grew into a grand week-long affair. Three citizens: Historian S Muthiah, journalist Sashi Nair and publisher Vincent D’ became the first ones to come up with the idea to honour Madras Day with a festival in 2004. Since then, various groups have organised walks, contests, talks, exhibitions and quizzes during August.

How it is being celebrated:

The celebratory events generally begin a fortnight before and a fortnight after the anniversary on 22 August. A number of people participate in the events organised to promote and highlight the good in the city and to remember its rich history.

This year, the celebrations will run between 18 and 25 August. As per The Times of India, among the events will be an audio tour of George Town by the Urban Design Collective on 17 August; a talk on the Tamil stand-up by Vinodhini Vaidyanathan, theatre and film actor Annamalai L of Tanglish Comedy, Jagan Krishnan and Guru Nicketan on 19 August at Amethyst; a quiz on Madras, its sporting and film history by Partab Ramchand on 21 August; and a talk on ‘Women, Sports and Madras’ by veteran golf player Jayshree Bhagath on 24 August.

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