Chennai – How it got renamed

Chennai also known by its former name Madras is the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Before 1639, villages like Mylapore, Tiruvallikeni, Tiruvanmiyur and Tiruvottriyur existed. These villages have in the course of time become parts of Madras city. The old inscriptions found in the temples of these villages do not throw any light on the existence of Madras or Chennai before 1639.

It is believed that  Damal Chennappa Nayagar, father of Damarla Venkatapathy Nayak ruled the town in 16th century from whom East India company took the territory.

Sources says that Madras was allegedly derived from Madraspattinam, a fishing-village north of Fort St George. However, it is uncertain whether the name was in use before the arrival of European influence. The English built their Fort St George on the ‘high plot’ granted to them by Damarla Venkatappa. Tamil and Telugu migrants settled in the vicinity of the Fort right from the time when the Fort was established. This was the area of Madraspatnam in the beginning. In the course of time several villages were incorporated by the English as parts of Madraspatnam. Egmore, Purasawakkam and Tondiarpet became part of Madras in 1693 and Mylapore Tiruvanmiyur and Adyar and many other Urspakkams and petsmuch later.

Thus without the English, there would have been no Madras. In fact, the erection of Fort St George laid the foundations for the growth of the first modern city of India.

It is due to this reason that Madras name was supposed to be changed to make sure that we don’t follow the name given by British.


In 1996, the Government of Tamil Nadu officially changed the the name from Madras to Chennai. At that time many Indian cities underwent a change of name.

When the DMK changed the name of Madras to Chennai, nobody including the Tamil scholars of Tamil Nadu knew that Madras was a Tamil name.

Medraspatam derived from ‘medu’ became Madras. Therefore the DMK notion that Madras was a European name or it had colonial connotations is completely wrong.

Even today most of the Tamil people believe Chennai is a Tamil name and Madras is not. They are just too stubborn to accept the fact the Madras is a Tamil name. They rather use a name which is not even in the Tamil dictionary than to accept the name given by Europeans.

Apart from Chennai, there are few cities which were renamed to remove European given names. Like Bombay to Mumbai, Bangalore to Bangaluru, Trivandrum to Tiruvandapuram and more.




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