There are many views on the ‘birth date’ of Madras, that was once Madraspatanam. But there was a city earlier called Puliyur Kottam that is 2000 years old.
Chennai: Madras turns 379. But that is disputed. Further back in time, almost 2,000 years ago, ancient Chennai was known as Puliyur Kottam. It was the administrative unit under which areas from Egmore, to Thiruvanmiyur, and Chromepet to Koyambedu existed. It was a huge city, almost as big as Greater Chennai today.
The Mackenzie Manuscript by Colonel Mackenzie, the first Surveyor General of India has documented the rule by Kurumbars at Puliyur Kottam 2,000 years ago.
So, is the city 379 or 2000 years old? Critics say that for a city which has a history of more than 2,000 years with its own art, culture, literature, commerce, maritime activity, system of jurisprudence and local bodies to be called 379 years old is but a reduction of its narrative to its last rulers — the British.
Then, how did August 22 date crop up? It was on August 22, 1639 that the British bought the land on Madrasapatnam. They abbreviated to Madras because they could not pronounce it. But the earliest records of the name Madrasapatnam was found 651 years ago.
But the date of the land grant is contested by historians. Here are some versions:
An agreement at the Chandrigiri museum in Andhra Pradesh, with the signature of the Rajah of Chandragiri, shows July 22, not August 22.
Fanny Emily Penny, in her book ‘Fort St George’ in 1900, establishes that Madrasapatnam was bought by the East India Company on March 1, 1639.
Other English writers too have said that the grant obtained from the Rajah of Chandragheri (Chandragiri) was dated 1st March 1639, not August 22.
The idea of Madras Day celebrations started by Chennai Heritage Foundation in 2004 has been with the focus on maintenance of heritage sites with citizens taking part in its upkeep.