Chennai is the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, Chennai has an estimated population of 7.5 million (2007), making it the fourth largest metropolitan city in India and one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world.
The city was established in the 17th century by the British, who developed it into a major urban centre and naval base. By the 20th century, it had become an important administrative centre, as the capital of the Madras Presidency.
Chennai's economy has a broad industrial base in the automobile,
technology, hardware manufacturing, and healthcare industries.
The city is home to much of India's automobile industry
and is the country's second-largest exporter of information
technology (IT) and information-technology-enabled services
(ITES), behind Bangalore. The city is served by an international
airport and two major ports; it is connected to the rest
of the country by five national highways and two railway
terminals. Thirty-five countries have consulates in Chennai.
Chennai hosts a large cultural event, the annual Madras Music Season, which includes performances by hundreds of artists. The city has a vibrant theatre scene and is an important centre for the Bharatanatyam, a classical dance form. The Tamil film industry, known as Kollywood, is based in the city; the soundtracks of the movies dominate its music scene. Chennai is known for its sport venues and hosts an Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) event, the Chennai Open. The city faces problems of water shortages, traffic congestion and air pollution. The state and local governments have undertaken initiatives such as the Veeranam project, Rainwater harvesting and the construction of mini-flyovers to address some of these problems.
The region around Chennai has served as an important administrative, military,
and economic centre since the 1st century. It has been ruled
by various South Indian dynasties, notably the Pallava,
the Chola, the Pandya, and Vijaynagar. The town of Mylapore,
now part of Chennai, was once a major Pallavan port. The
Portuguese arrived in 1522 and built a port called São Tomé
after the Christian apostle, St Thomas, who had preached
in the area between 52 and 70 CE. In 1612, the Dutch established
themselves near Pulicat, just north of the city.
On 22 August 1639, 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.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. In 1746, Fort
St. George and Madras were captured by the French under
General La Bourdonnais, the Governor of Mauritius, who plundered
the town and its outlying villages. The British regained
control in 1749 through the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle and
fortified the town's fortress wall to withstand further
attacks from the French and another looming threat, Hyder
Ali, the Sultan of Mysore. By the late 18th century, the
British had conquered most of the region around Tamil Nadu
and the northern modern-day states of Andhra Pradesh and
Karnataka, establishing theMadras Presidency with Madras
as the capital. Under British rule, the city grew into a
major urban centre and naval base.
With the advent of railways in India in the late 19th century, the thriving urban centre was connected to other important cities such as Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) and Calcutta, promoting increased communication and trade with the hinterland. Chennai was briefly under Portuguese and French rule during 16th & 18th century.
Chennai was the only Indian city to be attacked by the Central
Powers during World War I, when an oil depot was shelled
by the German light cruiser SMS Emden on September 22, 1914,
as it raided shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean, causing
disruption to shipping. After India gained its independence
in 1947, the city became the capital of Madras State, renamed
the state of Tamil Nadu in 1969. The violent agitations
of 1965 against the imposition of Hindi as the national
language, marked a major shift in the political dynamics
of the city and the whole state.
In 2004, an Indian Ocean tsunami lashed the shores of Chennai, killing many and permanently altering the coastline.