August is quite an ironic month of celebration in India. People across the nation observe the country’s independence from British rule, whereas a city that is located down south, celebrates the day on which it was purchased by the two British men from a local Indian ruler. Can you guess the city using these clues? A city that’s famous for Idli-Sambar; it is an important center of Indian dance art, Bharatanatyam and is the place where Superstar Rajinikanth resides.
Yes! it is none other than Namma Chennai, then Madrasapattinam commemorates the ‘Madras Day’ as a remembrance of the founding of the city. Our lives have been heavily influenced by cinema. Madrasapattinam is that one such Tamil period drama film impacting every Chennaiite’s life. It was the most appreciated film for the authentic depiction of PreIndependence Madras. “Vaa ma, Duraiyamma!” from the same movie has been serving as a special theme song of our Madras Day.
ORIGIN OF THE CITY
There are many tales describing how the city of ‘Madras’ had come into existence. A popular version is, on 22 August 1639, the two representatives of English East India Company: Francis Day and Andrew Cogan, with the help of Dubash Beri Thimmappa, acquired a piece of land near Coramandal coastal line by signing a legal agreement with Dharmala Venkatadri Nayakan, a Chieftain of Vijayanagaram Empire, on which the English Company had built the Fort St. George, now the same houses the Tamil Nadu State Government Secretariat and
Soon, the English Company bought the nearby villages and linked them up to form a trading town which gradually developed into a city. According to a few historians, the city was initially called Chennapattinam, probably named after local Nayak ruler, Chennappanayakan.
MADRAS- AN EMOTION
Since 2004, 22 August of every year has been observed as Madras Day. The idea of celebrating a city to honour its rich history, heritage and culture, was born as a result of three citizens’ initiative: the city’s famed historian, S. Muthiah, journalist Sashi Nair and publisher Vincent D’ Souza. In the beginning, it was started out as a half-day event which is now extended to a Month – the entire month of August has been dedicated to reminisce the birth
anniversary of almost a 400-year-old city.
The citizen driven programs feature bi-lingual talks by various local history groups like Chennai Heritage group, C.P.R Foundation, Tamil Heritage Trust; group-walks guided by historians to make the participants re-live the history, mainly focusing on food, street photography, colonial architecture; theatrical and other art events. City tours are arranged for school kids to inculcate the spirit of admiration of art and realisation of the value of culture.
“Chennai has always been one of my go to places whenever I’m in the mood for a getaway kind of break. The love I’ve received from everyone has always been unconditional right from the paati who sells bajjis by the beach to just a random person I’ve stopped to ask for directions. The food though is really awesome. I have crazy love for dosas. And I do have a special place in my heart for the dosas which are sold in the pushcart vehicles. It’s simple not a lot to choose from but it’s heavenly. They say food tastes better if the hands that prepared it
is good. I guess that’s where the secret lies, simple people living a simple life but filled with happiness and unconditional love”, quoting Sundereshan Desiga, a Bengaluru based Madras lover.
The Heritage Clubs of Stella Maris, Ethiraj, WCC, Loyola, MCC and other city colleges host a-week-long intercollegiate festive that consist of quizzes, essay writing competitions, lectures by history experts, setting up an exhibition, inviting the general public as an effort to raise awareness and to bring back the nostalgic moments of old Madras.
The double-decker open bus named Namma Chennai! Namma Pride!, is an initiative of New Indian Express, provides a free city tour. It is the most interesting and fun activity, runs from the Vivekananda House to War Memorial and back. College and school students who have probably never seen a double-decker bus are invited to enjoy the ride; it gives a glimpse of Chennai’s amazing Colonial architectures and a bird’s eye view of the city.
MADRAS DAY 2020
For the first time in these 16 years, the impact of Corona Virus has pushed the celebrations to online mode. This year celebration will run between 17 Aug to 24 Aug. Webinars, story-telling contests and photography contests are conducted across digital platforms.
To know more details, visit http://themadrasday.in/
LET’S CELEBRATE MADRAS EVERYDAY
Throughout the journey from being the presidency under a foreign rule to now being called Detroit Of India, Chennai has witnessed a marvellous evolution as well as slowly started losing to detriment of its beauty. With the increase of population likely to be exceeding 10 lakhs and as a result of becoming the techie center of south India, the city had to give up its natural resources to create space for the growing commercial hub to fit in.
According to the Swachh Survekshan, a nation-wide annual cleanliness survey of 2020, this year the city has fallen from 61st rank to 312th. Chennai becomes one of the first Indian cities to face the severity of water crisis. On 19 June 2019, Chennai city officials declared that “Day Zero”, the day when almost no water is left, had been reached, as all the four main reservoirs supplying water to the city had run dry due to mismanagement of sources. Even after the recent clean-up of the Cooum river, again space has become the dumping yard of automobile waste.
Chennai is home to many ancient Dravidian style temples, the oldest churches like the Luz church which had recently celebrated 500 years of its existence. Today, the metropolis would have looked plain and emotionless, if the British had not built these magnificent red-bricked Indo-Saracenic edifices across the city. The famous Binny Ltd headquarters, the landmark Ice-House police station were among the elegant monuments brought down when the Chennai Corporation became ‘Greater Chennai Corporation’ and the rest of the heritage sites are in appalling condition. If we people understand that we are responsible for our actions, then we will grow up to hold ourselves to high-standards of responsibility. We ought to respect, conserve and preserve what’s around us as much as we hang on to the feeling of zeal and zest for the same.
If not us, then who would? The city calls us to action:
* Volunteering in the community- Be a part of clean-up drives organized by Supporting the socially responsible commerce
Let the sense of priority overrules the sense of pride
By Mohana Priya