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Madras History, India

Madras, also known as Chennai since 1997, is India’s fourth largest metropolitan city and is the capital of Tamil Nadu.  The history of this city dates back over 2,000 years.  It has always been an important military, economic, and administrative center since the 1st century.  Many Indian dynasties have ruled, with the most notable being the Pandva, Chola, and the Pallava.  The Portuguese were the first to arrive in 1522 and build Sao Tome, a port named after St. Thomas. It is a port town and has always attracted merchants and traders, including the British, Portuguese, and the French. 

In the 18th and 19th centuries, France and Britain squabbled for supremacy in India and Madras city monies were up and down.  The French actually occupied the city for a short while.  Britain established its supremacy and Madras became one of four separate divisions of British India.  It has been used as a base for military type expedition during the Wars of the Carnatic.

With the late 19th century came the railroad and Midas was connected to other cities, like Calcutta and Bombay.  This brought greater trade and communication to the other cities in India.  During World War 1, Madras was the only city in India to be attacked when A German cruiser shelled an oil depot in 1914.  Much of the shipping trade in Madras was disputed.  However, one of the most significant occurrences in the history of Madras was due to the violent agitations of 1965, protesting the imposition of Hindi for the national language.  This was the beginning of a large political shift in the city.

In 2004 a large tsunami came ashore in Madras, permanently altering the coastline and killing thousands. 

Madras is a very important city within India.  Its political and industrial areas are strong and there is a great sense of history and culture within the city limits.

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