Madras or Chennai or for that Chennaipattinam, whatever one may wish to call this city, enters into its 368th year of existence tomorrow.
Originally, called Chennaipattinam (historians opine whether the word 'Chennai' is a Tamil word, or Kannada or Telugu where it means beatiful) it had been historically a popular trading centre for spices and clothes for over 2000 years.
However, a road for the present day city was laid by the British East India Company, when one of its representative obtained a three square mile area from Damerla Venkatadri Nayak, a local ruler of Vijayanagar kingdom, for a permanent settlement, by the company's representative Francis Day, his "Dubash" Beri Thimmappa and their superior Andrew Cogan, according to well known historian of the city S Muthiah.
The company merchants sought to create a trading outpost allowing them direct access to highly valued Indian textile sources and getting a foothold through an agreement with Nayak rulers.
One year later, in 1640, Fort St George came up. Then the villages around it were brought together and the old towns and new ones were linked adding up to the present day city, he said.
According to historical data, Chennai had served as a important administrative, military and economic centre for hundreds of years, and some of the oldest temples dated to 7th century AD.