Chennai also known as Madras is the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is located on the east coast of South India on the Gulf of Bengal. According to the 2011 census, Chennai is the sixth largest city in India, with 4.6 million inhabitants. By a city expansion in 2011, the population has meanwhile increased to an estimated 6.5 million. 8.7 million people live in the agglomeration. This makes Chennai the center of the fourth largest metropolitan area in India.
Chennai was formed during the British colonial period around the Fort St. George, founded in 1640. Under the name of Madras, the city was an important center of the British empire in India. The official name was changed in 1996 in Chennai.
The name of the city has been officially named Chennai since 1996, although the old name of Madras is still widespread. Both names have been in parallel since the 17th century. Chennai is the short form of Chennappattinam (pattinam means city) and was clearly the name of the settlement, which had been formed around Fort George, founded in 1639 by the British. The name is usually derived from a local ruler named Chennappa Nayak. Madras or Madrasapattinam, on the other hand, seems originally to have been the name of a nearby village. The origin of the name is unclear: propositions were derived from the Arabic word Madrasa for “Koranschule”, the Portuguese Madre de Deus (“Mother Gods”, after a church of the same name), a Portuguese merchant’s tongue called Madeiros and even the Sanskrit term Mandarajya (“Reich The simple ones “).
After the two towns had grown together, Madras became the name of the city, and Chennai remained in use in Tamil. In 1996, the DMK-led government of Tamil Nadu caused the official name of the city of Madras to be changed in Chennai. By eradicating the name of Madras, which was closely linked to the British colonial history and was described as “un-Tamil”, an anticolonial mood could be served as well as the Tamil identity of the city. Similarly, in a number of other Indian cities the colonial-time names have been replaced (see the renaming of Bombay in Mumbai and Calcutta in Kolkata).