Agency.Madras Day is a festival organized to commemorate the founding of the city of Madras (now Chennai) in Tamil Nadu. It is celebrated on 22 August every year, 22 August 1639 being the widely agreed date for the purchase of the village of Madraspatnam or Chennapatnam by East India Company factors Andrew Cogan and Francis Day from Damarla Venkatadri Nayaka, the viceroy of the Vijayanagar Empire.
The idea of a Madras Day was first suggested by Chennai-based journalist Vincent D’Souza to historian S. Muthiah during a meeting of the trustees of the Chennai Heritage foundation in 2004. Since then, Madras Day celebrations have been held every year without fail, its highlights being exhibitions, lectures, film screenings and quizzes. The Madras Day festival has registered a steady increase in popularity year after year. The 2014 and 2015 editions lasted through August and extended into September as well, prompting demands to rename Madras Day as Madras Week, or even Madras Month.There has been a contention that the deed of purchase was actually dated 22 July 1639 and not 22 August.
The first recorded celebration of the founding of Madras was its tercentenary commemoration in 1939. Unlike later anniversaries, the celebrations were officially sponsored by the British government and a special tercentenary commemoration volume was issued with essays on the different aspects of Madras city authored by leading experts of the time. An exhibition of pictures, portraits, maps, records and coins was inaugurated by Diwan Bahadur S. E. Runganadhan, the Vice-Chancellor of the Madras University and a short play writing competition was organized.
The 350th anniversary in 1989 was celebrated with the opening of a commemorative monument titled “Madras 350” built in the Classical Style by builder Frankpet Fernandez at the junction of the Poonamallee High Road and the New Avadi Road. Other major events included the commissioning of a book by S. Muthiah titled Madras — The Gracious City by the Murugappa Group which also organized the first Madras Quiz which has continued to the present day.
Madras Day focuses on the city, its history, its past and its present and the core team motivates communities, groups, companies and campuses in the city to host events that celebrate the city. The celebration consists of events such as heritage walks, public talks, exhibitions, poetry reading sessions, public performances, food festivals and special programs on local radio. It also includes contests such as T-shirt designing, documentary film contest, multimedia presentation for schools and quizzes in both Tamil and English.T-shirts to mark the event are also released. The talks delivered to mark the week-long celebrations usually involve lectures explaining the heritage and history of the city. There are also events for the retired citizens where they can post about their life years ago on the “Stories about Madras section” on Madras Day’s website and share their views on how Madras grew into the Chennai of today.
There has been a controversy regarding the exact day when Madras was handed over to the British East India Company’s Francis Day and Andrew Cogan between the dates 22 July and 22 August. The controversy arose since the agreement documents dates the records to 22 July 1639 rather than 22 August of that year. It is often stated that Francis Day and Andrew Cogan did not arrive at the Madras coast until 27 July 1639. The evidence comes from writings of Henry Davison Love, whose monumental three-volume history of Madras from 1640–1800 is a prime reference source for Madras’ early history, which states that “The Naik’s grant, erroneously styled a farman, which was probably drafted by Day, was delivered to Andrew Cogan at Masulipatam on September 3, 1639… Three copies are extant … all of which are endorsed by Cogan. Only the last bears a date, 22 July 1639, where July is probably a slip for August, since Day did not reach Madras until 27 July”.