This Day in History (22-Aug-1639) – Madras (now Chennai) is Founded by the East India Company

The rulers of the Vijaynagar Empire who ruled the South India, appointed chieftains called Nayaks to rule various regions of the province independently. In 1639, when the Brtish East India Company arrived in the area to establish a factory, Darmala Venkatadri Nayaka, a Telugu king and a powerful chieftain who was in charge of the area, gave the British a piece of land sandwiched between the Cooum River and the Egmore River. The area was known NariMedu i.e. mound of jackals. A factory of brick was built upon the island, and mounted with cannon, and called Fort St. George. This small settlement of the British gradually drew the attention of other East India traders such as the Portuguese and the Dutch who gradually joined the settlement. By 1649, Fort St. George had 19,000 residents due to which the East India Company expanded Fort St. George by constructing an additional wall. This expanded area came to be known as the Fort St. George settlement. According to a treaty signed with the Nayaks, the British and other European Christians were only allowed to colour the outside of their buildings white. Because of this, gradually over time, this area began to be known as “White Town”.

Gradually weavers, washers, painters, and hosts of other artisans, flocked to the spot and eagerly entered the service of the British, and began to set up their looms and to weave, wash, and paint their cotton goods in the open air beneath the trees. A settlement grew up by the side of Fort St. George and soon the Europeans were outnumbered. These non Europeans, mostly Hindu and Muslims, were given place near white town to set up a settlement and a wall was constructed to separate this new non-European settlement from White Town. This new area was known as “Black Town”. Originally, White Town and Black town were together known as Madras, a name derived from ‘Medurasapatnam’, which simply meant ‘chief’s town on the mound’. Fort St. George still stands and is home to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly and the office of the Chief Minister.



This Day in History (10-Jul-1806) – The Vellore Mutiny Breaks Out against the British

The Vellore Mutiny was the first large-scale mutiny by Indian soldiers against the British mush before 1857 mutiny. The sepoy dress code was changed in 1805 under which Hindu soldiers were not allowed to wear any kind of religious marks on their foreheads and it was made mandatory for Muslims to shave their beards and trim their moustaches. Further, General Sir John Craddock, Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army made it compulsory for all solders to wear a round hat, which was largely associated with Europeans and Christians in place of the turban they had been wearing. It as considered as the beginning of a process of converting them to Christianity, further infuriating the soldiers. The British, on the other hand, made these changes thinking that they would improve the soldiers’ looks. In May 1806, a few soldiers who protested against this change in uniform were sent to Fort St. George where they were both given lashes and either removed from the army or asked to apologize. The rebellions were further instigated by the sons of the deceased Tipu Sultan.

In the early hours of the morning, the sepoys began their attack on Vellore fort and started by killing Colonel Fancourt who was commanding the garrison. Next to be killed was Colonel Me Kerras of the 23rd regiment, following which Major Armstrong was gunned down by the soldiers. Major Cootes who was outside the fort hurried to Ranipet and informed Colonel Gillespie who reached the fort immediately. In the meantime, the rebels had announced Tipu Sultan’s son Futteh Hyder as their new ruler and had hoisted a tiger flag atop the fort. This uprising was brought to an end by Colonel Gillespie. 800 Indian soldiers had died in this mutiny and 600 soldiers were imprisoned in Vellore and Tiruchi. Some rebels were shot dead by the British and some were hanged and eventually the mutiny was brought to an end. Vellore Mutiny failed due to lack of leadership. But it was the starting point of a new era of the resistance of the sepoys to the British rule. Some positive outcome was in terms of Religious interference with the soldiers being done away with and so was flogging of soldiers in the Indian regiment.