Chennai District




                                        Location and Area

                                         Geographical and Physical Features



                                 Historical Events          



                                         Statistical Handbook








Tamil  Nadu constitutes the south-eastern extremity of the  Indian peninsula. Chennai is the capital city of the State, besides being an important district. The district city is one of the metropolis of India and serves as the gateway of  the  culture  of South India. In spite of being the  capital  of  a  Tamil speaking  State,  it has emerged as a cosmopolitan city playing  an  important role  in  the  historical, cultural and  intellectual  development  of  India, representing  still the distinct components of the highest form  of  Dravidian civilisation.  In addition, it holds out an interesting fare of  South Indian architecture, music, dance, drama, sculpture and other arts and crafts. 

Chennai is situated on the north-east end of Tamil Nadu on the coast of Bay of Bengal. It lies between 12* 9' and 13* 9' of the northern latitude and 80* 12' and  80*  19'  of the southern longitude on a `sandy  shelving  breaker  swept beach'. It stretches nearly 25.60 kms. along the Bay coast from Thiruvanmiyur in  the south to Thiruvottiyur in the north and runs inland in a  rugged  semi-circular  fashion. It is bounded on the east by the Bay of  Bengal and  on  the remaining three sides by Chengalpattu and Thiruvallur Districts.

The city  of Chennai came into being due to a strategic necessity and historical accident. It symbolises the rise of British power in South India by setting up and  consolidation of the East India Company in the seventeenth  century with its headquarters at Fort St. George in Chennai as a trading centre. Within 350 years,  a  few scattered villages (important being Mylapore,  Triplicane  and Chennai  Patnam)  have  developed  into a  modern  metropolitan  city  without shedding  its traditional customs, religious outlook and other traditions.  It can  be  proudly  remarked that the greatness of  ancient  Chennai  is  mostly religious  due to the preservation of the old  famous Saivaite and  Vaishnavite shrines  signifying  the  antiquity of the  place.

 The growth of  the  city  is  significant  and closely linked with the  development of  British  Institutions and administration. In short, Chennai  city was the chief centre from which the  British  rule expanded in the sub-continent and it remains a standing monument  of British contribution to  India. Chennai  city  has acted as an important centre of culture and   education  in South  India  and has been the cradle of many movements  which have  played  an  important  role  in  the  history of the  sub-continent.  

 A  large  number  of  institutions  which  are known in India and abroad are  found  located  in  the city, of which mention may be made of the  Theosophical Society, the Kalakshetra  and  colleges of Arts and Crafts. The  establishment of  professional  colleges like  Medical,  Veterinary,  Law  and  Teaching,  the  location  of  the  Indian Institute  of  Technology and the  establishment of  Central  Leather  Research  Institute have added to the  development of the city. Chennai is one of the leading cities in India today  from the point of view of trade and  commerce, with the fourth largest port in the  country and the  first  to have developed a full-fledged container terminal to  international   standards. 

The  port  is providing trade links with Japan,  Singapore,  Malaysia,  Burma, Bangladesh, Ceylon and other far eastern  countries. Chennai is also one  of  the most important industrial cities of the  sub-continent. As a district of  the State it ranks third after Coimbatore and  Salem in so far as the number of  factories is  concerned  but  stands at the top in  case  of  employment  and  productive capital and first in revenue.  It,  however, ranks second in  terms of industrial  out-put  next  to Chengalpattu.  Chennai city enjoys an  eminent position in the country in  film  industry  and Kodambakkam, known  as the Hollywood of Chennai, has a number  of   studios  engaged in the  production of Tamil, Telugu, Kannada,  Malayalam,  and Hindi movies  which are quite popular. Total  area of the district is 178.20 sq. kms. 

The city of  Madras  has now been renamed as Chennai. It is stated that  the  name  Chennai  traced     its origin to "some other language". The   rechristening of the city is part of  the steps announced for the "growth of  Tamil in various fields".  There  are  different  versions about the name of  this  once  sleepy  coastal  village.  When the British landed here in 1639  A.D. it was said to be part  of the  empire of the Raja of Chandragiri. The  British named  it Chennapattinam,  after they acquired it from Chennappa  Nayakar. Gradually, it became Chennai.  The first instance of the use of  the name Chennai is said to be in the Vestiges of  Old Chennai, the sale  deed of August 1639 to Francis Day, an agent for  the British. There it has  been referred to as Chennaipatnam. 

The  British  are said to have built Fort  Saint George, the  present  seat  of  power, in 1640. It was named after the  patron saint of England. The Vestiges of Old Chennai infer  that the original village of Madraspatnam lay  north  of  the proximate to Chennapattinam. In  course of time and  with  rapid  growth,  the  two virtually became one. It is  also inferred that  the  English   preferred the name Madraspatnam, while  Indians chose Chennapattinam.  




             Chennai is a low-lying area and the land surface is almost flat like a pancake. The even topography of the land throughout the district renders sub-divisions into natural regions rather difficult. It rises slightly as the distance from the sea-shore increases but the average elevation of the city is not more than 22' above mean seal-level, while most of the localities are just at sea-level and drainage in such areas remains a serious problem. From very early times, Chennai was known for its pleasant scenery and was said to be a town open to sky and full of garden of mangoes, coconuts, guavas, oranges, etc. 

In earlier days when the city was not so congested, gardens and groves were a common feature and most of the roads were flanked by frequent groves of palm and other trees. Even a number of houses too had gardens displaying fine trees canopied by green bough and creepers, Chennai city today is devoid of any forest areas but can still be proud of some of the well maintained green belts found in the Peoples park, the Napier park, the Horticulture-gardens, My Lady's Park,  Children's Park Guindy, Snake Park, Nehru Park, Nageswara Rao Park, Independence Park, Anna Square Park, the Raj Bhavan, the Theosophical Society Campus, and a number of bungalows and newly developed colonies where provisions of public parks, etc. have been provided. 

The indigenous trees found include among others neem, mango, tamarind, rain-tree, vagai, banyan, coconut, palm and pipal. Stretches of casuarina plantations are available on the sea-coast beyond the mouth of the Adyar in the South and Tondiarpet in the North, supplying firewood to the city. House gardening is not very common these days due to shortage of water and lack of space.


The city is intersected by two languid streams, the Cooum and the Adyar. Cooum runs through the heart of the city and enters the sea in-between the university buildings and the Fort. St. George underneath the Napier Bridge, while the latter wends its way through the southern part of the city and enters the sea near Adyar. These two rivers are almost stagnant and do not carry enough water except during rainy seasons. Cooum river starts from Kesavaram Anicut in Kesavaram village built across Kortaliyar river. The surplus from Cooum tank joins this course at about 8 kms. lower down and this point is actually the head of Cooum river which is located at 48 kms. west of Chennai. The river receives a sizeable quantity of sewage from its neighbourhood for disposal. Though the river Adyar can be traced to a point near Guduvancheri village, it assumes the appearance of a stream only after it receives the surplus water from the Chembarambakkam tank as wells as the drainage of the areas in the south-west of Chennai. The river has no commercial importance, but the fishermen in the neighbourhood make their living by fishing in the river.


The Buckingham canal which runs through the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh is a navigation canal. This canal runs almost parallel to the Coromandal coast within the limits of 5 kms. from the coast.   It joins up a series of natural backwaters and connects all the coastal districts from Guntur to South Arcot. Entering the city at Tondiarpet in the north and running along the western outskirts of George Town, it joins the new canal, south-west of General Hospital. The other canal worth mentioning in the city is the Otteri Nullah which commences from the village Mullam, runs eastwards upto Purasawalkam and then passes through Buckingham and Carnatic Mills and finally joins the Buckingham Canal, north of Basin Bridge Railway Station. Chennai has 25.60 kms. of sea coast which is flat and sandy for about a km. from the shore. The bed of the sea is about 42' deep and slopes further in gradual stages for a distance of about 5 kms. from the coast attaining a depth of about 63'. The two principal currents, first from the north and second from the south flow parallel to the coast. The former sets in about the middle of October and continue till February while the latter starts by about August and continues till the burst of the north-east monsoon in the middle of October. These two principal currents must be caused by the winds. 





Sl.No. Census Data Males Females Total
1 Total Population 21,61,605 20,54,663 42,16,268    
2 Population    below Age 7 1,90,044 1,84,045 3,74,089
3 Literates 16,70,094 14,08,910 30,79,004
4 Main Workers 11,23,246 2,20,332 13,43,578
5 Marginal Workers -- -- 97,804
6 Total Workers 11,92,924 2,48,458 14,41,382





% Decadal Growth Rate   Sex-Ratio (No. of females per 1000 males) Population Density per Sq.Km. Literacy Rate
1981-91 1991-2000 1991 2001 1991 2001 Males Females
1991 2001 1991 2001
17.24 9.76 934 951 22,077 24,231 87.86 84.71 74.87  








Chennai,  originally  known as Madras Patnam, was located in  the  province  of Tondaimandalam,  an area lying between Pennar river of Nellore and the  Pennar  river of Cuddalore. The capital of the province was Kancheepuram.Tondaimandalam was ruled in the 2nd century A.D. by Tondaiman Ilam  Tiraiyan, who  was a representative of the Chola family at Kanchipuram. It  is  believed  that Ilam Tiraiyan must have subdued Kurumbas, the original inhabitants of the region  and  established  his rule over  Tondaimandalam.  

Subsequent  to  Ilam Tiraiyan, the region seemed to have been ruled by the Chola Prince Ilam Killi.The  Chola  occupation  of Tondaimandalam was put to an end by the  Andhra Satavahana  incursions  from  the north under their King  Pulumayi  II.  They  appointed chieftains to look after the Kancheepuram region. Bappaswami, who is considered  as  the  first Pallava to rule from Kancheepuram,  was  himself  a chieftain (of the tract round) at Kancheepuram under the Satavahana empire in  the beginning  of  the 3rd century A.D., The Pallavas who had so far been merely viceroys, became independent rulers of Kancheepuram and its surrounding areas.

Pallavas held sway over this region from the beginning of the 3rd century the closing years of the 9th century except for the interval of some decades  when the region was under Kalabharas.  Pallavas were defeated by the Chola under Aditya-I by about 879 A.D. and  the region was brought under Chola rule.Pandyas  under  Jatavarman  Sundara Pandya rose to power and  the  region  was brought  under Pandya rule by putting an end to Chola supremacy in  1264 A.D.Pandya's rule over this region lasted a little over half a century followed  by Bahmini kingdom with the extension of Delhi Sultanate under Khilji dynasty especially under the rule of Alauddin Khilji, a pioneer of all revenue works. During 1361, Kumara Kampana II, the son of Vijayanagar King, Bukka I conquered and  established  Vijayanagar rule in Tondaimandalam.

The  Vijayanagar  rulers appointed  chieftain known as Nayaks who ruled over the different  regions  of the province almost independently.Damarla Venkatapathy Nayak, an influential chieftain under Venkata  III,  who was in-charge of the area of present Chennai city, gave the grant of a piece of land  lying between the river Cooum almost at the point it enters the sea  and another  river known as Egmore river to the English in 1639. On this piece  of  waste   land   was  founded  the  Fort  St. George  exactly for   business  considerations.  In honour of Chennappa Nayak, father of Venkatapathy  Nayak, who  controlled  the entire coastal  country from Pulicat in the north  to  the Portuguese  settlement of Santhome, the settlement which had grown  up  around  Fort St. George was named after Chennapatanam. 

The older area called the Madraspatnam lay  to  the  north of it.  Later on, the intervening space  between  the  older northern site of Madraspatnam came to be quickly built over with houses of the new settlers (as the two expanded) and that the two villages  became  virtually one town. While the official centre of the settlement was designated Fort St. George, the British applied the name Madras Patnam to the combined town. Golkonda  forces under General Mir Jumla conquered Madras in 1646 and brought Chennai  and  its  immediate surroundings under his control. On the fall  of Golkonda  in  1687, the region came under the rule of the Mughal Emperors  of Delhi. 

Firmans  were  issued by the Mughal Emperor  granting the  rights  of English company in Chennai. In  the  later  part of the seventeenth century, Chennai  steadily progressed  during  the  period of Agency and under many Governors. During the  regime  of Governor  Elihi Yale (1687-92),the most important event was the formation  of  the institution of a mayor and Corporation for the city of Chennai. In  1693,  a  perwanna was received from the local Nawab granting  the  towns  Tondiarpet,  Purasawalkam  and Egmore to the company. Thomas Pitt  became  the  Governor  of Chennai  in  1698 and governed  for eleven  years.  This  period  witnessed  remarkable  development  of  trade and  increase  in  wealth.  

The important  events during this period were the blockade of Chennai by Daud  Khan  and  its repulsion and the acquisition of additional suburban villages by  the English.  Thiruvottiyur,  Vysarpadi, Kathivakkam, Nungambakkam  and  Satangadu  were  made  as a free gift to the English in 1708. In 1735,  Chintadripet  was taken  over  and in 1742 Vepery, Perambur and Periamet were presented  to  the British. Nicholas Morse was the Governor from 1744 to 1746. The most important event  during his time was the outbreak of war between England and France  and  the  consequent struggle for supremacy between the French and the  English  in South  India. Chennai was captured by the French in 1744 but consequent on  the treaty  of  peace of Aix-La-Chapelle, Chennai was restored to  the  English  in 1749. 

George Pigot was the Governor for the period from 1755 to 1763. The period  is remarkable  for the fact that the Company form a trading  corporation,  owning isolated  towns, forts and factories, became a ruling power  controlling  vast territories. Charles  Bourchier  became Governor in 1767. During his period Hyder  Ali  who usurped  the  Sovereignty of Mysore joined hands with the Nizam and  began  an offensive  on Chennai. In 1761, a treaty was signed between Hyder Ali  and  the Company  for  an  alliance  and  mutual  restitution  of  the  conquests.  The Governance of the Carnatic became the responsibility of the Chennai  Government which could not maintain a large army without the revenue of Nawabs. In  1763,the  English  got the district of Chengalpattu known as Chennai Jagir  for  the maintenance of the army.Lord  Macartney  took  charge of the Chennai Government  in  1781.  

During  his period,  Chennai was turned into an important Naval base. Major General  Medows became Governor in 1790. The position of the English was made secure in  South India. the elimination of other foreign power and settlement of the limits  of native  territory  gave stability and paved the way for an era  of  commercial development.  In  1792, in a new treaty Mohammed Ali handed  over  the  entire management  of the Carnatic to the English and accepted in return  a  pension. Another  important event of this period was the outbreak of Mysore war.  Tippu was  killed in 1799 and the whole of Carnatic ceded to the British.  

Thus  the supremacy  of  the  English in South India was established.  The  present  day territorial limits of the city existed in the shape of scattered villages  for centuries  before  the advent of the British. In the process of  growth,  many villages got agglomerated into a single unit. The shape and extent of the city which existed during 1939-40 was reached even during the opening years of 19th century. The period in between 1803 to 1827 represents consolidation and development of institutions.  

Sir Edward Elliot was the important Governor of  Chennai  during this period. He appointed a Judicial Commission with Munro as its President in 1814.  Several  reforms  in  the  administrative  system  were  made  by   the Commission.  Sir Thomas Munro became the Governor in 1820 and  continued  till 1827. He tried his best to improve literacy. He initiated English education in Chennai  and established a body called Board of Public Instructions to  improve and direct public education. Important  improvement made to Chennai city during the first half of  the  19th century  was  the  progress  made in the  establishment  of  institutions  for professional and technical education. 

School of Industrial Art was started  in 1850,  Civil Engineering College in 1834 and Madras Medical College  in  1835,etc.  The  Madras University was started in September 1857.  The Chennai  High Court  was created in June 1862. The Railway Company in Chennai was  formed  in July  1845.  the first construction work began on 9th June 1853 and  in  1858,South Indian Railway was formed having Chennai as the Railway Headquarters. Lord  Hobart who was the Governor from 1872 to 1875 initiated  Chennai  Harbour project. The Congress party came to life during the period 1881-90. The Indian National Congress held its session in 1887 at Chennai.  

The First Governor of Chennai in the 20th century was Lord Ampthill (1901-06).  Sir Arthur Law-by was the Governor from 1906-1911 and Lord Pentland from  1912-19. The  important Landmarks during this period were the establishment  of  Chennai Electric Supply Corporation in 1906 and opening of Indian Bank in 1907. During  1934 and 1936 for a short period, two Indians Sir M.D. Usman Sahib and Sir  K. Venkatareddy Naidu acted as Governors of Chennai.  In 1937, the Ministry of Shri C.  Rajagopalachari  came  into power for two years.  The  influence  of  the Governors on the administration considerably diminished. The British  departed on  15th  August 1947 but Chennai remained as a standing monument of  what  the British have done to India.

Click here to read more about the  Origin and Growth of Chennai City



Historical Events at a Glance


1639         Madras founded .
                 The English get Madras Patnam  from Ayyapa Naicker.
1640         Francis Day and Cogan landed with 25 Europeans.
                 Foundation laid for Fort St.George.

       Triplicane annexed to the city.
1678         Foundation laid for St. Mary’s Church in Fort St. George.
1679         St.Mary’s Church Completed.
1688         Madras City Municipal Corporation inaugurated.
1693         Egmore, Purasawalkam and Tondiarpet annexed to the City.

1708         Thiruvottiyur, Nungambakkam, Vyasarpady,
                 Kottivakkam and Sathangadu  - 
                 Five neighbouring Villages annexed;
                 wall built around Black Town.
1711         First Printing Press erected in Madras.
1735         Chintadripet was formed.
1742         Veperi, Perimet, Perambur and Pudupakkam annexed to the city.
1746         The French return Madras to the English;
                 Santhome and Mylapore annexed to the City.

1758         French Commander Lawly siege Madras.
1759         French siege ended.
1767         Hyder Ali’s first invasion.
1768         Chepauk palace built by Nawab of Arcot.
1769         Hyder Ali’s Second invasion.
1777         Veerappillai appointed as First Kotthawal-
                 Hence the name Kotthawal Chavadi.
1783         Fort St. George repaired and attains the present shape.
1784         The First Newspaper –Madras Courier.
1785         First Post Office.
1795         Triplicane Big Mosque-Walajah Mosque built.

1817         Madras Literary Society founded.
1826         Board of Public Instructions founded.
1831         First Commercial Bank –Madras Bank. 
                 First Census in the City Population
         Madras Club founded. 
1834         First Survey School inaugurated – 
                 Later developed as Engineering College.
1835         First Medical College –
                 Later became Madras Christian College.
1841         Ice House was built –
                 Ice brought from America through ships was stored here; 
                 Later named as Vivekananda House.
1842         First Light House.
1846         Pachaiappan School; Later Pachaiappa’s College.

1851         Museum formed
1853         Zoo formed.
1855         University Board formed.
1856         First Railway –Royapuram to Arcot.
1857         Madras University founded.
1864-65    Presidency College built.
1868         Attempt to protected water supply.
1873         First Birth Registered.
                 Madras Mail Newspaper founded.
                 Cosmopolitan Club founded.
1874         University Senate house built.
1876-78    Great Famine – Buckingham Canal dug.
1878         The Hindu Newspaper founded.
1882         First Telephone.
1885         Marina Beach Road formed.
1886         Indian National Congress Meet at Madras.
                 Connemera Public Library founded.
1889         High Court Building foundation laid.
1894         First Car –  Mr. A.J. Boag, Director of Parry&Co,
                 drove the Car on City Roads.
1895         First Tram Car.
1899         First Tamil Newspaper-Swadesamitran.

1905         Port Trust formed.
1906         Indian Bank founded.
                 King Institute, Guindy founded.
1914         Water mains and drainage formed.
                 Street lights introduced.
                 Kilpauk water works inaugurated.
                 Endon bombardment-
                 Endon German fighter Vessel bombarded the sea shore
                 disappeared - First World War.
1917         First Aeroplane;
                 Simpson & Co., arranged for the trial flight.
1924         School of Indian Medicine.
1925         Loyola College
                 First Bus Transport.
1930         First Broadcasting Station founded at Ripon Buildings Complex.
1934         First Mayor - Raja Sir. Muthiah Chettiyar
1938         All India Radio formed and 
                 broadcasting from Ripon Buildings ceased.

1942         Second World War - Evacuation of Madras.
1943         Japanese Fighter Plane dropped bombs on City and disappeared.

1946         Mambalam, Saidapet, Govt. Farm, Puliyur, Kodambakkam, 
                 Saligramam, Adayar and Alandur Villages which formed part of 
                 Saidapet Municipality were annexed to the city.

                 Sembiyam, Siruvallur, Peravallur, Small   Sembarambakkam
                 and  Ayanavaram which formed part of Sembium Panchayat 
                 Board  were annexed to the city. 

                 Aminjikarai, Periyakudal, Maduvankarai Villages which formed 
                 part of  Aminjikarai  Panchayat Board were annexed.

                 Part of Velacheri Village belonging to Velacheri Panchayat Board 
                 was also annexed to the city.

1947         Indian National Flag Hoisted over Fort. St. George.
1952         Nehru Stadium.
1956         Gandhi Mandap.
1959         Guindy Children’s Park.
1969         World Tamil Congress.
1971         Snake Park.
1972         Madras Metropolitan Development Authority.
1973         Madras Corporation Superceded.
1974         Rajaji Mandap.
                 Madras Television Centre.
1975         Kamaraj Mandap.
                 Valluvar Kottam.

1976         New Light House.
1977         Madras Metropolitan Water supply and Sewage Board 
                 Kanagam, Taramani, Thiruvanmiyur, Velacheri, Kodambakkam,
                 Virugambakkam, Saligramam, Koyambedu, Thirumangalam, 
                 Villivakkam, Errukancheri, Kolathur, Kodungaiyur 
                 Panchayat areas annexed to the City;
                 Madras reaches the present stage.
1983         Zoo shifted to Vandalur.
1988         Periyar Science Park
                 Birla Planetarium.
                 Madras Corporation’s Tri-centenary.
                 Decentralisation of Administration.
                 10 Circles formed.




            Fairs and festivals are held in the different parts of the city throughout the year. The festivals associated with Hindu temple are more than 500 in a year.  Apart  from  the traditional  fairs  and  festivals,  modern  fairs  such  as exhibitions and national festivals like Independence day and Republic day  are  celebrated  in the city. following are some of the  important  festivals celebrated in the city which are attended by thousands of devotees from far  and near.



Chennai Assembly Constituencies

AC No.

Assembly Constituency


Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar










Egmore (SC)








Thousand Lights


Anna Nagar