Lecture: “Origin of Chennai/ Madras” by Prof J. B. P. More

Summary of the talk

J.B.P.More’s talk will dwell upon the origin and foundation of Madras in 1639. He maintains that there was no Madras or Chennai before 1639. He will establish that Madras was derived from ‘Medu’, which means ‘mound’ in Tamil. He will demonstrate that Medraspatnam and Madras were indeed Tamil words, with no colonial connotations. Chinapatam and Chennapatam were the other names for Madras, used by the Tamil and Telugu settlers in the area. Chinapatam was a Tamil word, meaning ‘small town’ while Chennapatam was of Telugu origin. In the course of time, Chennapatam gained ascendancy. Chennapatam was Tamilised as Chennai. Thus Chennai is undoubtedly a Telugu name, etymologically. Chennai has no meaning in Tamil. The author does not also endorse the view that Beri Timanna was one of the founders of Madras or that Madras was derived from the Christian Madaresen or Madra. He squarely rejects the accounts of Bundla Ramasamy Naidoo related to Madras and he gives his reasons for it. The author thinks that the renaming of Madras as Chennai since 1996 is a historical fallacy, born out of misplaced zeal.

About Prof. J. B. P. More

J.B.P. More is an internationally known historian, based in France. He has published extensively on the history of southern India. He specializes on the Muslims and Dravidians of southern India as well as French colonial history in India. Some of his books for which he is known are “The Political Evolution of Muslims in Tamilnadu and Madras” and “Muslim, Identity, Print Culture and the Dravidian Factor in Tamilnadu”. Both the books were published by Orient Longman. He has written books and articles in three languages: English, French and Tamil. His book on the Partition of India remains unchallenged to this day. His most recently published book ‘Origin and Early History of the Muslims of Kerala’ has attracted the attention of scholars as it redefines some aspects of the history of Kerala. He is member of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences and Humanities. More teaches currently at the Institut des Hautes Etudes EconomiquesetCommerciales (Inseec), Paris.


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