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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Madras, India (Capital)

The capital of Madras presidency, and the chief seaport on the eastern coast of India, is situated in 13° 4' N. and 80° 17' E. The city, with its suburbs, extends nine miles along the sea and nearly four miles inland, intersected by the little river Cooum. Area, 27 sq. m.; pop. (1901), 509,346, showing an increase of 12.6% in the decade. Madras is the third city in India.

Although at first sight the city presents a disappointing appearance, and possesses not a single handsome street, it has several buildings of architectural pretensions, and many spots of historical interest. It is spread over a very wide area, and many parts of it are almost rural in character. Seen from the roadstead, the fort, a row of merchants' offices, a few spires and public buildings are all that strike the eye. Roughly speaking, the city consists of the following divisions. (1) George Town (formerly Black Town, but renamed after the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1906), an ill-built, densely-populated block, about a mile square, is the business part of the town, containing the banks, custom house, high court, and all the mercantile offices. The last, for the most part handsome structures, lie along the beach. On the sea-face of George Town are the pier and the new harbour. Immediately south of George Town there is (2) an open space which contains Fort St George, the Marina, or fashionable drive and promenade by the seashore, Government House, and several handsome public buildings on the sea-face. (3) West and south of this lung of the city are crowded quarters known by native namesChintadrapet, Turuvaleswarampet, Pudupak, Royapet, Kistnampet and Mylapur, which bend to the sea again at the old town of Saint Thome. (4) To the west of George Town are the quarters of Veperi and Pudupet, chiefly inhabited by Eurasians, and the suburbs of Egmore, Nangambakam, and Perambur, adorned with handsome European mansions and their spacious "compounds" or parks, which make Madras a city of magnificent distances. (5) South-west and south lie the European quarters of Tanampet and aristocratic Adyar. Among the most notable buildings are the cathedral, Scottish church, Government House, Pachayappa's Hall, senate house, Chepauk palace (now the revenue board), and the Central railway station.

Madras possesses no special industries. There are several cotton mills, large cement works, iron foundries and cigar factories. Large sums of money have from time to time been spent upon the harbour works, but without any great success. The port remains practically an open roadstead, protected by two breakwaters, and the P. & 0. steamers ceased to call in 1898. Passengers or cargo are landed or embarked in flat-bottomed masula boats. The sea bottom is unusually flat, reaching a depth of ten fathoms only at a mile from the shore. The harbour is not safe during a cyclone, and vessels have to put out to sea. Madras conducts about 56% of the foreign trade of the presidency, but a much smaller share of the coasting trade. As the capital of southern India, Madras is the centre on which all the great military roads converge. It is also the terminal station of two lines of railway, the Madras & Southern Mahratta line and the Madras & Tanjore section of the South Indian railway. The Buckingham canal, which passes through an outlying part of the city, connects South Arcot district with Nellore and the Kistna and Godavari system of canal navigation. The municipal government of the city was framed by an act of the Madras legislature passed in 1884. The governing body consists of 32 commissioners, of whom 24 are elected by the ratepayers, together with a paid president. The Madras University was constituted in 1857, as an examining body, on the model of the university of London. The chief educational institutions in Madras city are the Presidency College; six missionary colleges and one native college; the medical college, the law college, the college of engineering, the teachers' college in the suburb of Saidapet, all maintained by government; and the government school of arts.

The foundation of Madras dates from 1640, when Francis Day, chief of the East India Company's settlement at Armagon, obtained a grant of the present site of the city from a native ruler. A fort - called Fort St George, presumably from having been finished on St George's Day (April 23) - was at once constructed, and a gradually increasing population settled around its walls. In 1653 Madras, which had previously been subordinate to the settlement of Bantam in Java, was raised to the rank of an independent presidency. In 1702 Daud Khan, Aurangzeb's general, blockaded the town for a few weeks, and in 1741 the Mahrattas unsuccessfully attacked the place. In 1746 La Bourdonnais bombarded and captured Madras. The settlement was restored to the English two years later by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, but the government of the presidency did not return to Madras till 1762. In 1758 the French under Lally occupied the Black Town and invested the fort. The siege was conducted on both sides with great skill and vigour. After two months the arrival of an English fleet relieved the garrison, and the besiegers retired with some precipitancy. With the exception of 'the threatening approach of Hyder Ali's horsemen in 1769, and again in 1780, Madras has since the French siege been free from external attack. The town of Saint Thome, now part of Madras city, was founded and fortified by the Portuguese in 1504, and was held by the French from 1672 to 1674.

See Mrs F. Penny, Fort St George (1900); W. Foster, Founding of Fort St George (1902).

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Madras, India (Capital)'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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