Madras Week – Celebrating the Spirit and History of Chennai

The largest city in South India, Chennai is among the oldest to be founded in India. It is believed that Chennai/Madras was founded in the year 1639 when a deal was struck between Francis Day of the East India Company and the local Nayak rulers. There is still some confusion on the exact date, but many believe that it happened on August 22, 1639.

The city slowly developed as settlements grew around Fort St. George and the villages surrounding the fort were brought together. The celebration of the formation of the city of Madras began in the year 1939 on the 300th anniversary, which was officially sponsored by the British government. The celebration included an exhibition of portraits, pictures, records, maps, and coins of the city and its transformation over the past 300 years. The celebrations continued since then and this year it would be the city’s 380th anniversary. 

The Madras Week this year will be celebrated from August 18 to August 25, but the events will start from 14th August to club the celebrations with India’s Independence Day. The theme for the events this year is ‘Namma Madras Nalla Madras’ which means ‘Our Madras Good Madras’. This year, there are some exciting performances lined up and the audience will surely have a gala time.

What is Madras Week?

Madras Week is the most recent avatar of Madras Day, a hyperlocal celebration in the city of Chennai whose objective is to commemorate and rejoice in the establishment of this dynamic South Indian city.

Madras Day falls on 22nd August of every year, with celebrations stretching into weeks and months in previous years. This date is widely accepted as the date East India Company representatives purchased the Madraspatnam or Chennapatnam from the viceroy of the Vijayanagara Empire, Damarla Venkatadri Nayaka.

The happy outcome of a passing comment from local journalist Vincent D’Souza to historian S Muthiah, 2019 will be the fifteenth year of Madras Day and now Madras Week being celebrated. Originally confined to a day, the festival and the sentiments behind the celebrations have now been so well received that calls are there to convert it into Madras Month.

Why do we celebrate Madras Week?

Madras Week originally Madras Day celebrates the spirit and charm of the vibrant city of Chennai (formerly Madras). Like many Indian cities, Chennai has grown into a megapolis from humble beginnings, but many would agree that it is emblematic of its own unique charm. From decades old traditional markets, to the winding coastline that offers fresh air to residents, to now becoming a major industrial hub for old and new technologies, Chennai never rests. It is this same indomitable spirit that Madras Week celebrates.

What happens during Madras Week?

In 2019, Madras Week will mark the 380th birthday of this lively city with a plethora of activities and events for citizens to enjoy and participate in. Madras Week is an opportunity for residents to take a moment to celebrate and enjoy the city they live in. The organising committee is focused on celebrating the city’s glorious past, enjoying its present opportunities, and dreaming of what the future of the city will look like. Below we discuss our top picks that you cannot afford to miss if you are interested in really getting to know your city:

Heritage Walks

What Madras Week would be complete without a look back at its rich and glorious history? In 2019, visitors can choose from sixteen heritage walks that really represent the many faces of Chennai. Whether you are interested in ambling along the many bridges of Madras or breakfasting with the local Parsi community in Royapuram or learning how Jewish, Baha’i, Sufi, and Sindhi traditions have changed local culture, there is a walk for everyone.

There will be several walks such as Tree Walk, Nature Walk, Heritage Walk, and Food Walk organized by different institutions to spread awareness about the tangible and intangible heritage of the city. For example, there will be a heritage walk at Fort St. George led by Sriram V and  Mylapore Food Walkon 31 August.

Cultural Activities

As Chennai is considered to be the cultural capital of India, there will be several cultural activities such as musical compositions.

Talk Shows

Several eminent personalities will hold talk shows on a wide range of topics concerning Chennai such as the changing geography of the city, and the city’s music and stand-up comedy scene. For instance, a talk will be held on ‘The Vikatan Group on Keeping Vikatan Relevant Over Time’ on 24 August.

Exhibitions

Exhibitions will be held across the city showcasing the work of various artists both past and present. For instance, the Vintage Bicycle Exhibition.

Book Launch

Writers will be launching their books, for instance, ‘Be the Book’ by Padmini Viswanathan and Aparna Kamakshi.

Competitions

Quiz competitions and drawing competitions will be held for both kids and adults about the history of the city.

Presentations

Presentations will be held by various celebrities on different topics such as the Memorabilia of the English Nabobs and Madras by Dr Swapna Sathish.

Tours

Tours will be held such as the Observation Race at Chennai Snake Park on 25 August.

Certain events will go on until September 1, 2019, so you have more than enough time to be a part of this extravaganza spread over two weeks. If you are a true Chennaiite make sure you attend a few of these events.

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