Chennai (formerly Madras ) is the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal, it is the biggest industrial and commercial center in South India, and a major cultural, economic and educational center as well.
The area around Chennai had been part of successive South Indian kingdoms for many centuries. The recorded history of the city began in the colonial times, specifically with the arrival of British East India Company and the establishment of Fort St. George in 1644. The British defended several attacks from the French colonial forces, and from the kingdom of Mysore, on Chennai's way to becoming a major naval port and presidency city by the late eighteenth century. Following the independence of India, Chennai became the capital of Madras State and subsequently Tamil Nadu, and an important centre of regional politics based on the Dravidian identity of the populace.
According to the provisional results of 2011 census, the city had 4.68 million residents, making it the sixth most populous city in India (The area of Chennai was expanded in 2011. The figure represented here is calculated according to the old city limits (176 Sq Km) as the revised figures pertaining to 426 Sq Km are awaited.); the urban agglomeration, which comprises the city and its suburbs, was home to approximately 8.9 million, making it the fourth most populous metropolitan area in the country and 31st largest urban area in the world. Chennai's economy has a broad industrial base in the automobile, computer, technology, hardware manufacturing and healthcare sectors. As of 2012, the city is India's second largest exporter of information technology (IT) and business process outsourcing (BPO) services. A major part of India's automobile industry is based in and around the city thus earning it the nickname "Detroit of India". It is known as the Cultural Capital of South India.
Chennai is an important hub for Carnatic music and hosts a large cultural event, the annual Madras Music Season, which includes performances by hundreds of artists. The city has a diverse theatre scene and is one of the important centres for Bharata Natyam, a classical dance form. The Tamil film industry, colloquially known as Kollywood, is based in the city. The city is host to the third largest expatriate population in India after Mumbai and Delhi, with 35,000 in 2009 and steadily climbing to 82,790 in 2011. Chennai is only city in South Asia and India, to figure in the "52 places to go around the world" by the The New York Times. The city also serves as the second financial hub in India next only to Mumbai, also housing the Madras Stock Exchange.
Stone age implements have been found near Pallavaram in Chennai. According to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Pallavaram was a megalithic cultural establishment, and pre-historic communities resided in the settlement. The Pallavas of Kanchi built the areas of Mahabalipuram and Pallavaram during the reign of Mahendravarman I. They also defeated several kingdoms including the Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas who ruled over the area before their arrival. Sculpted caves and paintings have been identified from that period. Ancient coins dating to around 500 BC have also been unearthed from the city and its surrounding areas. A portion of these findings belonged to the Vijayanagara Empire, which ruled the region during the medieval period.
In 1746, Fort St. George and Madras were captured by the French under General La Bourdonnais, the Governor of Mauritius, who plundered the town and its outlying villages. The British regained control in 1749 through the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle and strengthened the town's fortress wall to withstand further attacks from the French and Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysore. They resisted a French siege attempt in 1759 under the leadership of Eyre Coote. In 1769 the city was threatened by Mysore and the British were defeated by Hyder Ali, after which the Treaty of Madras ended the war. By the late 18th century, the British had conquered most of the region around Tamil Nadu and the northern modern–day states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, establishing the Madras Presidency with Madras as the capital.
After India gained its independence in 1947, the city became the capital of Madras State, which was renamed as Tamil Nadu in 1969. The violent agitations of 1965 against the compulsory imposition of Hindi in the state marked a major shift in the political dynamics of the city and eventually it had a big impact on the whole state. On 26 December 2004, an Indian Ocean tsunami lashed the shores of Chennai, killing 206 people in Chennai and permanently altering the coastline.