Chennai was formerly known as Madras. Earlier Chennai consisted of a cluster of villages, perched amidst paddy fields, bordered by palm trees. During that period all the popular dynasties of South India i.e. The Pallavas, the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Vijaynagar Empire, had an influence over the city. The origin of the metropolitan city started in 1639, when Francis Day and Andrew Cogan, the two merchants of the East India Company, started a factory-cum-trading post here.
The Kapalesvara Temple and Parthasarathi Temple are the standing testimony to the fact that Chennai had been present since ages. In 1746, the French had ransacked Chennai alongwith the Fort St George. Again in 1749 the British got hold over Chennai and was attributable to the Treaty of Aix-la-Chappell. Later 18th century, they were able to overpower most of the region around Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and founded the Madras Presidency.
It was during the British rule that Chennai had under-went drastic changes to become a prominent city, with strong naval base. In the late 19th century railway was introduced in Chennai and got linked with other important cities like Mumbai and Kolkata. The facilities of trade and communication in the city boosted, connecting it with the hinterland too. During the world war, Chennai was the only city of India which was attacked.
After India became independent in 1947, Chennai city was declared as the capital of Madras State, which was later renamed as Tamil Nadu in 1968. In 1997, the Government of Tamil Nadu officially changed the name of Madras to Chennai. However, it was the colonial rule that was responsible for the development of Chennai in bieng a major commercial center. Now George Town houses most of the pioneer business headquarters, while the State Government has its nerve centre in the Fort St George.