Friday, April 3, 2009

Day Memorial or Memorial Day?

It is generally accepted that Madras came into being on August 22, 1639, when Day and Cogan accepted a grant of land from the Nayaks of Poonamallee. Yet, there are many who bristle at the idea that this great city was a child of foreign parents. They point to the rock-cut caves and stone-age relics of Pallavaram, to the temples at Tiruvottiyur and even to the 'Portugee' settlement at San Thomé - a town that Arab traders of the 10th century CE knew as 'Betumah' - as evidence of thriving habitations long before 1639. Those objections have some level of validity, but it took the British East India Company's efforts to stitch together all of these, and several other villages, to craft the Madras that has evolved into the Chennai of today. Since those efforts began with Day and Cogan, they deserve a place of honour in the city's history.

Unfortunately, there is no record of any memorial to either of the two, or their dubash, Beri Thimappa; an omission that has often been lamented by several of the city's heritage enthusiasts. The name of this building is therefore rather intriguing. Actually, I missed it at the first look, because the signboard saying 'Madras Centenary Telugu Baptist Church' was what caught my eye and I took the picture of the church building. It was only later that I began to ascribe different meanings to the words 'The Day Memorial' on the building.

Could this actually be a forgotten memorial to the city's founder? Or is it commemorative of the founding day? Another trip to Vepery is definitely called for!


Antjas said...

A few days ago a young man from Chennai was helping me with a computer program. I had to admit to him that I did not know about Chennai even though something about the name had a familiar ring. I quickly typed it into CDP and of course there you were and I had passed through you site before. Thanks to your title, I could later tell him, of course, I know Chennai used to be Madras and who hasn't heard of Madras.

Unknown said...

Wow, if it is indeed the memorial to the founding father of Madras, stick an Ostrich feather in your cap pal!

Shantaram said...

@ Antjas: Very nice to know that - thank you!!

@ Ramanan: Hoping to find out about that soon... :D

Mark said...

Hello, I am glad you have a blog about Madras history, but you are going to be disappointed when I tell you that the building is almost certainly dedicated to Samuel Stearns Day, Baptist missionary to the Telugus.

Shantaram said...

@ Mark: Thank you! I hadn't yet got around to validating my theory, but I'm sure you're right. Thanks again, for dropping by!