This is a very good thing indeed for both residents and visitors, for Chennai is one of the most beautiful and culturally rich cities in all of India. Historically, Chennai's importance stretches back thousands of years. 'The region around Chennai has served as an important administrative, military, and economic centre dating back to the 1st century. It has been ruled by South Indian kingdoms, notably the Pallava, the Chola, the Pandya, and Vijaynagar empires.' Eventually, though, like the rest of India, Chennai - or, as it was called until 1996, Madras - fell under the control of European powers.
'When the Portuguese arrived in 1522, they built a port and named it São Tomé, after the Christian apostle St. Thomas, who is believed to have preached there between the years 52 and 70. The region then passed into the hands of the Dutch, who established themselves near Pulicat just north of the city in 1612. On 22 August 1639, the British East India Company was granted land by the Nayak of Vandavasi as a base for a permanent settlement, believed to be called Madrasemen. A year later, Fort St. George was built, which subsequently became the nucleus around which the colonial city grew. 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 eventually regained control of the region, and they held onto it until India was granted independence in 1947.