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Chennai, formerly known as Madras is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu and is India's fourth largest metropolis. It is located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. With an estimated 2005 population of 7.45 million, it is one of the 35 largest metropolitan areas in the world.
The name Madras was officially changed to Chennai in 1996, but the older name Madras is still widely used. The city is a large commercial and industrial centre in India, and is known for its cultural heritage and temple architecture. The appellation Madras is believed to have been derived from Madraspatnam, the site chosen by the British East India Company for a permanent settlement in 1639. Locals though claim that the name was originally Chennaipatnam, but this is disputed.
Chennai, (formerly Madras) the first city of Tamil Nadu, is a comparatively new city. The erstwhile villages of Mylapore, Triplicane, Ezhambur (Egmore) etc. all now a part of Chennai, have a recorded historical past centuries older than Chennai. Chennai, the present gateway to the South of India, is itself, however, only about 350 years old..
"Madrassis are zealous gaurdians of Tamil culture which they regard as inherently superior to the hybridized cultures further north. They have, for instance, been among the most vociferous opponents of Hindi being made the national language, and Chennai is the film Center of tamil Nadu - even the State Chief Minister, Jayalalita*, is an ex-movie star."
- Quoted from Lonely Planet, travel guide to India.