Chennai (formerly known as Madras), is the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Chennai is the fourth most populous metropolitan area and the fifth most populous city in India. Located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, Chennai city had a population of 4.34 million in the 2001 census within the area administered by the Corporation of Chennai and an extended Metropolitan Population of 6.5 million. The urban agglomeration of metropolitan Chennai has an estimated population over 8.2 million people.
Chennai's economy has a broad industrial base in the car, computer, technology, hardware manufacturing, and healthcare industries. The city is India's second largest exporter of software, information technology (IT) and information-technology-enabled services (ITES). A major chunk of India's car manufacturing industry is based in and around the city. Chennai Zone contributes 39 per cent of the State's GDP. Chennai accounts for 60 per cent of the country's automotive exports.
Chennai is an important centre 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 vibrant theatre scene and is an important centre for the Bharatanatyam, a classical dance form. The Tamil film industry, one of the largest film industries in India, is based in the city; the soundtracks of the films dominate its music scene.
The name Chennai is a shortened form of Chennaipattinam, the name of the town that grew around Fort St. George, which was built by the British in 1640. There are two versions about the origin of the name Chennai: according to one version, Chennaipattinam was named after Damarla Chennappa Nayakudu, Nayaka of Kalahasthi and Vandavasi father of Damarla Venkatadri Nayakudu, from whom the British acquired the town in 1639. The first official use of the name Chennai is said to be in a sale deed, dated August 1639, to Francis Day of the British East India Company. According to the second account, Chennapattinam was named after the Chenna Kesava Perumal Temple; the word chenni in Tamil means face, and the temple was regarded as the face of the city.
The city's former name, Madras, is derived from Madraspattinam, a fishing village north of Fort St. George. There is some argument among researchers about the exact origin of the name Madraspattinam. Some believe that the Portuguese, who arrived in the area in the 16th century, may have named the village Madre de Deus. Others believe that the village's name came from the once prominent Madeiros family (variously known as Madera or Madra in succeeding years) of Portuguese origin, which had consecrated the Madre de Deus Church in the Chennai locality, Santhome, in 1575. It is uncertain whether the name 'Madraspattinam' was in use before European influence. According to some Indian resources, the name Madraspattinam derived from Mutharasa Pattinam, with ruled by King of Muthurasa (Mutharayar) in earlier stage before British rule. The sequence of the name began with Mutharasa to Muthras to Matras to Madras.
Some time after the British gained possession of the area in the 17th century, the two towns, Madraspattinam and Chennapattinam, were merged. The British referred to the united town as Madraspattinam. The state government officially changed it to Chennai in 1996, at a time when many Indian cities were being renamed.