Greatest British contribution in Madras to Modern India

The idea of Madras: Made for India
Retreating forces of colonization historically leave behind a lot-some gigantic structures some indelible signs of oppression and exploitation, some unshakeable institutions, irreversible social mutations, ways of life inconspicuously fused with the regional culture.

It is possible that one surveys what the British rule left behind as its contributions in Madras with mixed emotions including a fair sense of indignation. Such emotional overhang could come in the way of taking a more rational viewpoint.

History aggregates otherwise scattered entities. Viewed with that in mind, the idea of Madras appears to be a colossal contribution of the British to building of modern India.There is so much the British built and left behind in Madras. But the very act of building a vivacious city out of a nondescript stretch of coastal land and endowing it with lasting characteristics, part purposely and part inevitably, stands out from all of them as the most far-reaching contribution to modern India. Because along with Calcutta in the north east, Chennai in the south formed a firm foundation for the developmental template of post-colonial India.

Moreover, to string up a collection of independent territories into an integrated democratic country, it needed the foundation of a few broad-based cities, which could act as the nuclei of modernity- Cities with well developed educational and healthcare systems, flourishing commerce and industry, dependable transportation facilities and stable administrative structures. Britons left Madras as one such city at the end of India’s freedom struggle. (This is not to say that there was an act of unusual benevolence from the part of the colonial rulers, but to reflect on the truth that a well developed city was a natural outcome of centuries of colonization by a powerful European state, which used it primarily for its own riches. )

The General Hospital, Chennai which started as a hospital for the East India Company in 1664, The College of Engineering, Guindy (CEG), the oldest engineering school in India which was founded as a survey school in 1794, the development of Madras port as a trade hub in the 18th century, the founding of suburban trains in the early 20th century and the legislative and executive machinery of the Madras Presidency were all parts of the building blocks of a city that would defied the torrents of political and social change. Add to it the cultural ethnicity, original art forms, regional education systems and other elements of ancestry which were not annihilated.It is not difficult to see that Madras was an idea of the British raj that outlived its historical confinement.

Post by: Sajan PK, Runner Up Winner

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.

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