50 years on, a look at how Madras State became Tamil Nadu

The DMK and CN Annadurai were instrumental in getting the name changed.
50 years on, a look at how Madras State became Tamil Nadu
50 years on, a look at how Madras State became Tamil Nadu
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It was July 27, 1956. Congressman Sankaralinganar, in his 70s, started what was the first of many instances of struggle for a cause: the renaming of Madras State to “Thamizhagam”. Sankaralinganar fasted for 76 days, which resulted in his death.

Formerly called Madras Province, it had been renamed to Madras State on January 26, 1950.

Taking over the baton from him, a proposal to rename the state was made in the Assembly by the DMK in 1957 and 1963 and the Socialist Party in 1961.

However, the then ruling Congress party voted out the motion in all three occasions. Later the CPI too, took up the issue in the Parliament, where, again, the proposal was shot down by the majority Congress.

In 1963, DMK President CN Annadurai argued eloquently for the rechristening, quoting Tholkappiyam, the oldest literary work in Tamil, and Silappadhikaram, Tamil epic, to substantiate his claim that the name ‘Tamil Nadu’ has been in use for quite some time.

Meanwhile, the issue had been gathering political interest and garnered support from other political leaders. Ma Po Sivagnanam of the Thamizh Arasu Kazhagam joined Annadurai in the agitation for the rechristening.

“Before Independence, the geographical region extending from Odisha to Tirunelveli was called Madras Presidency, with the city of Madras as the capital. Odisha was formed in 1930, leaving Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and parts of present day Karnataka and Kerala as Madras Presidency. From 1937 this became Madras Province and we started having elected governments. Andhra Pradesh was then carved out in 1953 after Potti Sriramulu died fasting for a separate Telugu state”, says historian Sriram V to TNM.

This lead to the formation of states based on language, with Tamil Nadu still being called Madras State.

As for the movement to rechristen Madras State to Tamil Nadu, a tangible solution was arrived at when the DMK formed the government in Tamil Nadu in 1967 under CN Annadurai, who had by then become the face of the agitations for renaming the state. Annadurai brought about a resolution in July 1967, which was accepted in both Houses.

“DMK swept to power in 1967. In 1968, Annadurai held the World Tamil Conference, and announced the rechristening of Madras State to Tamil Nadu,” says Sriram, adding, “Annadurai was clear that Tamil had to be given importance”.

Historian and novelist Venkatesh Ramakrishnan, however, points out, “It was not really a major event. The Madras State (Alteration of Name Act) was passed in Parliament in 1968 and came into effect on January 14, 1969. Anna died the same year.”

Fifty years on, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami in January announced his government's decision to celebrate the golden jubilee of the renaming this year on Pongal.


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