Madrasapattinam, an Emblem of Cultural Heritage and Richness

Madras, renamed as Chennai, is celebrating its 377th birthday on August 22. But this remarkable city spans several years of history that starts from first Palaeolithic age i.e. before 2.6 million years as described in Sangam literature. Parts of the city are as old as the ancient civilisation, while a few places are as old as the history of Tamil Nadu. In fact, Madras is the first Municipal Corporation established in India when James II issued the charter under the East India Company's seal in the year 1688.

View of Madras - 1820
There are several intriguing things about Madras and one such thing is the names of the places in the city. Madras by itself is said to have acquired its name after the village Madrasapattinam, which was later cleared off for the construction of Fort St. George. Likewise, the names of each and every place in this city have their own story. Here, I am just listing down a few of them.

Alwarpet is named after a renowned vaishnava-saint poet Thirumangai Aalvaar. He is considered as one of the most learned and greatest poets among the Aalvaars.

Chintadripet is derived from the name chinna-thari-pettai which denotes 'small fabric village.' It is known for its vast weavers community.

Chrompet has two theories for its name. One says it is named after the chromium discharge into the area from the leather tanneries. Another one says that it is named after the establishment of Chrome leather factory. However, the pollution due to the effluents wiped off a lake in the area named Nagalkeni Lake.

Fort St.George - 1800
Elumboor (now Egmore), the seventh village as the word conveys in Tamil, is the seventh official village bought by Britishers and hence the name.

Kodambakkam acquired its name from Urdu word 'Ghoda Bagh' meaning garden of horses. Nawab of Arcot once had his staples situated in this place. It is also said that kodambakkam is named after a Hindu mythological snake karkodagam. You can even visit the Vengeeshwarar temple to see the sculptures and images of the snake.
Early Mylapore - Water colour done by Artist Venkatesh
Mylapore is derived from the name mayil-arparikkum-oor meaning 'Land of peacock scream.' Peacocks and peahens is said to have roamed around the place in flocks. Mythology says that Parvathi incarnated herself as a peahen to worship Shiva.

Pallavaram is originally called pallavapuram due to the settlement of pallavas. It is the oldest known settlement of Madras.

Purasawalkam is derived from purasaipaakkam which denotes the tree - Flame of the forest (purasu in tamil).

Teynampet is also named after the tree - coconut. Tamil name is Thennam pettai. The place was once flourished with coconut groves.

Thiruverkaadu is again named after the tree - vela or acacia tree. Literal meaning of the name in Tamil is forest of holy herbs and roots.

Parthasarathy Temple
Thiruvallikeni (now Triplicane) is named after the sacred pond of lilies situated in front of the Parthasarathy temple. It is also said that the temple was located in between tulasi forest. 

Otteri is derived from the Tamil name 'otha yeri' meaning single reservoir.

Vepery is named after neem trees on the banks of the reservoir. Vembu (neem) yeri, as it was known previously.

Madras is always fascinating. Be it the people, cross-cultural and multi-lingual society, food, entertainment, it has it all to enthral people. Most importantly, Madras had a wonderful environmental value. Most of the names, if you notice carefully, were after some natural resource i.e. trees, plants or water bodies, considering their significance to the land and people. This shows their conscientious involvement in environmental conservation.

Environmental conservation is an inherited trait in every Madrasian. We know it and we do it. Let us continue with it. After all its our Madras.

P.S. The places I shared above is based on its cultural heritage and richness. If at all there are other places apart from the one I have mentioned, please share them on the comments. I'd love to know about them. 
Picture credit - Archives, C P Ramaswami Foundation, Chennai
Madrasapattinam, an Emblem of Cultural Heritage and Richness Madrasapattinam, an Emblem of Cultural Heritage and Richness Reviewed by Gowthama Rajavelu on 15:54 Rating: 5


  1. Very informative. Great to know about Madras. Thanks for the English meaning of the names... :-)

    1. Thanks for the comment Maniparna. Glad you liked it. Madras is always fascinating.

  2. Really loved this post a lot. awesome write up.

  3. wow what rich history and pictures..awesome :)

    1. Indeed Shweta. Really happy that you liked it. Thanks for the comments. Happy blogging :-)

  4. Nice history because of u i completed my project thank u and my sir said it is very nice


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