#Covid-19# Nostalgic moments of Madras – Spl. Article by Vasan. Suri


The lockdown period have brought out lot of innovative ideas.

It is always said that, never complain about anything. Whatever happens is for good. You will not realise then, later it will all be for your good.

Everything in this World happens with a game plan purely pre-determined and per-destined by God. He is the wire-puller. We have come here just to enact our roles.

Coming back to lockdown period, some people have come out with memes and cartoons and some have come out with Philosophical guidelines and some about health and some on certain nostalgic moments in the social platform flooding it.

I came across one such video of the early period of 1900-1920. This kindled my thoughts and like minded friends added more information and I thought it worth to compile it as an article, which could help our young generation and the middle generation who missed such great moments of Madras.

“Kettum pattinam Po”. Pattinam referred to a city. Villagers used to say this, any lost opportunity in village or crop failures, that person could go to the city, obviously Madras for Tamilnadu and earn your living.

“Madras Nalla Madras” was a great song of the yesteryear’s (1967) talking about the riches and rags of Madras.

It praises the big buildings one side and people with no roof and living under the streets on the other side. Condemns speeding up of vehicle on the road and challenges that, if the speed of agriculture goes down, your speed will automatically come down.

Having dealt with many serious topics, I decided today, will add little fun in the content.

It will be of great interest to know how many places in the city have the names today, which were all the distortion of a original name and which had a meaning and purpose to it.

I have listed some of these names below and how it got distorted:

“Madras was renamed as Chennai.” My intuition said that, this was a game changer for the City. As long as it was Madras, it had its own ups & downs like how you write the letter ‘M’.

The moment it became Chennai. (17th July, 1996) Everyone started seeing it like the Sea. How Letter ‘C’ is pronounced.
Everyone started ‘see’, Chennai.

Incidentally, Bombay was made as Mumbai and it is history to know from real “Bombaikar” as to what happened as “Mumbaikar”.

This is another subject which, will be dealt in the coming days.

1. Kathi para – Everyone in & who visits Chennai will definitely be familiar with this place “Kathi Para”.

It is half Tamil (Kathi means knife). Para I believe have come from Paramilitary forces. A disciplined force.

Those days during British rule, the City was confined up to Guindy which till today remains the same and the paramilitary forces with knives used to guard this place not to allow easy entry in to the city.

The knife wielding paramilitary forces, were referred as “Kathipara” by the locals and it remained as that.

2. Aazar khana – Strange name it sounds and have no meaning or does not relate to any language.

Again during British rule, the second rung Officers used to stay in Pallavaram and St. Thomas Mount. Their means of commuting was by Horses in those days. They had a resting place for horses, near the present Metro station of Alandur. This place was referred as “Horses Corner” and got distorted by locals as aazar khana. People who lived around this area up to 1990, will remember the aazar khana, name.

Is it not interesting?

3. Ice house – During the British rule, Natural ice trading became a big business around the World and British did very big business of such Natural ice for preservation of sea foods in a big way. This came as a boon for sea fish stock and trading.

Since, British colony was in India they brought in to Chennai port ship loads of Natural ice and constructed a building to store such Natural ice blocks and that was named as “Ice House”.

This is now named as “Vivekanandar Illam”

4. Mint – English people kept the names to show the business or work attributed to that place.

Many will remember the place of “Government Press” bear Parrys corner and this was used for production of coins during British rule and they were calling it “Mint” and thus the name Mint street came up, which is a very long road.

5. Washermanpet & Seven wells – The Britishers wanted their clothes to be washed and they created the “Washerman enclave” near the present Royapuram and it became washermanpet.

They wanted to provide ample water for washing and thus created seven wells around this area for water supplies and this is even now called as seven wells in literal meaning.

6. Hamilton bridge – This is the small bridge adjacent to the Chennai City Center” and used to be referred as Hamilton bridge and now referred by locals as “Ambattan varavadhi”.

Probably, there were barbers living in this locality and the locals called it by that name or they distorted the name of Hamilton.

7. Kodambakkam – “Ghoda Gaadi” – “Kudhirai vandi”. This was a important source of transport to go to Vadapalani and then the film studios. The railway gate remained closed permanently in those days and even Great Actors like N.S. Krishnan, T.M. Madhuram used to take a Ghoda ride from the other side of the gate by crossing the railway line by foot from the city side.

Lot of Horses – Ghoda used to be there for this reason and the Ghoda Pakkam got distorted as Kodambakkam.

8. Nungambakkam – There used to be lot of Palm trees in this area and Palm fruit is called as “Nungu” in Tamil and everyone around that locality will have to only go there to buy those palm fruits.
Thus the name Nungambakkam was given.

9. Mambalam – Same way the mango market was referred as Mambalam and this locality had lot of Mango Gardens to serve the City and other places of Tamil Nadu.

10. Pallavaram – adu dhoddi – During the British rule, they had bifurcated every job in a specific area closer to their place of existence.

They created animal slaughter areas near Purasawalkam which is referred as “adu dhoddi” even today. This was the source of meat supply to the city.

Same way they made Alandur and Pallavaram areas for supply of meat to the suburbs. Particularly, the second line of officers who lived in St. Thomas Mount and in Pallavaram as a guard to the Airports.

11.Gordon Woodroffe – This how leather processing tanneries came up in Madhavaram and Pallavaram, consuming the skins and hides coming from these slaughter places.

Predominantly they were making only vegetable leathers in those days which the British were very strong.

“Gordon Woodroffe” was a huge tannery in those days built by the Britishers in a vast acres of land behind the Zamin Pallavaram area. I remember going over in 1982 to that tannery in the midst of a forest picturesque.

12. Chrmepet -Then came, Mr. Nagappa Chettiar who started a Tannery little away from Pallavaram for Chrome Tanning of Hides and named his tannery as “Chrome Leather Company” and thus the area became Chromepet.

13. Adyar – Some historians say that, the river here used to be always full of flowing water due to heavy rains. In Tamil, heavy rains were referred as Adai mazhai. So, it was called as Adai aaru (meaning Adai river). This was later called as Adyar.

There was a joke mentioned in one of the weekly magazines of those days. A bus route No.5, plying between Adyar to Parrys.

The joke mentioned it as Adaiyaar Parrys (which meant you will never reach Parrys) as the bus could not move due to some break failure and it was being pushed by the passengers.

14. Thiruvallikeni – alli poo (Lilly flower) used to grow here in this tank opposite the Parthasarathi temple and that is why it used to be referred as Alli keni, which later converted as Thiru alli keni, as these flowers were given to the temple. Over the years it became Thiruvallikeni.

15. Ekkattuthangal – From what I have heard all the carcasses after removing the meat and other parts of the animals used to be dumped in this area which invited lot of flies around.

The flies were so much, that it was like forest full of flies referred in Tamil as “E kadu”. E is fly and kadu is forest.

This got distorted as Ekkattuthangal of the present.

I hope the above gives some interesting stories and messages about Chennai (Madras).

By Vasan. Suri

Dedicate this article to Mr. T.J.Navaneethan, who taught me the ABCD of Leather and who is carrying me by hand now, as a writer in his website and in to the Media World. 🙏

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